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How to tone red and orange hair brown or dark blonde


Mastering the art of color correction is an essential skill that sets good hairdressers apart.

Correcting for red or orange dyes in particular can be a real challenge.

In this tutorial we are going to unlock some color formulas that you can use to transform red hair into brown and dark blonde.

These formulas involve the use of some very specific color products.

We will go into them now and show you how to use them.

Get ready to unleash your color correction skills and elevate your salon game!

Understanding the basics: the color wheel & color neutralization explained

neutralizing colors

Before we start choosing our colors, let's first take a quick look at color theory.

This will help us to understand which colors neutralize which.

Red, as you can see from the chart above, is a reflect that gets produced when the hair is at level 3-5. 

To tone it away and take it to brown or dark blonde (both are possible), you would need to use either green or ash.

Both these colors are what are known as neutralizing colors.

Green is the exact opposite of red on the color wheel.

And ash is a mixture of green and brown which in is very easy color mixer to use for colorists looking to take hair to brown.

In this tutorial, we will teach you how to use both of these colors.

The Magic Mix: Green and Ash to the Rescue

Ugly Duckling has the two color additives you can use to neutralize red: Green, and Ash Grey Additive.

They are given below.

"Additive" means you mix this in with another color in order to produce your final result.



Green - use this color to take out red.

Ash Grey Additive

Ash Grey Additive

Ash Grey Additive - use this color to take out red take the hair brown or blonde.

Which color additives should I use?

That depends on what you are looking to do.

Green is pure green. You should use this when you have an exceptionally high build up of red, orange or meganta which you are looking to neutralize.

And when you are looking to stay at the same color level or take the hair a little bit higher.

Ash grey additive on the other hand is pure ash, but it also contains some green and also some brown.

You should use this to get rid of red, stay at the same level and also to darken the hair slightly.

As long as you choose the right color to use it with, you can use whichever of these additives that you want.

We will go through real-life cases now to show you how to use them and achieve stunning color correction results.

How should I mix my color additive?

You squeeze a small amount of either green or ash grey additive into your regular color in order to achieve the color result that you are looking for.

That regular color should be anything between level 4 and level 7 depending on what you are looking to do.

Mixing the two colors in the right ratio is important.

Use this rule of thumb to guide you:

Squeeze out one inch of either green or ash grey additive, and mix it with a full tube of your chosen regular color.

Remember, a little goes a long way, so don't overdose with your color additive and trust the process.

If uncertain, you can do a test on a strand of cut-off hair.

Start with a base color and gradually introduce small amounts of green or ash and then see what mix ratio of additive to regular color is the best one.

All hairdressers looking to become experts in color neutralization and color correction should do this in any case as part of their color training!

Application techniques: evenly distributing the magic

Ensure even distribution throughout the hair to avoid patchiness.

Apply first on those parts which are most red, and apply last on parts which are less red.

Do not apply this mix to virgin regrowth hair which probably will not have any red tones in it.

On those parts, you should put in a darker shadow root (smudge root). Or use the base color that you are using on its own.

So that would mean two separate mixes of product to apply to 2 different parts of your hair.

This will allow you to bring the whole head to an even color level. 

And that's how you achieve a flawless result.

It might seem complicated but you need to get used to it. 

With practice it becomes quite straight-forward.

Color correction hairdressers do this all the time.

Case no 1: Fixing red, orange and magenta and turning it to dark blonde

In this case our client came in with washed out magenta hair, and she wanted to be blonde.

Her hair was not in great condition, it had been colored a lot in the past.

We bleached as much as we could, but given the color build up, we were left with a lot of orange and magenta with red undertones even after bleaching.

As we explained above, we did not use the green on the new growth. We applied 5AA on the new section instead.

But we added in green with 7.1a and onto the rest of the red/orange/magenta color build up area.

And we got an excellent result!


Hair by Elona Taki

Case no 2: Using ash grey additive to tone red hair dark ash blonde

In this case we had a client who had made the unfortunate decision of dying her hair dark cherry black in the past, and now she wanted to be blonde.

We once again used lightener with 20 vol to remove as much of the dark black as we could, and we were left with a lot of red and magenta.

We applied 6N on the root part.

And we applied Ash Grey Additive with 7.1 Dark Ash Blonde to the rest.

Judge the results for yourself!


Hair by Elona Taki

Case no 3: Using Ash Grey Additive to get rid of red and go darker

In this last case we had a client with a lot of orange and red brassy hair on a dark base.

She wanted to go a dark, rich brown.

We used 4AA mixed with Ash Grey Additive and got an excellent result.


Hair by Elona Taki

The Final Flourish: Post-Toning Care

Brilliant Blondexx with Bond Protect

Brilliant Blondexx

Brilliant Blondexx - contains Bond Protect

Once the color has worked its magic, you need to seal the deal with a nourishing post-toning treatment.

This is particularly important when you have had to remove color build up, use bleach and do color correction.

In general, we always recommend sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners and if possible acid-based formula.

These will prevent color build up, maintain the vibrancy and longevity of the brown tones and also close the hair cuticle properly to prevent split ends.

Educate your clients on the importance of this hair care routine, as it is important.

We also do recommend Brilliant Blondexx shampoo and mask in particular.

These products contain Bond Protect, and will make the hair stronger and less prone to breakage.

Conclusion: Elevate Your Salon Skills

Toning red or orange hair to brown is an art form that demands a keen understanding of color theory and precise execution.

By incorporating green and ash undertones, you unlock the door to a world of stunning brown hues. Elevate your salon skills, delight your clients, and become a master of color alchemy.

Empower your creativity and transform hair with confidence – because in the world of hairstyling, every color has its perfect shade.

Happy coloring!

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.

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