Blackpink’s Jennie’s fiery orange copper hair got all the attention in 2022, but not enough has been said about the special heart-patterned mane that Dua Lipa showed off for a brief (single square, five slides) moment on her Instagram earlier this year.

Wearing a bright pink bikini top and matching mini skirt, the singer-songwriter posed for the ‘gram against a green lawn and piercing blue sky.

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (4)

Photo source: Dua Lipa

The striking colours in the photo might have distracted you from the heart patterns that she donned on a top layer of blonde over her naturally dark locks, or made you take a second look (just as we did) to realise that the splashes of brown, pink, and green on her mane were actually distinct hearts.

Heart-patterned tresses? We were head over heels – and it turned out that Dua Lipa’s heart-splashed hair can be achieved at the salon with freehand painting techniques similar to those used to create a balayage.

To find out just how, we spoke to Darren, Stylist from Haarattic hair salon in Singapore, for his expert tips.

How to achieve patterned hair at the salon


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by DUA LIPA (@dualipa)

The technique that stylists use to create patterned hair for customers at the salon? Freehand painting.

“Freehand painting technique refers to how the colour is applied by hand, as opposed to traditional highlighting methods that use tools like foils or a comb,” explained Darren.

Traditional highlights, for instance, are created by separating the hair into different sections or “weaves” over a foil and using a comb. Bleach is then applied to these pieces, which are later wrapped with foil.

When it comes to freehand painting, however, the stylist paints on the hair without any assisted tools. Think of balayage, a freehand painted highlighting style, where stylists created gradients on the hair by hand.

“The results are dramatic and customised textures that are unique and reflect the stylist’s creativity,” Darren shared.

So, if the only freehand painting you’ve had done on your mane is a balayage, then you’re missing out on the endless styles that you could be wearing – bold and beautiful – on your tresses.

Steps taken by the stylist at the salon

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (16)

Photo source: chanfyx/Instagram

Darren describes the process of creating patterned hair: “The hair has to be pre-lightened to the desired level so that [the stylist] has a brighter base to work on the prints.”

He explains that, for the patterns to be visible, the stylist usually lightens the hair to a level of seven to 10. The hairstylist will then dye your hair to achieve the desired base colour, before washing and blow drying the hair.

It’s only after the base colour has been achieved that the stylist will proceed with freehand painting. “The stylist will express their ideas onto the hair surface using the freehand painting technique,” remarked Darren.

Then, all it takes is a final wash and blow-dry before you get to admire your finished hairstyle.

While people who embrace a bolder everyday style would (naturally) pull off a patterned ‘do with greater ease, Darren notes that the stylist can also “simplify a design or adjust the placement of highlights” to suit your personal look.

How to maintain patterned hair

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (18)

Photo source:

Taking care of single-coloured locks can be tedious as it is, so we assumed it would take more effort to keep a patterned mane looking fresh. We were wrong, however, because it turns out that painted patterns on the hair often last longer than base colours.

“The longevity of the patterns is subjected to the colour saturation and type of hair dye,” Darren corrected. “Usually, the colour patterns will last longer than the base as they are more saturated [with dye]”.

While you don’t have to put in more effort than usual to maintain a patterned ‘do, there are still things that you can do to prolong the freshness of your hair’s patterns. The key? Healthy hair.

“Keeping the hair healthy is always the key to prolonging the colour,” Darren shared. “I would suggest customers get professional advice from their stylist on what home care colour shampoo and conditioner will suit their hair condition. These products help form a protective layer on your hair cuticles which minimise the colour pigment fading from each wash.”

Patterned hair looks for inspiration

Floral bleached buzz cut

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (7)

Photo source: HighFashion/Xiao Hong Shu

If we could choose another pattern we’d like to see on Dua Lipa’s mane, we’d choose this one that features big blue flowers.

These patterns would be “a bit more challenging to achieve on long hair [compared to a buzz cut] as the hair will move,” Darren noted. It follows that it would require more effort to style too.

