Overview of Panel Hair Coloring

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If you're getting tired of your same old foil placements and hair color ideas, then discovering the world of panel hair coloring can really boost your mojo.

Panel coloring is a technique where sections and panels of the hair are isolated to create contrast that almost gives a waterfall effect. Another bonus of panel coloring is that depending on how your client styles their hair, the color can look different depending on the part or style. It's an extremely versatile technique that can go from punky to Upper East Side, depending on the tones you work with. For a dramatic effect, use contrasting colors, for a more subtle effect, use complementary colors. The possibilities are endless.

Getting Started

The most important step to panel coloring is mapping out your sections and choosing your colors. The execution is super easy after that. First, you will have to decide on your base color. Are you going all over red, chocolate, maybe even platinum? Once you determine your base color (and take the necessary steps to pre-lighten the hair if need be) then you will determine the other colors you will be working with to create the contrast.

Next, you will move on to determining your sections. The beauty of panel coloring is that it looks complicated and technical, but it's all in the sectioning, which is really quite easy. Take a triangle or diamond section somewhere on top of the head and in front of the crown. You can work off of your client's part, or if you're going for a peekaboo effect you can start under your client's natural part or bangs. There's also no rules when it comes to how many color panel sections you can take. The artistry of the placement is up to you and your client.


Once you determine your colors and sectioning, you will then apply your all over color (unless you've pre-lightened) on all of the hair that is not in the triangle section. Cover that section in saran wrap once it is completely saturated and then move onto your triangle section.

Depending on how many colors you have chosen (I like to work with 2 or 3) you will then begin taking slices of hair, alternating your colors. For a more blended effect, change colors every packet or every other packet. For a bolder, more layered effect, take 4 or 5 slices of each color before moving on to the next.

Finishing Up

Once your color has processes, take extra care when rinsing it out, especially if you are working with blondes or porous platinums. It's a good idea to rinse the base color first and then go on to removing the foil packets.

Once the hair has been shampooed and conditioned, dry your client and check out your work. Often times the next step to color paneling is doing some finishing work with your shears. You can carve into the hair and highlight certain sections or colors. That being said, if you are doing a full haircut and color service on your client that day, I would suggest doing the bulk of the haircut first. Color paneling really plays off the shape of the cut and it would be a shame to ruin all of your hard work by cutting it out.

Once your masterpiece is finished, consult with your client about aftercare and products for their new color. A simple, easy trick for making hair color last, is washing it with luke-warm to cool water. Hot water opens up the cuticle and causes the color molecules to flush out of the hair. This is extra important to keep in mind when working with reds and punky colors, as they are extra prone to fade.