In Part 1 of our Pictorial Guide to Rollers, I showed you how the size, direction and density of rollers affects hair.

Part 2, the Goofus and Gallant edition, showed the fundamentals of good roller technique. How to correctly wrap the hair, best practices for preparing and handling the hair and rollers and how to anchor the rollers to the hair. It also covered some ‘what not to do’s’.

Now I’m going to show you how to put that information  to use in Part 3.

If you haven’t read over Part 1 and 2, you might want to review them before you try this roller pattern if you’re unfamiliar with using rollers or if any of the terms or references are unclear to you. As in Part 2, I’ll be using a hand-knotted human hair wig with a lace front to demonstrate.

Wig Styling with Rollers
Wig care kit

Preparing the wig for rollers

If the wig is not heavily saturated with styling products or in need of cleaning for hygiene reasons, it’s not necessary to shampoo it before setting. For wigs that do need to be shampooed, following our Wig Washing Instructions and allow the wig to be dry or nearly dry before starting to style. A very wet wig is harder to work with and will take much longer to dry once the rollers are in. 

Dampen the hair slightly with a spray bottle. Lightly apply styling gel to each section as you work. (covered in Part 2)

Dissect the style

It can feel intimidating to look at an unstyled wig and an elaborate hairstyle and try to figure out where to start, especially if you’re new to wig styling.

Think about the style you are planning to create – how many sections or zones can it be broken into? At a minimum, most hairstyles have a front and a back component, like a high bun and curly bangs,  that are then married together to create a unified style.

Breaking the style into sections will make it easier to tackle the project. And it will tell you how many rollers to use, where to put them and what direction to roll them.

Decide what size rollers you’ll need for each section. Review Part 1 if you need a refresher on how the size of the roller affects the curl.



How to style wigs

On the left, the wig is combed out and ready for work. The right shows how to establish the front and back sections of the desired style. Not all styles have ‘front and back’ sections, though that is very common. But nearly all hairstyles can be separated into zones and worked sectionally. 

Remember that the secret to learning to use rollers is experimenting and practice – so if you’re not happy with the way your first attempt turns out, take note of what you liked and didn’t like and adjust the size, placement or density of rollers until you get the desired outcome.

Wig styling starts in the front

In nearly every instance, you’ll want to start with the front section. Keep in mind that the front section and the first rollers are going to be the most important. They’ll provide the foundation for your entire style – review Part 2 if you have questions about good techniques for rolling the hair up.

  • If your style has a part, and most of them do, it’s usually easiest to start with either the larger section (side part) or the side that corresponds to your dominant hand (center part).

The roller pattern in this example is the most basic and is, for that reason, extremely versatile. Simply by varying the size and density of the rollers, or changing the placement of the part, you’ll have a pattern that will produce a range of period appropriate updos.

The first roller is the most important!

In the photo, you can see that the rollers are “stacked” neatly on top of each other, moving away from the center part and down the side of the face. If the first roller isn’t in the right place or if the hair isn’t rolled on it correctly, the rest of the rollers will also be offer. 

When we talk about styling with rollers, we often talk about ‘roller patterns’ or ‘roller sets’. This is just a way of referring to where the rollers are placed, what direction they go, what size they are and how they are positioned in relation to each other. Part 1 has more information on figuring out the right components of a roller pattern, so take a look at it if this seems unfamiliar to you.

Roller patterns – a few notes

  • Because each roller is lined up evenly with the one below it, the resulting pattern will be an even wave that will frame the face
  • The medium size rollers will provide moderate lift at the roots and a modest curl or wave in the hair
  • Remember that rollers aren’t just for creating curls – they are an essential tool for directing and shaping hair. By using them with the center parting, the hair is being told which direction to go.
  • The final texture (smooth, fluffy, curly, etc) will be determined by how much (or how little) you comb out and arrange the hair
  • Start in the center and work all the way down one side, then repeat on the other side. Check your placements to make sure the rollers are placed relatively at the same level on both sides so your final style is symmetrical and balanced.

Set the back

After you have the front section rolled, move to the back. You might think that you don’t need to use rollers if you just want to style the hair into a bun or knot, but you’d be missing out on one of the most useful rollers tricks if you skip this step!

Remember what I said about how rollers aren’t just for making curls, they’re critical for directing and shaping the hair? Nowhere is this more obvious than when setting an updo pattern – if you’ve ever struggled to get hair into a nice bun, only to have pieces constantly trying to escape, this is going to be a revelation for you.

Roller pattern for an updo

styling a wig with a bun

This is probably the single most useful piece of roller lore to know. When you use rollers to direct hair towards a bun, topknot, chignon or other updo, the rollers do most of the work for you. The hair will readily stay in the style if you roll it first, and it will look much nicer, too. 

The updo pattern photo shows you the placement and order in which to set your hair to make a soft, easy bun. I used a larger size roller back here – there are two reasons for that.

The first is that in general, rollers placed in the back sections of the hair end up with more hair on them, so a bigger roller can handle that. Remember, in Part 2, I covered the perils of putting too much hair on the roller. Bigger rollers help avoid that problem. The second is that I wanted a slightly softer, looser pattern to the updo. And as we learned in Part 1, bigger rollers make larger, softer waves. 

