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Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis

Fundamentals of Color Analysis

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Non

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis

Similar to knowing your body type and best lines, understanding your best colors is one of the cornerstones of great style. A perfect dress in the wrong color will still look awful. In my first post in the Color Analysis series, I explained how to find your  color season, using myself as an example.

In this post, I’m continuing in the series by expanding on color concepts that I think are often overlooked but that are important to understanding the full color analysis picture. I’ll discuss nudes and prints/ patterns and how and why they don’t flatter everyone the same. I’ll also discuss the warm and cool scale of every color, including the neutrals black and white and what this means and how it looks on different colorings.

There’s a lot to discuss, let’s get started:

 

Some Important Terms:

Color wheel–  a diagram used in the visual arts to represent the colors of the visible spectrum and their relationships to one another. This is the basis for all color theory, so it’s important we understand it. In particular, I will be discussing warm and cool colors a lot, so it helps  to have a visual on what colors fall into each category.

Understanding color theory | Seasonal color analysis

Tint – any Hue or mixture of pure colors with only White added. A Tint lightens the color, but it doesn’t make it brighter.

Tone– any Hue or mixture of pure colors with only Gray added. A neutral mixture of Gray,  no matter how light or dark, will tone down the intensity of any color.

Shade– any pure Hue or mixture of pure colors with only Black added. In other words, it contains absolutely no White or Gray. A Shade darkens the color.

 

Warm vs Cool

A quick test to see if you have warm or cool undertones is the silver vs gold test. For most people, not all, one of the two metallics looks definitively better on them than the other. Cool undertones are complemented by silver and warm undertones are complemented by gold. Wearing the opposite has a color draining effect on the person. They look sick or ashen whereas in the correct metallic they look vibrant.

Let’s look at some examples:

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Cool vs Warm

Margot Robbie is definitely warm toned. She looks off in the silver dress. The warmth of her hair and skin simply doesn’t match with the coolness of the dress and it looks very separate from her. I literally perceive her body separately from the dress.

In the gold dress, however, the opposite is true. It’s like the dress blends into her and the entire look (hair, skin, dress) is so beautifully harmonious.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Cool vs Warm

Here again, I see Solange as appearing more harmoniously with the gold dress. Her skin looks beautiful and the dress complements her, it doesn’t draw attention from her.

In the silver dresses, there is a certain degree of separation between her and the garment. I wouldn’t say she looks terrible in silver, but it’s nowhere as good on her as gold is, so she is warm toned.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Cool vs Warm

Jennifer Lopez is clearly warm toned. In the first silver dress (left), she almost looks too warm because of how cool and separate it is from her. The middle look is the least flattering because the dress goes right up to her face, so the juxtaposition of her warmth and its coolness is more pronounced. She looks drained of color.

In the gold dress, she looks like her normal bronze goddess self and her warmth is the perfect complement to the dress.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Cool vs Warm

Lupita Nyong’o is clearly cool toned. In the gold dress, she looks off. I think it makes it worse that her hairstyle also has golden detail, so the warm metallic is very close to her face. She doesn’t look like her usual stunning self and her normally clear and radiant complexion looks rather murky.

In the silver dress, she looks spectacular. Notice how clear her skin looks and how easy it is to focus on her face.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Cool vs Warm

Hailey Bieber is warm toned. In the silver suit, her complexion looks ashen. In the gold dress, she looks vibrant. Her eye makeup is too intense and it’s the only thing that pulls my attention, but outside of that everything is perfectly harmonious.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Cool vs Warm

Tracee Ellis Ross is warm toned. In the gold dress, she looks radiant and the dress melts into her. In the first silver jumpsuit (left), she looks drained of color. In the second silver jumpsuit (middle), her and the garment are completely separate from each other, it’s as if it’s sitting on top of her skin unlike the gold dress that looks like its melting into her.

 

Intensity vs Skin Tone

Color Intensity Skin Tone

A color can be too intense for someone in which case the garment is visually more commanding than their skin tone and essentially ‘the dress is wearing them’ and not the other way around. In these instances, we perceive the garment first and then we see the person. If we try and focus on their face, we struggle as our attention is drawn to the garment.

