What are Clear and Soft Colours?

November 26, 2009 by  

Let’s say that every colour begins as grey. Drop by drop, you add a colour pigment.  As you increase the amount of pigment, so do you increase the “saturation”. The colour is becoming more clear and intense. Finally, there is no grey left and what you have is a pure colour.

Understanding saturation in 12 Season Colour Analysis is key to using your colour analysis swatches correctly for selecting clothes AND makeup.

Colour Saturation

This might look like grey>dusty rose> watermelon> fuchsia. You see how the grey is being subtracted? We began with a soft, muted, dusty colour of low saturation and ended with a more pure, vivid, brilliant colour of high saturation. Another word for saturation is chroma.

A clear colour is pure. It is very far from grey. It is closer to full saturation.

Here is another comparison chart. The colours on the right are not becoming darker, or warmer, or cooler. They’re just clearer or brighter, relative to grey.

Playing with colour parameters

You could darken a colour without removing the gray : grey > heather mist > lilac > lavender > mauve. But now, you’re playing with a different aspect of colour, namely the  lightness/darkness. The saturation is not changing so much. These are all soft, muted colours.

You could equally change 2 parameters of colour at once : Wedgewood blue>sky blue>sapphire. We are increasing darkness and increasing saturation at once.

Colour has a third parameter, that being warm/cool. Personal Colour Analysis is determing exactly where your colouring stands in terms of all 3 criteria.

True and Neutral Season colour saturation

Who needs to know? Pretty well everybody, actually. The Summer and Autumn seasons wear absolutely muted colours. Though Autumn’s are more golden-brown and Summer’s are more grey, both are duller than the truly pure Winter and Spring shades.

The True Seasons are absolutes insofar as the colour clarity or softness. Either the colours are clear or they’re not. For the 75% of you who are a Season blend, or a Neutral Season, your colours are softened or muted to a degree. The PCA tells you how much.

In fact, the True Seasons are absolute with respect to all 3 parameters of colour – warm vs. cool and light vs. dark, as well as bright/soft. Therein lies the problem with 4 Season Colour Analysis.

The Neutral Seasons are born with a personal colour palette that is warm/cool/light/dark/bright soft  to some degree. It is in the particular combination of the degrees that you arrive at the 8 Neutral groups.

The saturation of grey

Can grey itself be more or less clear?It sure seems crisper and sharper in the Winter greys than in softer Summer greys.

Winter’s grey is pure. That means that it is made of black and white. That’s it.

Summer’s greys have blue in them. Spring’s have yellow, and Autumn’s have brown.


How about a pure vs. muted yellow? Daffodil vs. butterscotch.



Brown is a little complicated. Brown is a dark orange, but it’s also an important characteristic of the entire Autumn group. It is most certainly NOT a characteristic of the other Seasons, or at least, it takes a much different form.

It’s incredibly important to get it right because it is such a wardrobe neutral and cosmetic colour staple. The Mystery Of Brown is the topic of the next article.


7 Responses to “What are Clear and Soft Colours?”

  1. Gifts from Real People 2 : A Greener Tea on November 28th, 2009 6:44 am

    [...] going on at 12B? There is a trilogy of articles in process. The first is What Are Clear And Soft Colours?, because every Season needs to [...]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP ( doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP ( and so is spam.

  2. The Mystery of Brown : 12 Blueprints on November 28th, 2009 12:25 pm

    [...] This article is the second of 3 connected posts. The first one was What Are Clear and Soft Colours? [...]

  3. Soft Summer Jewelry : 12 Blueprints on December 15th, 2009 11:13 am

    [...] are of low saturation. The whole look of this season revolves around that concept. We saw in What Are Clear And Soft Colours? that these colours are all closer to grey than in the Clear Colour seasons. Are they dull and drab? [...]

  4. The Right Sweater For Dark Winter Men : 12 Blueprints on January 4th, 2010 10:31 am

    [...] since the colours of Bright Spring are all-out, freewheeling, highly saturated colour. (See What Are Clear And Soft Colours? for the meaning of saturation in [...]

  5. Jocelyn Is A Bright Winter : 12 Blueprints on February 13th, 2010 10:00 am

    [...] best colours would be very dark and/or very saturated. (see What Are Clear And Soft Colours? for an explanation of [...]

  6. Rachel Ramey on March 13th, 2012 1:11 pm

    Bright Winter and Bright Spring are muted relative to True Winter and True Spring?

  7. Ashley on March 13th, 2012 9:45 pm

    The Bright seasons have the highest-saturated colors, so they’re more saturated than TW and TSp.

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