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Last updated: September 07, 2022

Hair Painting Basics: The 4 Gestures Of Balayage

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Balayage For Beginners: What You Need To Know

Real talk: “Balayage” is one of the most commonly used words in the salon. But oftentimes, clients think of balayage as a finished look—natural looking ribbons of brightness—versus an actual technique.


Do you feel comfortable tailoring your hair painting methods to every client? To do this, you must truly understand the four main gestures of balayage, and how they work. L’Oréal Professionnel Color Artist and educator Jack Howard (@jackhowardcolor) breaks it down. 


Get the full rundown in Jack’s 3-part series: Balayage 101: From Basics To Advanced



1. Classic balayage

Jack describes the finished results as having a soft root and looking natural. To achieve this, paint each section with a deep V-pattern for a lived-in, blended effect. Use this technique on clients who want more brightness, but want still keep their natural color depth. 


Pro Tip: Gradually minimize the sizes of your sections as you paint the top and front to pack a punch of brightness around the hairline.


“This kind of client we want to see about four times a year. Anything less and it looks worn out. It’s essential to keep it fresh looking, yet still slightly lived-in, as we paint with purpose. Make that transition area so soft that you don’t need a root tap or smudge,” says Jack.


Hit play in the video to see how Jack paints that sweet spot in between the root and looking grown out.

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A post shared by Commercial Hair w/ Jack Howard (@jackhowardcolor)


2. Creative balayage

Creative balayage is painting less methodologically and more free-spiritedly. Jack tells us that this technique is less about painting symmetrically and more about balance. You want both sides of the head to be equal in brightness, but not necessarily mapped out the same.


Jack notes, “I leave out curls that don’t need painting and check that lived-in area to make sure it’s not all matchy-matchy, because that never looks natural.” 


Pro Tip: Never dip the brush you paint with directly into the bowl of lightener. Take product from the bowl onto your mixing brush and dollop it onto your balayage board. Here, you can paint with just what you need. 



Don’t paint what doesn’t need painting. Click below to see how it’s done!

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A post shared by Commercial Hair w/ Jack Howard (@jackhowardcolor)


3. Micro balayage

Micro balayage can be taken closer to the root—perfect for lobs, bobs, hair part flippers and fringe lovers. The placement for micro balayage is no longer V-shaped like classic and creative. Now, we are taking skinnier sections and painting vertically. 


“I really like that strength of fine foils around the hairline at the moment,” says Jack. “There’s a trick to getting them close and that is to weave finely in the front so I can really hit that hairline. There’s nothing worse than pulling it back and seeing dark when it’s supposed to be light,”  


Pro Tip: The haircut is really important—if the client has blunt layers, your placement can easily look choppy and not blended.


Want your micro balayage to look so natural it looks like it’s growing from the scalp? Watch Jack’s super-fine application below!

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A post shared by Commercial Hair w/ Jack Howard (@jackhowardcolor)


4. California balayage

For a sun-kissed look, California balayage is soft at the root, then completely saturated through the rest of the lengths. This is for the client who wants a summery, beachy vibe. The placement is a V-shape with three peaks and much less left out.


Pro Tip: Take bigger sections and bigger scoops of product. Load the product in the middle of the hair shaft, then feather lightly up toward the root. Fully saturate the ends for the perfect blend.


“The strange thing about a heavy paint is how it looks during the process to how it looks finished,” shares Jack. “It seems overwhelming when you’re painting, and that’s where it can get scary, but the finished result is so soft. Ribbons of blonde at the root and strength at the ends. Ideal for blondes and great on curls—to the root or not—it gives you plenty of options.” 


Don’t be scared to paint heavy. Trust the process and love the results. See the video below for proof!

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A post shared by Commercial Hair w/ Jack Howard (@jackhowardcolor)


Want a full breakdown and demo for each technique? Learn this and more, included in the BTC-U Membership!


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