Natural Hair Level Underlying pigment Parts per pigment Visual Tone Counter Tone
10 Lightest Blonde                 Y 1 part Yellow Pale Yellow Violet
9 VeryLight Blonde                YY 2 parts Yellow Yellow Violet
8 Light Blonde                YYY 3 parts Yellow Deep Yellow Violet
7 Medium Blonde                YYY 3 parts Yellow Gold Blue-Violet
                 R 1 part Red
6 Dark Blonde                YYY 3 parts Yellow Gold-Orange Blue-Violet
             RR 2 parts Red
5 Lightest Brown            YYY 3 parts Yellow Orange Blue
           RR 2 parts Red
             b ½ part blue
4 Light Brown             YYY 3 parts Yellow Red-Orange Blue-Green
            RR 2 parts Red
            B 1 part Blue
3 Medium Brown            YYY 3 parts Yellow Red Green
           RRR 3 parts Red
             B 1 parts Blue
2 Darkest Brown            YYY 3 parts Yellow Red-Violet Green
           RRR 3 parts Red
           BB 2 parts Blue
1 Black           YYY 3 parts Yellow Plum-Black Green
         RRR 3 parts Red
         BBB 3 parts Blue

Underlying pigment is the tone or hue that the natural hair gives off as you color it.
The natural pigments slowly gets lightened by the oxidation process getting lighter. Warmth is released when you lighten the natural hair going from blue, blue violet, red violet, red, red orange, orange gold, gold, pale yellow.
When you color, the final color is the combination of the artificial color and natural underlying pigments that combine to create the end hair color result.
Underlining pigment is the most important part of hair coloring but many stylist
professional may not know to take this important step into consideration.
Each level that you stop hair color at (desired level) has a different underlining pigment so checking which level you’ll stop is the most important thing to the formulation process, you check out the underlying pigment at that stopping point before you choose your artificial formula.

Understanding how the underlying pigment works is not as hard as it seems, you know the underlying pigment is always warm, and if you need the warm but without the brass, then you need to balance it out by using Neutral or using Violet / Ash, those tonalities are the the balancers and softeners of other tones, so if you think a Red Orange or Copper might be too bright soften that color with Neutral or Violet or Ash.
If you look on page 31 of the Matrix Socolor Handbook, it will show you what you get if you use the
Cool Cool=Ash   or Ash, Cool=Ash or the Neutral .
The Neutral + the underlying pigment gives you a warm color,
the Ash gives you neutral and
the Ash Ash will give you a cool color.
So, if you want a medium golden blonde, then you must use the Neutral to get there. Neutral plus the underlying pigment of Gold will give you a golden neutral result.
What would happen if you used the 7G, you would have the underlying pigment at a level 7-light orange + the artificial pigment of Gold and you would end up with strawberry blonde, much more on the red side of blonde.
Learn to look at the underlying pigment first and then decide what to use. Learn to add up the pigments you are using, that’s the way to be sure. Remember that it is the combination of the underlying pigment and the artificial color that makes the end result color .
Look at the level you are stopping at and then decide if you want to enhanse or subdue the tone of the underlying pigment, THEN pick your color, don’t pick the color first and hope it works out, praying on your knees in the dispensary.

Always remember that the underlying pigment is warm, so sometimes you might need to use a cool color series just to have a Neutral result or a Cool result.
This is because it’s the combination of the Underlying Pigment + the Artificial Pigment that gives you the end result color.
If you add the underlying pigment at a level 6 which is orange to a Ash tone, you end up getting a Neutral, here’s why.
I’ll use Socolor, but all color companies set up their colors from coolest to the warmest tones. Example – SoColor
Ash Ash – Ash – Neutral – Iridescent,
now I’m not going to put all the series up, just the ones labeled COOL.
If you add up the pigments before you mix the color, you’ll see exactly what you will have, it takes the scary part like – “I hope it works out”, “I wonder what it will look like” out of the equation, you’ll know what you’ll get.
So the example above had a client who wants a level 6, the underlying pigment at a level 6 is orange, so if you add Orange + Ash = Neutral, you get the neutral because the warmth of the orange moves the ash over a notch to the right making it a neutral color; if you add Orange + Ash Ash = Ash tone, you move it over a notch to the right.
If you add Neutral + Orange = warm neutral, like the Warm series or if you were stopping the color at a level 8, it would look like a Gold series , because Gold + Neutral = warm golden blonde.
Just remember to add up your pigment to find out what you’ll get now let’s do this another way using the chart.
Orange at a level 6 has RR + YYY now add the artificial tone of Neutral to the mix which has equal parts of R + B + Y, so you end up with this RRR + YYYY + B, which makes the Red & Yellow pigments dominate the formula leaving you with a very warm orangey looking color and NOT neutral at all.
Remember that you just don’t pick a color box and get that, we now know it’s the combination of the artificial color and the underlying pigment that gives us the end result color.
You want a cool color on a pigment head of hair, you’ll need to use the coolest possible tone to get that.
Question on AskMags.com
This makes sense to me and helps me to understand the end results. Does this also apply to previously colored hair…if so would I treat it like two different heads that need to be one in the end. I get confused and scared when I have a client who has regrowth and previously colored hair and whats to change to another color. Do you have any helpful hints on how to approach this?
Mags’s Answer on AskMags.com
Yes, you treat it like 2 heads that eventually come together. Always start with the rules.
Natural level NL
Desired level DL
desired Tone DT
then what will I need to get me there.
So if you have a NL4 with red toned hair that lighter here’s how you find out what she needs.
You check the NL by using the 1 thru 11 swatches in the Socolor line or whatever line you’re working with, all you’re looking for is lightness or darkness to find that level- the color part won’t match, so don’t worry about that, just check to see if the 3 is too dark the 4 looks right on or the level 5 is too light, then you’ll know it’s the level 4 .
Then you check out the level of the previously color treated hair, lets say it’s a red tone, so take the 5, 6, 7, & 8 RED swatches to find the LEVEL of that red, you find it’s a level 7, then you know that is your desired level- a level 7 red tone.
Now you look at the underlying pigment chart for the level 7, the level that you are stopping the hair color at.
It says the tone you see is Gold, with 1 part red + 3 parts yellow, so it does have some red in there but the tone you visually see is more of a gold result.
So now you know, you need to look at levcel 7 reds only, let’s find the one that’s correct.
Our lady has a faded golden red, not a Bozo deep red, so if well took the gold + 7RB, that wouldn’t work, the RB is too browny red and too cool.
Now you try gold + 7R, way too red, too harsh
Gold + 7RR- nope, you have Bozo red now
and then you try gold + 7CG and that seems to match what her ends are, it’s just faded a bit.
But let’s make sure by adding up our pigments to see what we’ll have at the end.
Underlying pigment : 1 red + 3 yellows = gold
Copper Gold: copper has 1 red + 1 yellow for the copper part and then add the yellow again for the gold part, so you have 1 red + 2 yellows, now add everything together.
2 reds + 6 yellows which will give you a copper gold result, it won’t be a red gold result, the yellow is dominate, but there enougy red and when you balance red with gold you get copper with some added yellows to help it look soft and that is the one that will match our clients color. So if you use the 7CG + 30vol because you are lifting 3 levels, then you’ll get a rich warm- but not too warm result of 7CG. – Mags –
Another Question on AskMags.comHey Mags,

