Why do some neutrals look better on us than others? The likely reason is that the ‘undertone’ of these neutrals is in harmony with that of our skintone. Like our skintone, colours have an undertone as well.
In describing undertones, we use the words ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ to describe the ‘feel’ we get from them.
In this colour wheel, we roughly divide warm and cool colours this way:
In general, if a colour has more ‘yellow’, it’s considered ‘WARM’, if it has more blue, black or white, it’s ‘COOL’.
Truth is: determining a single colour’s undertone is DIFFICULT. The best way to do so is by COMPARISON.
If Colour A has no yellow in it, while Colour B has, then Colour A is COOL.
So, the presence of yellow / a greater amount of yellow makes a colour ‘warm’ or ‘warmer’ than another.
A greater amount of blue, black or white in a colour makes it ‘cooler’ than another.
The colour on the right has the most yellow, therefore it is the ‘warmest’ among the 3 colours.
Even blues can be warm. Left: Coolest colour, Right: Warmest (has the most yellow)
If your skin tone is warm, then the colours that are in harmony with you are warm as well.
If you find that a colour just doesn’t seem ‘right’ on you, it’s likely that that colour has the opposite undertone. A person who has a warm undertone will find that colours with yellow in them look more HARMONIOUS with their skin tone.
The following pictures are used the illustrate how colours of a different undertone look out of place – they stick out like a sore thumb, drawing attention to themselves.
Original Colour Scheme (done by Nippon iColour Visualiser) Warm Neutrals
The colour of the decorative partition has been changed. Notice how it doesn’t jive with the rest of the colours in the combination. The original on the left looks a lot better. This colour is too ‘cool’ for the whole colour combination.
The same partition has been ‘repainted’ – this colour is better than the earlier one, but it’s still not the best.
Finally, this colour fits best into the general colour scheme. It attracts the right amount of attention without being strangely out of place.
The same principle applies in choosing neutrals for your outfits.
To find the best neutrals for you:
find out your skin undertone
select different colours and put them against your face, ask yourself, does the colour look ‘weird’ on me? If the colour shouts for attention in a negative way, then it isn’t the right colour for you.
Black, grey and white might be the oldest and most acknowledged neutral colours around, but many others have joined the fray over the years.
More and more colours, including neutrals, are created each day for various purposes, but it is interesting to note that the fashion and design industries share similar colours that are considered ‘neutrals’. Take any neutrals from a paint company catalogue (like the pic below) and you’ll see that when you wear them, they’re still considered neutrals.
Whatever neutrals might be to you in your fashion context, we agree that generally, the neutrals below are the popular ones we see:
shades of black
shades of white
shades of grey
shades of brown and some blues and greens
And the list goes on….
How do we define ‘neutral colours’ then?
In my definition, neutral colours are those that ‘take a backseat’ in a colour combination and allow other colours to advance. Let’s take these examples. Notice how a couple of colours pop out from the combination, while others form the backdrop.
Our focus is drawn to the brightest colours – fuschia and green. The rest of the colours form the backdrop.
The blue and purple flowers get the attention.
The inclusion of accessories in brighter colours distracts us from the neutral colours. When these brighter colours are worn with neutrals (not all together of course), they add interest.
If I could personify ‘neutral colours’, they would have these character traits:
Might be perceived as a wall-flower by those who underestimates her worth
A team player
As colours, neutrals are:
Easy on the eyes
Easy to match
Provides a backdrop for accent colours to add interest
In short, neutral colours may seem boring, but they are necessary. In interior decoration, they are an asset to those who find solace in a cozy and relaxing place. In fashion, they are a staple that give you mileage for your money, and works hard to present your in whatever way you choose – to stand out with bursts of colour, or just to stay understated, but composed and elegant. Credit:
Photos of living spaces captured from
Home Colour Visualiser, nipponpaint.com.sg/inspiration/home-colour-visualiser
For an explanation of what the following colour combinations mean, do take a look at this POST first.
Credit: All fashion illustrations below are used with permission from the artistic team from Aleph Tav Art, click HERE for more of their illustrations.
Monochromatic Colour Combination
One colour, many shades.
This colour combination is classic, classy and elegant, however, without some additional colours to add interest, it could be ‘boring’ at times. To spice things up, add some colour in small proportions.
Except for the belt and the yellow undershirt, the rest of the outfit is shades of one colour
Analogous Colour Combination
Colours adjacent to each other in the colour wheel
Complementary Colour Combination
Colours opposite each other in the colour wheel
This outfit is predominantly complimentary in blue and yellow. However, if you were to consider the red shoes, this will become ‘triadic’ instead.
Split Complementary Colour Combination
2 adjacent colours + 1 opposite colour
Triadic Colour Combination
3 colours equal distance away from one another.
With this particular combination, colours often (and probably) vary in proportion to make the combination more appealing, usually one colour takes dominance.
Tetradic Colour Combination
4 colours – usually 2 pairs of adjacent colour combinations (forming a rectangle) or they are 4 colours equal distance from one another (forming a square)
Usually one or two colours are dominant, while the other two work as accent colours for accessories.
You’d probably notice that the artists have not adhered strictly to the colour combinations the way we’ve named them….and that’s the beauty of it, names are GUIDES, but they need not dictate everything we do. If something looks good and harmonious to your eye, try it out and see what others say.
