Choosing The Best Grey

April 18, 2011 by  

First thing I ask myself when I’m trying to put a grey into a personal colour analysis Season is: “Does it contain any colour other than B&W?”

If I can only see black and white, it’s Winter. Winter’s greys can be the lightest light, colours known as icy, or the darkest near-blacks. If your eye doesn’t pick up anything other than some rendition of black, this is a Winter colour.

Grey is a most underused colour and the most important neutral colour. Grey can be your lights, mediums, darks, and neutrals. It is more imaginative than black, what isn’t, and makes an outfit look much more interesting. It’s elegant and sophisticated and far more slimming on most people. Grey is also wildly underused in eye makeup and suits more types of skin than brown. The drawbacks may be that there are so many versions, but there’s only one good ol’ black. The worst thing about black is that it’s so easy.

Grey can take on a suggestion of the colours around it, so it looks purplish as eyeshadow if lipstick or clothing is red or violet. For this reason, getting too particular about placing greys to a specific Season within the 12 is not something to worry about. As long as you can place it among the 4 True Seasons, it will adapt nicely with the rest of the outfit. The Neutral Seasons stick quite close to the parent True Season’s greys.

Winter’s greys are usually pretty easy. The might-as-well-be-wearing-nothing effect that does Winter no favors happens when the grey (or any color) is gentled. You know that generic soft heathered grey used in men’s T-shirts? A Winter will dominate that colour entirely, and the shirt will have no character at all, like a big blank space. It looks like underwear or pyjama wear. Along with being made of B&W, there should be a definite sense of sharpness, like a knife edge, or darkness, like a charcoal. Winter’s taupe, at the bottom of the graphic above, has that Winter redness that comes out of it, giving it a sharpness, making it unlikely to strike you as soft.

Soft Summer greys.

Summer’s grey is easy to pick out. There will be a wash of blue, pink, or mauve. Even the taupes, which go from grayer oyster to Portobello mushroom are pinkish.

If it’s brown or green, it’s Autumn’s grey. Autumn has more colour in their greys and taupes. The greys are more obviously greened, like camo, or oranged, which makes them look heavy, like a velvet couch. They may also seem browned (because brown is just dark orange), or greened in the various shades of dry tobacco. The taupes look more brown.

Soft Autumn greys.

In a Spring grey, you can see sunshine yellow coming out of it. Grey is inherently cool and Spring is not. Grey is quieter while Spring sings of colour. Therefore, Spring has few real greys and many more browns, peachy ones and greenish ones. Their greys are yellowish, which I could never pick up unless I held up several grey items in the store together. The greys are actually so yellow, they can seem a little green. Spring is often that way, like dandelion yellow is almost green, like the unripe banana is greenish-yellow, like the hair of some True Spring children is so yellow, it can seem greenish in pictures.

Spring greys.

Does darkness or lightness guide the grey to a Season?  Doesn’t help. Every Season has several levels of light/darkness in most colours, including grey.


12 Responses to “Choosing The Best Grey”

  1. margie on April 18th, 2011 5:05 pm

    Very helpful — thanks!

  2. Jeannie on April 19th, 2011 10:53 am

    I thought I was a winter but I did not like the grays…but I do like my Autumn greys :) The greys are one of the colors that I can really see how it would make a difference between the seasons.
    Great explaination of the differences :)

  3. Samantha Bradley on April 21st, 2011 1:14 pm

    Wow, love this. So, as a DA, I should simply look more closely at TA’s grays to find the best one for me? Perhaps darker (and slightly clearer) than TA’s grays I suppose. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s the impression I get.

  4. Laura on April 21st, 2011 5:17 pm

    I am a soft autumn and need warm greys. The trouble is, I can’t seem to find any. All the greys I come across in stores are cool. Very frustrating. Almost makes me wish I were a winter. There is never a shortage of black, cool grey, and pure white. Shopping would be so much easier.

  5. Cora on April 24th, 2011 9:49 am

    I’ve been stalking your website and the facebook group for some time, trying to figure out what my season might be since there are no analysts in my country.
    Can I ask you what season(s) the men’s t-shirt grey is? Thanks a lot.

  6. Nien on April 24th, 2011 12:29 pm

    Hi Christine, love your article. Do you know if grey’s with a purple undertone can belong to any other season than summers? I’ve been classified as a winter three time’s. And in one of the drapings I was draped with a red drape, raspberrie and a deep rose color as best colors. Clear purple’s and light grey with a purple undertone where also very flattering. Is it possible that any of the winters or maybe a clear spring can wear this?

  7. Christine Scaman on April 24th, 2011 3:34 pm

    Your description of DA greys is right on. It’s amazing how many Seasons actually do better in grey than brown – 10 of the 12 actually. So think of all the women wearing brown eyeshadow and eyeliner would look so much fresher and more right in grey.

    Do you own a Swatch book? The hardest greys to find, IMO, are Spring’s. Autumn’s brown greys are out there…but you are so right. Summer’s and Winter’s are far more plentiful.

    Good Q. The men’s T-shirt is not great for anyone, because it is Winter’s B&W, but Summer’s heathering effect. I find it so painfully boring on Winters that I’d give it to Summer.

    You’d have to show me the colour, but from your description, the grey does sound like it belongs to one of the Summers. Bright Winter is very strongly still Winter, and Bright Spring is quite yellow and activated, which is not a feeling I get from purple-grey.

  8. Laura on April 24th, 2011 7:38 pm


    I wish that I owned a swatch book, but I can’t afford one right now. I have to use my eyes to the best of my ability. Are soft autumns one of the 10 seasons that look better in grey eyeshadow? If that is the case, do you know of any drug store brands that have the right color?

  9. Nynd on April 26th, 2011 6:43 pm

    Dead right about summer and winter greys being easiest to find – one reason this soft-season grew up loathing grey (also, school uniforms have a lot to answer for in terms of psychic colour trauma!)

    Spring’s grey looks almost olivine; that darkest grey is reading as something almost peat-brown on my monitor – still grey, but trying for something else. Isn’t olive really dark yellow? The trouble, I suspect, is that word “almost” – it’s a subtle thing. It takes a steady hand and steady eye to get it right.

  10. Sarah on July 4th, 2012 7:37 am

    Christine, you said that 10 of the 12 seasons do better in grey than brown. Can I ask, which are the 2 seasons that don’t?

  11. Christine Scaman on July 9th, 2012 10:44 am

    Do you mean eyeshadow, Sarah? The 2 are True Autumn and True Spring. L Sp and BW are better in their grey for eyeshadow, though L Sp sure does have some great peaches and beiges too. SA and DA are equally good in grey or brown, but they’re very particular browns. As always, they come from the palettes.

  12. Sarah on July 9th, 2012 7:07 pm

    Thanks Christine :) I’ve just found out I’m SA, and I agree the browns are very particular, I would never have thought I was SA because browns in general don’t suit me. The browns in my fan look beautiful though. I prefer taupe to either brown or grey in eye makeup on many people.

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