Dye planning

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Get Started with Bright Hair Colours

Published on 27th June 2001

Have you ever wondered how to dye your hair bright, vibrant colours like pink, purple, blue, or even a rainbow? I’ll outline everything you need to know about dyeing your hair an unnatural colour including how to use and maintain bright colours.

If you want to dye your hair really bright colours, it’s important to begin with a light base colour; that means lightening your hair enough to let the colour shine through.

Take a look at this:

Bright colours look best when applied to light blonde hair.
Vibrant colours look brighter over bleached hair
Darker hair doesn't go vibrant pink without bleaching.
On dark hair, these dyes add a slight tint

It simulates how a bright colour appears when applied to light hair versus the colour over dark hair. Unnatural colours are much brighter when used on blonde hair. That’s not to say you can’t use these dyes on darker hair, but the results will be less vibrant.

Don’t want to bleach?

See this article on dyeing unbleached hair for ideas on colouring without lightening.


Dyeing Unbleached Hair

Dyeing Unbleached Hair

If you can't or won't bleach your hair there's still a way to get an unnatural colour.

Lightening Your Hair

The ideal shade of blonde for bright colours is pale, creamy blonde. The idea is to remove as much colour as possible from your hair, before colouring over it with a beautiful bright colour. While you can dye over darker blondes, you’ll be limited to using dark, pigmented colours to cover it and won’t be able to experiment with pastels.

Choosing the Right Lightening Product

For most of us, lightening our hair to blonde requires more than a simple boxed dye that you can buy at a pharmacy. You’ll need to use bleach to lighten your hair if it isn’t already blonde or white.

Note: Bleaching naturally white hair for a short time can make it more receptive to colour. This will improve both the vibrancy and longevity of your colour.

I’ve written a detailed guide on bleaching your hair which will walk you through the process. You might find it more convenient to have your hair lightened by a hairdresser, and maintain the regrowth yourself.

Bleaching Your Hair

Bleaching Your Hair

A guide to bleaching your hair for the first time

Colour Changes when Bleaching your Hair

Hair goes through stages of lightening – transforming through black, auburn, ginger, yellow-blonde, and finally light blonde. The darker your hair, the longer it takes to lighten. It might be necessary to bleach your hair in two sessions to lighten it enough.

Hair goes through several stages when being bleached from brown to shades of ginger before reaching blonde. Hair goes through several stages when being bleached from brown to shades of ginger before reaching blonde.

Lightening – or “lifting” – your hair is a permanent process, so you’ll only need to do this once (and deal with the regrowth).

Bleaching your hair makes it more porous and this allows it to grab more colour. This means that the colour you apply after bleaching will last longer and be more vibrant.

Adding Colour

Now the boring part has been done, it’s time to have some fun with colour!

There are many brands of unnatural colours to choose from. They range from conditioning colours like LaRiche Directions, Punky Color and Arctic Fox, to long-lasting brands like Special Effects, Sparks and Pravana. For thick or textured hair, Adore’s thinner consistency works well. There are many more brands that I haven’t mentioned.

These direct dyes have several things in common:

  • They’re semi-permanent
  • They don’t damage your hair
  • Most are vegan friendly
  • They work best on pre-lightened hair
  • They are applied directly; not mixed with developer
  • Since they’re not mixed with developer, unused dye can be kept in a dark, airtight container
  • They’re inter-mixable; combine 2 or more colours to make your own shade
  • The can be left on your hair for long periods of time

You’ll find countless reviews and opinions on our forum to help you decide on which dyes to use. Decide on the colour(s) that you want to try and choose a brand that’s accessible to you. We have more than 200 colours available at HairCrazy.com.

Get ready to dye!

Get organised with our pre-colouring checklist; everything you need to prepare before dyeing your hair.


The Ultimate Dyeing/Bleaching Preparation List

The Ultimate Dyeing/Bleaching Preparation List

Ever been halfway through dyeing your hair and realised you'd forgotten something important? Use this check-list and you'll always be prepared.

Applying the Colour

Applying the colour is straight-forward. Most of the dyes mentioned above have a thick consistency (like conditioner) and are applied directly from the tube, bottle or jar. These dyes will stain your skin, so using latex or vinyl gloves is essential.

  1. Split your hair into 4-6 manageable sections and clip your hair out of the way if it’s long.
  2. Starting with the first section, take thin slices of hair – about 1cm/0.5” thick and apply the colour generously down the length of the hair. Spread the hair out to ensure no areas are missed.
  3. You can use gloved fingers or a tint brush to apply the colour to your hair.
  4. Once all of the hair in one section is covered, clip it out of the way and move onto the next section. Repeat until your hair is covered. This will take about 20-30 minutes.
  5. Keep your hair covered for at least 30 minutes to allow the dye to be absorbed.
  6. Rinse with cool water and condition as normal.

