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Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Colored Highlights to Dark Hair

Doing something different today! In this post, I'm going to show you how I added blue, purple and pink highlights to my hair for my Instagram post here: For the final result, click the link or scroll all the way down! 

I did this on Photoshop CS 6 but I do believe the features that I used are available on CS 5 and maybe CS 4 and CS 3. 

This is the original image that I started off with. You can see that I have dark brown - black hair and some areas are already naturally lit by the sunlight coming from the right.
Step 1: You do not need to duplicate your background layer. Instead, create a new layer and set the blending mode to Color Dodge. This will result in a brightened image but just ignore that for now.

Step 2: Fill the layer with a color fill of your choice. I would recommend starting with white as it is the easiest to see against the dark colored hair.

Step 3: Add a layer mask and fill it with black. Keyboard shortcut: alt/option-click.
Step 4: Now, we are going to work on the mask layer and not the original layer. So, click on the black filled box to switch layers.

Choose a soft brush in a suitable size for your highlights. It takes some trial and error here depending on your file size and how you like the highlights to appear.
Step 5: Start highlighting the portions of your hair that you want to add color/highlight to.
Step 6: Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. This will help to soften the edges of your highlight and diffuse it so that it looks more natural.
Step 7: Lower the Fill, depending on how bright or how intense you want the highlights to be. This can also be adjusted later on after changing the color of the highlights.
Step 8: Finally, switch back to the white layer and use the paint bucket to change the color to experiment with different colored highlights. I find that darker colors work better against dark hair due to the blending mode of the layer. It gives a nice natural tint and highlight and totally changes up the look!
You can repeat the steps to create more layers with different colors. Who says you need to dye your hair to achieve mermaid/unicorn hair status?


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