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How the Shade Chart Works

The Ugly Duckling Hair Color Chart Explained


How a Shade Chart And the Colors Work

1. The International Color Level System - Color Depth

  • All hairdressers use this color level system to describe exactly the level of darkness or lightness of hair.
  • Hair Color Levels go from Level 1 (Black) to Level 10 (Extra Light Blonde)
  • These are the numbers we should use when referring to a client's hair.
  • These are also the numbers we should use when agreeing with your client the color to which you are going to take her.
  • Subtracting one from the other gives you the number of levels you need to lift by (or to darken by of course).
  • This will give you an indication of what developer to use. Also whether the lift is even possible without using bleach.
  • In any Ugly Duckling color the depth of the color will be first number reading from left to right.
  • So, for example, 6N or 6.13 or 6.73 are all Dark Blonde Level 6 hair colors.
  • And 10N, 10.1 and 10.2 are all Extra Light Blonde Level 10 hair colors.
  • Note, incidentally, that there is no such thing as level 12 hair! 
  • As stylists we should always stick to numbers from 1 to 10 to describe color depth.

Hair Color Levels

2. Hair Color Reflects Explained - Secondary Color.

  • Now we get to the second and third numbers. These are the reflects.
  • These are the secondary pigments we put into to a color to give the hair a 3 D effect.
  • At Ugly Duckling, we use the European system with numbers.
  • But you can use the American system too. The 2 systems are essentially very similar and it is a good idea to understand both systems.
  • European System: .1 is ash, ,2 is violet, .3 is gold, .4 is copper, .5 is mahogany, .6 is red and.7 is chestnut.
  • American system: A is ash, V is violet, G is Gold, C is Copper, Rv is Mahogany (Red-Violet), R is Red and Dr Br is Chestnut (Dark Brown).

Hair Color Reflects

3. Let's Take a Practical Example

  • The hair color that you see pictured at the top is 6.31.
  • This is Dark Ash Blonde, with a golden primary reflect and an ash secondary reflect.
  • It can also be written 6GA.
  • We give it a name also, Dark Beige Blonde.
  • Stylists would generally prefer going with the numbering system rather than using the name but it's totally up to you.

4. The Ugly Duckling Shade Chart


  • When you bring the levels and the reflects together on a chart, it all makes sense.
  • Look at the first 2 panels above - these are Group One & Group Two in Ugly Duckling's color system.
  • Hair color levels (color depth) are measured from 1 to 10 bottom to top.
  • Hair color reflects (secondary color) are measured from left to right.
  • You can see the progression of the reflects as you go from left to right:  Base Colors, then the extra coverage colors (Extra Pigmentation for very resistant grey hair issues) and then the reflects described above, going from .1 (Ash) all the way to .73 (we call that Mocha, it's basically Chestnut with a little Gold added).
  • At Ugly Duckling we actually have two ash based lines: a regular ash, and a blue based ash.
  • Hairdressers typically appreciate the blue based ashes because they neutralizing yellow from levels 6 and up very well.
  • The regular ashes on the other hand are more green based are more suitable for darker bases. They will neutralize orange and red tones.
  • Note incidentally, that when a secondary color is repeated (for example 7.22, or 7VV) that simply means that the reflect is an extra vibrant reflect.
  • When there is a zero after a secondary color (for example 4.20, or 4V) it means that the secondary color is particularly intense. 


  • Now we get to Group three: the third panel above. 
  • his page is for high lifts, toners, additives and all types of fashion colors.
  • Here we no longer have regular numbering system. We don't therefore use color depth any more, we only group by type of coloring product.
  • Going from left to right, the first group is high lift color, then toners & additives, then greys, then different fashion colors.
  • Rainbow Color (the last column) is a direct color range.
  • The rest of the fashion colors are permanent hair colors.


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.