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Home / Blog/ How to Color Hair Professionally: A Step-by-Step Guide for Stylists
Home Blog How to Color Hair Professionally: A Step-by-Step Guide for Stylists
9.23 Extra Light Rose Beige Blonde - No Lightener Used

How to Color Hair Professionally: A Step-by-Step Guide for Stylists


Using a professional hair color line like Ugly Ducking can totally change the quality of the hair color results you can get.

Especially if you are looking to lift the hair up to blonde.

Or get one of those those elusive shades like pearl blonde, silver grey, ash blonde or violet.

But how should you use professional hair color to get the best results?

In this blog, we are going to cover 12 key things you need to get right.

Plus cover some very popular professional hair color results & how to get them.

Ready? Then read on...

1. What You Should Do Before Coloring

Before Bleaching

Hair Segmented & Tied Up & Ready For Coloring. 

What should you do before coloring?

The answer is: "Nothing".

Hair dyes and bleaches work best on dry, unwashed hair.

The oil from your client's hair will protect the scalp while it is being colored.

So no pre-washing, no masks, no coconut oil even for 2 days before coloring.

2. Decide What Level Your Client's Hair is 

Before you do anything, you need to do an accurate assessment to determine what level your client's hair is currently at.

Use the chart below to help you assess your client's hair color level: 

Hair Color Levels

Use this chart to determine what level your hair is at.

3. Work Out How Many Levels You Need to Lift

Now you need to figure out how many levels you need to lift by.

Decide on what your target color is going to be by reading off this chart below:

Hair Color Levels

Use this chart to determine your target hair color level

Take your target hair color level, minus off your target hair color from the current hair color level. 

For example, if your roots are level 5, and you are trying to get to level 10, that means you need to lift by 10-5 = 5 levels.

This number of levels is very important, because the more you need to lift by, the higher strength developer you will need.

4. Decide What Volume Developer You Will Need to Use

So now that you know how many levels you need to lift by, you can decide on the right developer strength. 

Developers generally come in 4 strengths: 10 Vol, 20 Vol, 30 Vol and 40 Vol.

The higher the Vol, the greater the concentration of hydrogen peroxide.

And the greater the lift you can achieve.

Which Developer to Use

Ugly Duckling sells developers in large 33 oz bottles as well as in smaller trial sizes.

Here are the rules for developer choice.

For level-on-level coloring, for toning blonde highlights without lifting, and for tone-down coloring, use 10 Vol developer.

For 1-2 levels lift, use 20 Vol developer.

For 2-3 levels lift, use 30 Vol developer.

For any lift higher than 3 levels, it is better to use bleach first, then color.

This is known as a double blonding process.

5. Decide whether roots, mid-lengths and ends are going to be needing different processes

Remember that the hair color can be very different at the root area, on the mid-lengths and at ends. 

For example the root regrowth is very often the natural hair color.

It might be quite dark.

The mid-lengths might be colored in a previous application but they could be too yellow and brassy.

At the same time the ends, which have typically been colored and bleached the most, could be quite white.

In such cases, you will need to use different coloring processes for the different parts of the hair.

See the picture below, for example.

Hair at Roots, Mid-Lengths & Ends All Different

Hair at roots, mid-lengths and ends all different

The root area is level 6 dark blonde.

The mid-lengths are level 9 and brassy and warm.

The ends are level 10 and white.

In such a case,  what we did was to apply a bleach mix to the root area first.

Then rinse.

Then use a lifting toner with 20 Vol, applying on roots and the brassy mid-lengths.

Then only pull through to the white ends during the last 5 minutes.

6. Section the hair correctly to prepare for coloring

Before you make your mix, you need to get the hair ready so that there is no time wasted.

Separate the hair into big sections. Tie up sections with a clip.

Leave one section (usually the lower back section) down.

This will be the section on which you will start to apply color. 

Hair all tied up neatly

Section hair into large sections and pin up.

7. Decide on how much developer to use in your mix

Follow the instructions below and you will get excellent results:

For most Ugly Duckling hair color, the correct mix is 1 part hair dye to 1 part developer.

For high lift Ugly Duckling colors, the correct mix is 1 part hair dye to 2 parts developer.

For Ugly Duckling cream-based toners, the correct mix is also 1 part toner to 2 parts developer.

For Ugly Duckling's liquid gloss toners, the correct mix is 1 part toner to 1 part developer.

And for Ugly Duckling bleaches, the mix is 1 part bleach to 2 parts developer.

Note that you must never put in more developer in order to get more lift.

All color brands including ours are formulated to work well with a certain mix ratio.

So you can by all means opt for 30 Vol or even 40 Vol if you are needing to lift.

But stick with the recommend amount of product.

8. Make Your Mix of Product and Developer.

The best way is to get your mixes right is to use kitchen scales. This is especially true if you are a new colorist.

Place the empty bowl or applicator bottle on the scale and set to zero.

Squeeze or pour in your hair color or toner or bleach and write down how much you put down.

Then set the scale to zero once more.

Then pour in the correct amount of developer.

If it's a 1 + 1 mix you are aiming at, you will be pouring in the same amount as earlier.