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Color Intensity

In these two looks we can see this in effect. In the first image (left), the model’s skin tone and the intensity of the colors she is wearing are balanced. So, I perceive her and the clothes together and I don’t have any issue focusing on her face.

In the look to the right, the model’s skin tone has less intensity than that of the colors she is wearing. So, she looks dull compared to the clothes and I first see them before I see her. I struggle to keep my attention on her face as my attention is drawn down towards the brighter coat specifically.

 

Color Intensity = Skin Tone

Harmony/ Balance

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Color Intensity

In these looks, the skin tone of the models matches perfectly the intensity of the colors they are wearing. As a result, I easily perceive them and the clothes together. There is no separation. Th colors don’t compete with them or overpower them, they are perfectly balanced. Unless there is a very specific stylistic reason, when choosing colors, this is the goal.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Color Intensity

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: The same color intensity can look very different on different people. Here, both these models look great in this green color. They are perfectly harmonious, their skin glows and they both pull it off perfectly.

For the color to sit so well on both of them, they must have a similar skin tone intensity even though the hue of their skin tones is obviously very different.

 

Color Intensity < Skin Tone

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Color Intensity

In these looks, the models’ skin tones have more color intensity than the colors they are wearing. So, it’s easy to keep our attention on their faces. However, the entire look is rather drab as the color they are wearing does nothing for them. The lack of appropriate vibrancy drags down the entire look. There’s almost nothing to focus on in these looks.

Note: All of these colors are muted and look drab on the models, but that doesn’t mean muted colors always have this effect- this is only because the models have a skin tone that is more intense than the colors. For people with muted (and cool) coloring, these colors would look harmonious and radiant on them. We’ll explore this more when we discuss nudes later.

 

Undertones Mismatch

These are some more examples of when a person’s skin tone and the tone and intensity of the color they are wearing match but their undertones don’t and how it can look in real life:

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Color Intensity

To the left, the models skin tone and the intensity of the orange color she’s wearing match well, but she is cool toned whereas orange is a very warm color. So, she looks very separate from it. If this dress was cobalt blue, for example, she would look perfectly harmonious.

In the look to the right, again the intensity of the model’s skin tone and the intensity of the green color she’s wearing match well, but the green is cool tones whereas the model is warm toned. So, in it, she looks awfully pale and almost sickly. The mismatch of undertones drains her skin of life and vibrancy.

Some celebrity examples:

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Color Intensity | Warm vs Cool

Wrong vs Correct Undertones- Laura Dern

Laura Dern (left) shows an example of wearing the wrong undertones followed by the correct undertones. She is cool toned, so the orange dress (left) looks very off on her. If you look at her face, you’ll notice how murky and unclear it looks. She doesn’t look good.

In the blue dress, the cool undertones of the dress and her own undertones match perfectly and she looks great. Her skin is clear and vibrant, her hair looks healthy, and she just looks amazing.

Wrong vs Correct Color Intensity- Gigi Hadid

Gigi Hadid (right) shows an example of wearing the wrong color intensity followed by the correct color intensity. She is warm toned, so yellow is a great color for her, however she is muted meaning she has a softer coloring, so warm colors that are intense and bright overpower her and softer warm colors are harmonious.

In the first look, the yellow dress is too bright and intense for her. She doesn’t look bad since yellow is one of her colors, but there is a separation between her and the garment. It’s brighter than she is and I see it first before I see her. In the second, more muted yellow dress (right), she looks perfectly harmonious. Her and the dress blend perfectly together and I perceive them as a unit. It’s easier to focus on her face.

 

Every Color Has a Warmer/ Cooler Version

Yes, technically, with the exception of neutrals, all colors are definitively either warm or cool. You can look at the color wheel to see where it splits the color spectrum into these two categories. However, by adding different hues to a color, we can make it lean warmer or cooler.

