Advice and Tips from Hair Painting Artist Caroline Kim

When Caroline Kim enrolled in cosmetology school nine years ago, she was simply hoping she’d found a career that would nourish and make use of her creativity. She had no idea that it would lead her to her true calling.

“One day, a color educator came into the school and did a demo on the current color trends and styles,” Kim recalls.

“That moment changed my life. I knew then that I wanted to be an educator.” An instructor at the school and a trainer in her first job with the Wella family also were impressed with Kim's work and encouraged her to go into education. At every step of her early career, Kim was meeting the kind of dedicated, passionate educator that she would soon become.

Today, as an independent stylist and one of the Kadus Professional Global Directors, Kim not only conducts stylist education but also collaborates with the other team members to create the brand’s seasonal Trend Direction looks.

“There are so many avenues for independent stylists, and you won’t know which one is a good fit for you unless you know what the options are.”

MODERN SALON: What was your first freehand painting experience?

CAROLINE KIM: My first time was actually a disaster! I didn’t apply color evenly on the hair surface; I applied too much color at the root area and didn’t feather the application. The results were splotchy, with bright and bold spots at the roots. Don’t be discouraged if your color doesn’t come out perfectly the first time. Figure out where you need to make improvements, learn the proper techniques and then practice—you can only get better!

MS: Can you share your best balayage technique tips?


  • In general, keep your mixing ratio at 1:15 for a creamy consistency.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush for a smoother stroke and the appropriate paddle size for the desired result.
  • Keep the tension tight on the hair—you need a flat surface to paint on, with your bristles held flat to the section. You’re not painting a fence!

MS: How has freehand painting helped you with your business?

CK: Balayage is a tool that I use everyday in the salon, and the versatility of looks that can be achieved has helped my business tremendously. Currently the “lived in” look is very much on trend and popular.

Using freehand techniques, I am able to create different versions of this look that can be customized, ranging from just a few highlights around the face to a dramatic ombre. Balayage also helps me obtain new clients. When I send my hand-painted hair out the door, it becomes a walking advertisement for my skills. 

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