I have noticed that the people who often wear many colours tend to be more outgoing. Many of them also grew up used to seeing colours in all sorts of combinations around them. My colour trainer told me that people who have complementary colour tones in themselves (red hair and green eyes) tend to wear lots of colour and are not afraid of being seen with them. Is that true?
For a fact, I know that I’m a conservative as far as colours concerned, but I’m learning. I’m monochromatic – dark brown hair, dark brown eyes and medium skin tone, as such, I’ve always favoured a monochromatic colour combination with my neutrals.
Before we get into colour combinations, let’s cover some basic things about colours and colour theory:
The Colour Wheel
……is the organization of colours (also called ‘hues’) presented in a circle.
Primary Colours……refer to red, yellow and blue (in their pure forms).
Secondary Colours……are created by mixing 2 primary colours together.
Blue + Yellow = Green
Red + Yellow = Orange
Red + Blue = Purple
Tertiary Colours……are created by mixing a secondary and a primary colour.
Purple + Blue = Blue-purple
Orange + Red = Red-orange
Tertiary colours are usually identified by the primary colours that are added to them, ‘blue’ purple (not just purple) or ‘blue’ green. Sometimes, you’ll also find that these colours have exotic names assigned to them too – aquamarine, azure, teal…..
How to Combine Colours:
The trick to looking good in the colours you wear is in getting the right ‘HARMONY’. In Personal Colour Analysis, the ‘right harmony’ also includes the colours found in ourselves – our hair, skin and eyes. However, not to complicate matters, let’s consider some common colour combinations that are seen to be harmonious.
a) Monochromatic –
One colour, different shades – light brown, medium brown and dark brown. This is easy to do, and is a colour combination preferred in many corporate settings.
b) Analogous –
Putting ‘neighbouring’ colours on the colour wheel together. Eg. Green with Yellow, or Green with Blue, or Purple with Red, Purple with Blue
c) Complementary –
Think Christmas – Red and Green, Purple and Green, Orange and Blue
They are colours that are opposite each other in the colour wheel, and they bring attention to each other too.
d) Triadic –
As the name suggests, this is a combination of three different colours, but they are equal distance one from another. Eg. Red, Yellow and Blue / Orange, Purple and Green.
e) Split Complementary –
Two analogous colours and one complementary. Eg. Red and Purple, Green
f) Tetradic (Rectangle) –
Four colours – two pairs of complementary colours. Eg. Blue and Orange, Purple and Green. The proportions used for these colours in one colour combination are rarely equal, unless one wants to risk looking like a clown.
These are some suggestions for you to combine the colours of your outfits and accessories. Which combination do you sport most often and why?
In the next post, we’ll post some illustrations on these colour combinations.
If only choosing the right makeup colours was easy….perhaps for some it is, but for many of us, it’s a problem we face each time we choose a makeup product.
Hopefully, having a better understanding of COLOURS will help us to make better colour choices, be they for clothing or makeup.
Few people explain the COLOUR THEORY for makeup better than Robert Jones. I’d just like to share this video with you so that you can gain an understanding of how our natural skin colour interacts with colours we put on our face.
I’m merely introducing the video here so you can decide if you want to check it out. I’d just like to say that I gained a lot from this.
The right shape and size to save time and minimise mess
Preferably low in cost
Here I have 5 brushes which I use / have used for eyeliner application.
Left to Right
Angled brush made of synthetic bristles (from an art store)
Gel liner brush from Kate, Kanebo
Small angled eyebrow brush
Small flat top eyeliner brush
Fine brush (from an art store)
You can see from the second photo that all these brushes are very thin, and for eyeliner brushes to create precise lines, this is a must.
My favourite is No. 1 – the angled brush from the art store. The reasons are as follows:
Its synthetic brushes allow product to glide more easily and does not soak up product.
Its slant makes it easier for me to apply my liner. It’s just more natural to use. See the picture below compared with Kate’s liner.
Its width makes application easy. I ‘press’ the brush on my lashline only 3-4 times at most to create a line that’s consistent in fineness. No dragging and broken-up lines. (Read this post to find out how I use this with my eyeliner product. )
It is thin – I can create a thin precise line with this easily.
IT’S CHEAP! (Less than RM5)
Left: A more natural angle for applying product. Right: Simply “press” the product near your lashline….foolproof.
I didn’t choose the angled eyebrow brush as my favourite because it’s too small and I find it increasingly harder to work with tiny brushes like these as I get older. It requires a very steady hand, good eyesight and lots of PATIENCE!
I personally don’t think we need to spend lots of money on eyeliner brushes, particularly if you’re aiming for a clean precise line. Experiment with art store synthetic brushes and you might just be pleasantly surprised. I will however, be tempted to try out FLAT EYELINER BRUSHES offered by many other brands out there (Google ‘Flat Eyeliner Brush’). These brushes have FLAT TOPS, not angled ones. They are great too, and work pretty much the same way, ‘press’ and you’re done with a clean line. It gets the product right between the lashes. I haven’t got round to getting one yet because I haven’t quite wrapped my head round paying lots of money for an eyeliner brush….. :p