For example, pink can be cool if blue is added to it to create a purplish hue or it can be warm if yellow is added to it to create a peachy hue. Then, the undertones will determine which version of the color looks better on someone.

Let’s look at an example:

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Warmer and Cooler Tones

Nicole Richie is warm toned. In these images, she is less flattered by the cool pinks to the left. They are quite separate from her. The warm peachy pink to the right looks beautiful on her and is by far the best of the three looks. Her skin looks great as the warmth of the color matches her undertones.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Warm Red vs Cool Red

Here, the red to the left is cooler (more true red) and the red to the right is warmer (more tomato red). As such, both these models look good in their red dresses as the undertones of the dresses match their undertones. Try to imagine how they would look if they swopped dresses. They would both look off.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Warm Green vs Cool Green

Lupita Nyong’o is cool toned. She looks so much better in the cooler green to the right than she does in the warm green to the left. The warm green color just looks separate from her and I’m constantly looking at the dress and then her, then the dress, then her…but never them together. She has no harmony with that color. Whereas to the right, I easily perceive her and the dress together and she looks stunning.

 

True White

True white is not for everyone. All neutrals are by definition neither warm or cool, and this is true. But, like I discussed above, every color can be made either warm or cool based on its undertones. What we understand as true or pure white is decidedly cool and bright. As such, it is best suited for people with cool undertones and a bright coloring, or Winters in the seasonal color analysis. For people with warm undertones, cream (which has a yellow added to it) is the better match.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | True White

In the image above, the pure white dresses looks the best on the model in the middle, she is clearly cool and bright and this is harmonious with the dress. Notice how her skin glows. The next best is the first model to the left. She has slightly warmer coloring (as compared to the middle model), but she is still cool and the dress looks good on her.

The model to the right is the least flattered by her white dress. She has warm coloring, which comes across in her skin and hair, and it clashes with the coolness of the white dress. I actually think this shade of white is slightly warmer  than true white, but it’s still cool, so she doesn’t look as separate from the dress as she would if it was the same white of the middle dress, for example. Still, I see the separation between her and the dress, I see the dress first and then her face.

Let’s look at some more examples:

 

True White vs Cream

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | True White vs Cream

Rooney Mara has a very cool and bright coloring. So, the cream looks to the left are too warm for her and she looks very off in them. She looks discolored somehow and generally not healthy. In the true white look to the right, she looks amazing. (Does she not literally look like a real-life Snow White?) The coolness of the white dress is harmonious with her undertones and her pale skin looks radiant.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | True White vs Cream

Margot Robbie is warm toned. She looks very separate from the true white looks, but she looks perfectly harmonious in the buttery warmth of the cream looks to the right.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | True White vs Cream

Tracee is warm toned and the cream dress to the right is harmonious and seems to melt into her skin. The white looks to the left are separate from her and brighter than her, so I see the dress first and then I see her.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | True White vs Cream

Lady Gaga is cool toned, so she looks great in the true white looks which are more harmonious with her undertones. In the warmer cream dress to the right, she looks off and her skin color almost looks unnatural.

 

Black

Black is another neutral color that is technically neither warm or cool. That’s why we often hear that black ‘looks good on everyone’. While I think that as a neutral, black is more forgiving than white, I disagree than it suits everyone. With black, the biggest issue tends to be intensity (I am aware that some blacks are more intense than others).

Generally speaking, black is intense and overpowering for people who have more delicate coloring. So the question becomes, are you overpowered by black or is it harmonious with you?

Note: Even if black is intense for your coloring, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear it. It can be a choice to wear it because it’s so intense that it allows you to hide behind it and that can be a cool way to create contrast in a look- but the key is awareness. It’s one thing to do this knowingly and a completely different thing to discover that your black clothes have been wearing you instead of the other way around.

