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Hair Color Wheel & Color Wheel Toners

The Hair Color Wheel - The Secrets to Color Neutralization & Tone Correction that All Stylists Need to Know!



  • The color wheel shows which colors cancel out which.
  • Green cancels out red, blue cancels out orange and violet cancels out yellow.
  • But when adding these colors, you need to get the quantities right. Otherwise you could get incorrect color results (for example, getting green hair after using a blue toner!)
  • If you are not an experienced Color Technician, it is easier to use Ugly Duckling's pre-mixed products as given below.
  • For tone down color correction, your go-to products should be Ugly Duckling's ash-grey additive & ash-blue additive (mixed with appropriate ash blonde colors).
  • For level-on-level correction, your go-to products should be Ugly Duckling's blue based ash blonde colors. (used on their own)
  • For level-up color correction (taking or keeping hair blonde), your go-to products should be Ugly Duckling's intense and no-lift pearl & silver blonde toners. 
  • For significant level-up, in other words for hair which needs to go much blonder, you need to lift with good quality bleach before attempting to color correct with neutralizing products. 
  • In general, it is a good idea to remember that color wheel problems occur because the hair has not been lifted enough.
  • Bleaching the hair to lift it properly is therefore the most important preparatory step for fighting red, orange, yellow & brassy hair. Do this & almost all your color wheel problems will vanish like magic!
  • At this stage, and at this stage only, use the appropriate neutralizing colors to fine tune the final color result.
  • Ugly Duckling sells various blonding kits which contain bleach, developer, toners & post-color hair care in one set. These will help you achieve great blonde hair color results - no matter how brassy your client's hair!


Q: What is the Color Wheel? How Can I Even Understand it?

A: The Color Wheel is just an arrangement of the natural colors out there which show which colors cancel out which.

Each color has a relationship with every other color.The Hair Color Wheel is a way of showing this relationship. 

Colors which are on opposite ends from each other will tend to cancel each other out. You probably remember this from Grade 1 Primary School.

In Hairdressers' parlance, certain colors neutralize other colors.

Look at the Color Wheel Chart Below.

As you can see, purple is the opposite of yellow. Purple will neutralize yellow.
Blue is the opposite of yellow/orange. Blue will neutralize yellow/orange.
Red is the opposite of green. Red will neutralize green.

The Hair Color Wheel

Q: How Can the Color Wheel Help me as a Colorist?

As a hair colorist you will be very familiar with some of these colors - in particular, the colors on the right side of the spectrum: red, red-orange, orange, orange-yellow, yellow-orange, yellow, pale yellow.

Are these colors familiar to you?

They should be! These are the colors (or rather, unwanted reflects) you get when you bleach hair.

Hair goes from red to orange to orange-yellow, to yellow-orange, to yellow as you bleach. And finally to palest yellow.

Levels of Bleached Hair

Bleaching Levels

Q: How can the Hair Color Wheel Help me in the Salon To Choose a Color or Toner? 

A: The following color neutralization issues are very very common in a salon:

You lifted a customer’s hair with bleach but there is still yellow left in the hair.
You lifted a customer’s hair from dark brown to blonde but there is still orange left in the hair.
You lifted a customer’s hair from dark brown to brown but there is still red left in the hair.

So, here's what you do:

Green cancels out red on hair that has been lifted to brown or light brown.
Blue cancels out orange on hair that has been lifted to dark blonde.
Violet cancels out yellow on hair that has been lifted to blonde.

Q: How exactly should I use green to cancel out red, blue to cancel out orange, and violet to cancel out yellow?

A: In each case you need to use the opposite color on the color wheel to counteract the unwanted red, orange and yellow.

So use greenblue and violet as mix colors.

See chart below for the correct neutralizing tone you need to use.

Hair Color Neutralizing Toners

But (and this is an important "but") you need to get the quantity you use of these mix colors right.

Otherwise you could end up with green hair, blue hair or violet hair. Or worse, mud-colored hair!
The technique here is to add in a very small quantity of the opposite color only.

The normal mix ratio here would be 1 inch of green/blue/violet added to 1 tube of regular color. 

The blonder the level you are working at, the less of the additive you should add - otherwise you may end up with blue or purple hair.
So rather than one inch to one tube of regular color, try 3/4 inch of one tube. 

Add in the same amount of developer as you have of color: 1:1 mix is the normal mix for Ugly Duckling color.

Q: Isn't there an Easier Way? Can't I just use pre-mixed ash additives to neutralize hair color instead of mix colors or primary colors? 

A: Yes, you can use Ugly Duckling Additives and Blue Based Ash Colors. In fact, we recommend that you do this.

Instead of using pure colors to neutralize, use Ugly Duckling's Ash Blue Additive or Ash Grey Additive. 
It's actually a good idea to use this. It's far easier than using pure mix colors as described above.

