The Basics of haircolour: Clairol print

The Basics of Haircolour – Understanding Levels & Tones


Considering home haircolour? Learn more about colour theory with an explanation of levels and tones, to help you get the shade you want every time.


Level refers to the degree of lightness or darkness of a colour. Within each colour family, there are light, medium and dark levels. For example: light blonde, medium blonde and dark blonde. While every haircolour brand has its own level numbering system, generally black is Level 1 or 2, and lightest blonde is the highest level number.


Tone refers to the “finish” of a shade—its degree of warmth or coolness. Tones are categorized as warm, neutral or cool, and are usually part of the shade description (think terms like “gold” or “ash”). No matter what your level of colour, you can choose from a variety of tones to help you achieve your colour transformation.

Read the chart below for a description of some common tones.

ASH (Cool) - Colour which has no red or gold highlights/tones (will minimize red/gold/brassy tones)
NEUTRAL - Colour which has an equal amount of primary colours (balanced)
BEIGE & CHAMPAGNE - Similar to a neutral, but may be more warm or cool depending on base
GOLD (Warm) - Colour which adds golden highlights/tones
RED (Warm) - Colour which adds red highlights/tones