Salon Professionals: Color Correction and Toning 101

For my Salon Pros… because, to everyone else this is going to sound like gibberish.

There are two types of color appointments in my world: color correction and color maintenance. If your client is asking you to alter the color of her hair, because she is either unhappy with it or in need of a change, you are performing a color correction. And if you are not?? Well then you should be.

When altering color even slightly, your “color correction brain” should be in full throttle. When a colorist asks me a question about toning, coloring, lightening, etc… the most common occurrence i am finding, is that they are literally not thinking about the color wheel.. At all!! Just because something has not gone devastatingly wrong, does not mean that you are free to pick the swatch of choice and dump the tube on your clients hair. 


Have you ever utilized one of of these magical tools??

I sure hope so.


A picture of a clients color I did a few weeks ago has been stirring up questions from inquiring stylists. The pic was featured on DyedDollies of Instagram and the question everyone is asking…


Q. What is your silver formula?

A. There is no general rule when it comes to achieving ANY hair color! Especially fashion shades… and light to ultra light fashion shades at that. When I am approached with this question, my most common response is- “What’s the base? Level?”

I approach fashion shades, with again, a corrective frame of mind. If we are trying to achieve silver, my base level and tone is important because it will completely dictate the formula.


How about a little step by step:

Want to know where we started, and how we acheived this slate to silver ombre’?

Sometime last year, I had a color referral from one of my more daring clients… This one wants white.

Our first appointment was spent weaving, oh so carefully, through her subtle balayage highlight. Lifting all of her hair from her natural level 7 to match the existing highlight.

At the sink:

Her hair lifted easily but was still yellow… especially if the client is asking for white.

Shampooed with violet shampoo, let sit 5 minutes and rinsed well.

I ALWAYS squeeze as much water out of the hair before toning in the sink, even towel drying slightly… I also lift the clients head out of the bowl so that the full head is covered evenly.

My formula:

Using pastel mixer as a base (this keeps the hair from over saturating or becoming dark) and v9… we ran this throughout her hair, scalp to ends. I let that process for 5 minutes, rinsed and conditioned.

It dried beautifully and I forgot to take a picture… oops.

We maintained her white hair for several months, and when it was time for a change, we snapped a before.

(8 weeks after her last retouch)


A nice uber light beige canvas to begin our next hair painting project…


The Concoction:

Formula A— 4n + 10 vol

Formula B— A7 + Activator

Formula C— Pastel Mixer + a tad of v9 + Activator

In four quadrant sections I painted Formula A throughout the entire base of the hair feathering each small section varying 1-2 inches from the scalp. Going back through each section saturating the ends with formula C and using Formula B as my “buffer”.

Tip- I work slowly and carefully, wiping my hands several times, to keep the ends free from misplaced dark patches. Cleanliness is important!

No color adjusting or toning required.. Just rinsed, conditioned and blown out.

When she retuned about 8 weeks later…


She was seeing yellow throughout her hair and wanted to be more gray.

Here was my solution:

Formula A— Silver intense + 20 vol

Formula B— A7 + 20 vol

Formula C— 1/2 Clear + 1/2 Titanium + a dime size dot of violet

Now keep in mind she has 8 weeks of outgrowth (approx 3/4 of an inch). Starting with Formula A I foiled her entire base using a large slicing technique; only applying this formula from scalp to the dark color seam, feathering up to the white hair. Let process 30 minutes, rinse, blow dry.

Using four partings and clean sections, I applied Formula B over her original outgrowth and Formula C to the rest. Process 10 minutes, rinse, conditioned, trimmed and blown dry.



Want the method behind my madness?

Most of her dark color was semi permanent and given how light her hair was when we applied the 4n, I knew the silver intense would tone and gently lift, while also breaking the base of the virgin hair… the intensifier obviously would not deposit much color to the outgrowth, turning it the perfect red/orange shade; easily drabbed out with ash.

When mixing formula C I added violet to help with the yellow tones the client was seeing. Just that dot of violet helped to brighten the silver, which in florescent lights, looks like this… and in natural light looks very gray.

Thanks Miss S. for all of the fun projects you bring my way! Looking forward to the next one 😉


About Tia Panter

My name is Tia, my mom and I own The Eclectic Chair salon in Idaho Falls, ID. Styling hair, makeup and my work spaces are what I do best. I had a 60 pound transformation when I fell in love with yoga and out of lust with food; I am a blue, loc-haired, yoga-loving vegan, and this is where I plan to document my discoveries.

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