Roll in the right direction

You can see from the arrows that the key here is to put the entire back section on rollers going the direction you want each chunk of hair to go.

So my first rollers start at the top and they go back toward the center of the head because that’s where I want the bun to end up. Then I roll the hair in the perimeter towards the same center space. Finally, I change the direction completely and roll the section of hair left for last (you can see it hanging in the middle shot) up, so that it will want to be part of the bun.

That may look a little complicated but just think about all of the hair needing to travel to the center back of the head, so it can come together in a knot. When it comes out of the rollers, it will already “want” to go to the center back of the head. At that point, it’s just a matter of combing it out and securing it with a few pins.

Here’s the entire head set on the rollers, ready to be dried. I like to put a large hairnet over the rollers to help tame any little flyaways.

wig with rollers in place for updo

Let it dry, let it dry, let it dry!

Leave the hair in rollers until completely dry. If you don’t have a wig dryer or hair dryer, expect it to take at least 24 hours. 

Even just a few minutes of warm air from a hair dryer will help speed the drying process and set your pattern. So if you have a handheld dryer, the wig will set much better if you spend a few minutes pointing the dryer at each section.

It’s vital all of the hair be completely dry. If you start to remove rollers and find some areas are still damp, reroll them immediately and let the wig sit longer. In the event the wig is very slow to dry, you might have too much hair on the rollers. After 24-48 hours, the wig should be completely dry. So if it still has damp sections, take the rollers in those areas out. Then re-roll, spreading the hair out over more rollers. 


Wig Dryer

We use a large cabinet wig dryer when roller setting wigs and beards. But those are a pretty big investment for home wig styling, unfortunately. Here’s a good alternative to speed up drying time and introduce gentle heat. This dryer is efficient, lightweight, and will do a great job drying a single wig or beard at a time. We have one for use during events and it works great. The bonnet is a key component since it allows the hot air to surround the wig.

You can use this for human or heat-resistant synthetic hair wigs.

Purchase Wig Dryer

Removing rollers

Once again, work with the hair in sections – this time, start with the back. Remove the rollers and then give the hair a gentle combing with a wide toothed comb. Don’t be afraid to handle the hair or comb it vigorously – if you’ve followed the steps to correctly roll and dry the hair, you’ll be able to comb and manipulate it into the shape you want without combing the pattern out of it.

The photo above shows the entire back section removed from the rollers (left) and then gently combed out (right). It’s usually easiest to go ahead and comb out the back and put it roughly where you want it to go before you start the front. Then you can work on the front hair until it’s to you liking and then combine the two.

It doesn’t take a lot of combing!

Please note in the above photo that I simply took my large comb and worked it through the entire section of the hair until it was as smooth as I wanted – probably not more than five or six total passes with the comb. Then I just let the hair wrap itself into the bun.

The bun in the photo is held in place by a single small bobby pin. You can see that the hair has a nice softness to it and that the bun itself is neat, pretty and smooth. Now imagine trying to get a similar style without having rolled the hair!  You’d have to use a lot of pins and make the whole thing a lot tighter to get it to stay put.



After you have your back section roughly where you want it, take out the rollers up front and start working on it. I once again worked in sections, unrolling and combing out first one side and then the other.

Here in the photo you can see the hair with the back put up, before the rollers come out of the front, then of the front with the rollers removed. In the final image, I’ve given the front  section a combing, smoothing the hair out into gentle waves.

Finished Style


Here’s how it looks with the two sections combed out and married together. I just wanted to dress the hair in a simple, soft updo with some gentle waves to frame the face. Once I had the two sections combed out to my liking, I simply played around with pinning the ends of my front sections around the bun until I liked how it looked. This whole style has only four bobby pins in it – admittedly, I wanted to secure it with as few pins as possible to make the point about how my rollers have done most of the hard work for me. The pins are just there to keep the pieces in place and control the final look. For “real life”, I’d go ahead and add a few more pins throughout to help bolster the style up against the heat, humidity and action of the day.

I  mentioned this pattern is very basic and versatile, and I wanted to show that it can produce a range of styles, so I played with the hair a little more:

Finished - variation1

The photos above show what happens if I pull the bun a little higher and fluff the front waves up more.


Finished style - variation 2

I could keep manipulating the hair and changing and refining the style but I think the three variations here show just a few ways you can tweak the hair to change the style. I avoided spending more than just a few minutes combing and arranging the hair in these examples in order emphasize how easy it can be to work with hair that has a good pattern set in it.

If you used smaller rollers for the same pattern, you’d get tighter curls or waves, making it better suited to periods that have a lot of fluffy, frizzy curls or small, tight waves. Larger rollers would yield more volume and larger, smoother waves.  The best way to learn how different sizes will affect the outcome is to practice and experiment. Also, play around with the hair to see what different amounts of combing and arranging of the hair looks like.

I hope you’ve found this three part series helpful – if you have questions, feel free to post in the comments below, email me or reach out on Facebook.