Reading time: 1:40 | Why hair plays a major role in digital colour correction.
The following may be a bit wonkish. It’s a recipe for dealing with colour and hair I had summarised some time ago for students who learn colour correction at university. But perhaps it gives an idea of how vast the cosmos of colour, reception and the interpretation of what makes us attractive can be. Like skin tone, hair tells vitality and helps the image to increase presence. The strategy for hair is simple: to support the hair type and thus create vitality.
Let’s start with white and light grey hair. The most important thing with white hair is that whites don’t burn out and show as much detail as possible. White and light grey hair colour tone has little to no colour saturation of its own accord, and the contrast is also often thin. To move white hair to a slightly cooler side and to increase the contrast carefully supports the skin tone with a warm-cold contrast. The coolness is achieved by reducing the red (cyan comes into play) and slightly pushing the blue. The whole thing takes place subtly and requires a separation of the hair from the rest of the image, which can be achieved using a luminance key.
Blonde hair lives from loud colour saturation and visible sharpness in detail. Blond hair is close to the skin tone and therefore difficult to separate. As with white hair, light blonde hair runs the risk of burning out to white quickly and requires a finely aligned contrast. The whites must carefully be controlled, especially when the hair shows some bright shine.
Brunette hair is also difficult to separate from skin tone. Like blonde hair, it lives on rich colour saturation and likes to be drawn slightly to the warm side in the highlights and to some coolness in the shadows. This gives brunette hair a colour spectrum that, like skin tone, is a strong contributor to vitality.
Dark or black hair is, like white hair, not very colourful in itself. That makes it appear slightly less lively. However, dark hair can be easily separated from light skin tones using luminance keys. With a little cooling in the deep shadows, hair of the southern European type becomes unexpectedly lively and present, with a noticeable warm-cold kontrast to the skin.
Red and orange hairs are highly present on their own. Here the environment is of importance. Such hair of the Irish type looks impressive against a cool background, this can even be a cool pink. It may make sense to reduce the saturation if the hair dominates the image excessively and other essential areas, such as facial expression.