Ocean blue patterned hair

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (13)

Photo source: nao_kawakubo/Instagram

“[This is a] Japanese princess-inspired Hime cut, consisting of thick blunt bangs and face-framing pieces. Different shades of blue were used to create this abstract shadows effect,” explained Darren.

Compared to hearts and flowers, we think that these swirls of light and dark blues are a more subtle way to flaunt freehand-painted patterns. They give your hair plenty of brand-new texture, and can look more everyday-wearable if you swap out an edgy hime cut for, say, curtain bangs and soft layers.

Negative space chunky line hair

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (11)

Photo source: nao_kawakubo/Instagram

A “nape bob with negative space chunky lines and splash lights” is how Darren describes this ‘do. The white-greys streaks, we think, look like light reflections against a glossy black mane.

This is the ideal example of a patterned mane that complements the face’s shape, Darren notes, thanks to the dark face-framing pieces and haircut.

“For such a bold look, however, we should consider the person’s overall style more than their face shape,” he clarifies. “I believe that beauty doesn’t follow just one aesthetic standard.”

Leopard print colour block hair

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (14)

Photo source: haarattic/Instagram

Designed by Darren himself, this hair design features panel highlights – blocks of pink, purple, and orange – and soft leopard prints over it. Paired with a bold Japanese style hime cut, this daring ‘do will bring unique character to your outfit.

Psychedelic swirls buzz cut

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (10)

Photo source: weiwesleywei/Instagram

The striking shade of yellow, shot through with vivid green, magenta, and orange, creates a psychedelic style that can’t be missed. These patterns can also be painted onto longer locks, but distinctive swirls are likely to be less visible since there will be greater movement of the tresses.

Queen of hearts patterned hair

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (5)

Photo source: jemima/Pinterest

Again, this style can be recreated on longer locks too – only they’ll look more watered-down and diffused like the hearts that Dua Lipa donned on her own blonde mane. The vivid red heart patterns boast Alice in Wonderland Queen of Hearts vibes and are as rebel as they’re lovely.

Head in the clouds hair

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (6)

Photo source: 𝔍𝔢𝔦𝔱𝔬 𝔡𝔢 𝔐𝔢𝔫𝔦𝔫𝔞/Pinterest

Your head might not be in the clouds, but your hair will be close enough with this cloud-patterned freehand painted hair design. Since creamy beige “milk tea” tones are trending now, we’d go for a lighter, milkier blue for the base, and ask for the cloud patterns to be a tad more diffused for a softer, more elegant – albeit avant-garde – style.

Green blue stripey hair

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (8)

Photo source: weiwesleywei/Instagram

Another Japanese-style freehand-painted design, this one features shades of turquoise and vivid blue, mixed in with green highlights and black shadows. Unlike regular highlights that stream vertically down the mane, these ones are intentionally erratic, cutting across the hair in blended horizontal stripes.

The stripes and colours are even placed strategically around the face, framing it perfectly and accentuating the model’s features.

Polka dotted punch style

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (9)

Photo source: nao_kawakubo/Instagram

Liven up your fringe highlights with a speckle of pink and purple polka dots, while refreshing the rest of your mane with a gradient aurora style.

You don’t need to match these dotted freehand-painted patterns only with long blunt bangs and choppy face-framing layers, but just skip wearing them on airy bangs – the wispy strands won’t hold the patterns well if at all.

Red blue fringe highlights

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (15)

Photo source: chanfyx/Instagram

If you’re hoping to wear it bold without turning too many heads, then this red-blue fringe style is the one to request the next time you visit the salon.

The contrasting red and blue stripes of colour will easily embolden your look; but since they’re painted over regular strips of bleached highlights and not a full mane of hair, you’ll also get to tuck them in for a more everyday-wearable style.

Diffused pink and green highlights

patterned hair - freehand painted hair (12)

Photo source: nao_kawakubo/Instagram

Instead of over streaky highlights, wear the handpainted patterns over a gradient dark-roots-to-lighter-middle balayage. You’ll be bumping up a regular ash grey balayage to a kaleidoscopic green pink dotted ‘do.