So I've been using Arctic Fox for what has to be over a year now, and it is a great dye for me. It sticks to my head, it lasts a decent amount of time, and it doesn't seem to stain when I bleach over it. However, there are some problems I have with it.
The biggest problem I have is their lack of color choice. It feels really basic and has a lack of variety. I also can't seem to mix colors right, and I don't like doing that. When I did a mix of their Poison (red) and Transylvania (black), the color was splotchy. I don't think my bleaching job was that bad. I also don't like the fade, it fades quick at the ends and barely closer to the roots. With the red I mentioned earlier, that's been going on.
I really just want to try something different, but am too scared to get out of my comfort zone. Every other color I've used either fades too quick, or sticks to my hair too well.
I've been considering trying Lunar Tides, since they have a huge color choice, decent reviews, and their thinner formula. I'm not limiting myself to what I can find in stores, which is basically only Ion, Manic Panic, and Arctic Fox.
special effects are punky i've used arctic fox and I consider them medium pigment, punky and special effects blow they out the water, also the dark reds from directions like rubine are amazing! as well as dark tulip i've been curious about luner tides too, but they don't really make a pink that sings to me and thats what i want next
Special effects was my favorite because I always go a couple of months before I do touch ups.....but it might be a brand you consider too sticky. With patience it can be removed. I didn't like manic panic. Fades too fast. I wasn't a fan of artic fox just bc of their formula. Their dye is alright color wise once its finished, but its got a jelly like consistency sometimes and I like the conditioner type consistancy. I also felt artic fox had a harder time absorbing into my hair and getting even coverage solely due to the consistency. I'm using adore now for my copper brown. I miss SFX consistency bc it grew on me but I'm happy w adore's longevity and the way the colors come out.
"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." <---Lewis Carrol
Suggest other brands like Punky Color, Directions, Special Effects, Sparks, Pravana, or Joico,
I can empathize about lack of variety. Two years ago Beyond the Zone carried every color of the rainbow and different shades or red and blue. Now all that I can get is three shades of red and three shades of blue. Though trying new things and learning by experience can be fun.
This is my opinion and suggestions.
For that sort of medium level pigmentation, I like some of the darker shades of Crazy Color and most of Adore's line. Punky and Special Effects are probably too strong for you unless you dilute with loads of conditioner. My experience with Directions is that they are also kind of at that medium level with a few exceptions (most of their pinks, Plum, and Neon Blue).
Manic Panic is kind of hit and miss, but if you stick with midtones, most of them don't stick too much.
Personally, if you find a colour you like in a line, I'd probably just read some reviews and, if you're comfortable enough, just go for it. Have a back-up plan with a colour you know you're comfortable with and just give it a shot (strand test first). In my years of trying dyes, I don't think I've found a brand that does every colour well, and the formulas are usually not super consistent between shades. I usually pick and choose based on which colours I like most from each.