Graffiti hair has become one of the most versatile hair colour options. We spoke with the colour experts about techniques and products to fill you in on how to master the graffiti hair colour look.
Graffiti hair has been trending on social media, with a range of looks that boldly embrace colours and patterns to more subtle interpretations. “It’s really interesting because you can create texture, tone-on-tone colour or an intermixing of different colours,” says Rossa Jurenas, North American colour director for Schwarzkopf Professional. “It’s more of an art form on hair; like an artist using hair as a blank canvas.”
What Started the Graffiti Hair Trend?
“The industry has changed a lot; people are opting to do more fun things to their hair than they were years ago,” says Sue Pemberton, artistic director for Sue Pemberton Education & Private Studio Salon. “Graffiti is more of a statement because it’s not so uniform or formal. You put tattoos on your body, so why can’t you tattoo your hair?”
Just like its name, graffiti hair is meant to create a look that’s unique, using patterns, designs and an eclectic combination of colours.
“Graffiti is another way to express our creativity,” says Claudelle Lalonde, artistic educator for Pravana. “There are never two identical graffiti hair looks; they can be similar, but stylists can customize their looks by drawing on unique inspiration, like an image, structure or pattern. It’s become popular because of the individuality and creativity that go into it.”
Stencilling Versus Freehand for Graffiti Hair
Stencilling has had a significant role in the trend, helping to add statement-making designs to the looks while providing a guideline for easier application. Hair chalk and colour sprays, such as Joico InstaTint Temporary Color Shimmer Spray and Schwarzkopf Professional BlondMe Instant Blush Sprays, can be used with or without stencils to add a quick burst of colour to the look.
“If it’s a wet spray, you have to be very gentle because it’s liquid,” explains Jurenas. “It’s important to blow-dry it in. Unless it’s for a shoot, you have to make sure the hair falls where it naturally wants to fall or where the client will blow-dry it, so you can make sure the artwork is shown. The sprays only last for a couple of washes, but it’s easy to do and it looks really cool.”
While stencils may seem like a fail-safe solution, Lalonde says it’s still important to plan out the look. “It’s important to know the general look you want to create, with room to get artistic in the process,” she says. “This will give you an idea of what colours are going to complement one another and how they will process over prelightened hair.” Lalonde recommends using Pravana’s Vivids Locked-In shades because “they don’t bleed into one another or into surrounding lightened hair to ensure cleaner lines.”
For a daring yet understated look, freehand techniques can be used to create graffiti-inspired looks, combining different shades for an artistic fusion of colour. “You put three or four colours in a bowl and apply onto the hair shaft. You’re taking those colours and making graffiti,” says David Vendittelli, global master colourist for Goldwell and co-owner of Industry Hair & Esthetics in St. Catharines, Ont., who recommends using a colour line like Goldwell’s Elumen, which is ammonia- and oxidant-free permanent colour that can be combined in the same bowl. “It’s essential to understand the colour wheel and the laws of colour. If you want vibrant tones, you don’t want to mix colours that are going to give you brown.”
“When you’re taking a section of hair, you don’t want it to be too thick because you want the colour to be able to penetrate through the whole section,” adds Vendittelli. “You have to have a good amount of colour on that brush, so that when you’re sliding it down the hair shaft it’s getting all the colour. At the same time, it’s going to look different throughout that section because there are a few different colours. Say you have a red beside a blue. As they meet each other you’re going to get a bit of purple that melts into the rest of the blue. That’s the beauty of graffiti.”
Getting Clients on Board
While graffiti isn’t going to be for everyone, it can be a fun trend for your clients to explore, so it’s important to encourage those who are open to it to try something new and fresh. “Show them samples and swatches so they understand that it can be pretty cool without being extreme,” says Vendittelli. “It’s about the way we word it and introduce it to a client that will really help them open their eyes to it. Sometimes trends can look scary because they can look extreme, but it’s our job to recommend and interpret them in a way that suits the client.”
“The best way to look at it is that it’s not permanent,” says Jurenas. “For many years, the trends have kept it simple. But now, colour is back and getting into a bit more detail. You can change it up and try different things.”
Tips for Getting the Graffiti Hair Look for Men
“Colour is coming back with male clients. It’s not just a little and keeping it natural. You’re seeing men go very blonde with their hair. If they are going to push it that far, then why not a little bit of hair graffiti? With undercuts and shaved looks, use more colour on top for a fun change.” ~ Rossa Jurenas, North American Colour Director for Schwarzkopf Professional
“You can make your lines with a trimmer and the lines create spaces. If there’s a line that creates a part, the bottom of it can be one shade and the top of it can be another shade.” ~ David Venditelli, Goldwell Global Master Colourist and Co-Owner of Industry Hair & Esthetics in St. Catherines, Ont.
“Look at what they’re doing in barbering with graffiti and undercutting. A lot of soccer players are doing it, with razors or stencils. It’s very artistic.” ~ Sue Pemberton, Artistic Director for Sue Pemberton Education & Private Studio Salon
“There is really no limitation for men embracing graffiti. They just have to be willing to try it. The look can be done on long or short hair. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to adapt the look based on the shape of the head and how much the client wants it to show.” ~ Claudelle Lalonde, Artistic Educator for Pravana
Image credits (in order of appearance): Hair: Joseph I-Anson and Lisa Graham, Makeup: Naoko Scintu, Styling: Bernard Connolly, Photo: Andrew O’Toole; Hair: Ken Picton Art Team, Makeup: Naoko Scintu, Styling: Thea Lewis Yates, Photo: Andrew O’Toole