 

Let’s look at some examples:

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Black

Each of these models looks great in these black dresses. The undertones and the color intensity of the dress is harmonious with their skin and they match perfectly. I perceive them and the dresses together.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Black

Each of these models doesn’t look bad in these black dresses, but they are overpowered by the intensity of the color. In each case, to varying degrees, I see the dress first and then I see the model. This is most pronounced in the first look (left) and gets less so as we move from left to right.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Black

All of these women are overpowered by black. I see the dresses first and then I see them behind it. The color is more intense than their own coloring.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Black

These women look amazing in these black dresses. Their skin is glowing and the intensity of the black color matches their skin in a way that creates a beautiful, harmonious look.

 

A Nude Study

Not everyone looks good in nude. Please note that in these cases, I’m talking about the correct nude, so it’s not a question of shade match. Rather, it’s about how the lack of color (which is what nude is by definition) looks on different people. Some look amazing, but some simply disappear.

Let’s look at some examples:

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Nude

Zendaya disappears in nude looks. These are all arguably stunning looks, but if we ignore the beauty aspects (hair, makeup) and just look at the dresses, what we quickly realize is that there’s not much to look at. The two middle dresses with glitter detail are better because that detailing adds some visual interest, but the two looks on the ends are simply too bare. Nude is not great for Zendaya.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Nude

Likewise, nude does absolutely nothing for Solange. She looks boring and not fully like herself.  Her essence is missing.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Nude

Now Halle Berry looks amazing in nude. Granted, the middle look is the only true nude and the first look (left) is gold, while the last look (right) is brown, I think both still fall in the nude category because of how close they are to her skin tone (especially the golden dress) and the lack of any color and detail distraction.

Halle comes alive in these looks and her skin is glowing and radiant. Nude was made her. She doesn’t need any color or detail, this is where she shines.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis

Zendaya shines in these colorful looks. Compared to the nude looks above, the addition of color is like the addition of life to her looks.  With something to contrast against, I actually see her skin and it looks great.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis

Likewise, Solange looks amazing in color. She comes to life and she looks more like herself.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis

Halle Berry doesn’t look bad in color, but she does have to be careful about the right colors since her delicate coloring can be very easily overwhelmed. She looks good in these warm and muted looks, especially the orange dress, but she doesn’t look better than she did in the nude looks above. In the nude dresses, she looked amazing.

 

A Pattern Study

Not everyone can handle a Print. On some people, prints are simply too distracting. They have a cleaner essence and prints, especially bold prints look too busy and they pull attention from them.

Let’s look at some examples:

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Prints

Lupita Nyong’o is overpowered by these prints. I have such a difficult time trying to keep my attention on her face because the prints are so much more visually demanding, so they compete with her and win. These looks are too busy and distracting on her.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis

Here we see how stunning she looks with a clean palette. In these single/ simple tone looks, I can easily focus on her face and I perceive the dresses and her together. The looks are beautiful and harmonious.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Prints

Zendaya is another person who struggles with prints. In these looks, the prints distract me from looking at her and they pull attention away from her. Go back and see how much more harmonious she looks in the single/ simple tone colored looks above.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Prints

Solange looks great in prints! In fact, she looks boring without them. She has a dominant Gamine essence, which requires visual interest to shine. So when her clothes look busy and bright (since she has warm and bright coloring), she looks her best. She looks great in all these outfits, they don’t even look that busy on her.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis | Prints

Kendall Jenner can’t handle prints. In each of these looks, I see the prints first and her second. They pull attention away from her.

 

Fundamentals of Seasonal Color Analysis

Now see how harmonious she looks in these single tone looks. I perceive her and the dresses as a unit rather than separately. She looks beautiful.

 

Conclusion

As I dive into color analysis, I wanted to explore some key things that I’ve always found interesting. Namely, that understanding ones best colors is more than just finding your color season. That’s obviously a great place to start, but there are some color considerations that fall outside that scope that can really make or break a look and wardrobe.

Some people will be more delicate in their coloring than others and this will affect how they look in their recommended colors, or if they can handle black for example. Some will be able to handle prints and others won’t. Some will shine in nudes and others will disappear in them. That’s what I explored in this post.

I hope this post has made you think about some of these less discussed color considerations and that it helps you get more insight into what works and doesn’t work for you and why.

Talk soon,

Non

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