Understanding A Color 1
September 1, 2010 by Christine Scaman
Clients often bring an item of clothing or makeup to ask if the color is right for them. It helps me to have a way of answering the question that I use each time.
Personal Colour Analysis is about looking better on less wasted money. 80% of this venture involves correctly talking yourself OUT of wrong color items.
These are the questions I ask myself. There’s no particular order, though I usually start with “Is it clear?”, since that can be the hardest call.
..Is it clear? Is it clear = blossoms/candy/fruit punch/popsicle OR is it muted = grayed, dulled, not-vivid, not-bright?
.. Is it light? If yes, is it pastel and heathery Summer, OR icy and frosty Winter?
..Is it warm? If yes, is it orange-brown-Autumn leaves OR yellow-tropical-Spring?
We’re looking at the brown hoodie. I always step back see a color, allowing it to be surrounded with other things. Color is understood by comparison to other colors. A proper Personal Color Analysis is based entirely on comparing one color’s effects to another. We’ve all played the games of seeing ghost colors when our brain adds in complementary color around an object, of seeing items of the same size appear bigger and smaller next to other colors…all optical illusions. That is exactly what colors are doing next to your face and body, making your features appear yellow, oilier, bigger, smaller, etc. Your Personal Colour Palette is determined by which colours make you look most perfect.
Back to the hoodie.
Clear or dusty? >> dusty.
Light? >> no, more medium, I think.
Warm?>>no, not obviously orange or yellow.
So, the item is dusty, not clear. Therefore, Summer or Autumn or one of their blends are more likely.
It’s medium in darkness, not overly helpful.
It is neither orangey or yellowed. In fact, it’s almost pinkish. Therefore, Autumn and Spring are not likely. Is a weak Autumn blend possible? Sure, but then it won’t belong to one of the 3 Autumn Seasons.
Seems likes we’ve narrowed it down to Summer.
Trying to categorize it to its exact Season in the 12 possibilities isn’t really useful. This present exercise is more valuable as a way of EXcluding items from your shopping cart. Nobody whose main Season is Winter, Spring, or Autumn would buy this. The fine tuning is left to matching it to the Colours swatch Book.
There are color analysts who use this Color Me Beautiful technique very successfully to analyze human coloring. In my hands, that method seems to shake out a few snakes in the weeds. For analyzing clothes and makeup though, I like it. I could see how someone might call that hoodie dark and set off on the wrong track, but if you stick to the characteristic you’re absolutely most sure of, here being heathery-grayed-muted, it’s a good way of classifying an item.
So Sometimes, I’ll start with “What is most obvious?” on the 3 Colour Scales? The light/dark, warm/cool, hi/lo sat? To me, the most obvious thing about Example 1 is that it is dusty (low saturation). You could say cool too. There is a tendency to call all browns warm at the outset, like we tend to call all greys cool.
So often, it’s the browns that mix us up. OK, mix me up. Another tendency is to give browns to Autumn. Autumns do look unequalled in their browns, but they’re usually wearing another Season’s shade of brown (before their PCA, of course).
This very cute shoe is at ShoeMall. The photo is linked
It’s clearly light. Heathery- grayed or clear and intense? Not sure, grayed I guess, like a pastel beige, but it’s hard to decided how gray a grayish color is. Maybe somewhere in between the two. (See Icy Colours and Pastels to understand the distinction between grayed and clear color.)
Warm or cool? I’d go with cool because I can’t see sunshine yellow or dull rust in it.
So it’s cool-side and light. Therefore, we’ve EXcluded True Autumns (orange-warmed and medium-dark), Springs (yellow-warmed and light), or Winters (icy lights, never pastel, and cool). Disqualified too are their strong blends (meaning, the 3 variations of each of those True Seasons). If you’re one of those 3, you probably wouldn’t buy this.
There is still room for error because all 3 of those True Seasons have some lighter colors in their palette. Maybe this is a color that any of the 12 Tones (Seasons) could wear, though not in shoes if the hair is a really different color. Could this be an example of a color that anyone could wear, that would be pulled together by the rest of the outfit?
If I’m really not getting a fix on a color’s position in the 12 Tones, I’ll switch to how it makes me feel. This beige feels cool, light, fresh, clean – Summer. The triangles and funky design say Spring. So I’ve probably EXcluded Autumns and Winters based on that.
Lesson : Check the Colours Book. Some colours are tougher to classify and unexpected in that Season. Some are also quite close between all the Seasons and very versatile workhorse colours.
This great sequined doublet cardi is at J.Crew. I adore J.Crew’s way with color. They have many more colors on offer than the 4-color palette of so many other stores. When they create a color, they commit to it and get it right.
At first glance, I can see how you might say Autumn, because it’s golden-like. You might even see that shiny doublet piece peeking out and think “…and that dazzle is incongruent with Autumn’s feeling”.
Autumn is the nectar. Spring is the juice. This top might seem cider. Doesn’t help.
But Autumn doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel heavy or dulled enough. Nor does it convey mellow, cozy, or strong, all Autumn sensations. It might be orangey, but somehow the color feels too clean, maybe even a little sharp. It’s not greyed, certainly, in fact it seems quite saturated. The color is more strong than weak. It would be hard to saturate it more (remember that saturation is quite different from darkness), to make it more intense.
If we were looking at a landscape, would this color be in the foreground or melting away in the background? It would be near because it’s still vivid. It’s worth noting here that this element of saturation can give color a third dimension, a position of depth in space. Our brains understand that far away color is greyed, less brilliant, lower in saturation.
[A question for the color experts among us : Could the same be said of cool and dark colors? Both recede. A mountain range’s colors are cooler near the horizon. A forest is darker in the distance. Are all 3 parameters, hue, value, and chroma equally able to be the 3rd dimension of depth?]
Since the clarity of it might be confusing, though I see it as very clear (not at all cloudy) (apple juice, not peanut butter-a comparison I’m using to compare degrees of clarity, not the precise color itself), could we work it out based on its warmth? So, yes, it is a warm color. Is it warmed by Autum’s dull rust or Spring’s daffodil-buttercup yellow? I don’t get dull rust here. It’s more some kind of yellow-ness, right?
Does its lightness or darkness help us? Well, it’s more light to medium. Since it’s warm, we don’t talk about icy or pastel. Not really helpful.
My feelings tell me it’s clear (high saturation) and yellow. I look in the Colours Books. I find it among Bright Spring’s colors, with a gentler version in True Spring. The whole outfit is outstanding for Bright Spring, with the small but important element of black, yet overall light effect. Suddenly, the sequins make sense.
The Lesson is : Never shop without your Book.
.. you won’t remember color accurately, though you think you will; after 6-9 months, you’ll be better at it
.. for Including items in your cart, there are in-between levels of light/dark, warm/cool, and hi/lo saturation. For the 8 Neutral Seasons, you won’t get the degree of in-between-ness correct. The color analyzed swatches can be unpredictable. The color variations in the 12 Seasons are quite unique, to a level that the fashion industry has not nearly caught up with.
I enjoy this type of exercise because color is surprising and we all learn. If any of you have been confused or intrigued by a color, LMK. We’ll do another one of these articles.