As people with pixies and bobs can attest, the most stunning hair color ideas for short hair aren't always the same ones that work for long lengths. Because when you don't have 12 inches of hair to hide behind, you have to be strategic with your look. A super gradual ombré might not be an option, and it'll take a little extra brain power to work in some dimension. Luckily, a few expert colorists gave us some inside tips on how to achieve the most covetable short hair colors. Read on to see their advice and get some major short hair color inspiration for your next salon visit.
According to Matt Rez, Redken ambassador and midlight technique inventor, "The general rule of thumb for shorter hair is that the shorter the hair, the less vertical space there is to create a horizontal graduation." In order to create the dimension and movement that makes for a beautiful hair color, Rez relies on "the high and lowlight effect rather than a super-smoked-out root that fades drastically into ultra-light ends," which is perfectly exemplified here.
Celebrity colorist Jeremy Tardo says he personally loves a platinum pixie or buzz, "It’s a look that can be chic on many skin tones." We couldn't agree more—and we're loving the matching bleached brows.
Celebrity hair expert and founder of Cooper West Hollywood Cory Aaron Scott is partial to a honey caramel tone for bobs "like a European woman who spent the summer on the beach." This color job by Stephen Garrison is everything we'd imagine a beach summer in Europe would embody.
There's just something about expertly painted dimension on a curly bob. According to Tardo, "Dimension in short hair can be created in a number of ways. Hand painting techniques are best for very short cuts like pixies, whereas foiling applications can work nicely on bobs and mid length hair."
For blondes, Rez says you want to create a subtle shadow at the root but avoid stretching it too far down. "The traditional ombré is over and done with," he tells us.
Golden Blonde Buzz
There aren't enough words to describe how much we love Tiffany Haddish's golden blonde buzz she debuted at the 2021 Golden Globes. The woman can certainly rock every hair look under the sun, but we'll forever fawn over this particularly stunning combo of cut and color. Just look at how the hue complements her glowing skin in the most immaculate way.
Chocolate Salted Caramel
For short to mid-lengths, there's a little more room to play with balayage and we're drooling over this masterpiece by Chrissy Rasmussen on Tia Booth. Rasmussen calls this creation "chocolate salted caramel" and frankly, we don't think there could be a more fitting description for such a delicious blend of colors.
For super short crops, vertical ombré is obviously out of the question. But that smooth gradient is still totally achievable by fading from front to back, rather than top to bottom. Here, we start with face-framing platinum and move into a sunny marigold on the crown, which is such a refreshing take on the technique.
Blonde with a Natural Base
Rez recommends keeping your natural base color as a canvas with lowlights and warm pieces placed next to the brightest blonde strands. "That way, we won't pull a stripy look with too high of a contrast," he says.
"Short hair can be beautiful when worn in classic, natural tones; however, a short hair moment can also be the perfect time to experiment with fun colors," says Tardo. "When the hair is short, the texture damage that bleaching creates is minimized by frequent cuts." So basically, having short hair is the ultimate excuse to channel your inner Slick Woods and play with all the colors of the rainbow—on both your head and brows.
Biscotti Blonde Bob
As a neutral shade, biscotti blonde is a gorgeous complement to all skin tones. This tousled bob is teeming with enviable texture and volume, but the real MVP has to be the intentional placement of color. Just look at how those brightened ends enhance the effortless bedhead look—a true embodiment of "I woke up like this" if we've ever seen one.
These middle-parted curtain bangs are cute as a style, but completely stunning in rainbow. And the face-framing pastel rainbow streak to blend? Pure *chef's kiss* artistry.
Dark with Caramel Highlights
Caramel hair color makes up some of the most requested and versatile hues on the color market (and looks especially stunning on olive skin tones). Fine highlights in this warm shade add a glorious lightness and dimension to natural brunettes, and we love how sophisticated it looks on a tousled bob.
Scott's pick for shoulder-length strands? A classic butter blonde, as exemplified here by the ever-beautiful Hailey Bieber.
High Contrast Curly Buzzcut
If you've ever needed solid proof that short hair can be just as dimensional as long, behold this extra contrasty curly buzz. There is so much interest going on here—from the blonde highlights on the crown to the shaved accent lines—without being overbearing.
Rez's best advice for brunettes? "Stop running away from red undertones. You can fight it until the end of time, but it's essential for creating a pop."
Bleached Flipped Pixie Cut
Scott suggests going platinum or super-lightening the ends on a pixie cut, as shown here on Laura Harrier. "You can create dimension by using their own hair color as a lowlight and skipping panels or weaves to create that," he explains, "You can also sneak in a very subtle lowlight if needed."
This gorgeous example of cool blonde balayage proves that short hair can rock the look just as well as long hair. In fact, we may even be loving the shorter iteration a tiny bit more. Just look how cute it is as a textured bob!
One of Scott's top picks for short hair color inspo? Queen Bey herself. "I love that deep honey/golden 'Beyoncé tones'," he says, "like a beautiful rich leather tone that has faded over time."
Warm Brown With Bangs
'70s hair at its finest. This sleek, straight lob with brow-skimming bangs is something out of a spy flick and looks extra powerful in warm chocolate brown.
A soft, faded pastel is the ultimate way to dip your toes into fun colors without going full-on rainbow if that's not your jam. This shaggy cut is the best of both worlds: It's still kind of platinum blonde, but also a little pink-washed. Whatever you want to call it, it's an absolute look and a half.
