Beauty and the Color Wheel Theory

6:08 PM

Have you ever wondered why certain colors look good or bad on you? Maybe you aren't sure if you can pull of a green top or purple eyeshadow. Since not everyone gets the chance to go to art or design school, I thought a lesson in color theory might be handy.

This is a color wheel. When it comes to beauty or fashion, the most important base color you are working with is your skin.

Analyze this:
Is your skin a warm tone? (reddish, pinky, peach)
Is it golden? (yellow, honey)
Is it cool? (olive, beige)
Is the shade lighter or darker?
When you tan, does it get an orangey undertone, golden undertone, or an olive undertone?

When you come to a conclusion, decide around where it falls on the color wheel. I have golden skin (yellow undertone) with a hint of warm tones. The shade is medium, but on the lighter side in winter. My tan color is golden to olive.

On the simple color wheel, I can approximately pick my winter color as "yellow-to-orange" and my summer color as "yellow-to-green."

The ideal colors to wear to balance out my skin are colors directly opposite on the color wheel. This means that in the wintertime, when my skin has a warmer tone, purples and royal blue really suit me. In contrast, certain bright reds, tans, and beige-tones really wash me out.
For the summer, my skin is more neutral in color, so I am able to wear the warmer reds and purples. I must note that my summer color is still quite warm though, and there are some rules that are more nuanced in each color family.

Generally, if you are warmer-toned, warmer shades look best. The same goes for cooler tones and cooler shades. For instance, turquoise, aqua, and royal blue are warmer colors in the blue family. These colors look good on my golden skin. Dusty blue, navy, and baby blue are cooler and make my skin look less lively.

Say you have pinky-peach, fair skin. Blues and greens probably look awesome on you, especially aqua and kelly green.

Say you have deeper tan, olive skin. You probably look really fantastic in maroon, plum, or burgundy. You can also look great in dusky pink and lavendar.

This isn't a guide that you must go 100% by at all times, but it really does help if you are trying to select any colored accessory including clothes, jewelry, nailpolish, colored lenses, hair color, blush, or eyeshadow. Go with colors that contrast your skin, but tones that match it.

Here's a list of my favorite colors to play with:
* jewel-toned green, blue, and purple
* warm pastels
* canary and banana yellow
* white
* black
* warm pinks (fuscia to hot pink to warm baby pink)

These are colors I avoid:
* any dusty colors (dusty pink, green, blue, purple)
* tans, browns, beiges
* orange
* cool grey and navy (these two work on occasion though)

Good luck matching and shopping with your newfound color knowledge!

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  1. Good stuff. You know, the basic concept here is something most of us have probably learned in school, but somehow we forget to actually apply it - and that goes for guys too who don't even wear make-up and accessories.

  2. You know, it's totally true and I was thinking that as I was writing this. But in school, it really isn't ever applied in terms of skin or clothes. I find that a lot of people have no idea what their coloring is!

    Sometimes it does help to stop and actually think it through. :)

    Oh, and something I can add to my post is that it is often the case that the more contrast one has between their skin and hair color is the amount of contrast in shade that you can easily pull off in clothes. For instance, I have a lot of skin-hair contrast so blacks, whites, and bright jewel tones look nice on me, while my fair-skinned, blonde friend would probably look nice in pastels and lighter colors.

  3. I was thinking about this some more and, you know, part of the reason I think it can be especially hard for some people to apply this consistently is that coloring can vary. You touched on that a bit, but it can be more extreme for some. I'm basically a brown guy, but my skin goes from having a pink/blue/grey undertone to sometimes having a yellow/copper undertone. It's kind-of odd actually.

    Another thing is that the contrast rule makes sense for fairer skinned people, I think. For example, most very dark-skinned women who have black hair and dark eyes can look ridiculously stunning in simple black and white outfits. Maybe it's more a case of being able to balance the contrast? What I mean is that, though you and your blonde friend are both fair-skinned, your own dark hair helps to balance things out so that you can work with higher contrasting looks. Similarly, a woman with very dark skin might naturally contrast the bright white that would wash out a blonde, fair-skinned woman - so a balance is created. Does that make sense?

    (Oh btw, I forgot to say hi... it's me... "studpup" from the other forum!)

  4. About the coloring change, have you ever noticed that you wear certain colors in winter and certain colors in summer? Your case may be extreme (happens to me too when I get very tan, which I try to avoid) but a lot of the color-choosing thing happens naturally for those with a good eye. I guess, just keep a check on what color you are at the moment to gauge what colors to wear!

    As for the darker-skinned note, I have to slightly disagree. I definitely see your point, but consider a naturally deep-colored woman. She may look awesome in bright orange which she can pull off more than someone yellow-toned like me, BUT she will have to accomodate her makeup to be highly contrasting and pigmented also to balance the shirt. Otherwise, the shirt will actually wash out the color balance in the rest of her features. A lot of it comes down to opinion at that point though. Some people like really POPPING shirts. ^^

    You are correct though in the general sense that contrast makes for a good outfit. Fair, blonde girl + black shirt (and black mascara and eyeliner) = good outfit. Fair, blonde girl + white shirt = washed out. But honestly, I think with black and white, everyone looks better with a bit of extra balance.

  5. Thanks Jen for this color wheel post. I also remembered learning them a long time ago, but I definitely had no idea that it would affect the color of make up or cloths I should wear. It is a long time ago and I am not very familiar with all the warm and cool concepts... but it will eventually get to me... don't you think? xD

  6. Is it okay if you help me with this? I'm a yellow-undertone, more towards the pale beige color. I tend to look pale without makeup. So, my skin tone is more like pale-ish tone. So which colors compliment my eyes?