Hair Color List (Note: an updated and expanded version of this list appears in my 15K-word book How to Describe Hair and Skin. See below.)
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I'll admit it – hair colors are fun, even for someone like me who advocates keeping description to a minimum. The following list should give you some ideas for your character's hair color.
Natural human hair color comes in these basic shades: blond(e), red, light brown, dark brown, black, gray, white. If your character is supernatural or has access to hair-dye, he can have any exotic color he wants. However, unusual hair-colors for supernatural characters are becoming cliché in fantasy fiction.
Don't forget about highlights! Natural hair-color has a range of related colors that you will see when the light hits it. Here at Obsidianbookshelf.com, I'll go into detail about highlights after the color list. Skip to section on highlights.
What are the nouns that apply to people with certain hair colors? A male is a blond, brunet, or redhead. A female is a blonde, brunette, or redhead.
Also, sometimes words pick up additional shades of meaning over time that are irrational but exist, and you won't find these connotations listed in the dictionary. Where needed for clarification, I've given the dictionary definition in italics from The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition (Houghton Mifflin, 1982, 1985, 1991, ISBN 0395329434). Then I add whatever additional connotations occur to me and why.
Please check for frequent updates to this list! I plan to add more terms and full description to each term.
- Blond – ash
- Blond – bronze. Dictionary definition: 1. Any of various alloys of copper and tin, 2. A moderate yellowish to olive brown. By contrast, "brassy" means cheap, showy, and artificial.
- Blond – flaxen. Dictionary definition: Having the pale yellow color of flax fiber.
- Blond - ginger.
- Blond – golden
- Blond – honey
- Blond – platinum. Dictionary definition: A very light silver-blond hair color, esp. when artificially produced.
- Blond – tawny
- Blond – wheaten
- Red – auburn
- Red – copper
- Red – flaming
- Red – strawberry blond.
- Brown – ash
- Brown – ginger. See Blond - ginger.
- Brown – sandy. Dictionary definition: the color of sand; yellowish red.
- Brown – chestnut. Dictionary Definition: Of a grayish brown to moderate reddish brown. Again, forget the grayish part of the dictionary definition. Chestnut hair is a warm medium-brown with a hint of reddish or orange tones.
- Brown – russet. Dictionary Definition: 1. A moderate to strong brown. 2. A coarse reddish-brown to brown homespun cloth. 3. A winter apple with a rough reddish-brown skin. I've got to admit here at Obsidianbookshelf.com that I don't know what a "strong brown" is. I think of russet color as an attractive medium reddish-brown.
- Brown – russet. See Red - russet
- Brown – sable. Dictionary definition: 1. A carnivorous mammal … having soft dark fur, 2. The color black, esp. in heraldry. 3. A grayish yellowish brown.
- Brown – sorrel. Dictionary definition: 1. A brownish orange to light brown, 2. A sorrel-colored horse.
- Black – jet. Dictionary definition: 1. A dense black coal that takes a high polish and is used for jewelry. 2. A deep black. Jet black hair is a cliché. If you must use it, write it as "jet black" and not "jet."
- Black – raven. Raven hair is a cliché. A shiny true black with blue highlights.
- Black – sooty black. A soft true black like coal. Always describe it as "sooty black" rather than "sooty" so it's clear that you don't mean literally covered with soot.
- Gray – ash
- Gray – iron
- Gray – salt and pepper. This refers to an even mix of gray hair and dark hair. It can look very attractive.
- Gray – silver
- Gray – steel
- White – pearl. Always write it as "pearl white hair" rather than "pearl hair". This refers to white hair with a soft luminous glow like pearls.
- White – snow, snowy, snow-white. All clichés.