On the flip side, if you're more of the cannonball type and can't be bothered with toe-dipping (or are just a colorful dye connoisseur), behold, pink balayage. The varying shades in this tousled lob create infinitely more depth and texture than a typical all-over pink dye job would.
Whatever your natural color may be, keeping the lightest strands toward the front is a foolproof technique for brunettes, blondes, redheads, and every color in between. The added brightness brings balance and attention to the face like a custom sun-kissed focal point—a glorious spotlight, if you will.
Make shoulder-length braids stand out with a bright blonde shade. We love the way Amandla Stenberg dressed up her 'do with smokey blue eyeshadow.
Warm Highlights and Lowlights
According to Rez, strategically placed warm lowlights will connect your darkest base to the lightest highlight in a multidimensional way. We love how this technique plays out in warm tones like the ones pictured here.
We will forever be envious of Rihanna's ability to look equally stunning with both long and short hair. A pompadour puts an elevated (literally) spin on a typical pixie crop with loads of volume focused at the top. Here, said volume is painted with a warm and sunny shade of auburn, while the sides are left natural.
Mid-Length Brunette Curls
Warmer browns look particularly pretty on natural curls. While the pictured length is on the longer side of short, curly hair has a tendency to shrink up, presenting the same coloring issues as short hair with the lack of vertical space.
Taupe is one of those neutral-to-cool hair colors that will be forever modern and chic. A greige bob couldn't be any more on par with French girl je ne sais quoi beauty if it was strolling down a cobblestone path with a baguette in hand.
Blonde Bob with Root Melt
Without the length for a full-on ombré, shorter hair provides ample opportunity for a dark-to-light root melt. The technique pulls the root color down to blend any harsh lines of demarcation—meaning grow out is a breeze, plus you get some added dimension.
With red hair, Rez says to aim for a super-sunny warm color. "I have never been a fan of violet-based reds because they don't look natural," he says.
With red hues, you want to make sure you don't go too light with your color, or it can end up looking like a brassy orange blonde. "I don't suggest lighter than a strawberry blonde highlight over a copper-based red," Rez says. "Keep the lightest highlight in the golden family."
If you're hellbent on going super light, Rez suggests incorporating bright golden blonde pieces into the color. "Just make sure your (red) base color is no deeper than two levels of the highlight," he says.
Shoulder-Length Black Hair
Natural black hair always looks polished with a middle part and we're especially loving it at shoulder-length on the impeccably gorgeous Priyanka Chopra. As she proves here, you don't need a ton of fancy highlights to make short hair stand out. A simple hair oil to keep the strands glossy and healthy-looking is all it takes to mimic her shiny locks—we recommend Playa'sRitual Hair Oil ($38).
Toffee Balayage Curls
What's something that feels illegal but isn't? How about the way these toffee and caramel tones bring out an angelic dazzle in her honey-hued eyes? Seriously, curly balayage is truly stunning, and we cannot be convinced otherwise.
Dark Roots and Bleached Tips
We're Prudence Blackwood stans here, and how could we ever get over her iconic gothic bleached buzz? Ask your colorist to leave the roots dark to add dimension and fully channel the character's bad ass witch energy.
Brunette Lob With Blonde Babylights
Gal Gadot is constantly giving us major dark hair color inspiration. Her chocolate shaggy lob blends into ends of pecan blonde babylights, and we're pretty sure she's got every brunette calling their colorist asap.
This violet-to-tangerine gradient reminds us of a particularly delicious summertime treat. Refreshing and sweet, this bouncy bob is everything we love about rainbow sherbet and makes a compelling case for dessert-inspired hair colors.
Black Pixie with Bangs
We're all for breaking up color with highlights and lowlights, but in this case, a rich black all-over color looks so sophisticated on a classic pixie with bangs. According to Tardo, "If hair is very short, sometimes opting for a solid hair color works best. If too much dimension is placed on super short layers, the result can appear a bit choppy like bird feathers."
Pops of Blonde
A minimal touch of sandy blonde in dark hair makes it look as though the sun is hitting you with that good selfie lighting 24/7. Plus, your hair will thank you for keeping the bleach to just a few strategic placements rather than going for all-over lightening.
Buttery Platinum Pixie
This warm blonde has the sophistication of platinum, minus the iciness. This sunny, buttery take is inviting and refreshing take on a tousled pixie cut.
For those clutching their purple shampoos for dear life to ward off even the slightest whiff of warmth, meet mushroom brown. The earthy, neutral shade will never lead you astray into brassy territory and looks bomb on short hair.
Bronde Pixie with Bangs
Not quite brunette, not quite blonde, bronde is that chameleon of a hair color that can live somewhere in between or be a mix of both. Jada Pinkett Smith's pixie is an example of the latter, which is achievable with expertly painted highlights and lowlights. For the best results, Scott says he suggests a free-handed dye job on short hair rather than foils: "You need lots of tension and depending on the length, it must be colored as if the sun is hitting it from every angle and side."
Short Black Curls
Black hair is obviously a more one-dimensional look, but on short, curly lengths, you can totally get away with it. These rich and romantic coils are courtesy of superstar hair genius Ted Gibson, and we are not at all surprised about this utter work of art.
Pink and Blonde
We love how fun pops of pink look in short blonde hair. Adding a little color is a breeze in platinum hair and comes out looking extra vibrant.
Brighten up a brunette bob with babylights and an extra bright blonde "money piece" to frame the face. This number by Stephen Garrison is proving that the side part is far from over.