I was reading the Education Posts. I think this one is great.

I noticed that you were going to help Gail (or anyone) with a color formula to practice. Can we please try another example for us (more or less) beginners? (smile)

I’ll take a shot :
NL- 3-4
DL- 8-9
DT- neutral (maybe a little gold)
Product: Matrix SoColor

Could you please help me out a little? Since we are lifting quite a bit the underlying pigment will be gold/deep yellow (used your chart from the bleach post), which are warm. Would you use an ash to be a more neutral color? But, what about the golden part, or would the warmth from the underlying pigment already give us that?

Help!! Thank you so much! BeautyNut

First if you are not sure what level a client is, use the 1 thru 11 swatches in Socolor against her hair, lift up the hair from the back crown to let light thru and you’ll be able to tell a little better, but if she is in between then always use the darker level just to be safe.
So if you are trying to get a level 3 up to a level 8, that is 5 levels of lift, so you’d need to go to the highlift series to get you there but ONLY with some OTHER companies, because SoColor ONLY recommends the Highlift series – the UL series for levels 5 and up, so your example needs to be a Bleach & Tone method.
There is a limit to color and sometimes you need to jump to the next method and in your example you do, if you tried to take a NL-3 up to a level 8, you could NOT get Neutral, even with a little Gold, you would get a strawberry brassy tone, that wouldn’t be very pretty. It would be the raw underlying pigment, the toner in the color wouldn’t be strong enough to counter that much yellow.
Remember there is a limit to haircolor, the scientists have figured out that in Socolor you can only lift a level 5 and above up with the UL series.
Other companies will be different, Logics is level 4 and up, so you need to always check with the manual to see what the limit level is.
So to answer your question:
You will bleach up to chicken fat yellow level 8 and then tone with a Demi Permanent like Color Sync level 1 1/2oz.8N + 1/2oz.8V and you will have a Neutral with a little bit of Gold. – Mags
Awesome! I appreciate that. Yes, color has limitation, and I have to keep in mind that ‘everything’ is not possible. Thanks Mags, Beauty Nut

Natural Hair Color – Underlying Pigment

BLACK – Level 1 has
3 parts blue
Red Violet Brown
Blue + Gold
3 parts red
3 parts yellow
Level 2 has
2 parts blue
Red Violet
Blue + Gold
3 parts red
3 parts yellow
MEDIUM BROWN – Level 3 has
1 part blue
Blue + Gold
3 parts red
3 parts yellow
Level 4 has:
1 part blue
Red Orange
2 parts red
3 parts yellow
LIGHTEST BROWN – Level 5 has:
1/2 part blue
2 parts red
3 parts yellow
Level 6 has
2 parts red
Gold Orange
Blue + Violet
3 parts yellow
MEDIUM BLONDE – Level 7 has:
1 part red
Blue + Violet
2 parts yellow
BLONDE – Level 8 has
3 parts yellow
Deep Yellow
2 parts yellow
LIGHTEST BLONDE – Level 10 has:
1 part yellow
Pale Yellow


  1. This is wonderful information. Thank you. Does this chart here work for every color line or does each brand have its own tweak? I feel like I have seen charts with a bit different pigments at the same level.

    1. There are 2 levels system in the industry the American level system and the European level system.
      You can tell the American level System as the level 6 is Dark Blonde versus the European level 6 is Lightest Brown.

  2. I like this it is very helpful. So If I want to lift a level 7 to level 8 with a neutral bit of warmth and she has under 50% grey then a level 8 N plus 8V 1/2 and 1/2 would work?
    But if I needed a less warm result how can I figure the ratios if I use more 8V? I mean if I double the amount when I’m counting the tones for instance–YYY+YRB+RB then would I add another RB for the double violet? Hope I’m making sense. That would be the equivalent of 3 neutrals with one Y. So I’m thinking quite neutral not as much gold. I appreciate your thoughts on this.

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