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After a year of wild hair colors—pastel, sand art, rainbow—things finally seem to be calming down as we head into 2016. Colors are getting softer and so are placements. There’s a resurgence of traditional highlights and single process shades, and we’re seeing the bright hues that once covered the head mixing with natural shades to create understated effects. The looks shown here have a neutral ash-brown base highlighted with bits of soft pastel, the effect is grungy, muted, and muddy, like paintbrush water, as if all the bright shades have blended and blurred. Click the style notes for steps to creating the look. –– Laura Martin

Step: Select a base color with a neutral or cool tonal direction for the most natural look. These hues appear darker than warm shades, so formulate on the lighter side to keep the look from feeling severe.

Step: Select two or three accent shades within the same family of colors as the base shade. Blue, green, violet or gray are the best choices. Mix the vibrant tone with an ash blonde to keep it soft.

Step: Apply the lighter hues in thin highlights and the base shade to the hair in between. Highlights should cover no more than 1/4 of the hair to keep the effect muted.

Special thanks to Laura Martin for this post. Laura is a professional hair stylist, former senior educator at ARROJO cosmetology school, and a creative non-fiction MFA student at Georgia College, Milledgeville, GA. Follow her inspirations on twitter  @LarMarStyle   

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