If it's a 1+2 mix then you need to pour in double the amount of developer.

When making cream color or bleach mixes, use a plastic coloring bowl.

Keep stirring with a whisk or a coloring brush until the mix is a smooth, creamy paste.

When making mixes with Ugly Duckling's liquid toner Blondify, just use an applicator bottle and shake.

You will find that it is quite easy to produce a nice gel-like consistency which will pour over the hair easily.

This is what an Ugly Duckling cream color color and developer mix looks like:

Color & Developer Mix

Ugly Duckling cream color and developer mix. 

This is what a mix of Blondify liquid toner and developer looks like as it comes out of the applicator bottle:

Blondify liquid toner and developer mix

Ugly Duckling Liquid toner and developer mix

And this is what a bleach and developer mix looks like:

Bleach and developer mix

Ugly Duckling Brilliant Blondexx Bleach with developer

9. Applying the product correctly

In order to get the most vibrant color possible, you must use enough product mix and you must saturate the hair properly.

In other words, you need to make sure that the hair comes into contact with plenty of product and is literally drenched with this product.

When applying cream based color, it is a good idea to apply twice.

Once using the brush, segmenting finely, and a second time with fingers using gloves, rubbing in the product really well into the hair as you do.

For bleach applications, it is really important that the bleach mix is nice and wet, as bleaches have a habit of drying out as soon as they are applied. 

Here again, if you see that the bleach mix is drying out on the hair before it has had a chance to lift sufficiently, apply some more bleach mix.

When using liquid toner mixes, rub the mix in thoroughly with your fingers using gloves.

Applying color

It is a good idea to do a second application, rubbing in the color mix with fingers (using gloves)

10. Respect the processing time

Color processing on hair

Ugly Duckling Ruby Red processing on the hair

For most colors, the processing time is 30 minutes.

For toners, rinse off when the correct color appears (around 10-15 minutes is normal).

For high lift colors: up to 40 minutes. 

Be aware that hair at the scalp processes faster than anywhere else due to the heat of the scalp. 

You need to watch this area when going lighter.

Be prepared to rinse as soon as this area looks done, even if this is before the 30 minutes are up.

11. Emulsify

Hair Emulsification

A few drops of water, and rub once again. Only rinse after you have done this.

Before rinsing, add a little water to the color and rub at the scalp area.
Then rub well around the hairline first, then middle and nape.
This process is known as emulsification.
It helps lock in the color into the hair, and gives you really vibrant, long-lasting color results plus hair that feels full and very well conditioned.

12. Finish with an acidic (low pH) shampoo

Use an acidic shampoo to close off the coloring or bleaching process.
This will help close the hair cuticle, lock in the color and return the hair to its natural pH level. 
Don't assume all professional shampoo and mask is acidic  You will need to check on the label.

All Ugly Duckling shampoos are low pH.

If you have been coloring blonde, you should consider using Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo and Mask.

For hair that is fragile, blonde and bleaches, use Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blondexx Shampoo and Treatment with Bond Protect.

The best toners to use for lifting and going blonde

For lifting and toning, we suggest you use Ugly Duckling's permanent cream based toners:

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V

Intense Silver Blonde 100B

Pearl Blonde 10V

Silver Blonde 10B

The above toners are some of the best selling Ugly Duckling products.

They produce really excellent, consistent cold blonde results.

Use the above toners with 20 Vol after bleaching first, and you will get excellent results.


Hair by Elona Taki

The best toners for toning blonde highlights without lifting the base

When you need to tone and refresh blonde highlights without touching the dark hair underneath in any way, use Blondify.

These are ammonia-free liquid gloss toners which can be used with low strength developer.

10 Vol, for example is great.

They process in only 10 minutes.

Which means that they don't lift the base in any way.

Like all of Ugly Duckling toners, they are based on color wheel principles.

So you use the Natural Ash Blonde toner to color correct highlights which are brassy and yellow-orange.

And you use the Natural Violet Blonde toner to color correct highlights which are pure yellow.



Q: Which are Ugly Duckling Best Selling Blonding Colors & Toners?

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V

Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V on pre-lightened hair.

Pearl Blonde Toner 10V

Pearl Blonde Toner 10V on pre-lightened hair.

Silver Grey

Silver Grey on pre-lightened Hair

Extra Cold Ash Blonde 10.1b

Extra Cold Ash Blonde 10.1b on pre-lightened hair.

Q: Which are Ugly Duckling Best Selling Fashion Colors?

Rose Gold

Rose Gold

Intense Violet Blonde 7.22

Intense Violet Blonde 7.22/7VV

Ruby Red

Ruby Red

Rose Gold

9.23 Rosy Beige Blonde 

Pretty Pink, Rose Gold Fuschia Pink

Mix of Pretty PinkRose Gold & Fuschia Pink. Achieved on Prelightened Hair.

Violet Root & Silver

Violet & Intense Silver Blonde 


Hair by Elona Taki

Products Used:

  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener for re-growth
  • Violet with Intense Silver Blonde 100B for root area
  • Intense Silver Blonde 100B for lengths
  • 20 Vol Developer
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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