This walk-through is intended as a beginner's guide to simple wig styling. It demonstrates dyeing, hand-coloring, heat styling and cutting, some of the basic skills with which the aspiring wig stylist should be familiar.
I styled this wig for a cosplay of the character at right (the final product can be seen in more detail with our Animamundi costumes). I was having trouble finding wigs in the right style or the right color, and eventually decided I would have to make my own...
Next, I cut open the ink cartridge from an old black Sharpie (black Sharpies are actually very dark purple) and sloshed it in a bottle of isopropyl alcohol until I had a medium-purple mixture. I put this liquid in a spray bottle and sprayed from the top of the wig down, then combed it through until the entire top layer had been saturated. The purple dye helps to neutralize some of the yellow tones in the wig fiber.
In the picture (click to enlarge!), you can see the paler color at the top of the wig where the Sharpie dye has faded the blonde color to an off-white.
NOTE: It helps to have the wig pinned securely to a wig head during styling. One advantage of using foam wig heads is that you can stick straight pins or hair pins directly into the head to hold the hair in place while you're working with it. It's especially nice if you have to hold something in place while you wait for glue or hair cement to dry! It is also useful to have the wig head on some kind of stand to keep it from tipping over. The wig stand I'm using here is a broomstick held upright in a Christmas tree stand, but you can use just about anything.
I add a LOT of highlights at this stage, and later I'll go back and add more. The white paint lightens the hair; it also provides a bright, light-reflecting base for layering more colors over the wig, which I'll do next.
I alternate the grey streaks with the white ones, and occasionally mix the two to produce a lighter grey tone. Most important is making sure that the wig is colored evenly all the way through; otherwise, when I curl and cut the fiber, I will have blonde sections showing underneath.
*You can also hand-color with regular Sharpies; it takes longer than making alcohol Sharpie dye, but it also produces a slightly richer color, and you can produce variable tones or a graded effect by by using multiple marker colors.
When using heat to style a wig, it is important to do two things:
First, test to see how much styling heat the wig can take. Most wigs are made of synthetic fiber that, like all plastics, will melt or burn at a MUCH lower temperature than real hair. Before you use a curling or straightening iron on your wig, test it on a small section of wig fiber first.
Second, once you have determined the safe temperature for styling your wig, make sure your equipment does not go above that temperature. If you leave your iron plugged in for several minutes without using it, the heat will build up. (The laws of thermodynamics apply here!)
Using the curling iron, I added layers of flips, waves and curls to the wig to give it some body. I shaped and curled the front sections to match the reference image. The tendrils in front were twisted, curled, plastered with hairspray and then pinned in place to dry while I worked on the rest of the wig. Later, I used a blowdryer to heat-set those pieces as well.
When cutting a wig, always leave extra length in the beginning, and trim shorter as you go. Look at your reference images frequently, and consider accuracy to the character's hairstyle, but also think about what the wig looks like on your model's head and body. Most people's faces aren't really shaped like anime characters', so it's important that the wig looks right on the real person, too!