We recommend that you follow this method when your client's hair is really very brassy.

Ash Grey Additive
 has been developed to add in green for bases up to level 6. You can add in an inch of this into your color mix. This helps counteract brassiness (yellow/orange) in brown hair.

Ash Blue Additive has been developed to add in blue for bases 6 and up. You can add in an inch of this into your color mix. This helps counteract brassiness (yellow) in blonde hair.

The recommended technique here is to squeeze in a little of your chosen ash additive (around 1 inch is good to start with) to a full tube of the blonde color that you are using. 

Note that these additives will tend to take your color level down by about 1 tone.


Q: What About Ash Blonde Colors? Can They Help Neutralize & Color Correct My Brassy Hair?

A: Yes they can. Ugly Duckling's Blue Based Ash Blonde Colors have been designed for this.

We recommend that you follow this method when the hair is only moderately brassy.

Use Ugly Duckling's 10.1b, 9.1b, 8.1b, 7.1b or 6.1b depending on what the client's target base is.

Remember this method will work best when too much lifting is not required, only color correction or neutralizing.

Remember also that Ugly Duckling's Blue Based Ash Blondes are full-fledged colors, not toners.

This means that they will give you really vibrant 3D color, not just quick toning. But you need to mix them 1+1 with 20 Vol developer in most cases and leave them on for a full 30 minutes.

Q: What About Ugly Duckling's Toners? Can They Help me do Hair Color Wheel Color Corrections?

A: Yes they can. Ugly Duckling's toners are some of the fastest acting & most powerful on the market.

They are the perfect go-to toners for Color Wheel corrections.

Compare your client's hair to the bleaching level chart:

Hair color levels

If her hair is level is 5, 6 or 7, use the intense pearl blonde & intense silver blonde toners. These toners have an extra booster which are very useful for kicking out the excessive yellowness and pushing up the hair color level up one level.

If, on the other hand, her hair is 8,9 or 10, use the no-lift pearl blonde & silver blonde toners. These are also equally heavily pigmented, they just have lower or minimal lift.

Use both types of toners with 20 Vol developer, 1+2 mix.

Q: So I Want to Color Correct My Client & Take her Totally White Blonde. She has Yellow Hair. What Should I do?

A: First, Lift her Hair to Level 10. Then Use Purple Based Toners to Tone

The first thing is always to check that you have lifted your client's hair to as light as it will go.
Then use one of Ugly Duckling's purple based toners and colors -  they are extremely effective at neutralizing yellow and they also lift.

They have all been formulated to help you achieve ultra white blonde, in different reflects, on yellow hair.
Use Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V (purple based) or No-Lift Pearl Blonde toner 10V (also purple based).
The "V" stands for Violet or Purple.

You can also use 10.2 Extra Cold Ash Blonde. This is a regular color and has really vivid and it has especially intense purple pigments built in.

Being a regular color, it is stronger than a toner and will neutralize yellow more. You leave it in for 30 minutes as you would for any regular color.
Finish with Purple Shampoo & Mask. This also helps. But make sure the basic neutralization has been done first.

Watch the Video Below of 10.2 and Purple Shampoo in use After Bleaching to Neutralize Yellow Hair and Produce a Stunning Super White Blonde Color! 

Hair by Elona Taki

Hair Color Wheel - using purple

Or watch on this link:


Q: My Client Has Yellow-Orange Hair And Wants to Go Ash Blonde. What Should I do?

A: First Lift using Bleach to level 10. Then use Blue Based Extra Light Blonde 10.1b to Neutralize Yellow & Give Your Client a Beautiful  Ultra Ashy Blonde Result

Watch the Video Below of Blue Based Extra Cold Ash Blonde 10.1b in Action!

Hair by Brittney Perez.



Using Blue Based Dyes

Hair by Elona Taki

Q: My Client Has Orange Hair. What Should I do?

A: Use Green to Neutralize Orange Hair if you are Planning to Give Your Client a Dark Blonde Result or Darker

As long as you are not looking to go lighter, you can use your choice of (a) green (b) ash grey additive or (c) any of Ugly Duckling's green based ash blonde colors.

Ugly Duckling's regular ash colors are green based - in fact they contain a lot of green! (more than most color ranges).
3.11, 4.115.11 are double ash reflhttps://fb.watch/408O052ojs/ects - extra amounts of green based ash to fight red on dark bases.

At higher levels, you can use 6.1, 7.1, 8.1, 9.110.1 - all green based ash colors.
It is, however, important to remember that the above techniques work very well in tone-down cases.

But in tone-up cases, in other words where you are trying to go significantly lighter, you really need to lift first properly using a lightener, then neutralize using a toner.

Q: My Client's Hair is Orange. I Want to Take it Blonde. But it's so damaged that I am Scared to Lift it Any Further. What Should I do?

