A virtual hairstyle is created using photo manipulation software. Different hairstyles can be mixed and matched with a photo or digital picture to see the final result. The reasoning behind the virtual hairstyle trend is that it saves time and money, allowing a customer to see how the hairstyle will look before they commit to it.
The software used to create a virtual hairstyle varies widely in quality. Some software uses simple animation, with varying degrees of realism. Others are subscription-only, where the software is patterned after the facial reconstruction programs used to profile criminals.
Many of these programs can be bought or downloaded from the Internet and installed on a computer. Other forms are hosted on Websites. One another company asks that you send in a digital photo of yourself on a compact disc (CD). The company will then send you back a binder of digitally-manipulated photos.
Some virtual hairstyle programs require that you upload a photo of yourself. There are guidelines that need to be followed when taking the photo to get the best results. The "ideal" photo is often one taken in front of a blank white wall, and your hair should be tied or slicked back. These guidelines ensure that the photo will be uncluttered and provide the best background for the hairpieces that will be added to the photo later.
Other virtual hairstyling Websites do not require you to upload a photo of yourself. Instead, they offer a selection of photos showing the faces of different models. The user chooses the model whose skin tone and face shape most closely resembles her own.
Once the photo is uploaded or a model is selected, a user can choose between a range of hairstyles and drag and drop them onto the photo. The number of styles and colors a user will have to choose from varies from program to program. Some virtual hairstyle programs are limited only to celebrity looks, while others will have thousands of different hairpieces to choose from.
Virtual hairstyle programs have expanded to offer other options besides hair. A user can add makeup or jewelry in order to have a full virtual makeover. Some programs even offer the option of erasing wrinkles or changing skin tone.
Despite its proposed convenience, virtual hairstyle software has limitations. In some cases, the digital picture meant to pose for the user's face is too crude to get a realistic idea of how the style will look. In others, the hairpieces never quite line up with the photo, making it difficult to tell how the hairstyle will look in real life.