7 Ways to Make Your Hair Colored for a Costume

how to color hair for cosplay

There are so many characters from anime, movies, comics, and games that have unusual and unnatural hair colors. You might also want to find a way to temporarily color your hair a different natural color without applying any kind of permanent dye or bleach to your hair. Luckily, there are a lot of different types of products you can use to color your hair depending on your budget and how long you want the color to last.

The most common way that cosplayers match a character’s hair color is actually by using wigs. However, you can also temporarily dye your own hair using colored hair spray, wax, chalk, or even semi-permanent hair dye. The lighter your natural hair color is, the more likely you’ll get good results.

Some products will work on dark hair, especially if you don’t need to recreate a super light color. But if you’re struggling to find hair coloring products that work on your dark hair, it really is best to wear a wig instead. While it is possible with a lot of time and hair products, it’s very difficult to cover up a dark color while also maintaining a normal, non-greasy hair texture


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wearing a lace front wig
Lace-front wigs are made to have a natural hairline. Once you’ve added concealer and blended it into your skin, the lace front almost disappears.

1. Wear a wig

This is by far the easiest and most common way for cosplayers to attain the right hair color for their character. I know when you first get into cosplay it’s pretty common to think of wigs as tacky-looking and unrealistic. After all, most people only wear wigs around Halloween before getting into cosplay, and those wigs tend to be cheap-looking, low-quality wigs.

However, you can find high-quality wigs with realistic hairlines for cosplay if you’re worried the wig will look too synthetic. Even if you have long hair, there are plenty of easy techniques you can use to get it all under a wig. This is the technique I use to get my butt-length hair underneath my wigs.

If you have dark hair and you want to temporarily color it a light or bright color for your cosplay, a wig will be especially useful for getting your perfect hair color.

2. Use colored hair spray

If you really want to use your real hair, then there are still some relatively cheap and easy ways to change the color temporarily. Colored hair spray is the first option I’d consider. You can get just about any color of the rainbow and apply multiple layers for fuller coverage. Make sure to use your fingers to work the color through your hair so you’re not just covering the outer layer (wear a glove to keep from coloring your hand).

Usually, even dark, black hair can be sprayed to have a somewhat bright color if you use an entire can (or maybe two) or the spray. However, the more colored spray you use, the crispier the texture of your hair will be, making it feel like straw if you’ve used a lot. It can help to give your hair a comb-through before the spray completely dries to make the texture a little softer.

If you have long hair, a colored hair spray is one of the better options for you because it can cover a large area with less product. It won’t take you hours to get full coverage while you color your hair one section at a time, like you do with most other temporary hair-color methods.

Colored hair spray is great if you just want to color your hair for one day since it generally stays in your hair but easily washes out at the end of the day. Colored hair sprays usually don’t shed too much, but if you’re wearing dark clothing, you may see some hair spray dust when you use a lot of the product.

3. Colored Hair wax

Colored hair wax is a great option for people with shorter hair or beards that they want to color. It’s also good for characters that have hair styled in spikes or have thick textured hair. You can also use it with normal hairstyles if you use some leave-in hair conditioner to help keep your hair somewhat soft.  Because this is a wax product that coats your hair, it can work well even on very dark hair. However, you should expect to use quite a bit of hair wax.

Make sure your hair is slightly damp before applying hair wax. This will prevent the wax from clumping up in your hair. You’ll also probably want to give your hair a quick comb-through to make sure you have full coverage throughout.

4. Hair chalk

Hair chalk is a hair coloring product that is mostly aimed at kids, but it can work for some cosplay hair coloring as well. When applying, dip the chalk in water first to help spread the color around. Then seal the color with hair spray to prevent it from rubbing off right away. Most hair chalk will come in little plastic combs, but I recommend taking the pieces of chalk out of the combs and applying them by hand. The combs don’t seem to do anything except pull out your hair.

I don’t recommend hair chalk if you’re trying to color your entire head, but it can work well if you only need to color a couple of strands or sections of your hair. For example, the streaks of white in Rogue’s hair or the white pattern in Death the Kid’s hair (from Soul Eater). You can do your full head of hair if you want (especially if you have short hair), but expect to use a lot of chalk. It also probably won’t be as vibrant as you expect it to be.

santa
hair makeup is great for coloring beards and facial hair white.

5. Hair makeup

There are a couple of stage makeup brands that sell a product called hair makeup. This is a liquid hair colorant that you can apply to your hair with a sponge or a small brush. This tends to not create as much of a rough texture as other methods and is excellent at covering beards and short hair. You can use hair makeup with long hair too, but you’re not going to get as full coverage.

This is mainly used for creating a white or gray-looking beard or hair, and it’s difficult to find in other colors. However, I have heard of people using liquid makeup to color their hair, and it works pretty much the same as hair makeup does.

Hair makeup tends to be a little messier to apply than other products because it’s liquid. Use a sponge or small brush (even a toothbrush) to rub it on. If you need to apply multiple layers, make sure you let the hair makeup dry before adding more paint.

6. Semi-permanent hair dye

Semi-permanent hair dye is a similar product to normal hair dye, but it’s intended to wash out over the course of a few weeks. If you want to give your hair a different color, but don’t want to deal with the straw-like hair texture of other products or the color running onto your costume, this method could work for you. As with most products, this will work a lot better for people with lighter-colored hair, especially if you want to turn your hair a light or bright color.

You also have to make sure that you won’t need your normal hair color again for a few weeks. You could get in trouble at schools or workplaces that have rules against abnormal hair colors since the color will still be there for a while after your convention weekend.

However, if that’s not a problem, semi-permanent hair dye can work well for creating a short-term color that looks and feels like real hair. You won’t have to deal with a straw-like hair texture or shedding dust and particles from the gel or spray.

7. Clip-on hair extensions

Clip-on hair extensions work well if you only want some of your hair to be colored. Maybe the tips of your character’s hair are brightly colored, but you don’t want to dye your own hair. Or maybe they have green bangs or one red ponytail. You can use the clip-ons instead of getting a wig if your natural hair color matches the rest of your character’s hairstyle.

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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