A: In this case use Green to Neutralize Orange Hair 

The case below shows a customer whose hair had been colored many times.
It was basically impossible to lift it up beyond a certain level without damaging her hair.
Our stylist used green to neutralize an impossibly orange hair color.
Watch the Video below to see this in action!

Using Green to Neutralize

Q: Can I Use Toners to Kill Brassy, Orange or Yellow?

A: Yes, you can - but you need to get the hair correctly pre-lightened to level 9/10

Ugly Duckling's toner range have been formulated with exactly that aim in mind.
They have very fast acting pigments which typically neutralize in around 10 minutes.
Use Intense Pearl Blonde 100V or Intense Silver Blonde 100B for first time applications or when the color is still yellow (level 9)
Use Pearl Blonde Toner or Silver Blonde Toner when the lift is correct (level 10).
When using toners it is really important to pre-lighten dark areas of the hair and get everything up to as close to level 9/10 as possible.

Q: I'm doing all that but I am still not getting the Ashy Blonde Result that I am looking for. What am I doing wrong?

A: Almost certainly you need to lift the hair more. 

  • If you are looking for a white blonde or an ashy blonde, color neutralization from a dark level will not work.
  • Almost certainly you need to lift the hair more. 
  • Use a quality lightener and lift the hair up, ideally all the way to level 10. That way you will get rid of all yellow and orange.
  • Then apply a toner as above.

Examples of Hair that has been correctly lifted to level 9/10

Level 9

Hair that has been lifted to level 10

Q: How do I tone yellow hair?

A: Use Ugly Duckling Intense Toners

In general, we always recommend that you first lift the hair correctly (see picture above) before attempting to tone.
If you have done that, and the hair is still yellow, use Ugly Duckling's Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V or Intense Silver Blonde Toner 100B.
These toners have a special "booster" in them which will get rid of any remaining yellow.
This is what makes them among the most effective toners on the market today.
Use with 20 Vol developer in a 1:2 mix.
Try & work fast because these toners are very fast acting & you want to give all the hair an equal processing time as much as possible.
If you have long hair, tone the root area the last - it will process very fast there because of the heat from the scalp.

Q: My hair pulls orange. What should I do?

A: Sorry, there is no such thing as hair that "pulls orange."

There is, however, such a thing as a stylist that does not lift enough!
Don't misuse the color wheel and think you can just dump in ash and more ash and kill brassiness. It doesn't work like that.
Hair has its natural melanin which is causing that orange and that brassiness. You need to remove that first.
Lift up the hair to a true level 9/10. Use a quality lightener that works well on dark hair.
Then apply your ash toners as above. You will get a much better result.

Q: My customer has dark hair. She wants to go blonde. How do I get rid of all the orange as I lift?

A: Just keep lifting all the way up. It will transition from orange to yellow to pale yellow as you do so.

We do recommend you use Ugly Duckling bleaches whenever possible. All bleaches are not the same and have different lifting powers.
Brilliant Blonde is what we recommend when you have "heavy lifting" to do. It has been designed for dark hair and it lifts 8 levels.
Brilliant Blondexx with Bond Protect is what we recommend when you need to go in near the scalp and when you need a gentle bleach.
Brilliant Blondexx has Bond Protect built in and will protect hair from breakage as you lift.
We also recommend you use Ugly Duckling pearl blonde and silver toners. They are very heavily pigmented and provide for fast and effective toning.

Watch This Video to See Dark Hair Bleached Correctly and Toned to Pearl Blonde in One Sitting

Products Used:

  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener
  • Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V
  • Purple Shampoo and Mask
  • Developer

Hair by Ashley Betancourt

Q: Help! I put toner on my client's hair and it turned green! Why is it doing this & what did I do wrong?

Green Hair

This is a classic "Color Wheel" mistake. Take a look at the girl in the picture above.

Her stylist did not bleach her hair enough. It was too yellow and then she dumped in blue based toner in an effort to try and get her hair blonde.

Of course, it did not work!

What happened? Sure enough, as Color Theory and the Color Wheel would predict: Yellow + Blue = Green!

What we advised her to do, is what we would advise anyone to do:

Bleach one more time, really well. Use Brilliant Blondexx Bond Protect Bleach for extra protection with 20 Vol developer.

Do that and most of the yellow gets lifted out. Once you have done, that you can use your blue based toner and all will be well.



  • The color wheel can help you understand what is going on when your client's hair is too brassy.
  • The color wheel is particularly helpful when you can't lift the hair anymore - eg it is fragile or has too much color build-up.
  • But in all other cases we suggest you lift the hair first.
  • Do that and all your color wheel problems go away.
  • After that you can just apply your choice of ash additives, blue based ash blonde colors or Ugly Duckling toners. 
  • You will get excellent results if you do this we promise!
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.