Tutorial: How to Color a Wig With Sharpies

how to dye a wig

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What to know about wigs before you color your wig

Since synthetic cosplay wigs are not the same as real hair, there are a few things to be aware of before you start:

  • You can only dye a light wig to a darker color. Plastic wig fibers cannot be bleached, so you have to start with a light-colored wig. It can be white, pastel, blonde, or anything along those lines. As long as you are coloring it darker than it started.
  • Be careful about using hair products and heat afterward. The first two methods on this list use rubbing alcohol to help dye the wig. Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable, so you need to be careful about using heat-styling techniques after the wig is dyed. In addition, some hair products will react with the color and cause it to run, so test out any products on small areas of the wig first.
  • It’s difficult to dye a wig black. Most of the time, black dyes are going to end up looking like a very dark blue or brown.
  • It’s difficult or impossible to un-dye a wig. For the most part, your colored wig is final. You can give the wig a bath of rubbing alcohol to remove some color, but you won’t be able to get it back to the original white or light-colored wig.
sharpie dying wig roots
If you want you can just dye the more visible parts of the wig roots at the top, but for a cooler and more realistic effect, go through the roots of the entire wig.

Using a sharpie to dye a wig

You can use sharpies to color a wig and dye it. This is the method that takes the most time, but also gives you the most control over where the color appears, if you need to make a specific pattern. It’s also very useful if you only want to color the roots or the tips of the wig.

Sharpie marks are going to be the cheapest option for you. Other alcohol-based markers are also okay to use (such as Copics) if you can’t find the color you want in a sharpie. But remember, even just coloring the roots of a wig will take all the ink in 1-2 markers, so Copics and other artist markers will make the process much more expensive.

Supplies needed:

revealing the bottom layer of the wig
Use large clips to pin up the hair from the wig so you can go layer by layer.

Step 1: Pin the wig up to expose the bottom layer

Start by using your large clips to pin back the fibers and expose the bottom layer. For this method to be successful, you’ll have to go one layer at a time so that you don’t miss any of the wig fibers.

If you are only coloring the tips of the wig, you can skip this step. Instead, section off small portions of hair and go through one little area at a time, making sure to get color underneath the fibers as well as on top.

coloring with sharpie
Use whatever color Sharpie you want to dye the wig. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, Copic markers are also okay to use.

Step 2: Color the fibers with a sharpie

Take your sharpie and color the fibers. If you’re only coloring the roots of the wig, you really only need to use the sharpie on the top of the fibers. However, if you are doing full strands, make sure to color them on all sides. Test it by looking at the wig from the front to see if there are still any white spots (or any original wig color).

You might also want to use a sheet of paper or cardboard to place behind the fibers and make coloring easier. Again, this probably isn’t necessary if you’re just doing the roots, but otherwise, it can be very helpful.

using a q-tip with rubbing alcohol
Feather the edges of the colored section using a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Step 3: Use a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol

After you’ve colored the areas you want, dip a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and gently smudge the color. This is especially useful if you’re coloring just the roots or the tips because it makes a more feathered gradient effect. It’s also useful if you’re coloring the entire wig so you can make sure you don’t miss any areas.

coloring the top section of the wig
If the top does not have layers, take a small clump in your hand and go section by section. Make sure to color the front and back of the fibers.

Step 4: Continue through all the layers of the wig

Go one layer at a time (or one section at a time) through the wig, coloring, and smudging as you go. This is a time-consuming process, so you might want to put on a movie or two in the background to help you pass the time. It took me about 2-3 hours to just color the roots of a wig.

The top of some wigs will have a skin top or lace front. These areas don’t have layers of wefts like the rest of the wig, so you’ll have to color a small section at a time until you’ve covered the whole thing.

Step 5: Rinse the wig

After you’ve finished, it’s a good idea to rinse off the wig. Run water over the wig until it drops off clear. This will ensure that the color doesn’t bleed onto your costume or clothing later. Wait for the wig to dry overnight and then you can comb and style it however you like, but be careful with heat tools and test any hair products on a small section first.

If you’ve only colored the roots, this isn’t strictly necessary. It’s unlikely that the root area will ever touch your costume, so you can probably skip this step.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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