How much dye will I need?
The amount of dye that you’ll use varies by hair type and thickness. You’ll need about 100ml/3.5 fl. oz. per 30cm of length on European hair. If your hair is thick, you may require 50% more dye. Straight, shoulder length hair would need around 100ml for good coverage. Curly, shoulder-length hair would likely use 200ml of dye.

How to Maintain your Hair Colour

While bleaching is permanent, vivid colours like green, red, purple and pink are not. Even those labelled “permanent” are not truly permanent and will fade with time, but this may be a good thing if you want to experiment with colour.
Typically direct dyes last about 8 weeks, becoming more pastel as they fade out. Some brands such as Special Effects, Pravana and Sparks stick around much longer (often months). The shade you choose also affects longevity with pastel colours lasting a couple of weeks and darker colours persisting for months at a time. Generally: more pigment = longer lasting colour.

Let’s take a look at keeping the colour looking fresh, before covering how to change to a new colour.

Feeling Creative?

You don’t need to stick to one colour at a time. This article has ideas for colour combinations to try.


Creating Colour Combinations for your Hair

Creating Colour Combinations for your Hair

Learn how to use colour harmonies to easily create complex colour schemes for your hair.

Keeping it Fresh

Most “fashion colours” fade significantly in the weeks after dyeing. You’ll notice a lot of colour running out of your hair when you shampoo, but you might be surprised to learn that heat and sunlight have a role to play in your colour’s demise. Here are some tips for prolonging your hair colour:

  • Wash your hair only when necessary
    Stretching an extra day between shampoos will help extend the life of your colour. Consider using dry shampoo occasionally if your hair tends to look greasy.
  • Use a colour-safe shampoo
    Shampoos for coloured hair are often gentler than standard shampoo and some contain UV protection. Go for sulphate-free shampoo if possible.
  • Quit heat styling
    We all know heat styling can damage your hair, but it can also make your colour dull. If you must use hot styling tools, make sure you also use a heat protecting product.
  • Avoid the sun
    Be like a vampire, and keep out of the sun. Most hair dyes aren’t very photostable; this means that light can destroy the colour. Violets and blues are especially susceptible to this effect.

Keep in mind that pigmented or dark colours will last longer than pastel shades.

Fading Your Colour

We’ve looked at how to keep your hair colour looking fresh, but what about if you fancy a change?

Washing is the safest and easiest way to get rid of semi-permanent hair colour. I know what you’re thinking: “Tell me something I don’t know”. It’s true; frequent washing with harsher shampoos will speed up fading time. Switch to dandruff shampoo such as Head & Shoulders or use clarifying shampoo to draw out more colour. There are so many methods to remove hair colour that we’ve dedicated many articles on the site to it.

10 Ways to Remove Hair Colour

10 Ways to Remove Hair Colour

In this article I explore 10 techniques for removing hair colour. Using the right method, most hair colours can be removed or lightened.

Avoid bleaching out an old dye. In many cases this doesn’t remove much colour but it does permanently damage your hair. It’s better to let it fade out naturally.

The good news: you don’t always have to wait for the colour to wash out completely – that would take months – but with a little knowledge of colour theory you can move on to your next colour sooner.

Colour Theory for Hair Dyeing

Colour Theory for Hair Dyeing

Use the colour wheel to get perfect hair colours

For example, if you have faded purple, you can easily put blue on top of it. If your red is faded, pop some yellow on top to make orange. The link above explains it in more detail.


  • Apply dye to clean, dry or damp hair. Don’t use conditioner or styling products prior to dyeing.
  • Rinse out the colour with cool water until it runs clear. Then follow with conditioner.
  • Some very pigmented dyes never quite run clear. These dyes can rub off on your clothes or bedding. This rubbed off colour usually disappears in one wash but avoid wearing your best white shirt just after dyeing!
  • Expect your shower to also get dyed when you rinse your hair. Most bathroom cleaning products can remove these stains easily.
  • Washing recently dyed hair can stain your hands and nails; wear disposable gloves if necessary.


To dye your hair bright colours you need to lighten your hair first. For best results it should be pale blonde. Apply the dye to bleached hair and enjoy your bright new hair colour! To maintain your colour avoid harsh shampoos, heat and sunlight.

We have many more articles on hair dyeing and how-to videos. Now you know the basics, check out our other hair dyeing articles for ideas and inspiration.

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