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How to Be a Dark Winter (not a True Winter)

Dark Winter describes the natural colours of people who are mostly Winter with some Autumn, a blend of warm and a cool parent Seasons, and therefore a Neutral Season. Today we're looking at the neighbours of True Winter and Dark Winter.



The Order of Seasons

The map below shows the 12 Seasons and helps to explain the relationships between them. True Seasons (fully warm or cool) are at the four corners, with the Neutral Seasons positioned between them.



True Winter and Dark Winter palettes include colours that look very similar because these groups share so much in their colour properties. Both are cool, bright, and have a dark endpoint. 

The two palettes are different enough that if you tried to swap those really similar colours, they might not look so identical. True Winter colours might look sharp or bright, or apart in some way if you slide them into a Dark Winter group or under a Dark Winter face. Put True Winter colours on a Dark Winter and the person may seem tired or drained. 


 TW > DW 1: Comparisons

 The differences in the colour dimensions of the two groups are the first place to help Autumn be seen and heard.


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First, Autumn is warmer. Dark Winter is more cool than warm, but there’s a touch of warmth in every colour. About the red handbag above, if you were asked whether it looks more like salsa or jellybeans, you might say salsa. Autumn colours are warm, soft, and dark, turning yellow into gold. 

Second, Autumn is softer than Winter, and Dark Winter is softer than True Winter. Soft means less colour pigment, more visible gray. As a clearer, brighter, Season, True Winter colours are not smoky, dusty, or grayed compared with Dark Winter.

True Winter yellow is cool, like lemon zest. Dark Winter is a touch more golden, which gives a harvest impression, like some variety of corn. Above, the yellow scarf and red bag look rich together. Neither colour is dominating or detracting from the other, on the contrary, their colours look better for being together. The same scarf with the blue True Winter blouse are less mutually enhancing, with the scarf looking as if some colour were drained from it compared with the colour alongside the handbag.

Winter and Autumn have one colour dimension in common, which is darkness. Even the lightest colours of Dark Winter are darker relative to the other Seasons, except for Dark Autumn. The darkness is visible here in the blue and red items. 


 Palette Posters from NDU Colors

The posters below are product photographs from the website and appear slightly grayed. In reality, the page canvas is white and the colours are brilliant.


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You may already know you're a Dark Winter and are wondering, "Would it help me choose colours if I had colour palettes from both groups?"

Yes, I think that having a comparison palette makes the boundaries of your Season clearer. 

The posters above are made by NDU Colors in the USA, offering global shipping and a wide variety of colour products. (I have no financial or other affiliation with NDU Colors.)

The posters can be placed above or alongside apparel for an excellent impression of overall compatibility. For jewelry, lay pieces on the poster and move them around, looking for the metals and coloured elements to be beautiful with the palette. With makeup, draw one square inch of colour on the the end of a piece of white card. As you pass it over the similar colours, look for a sense of belonging or continuity. Now look at the cosmetic colour next to all the other palette colours to ensure that it looks energetic and elegant next to the entire palette.


TW > DW 2: Red and Burgundy

Beginning with the red family, we compare True and Dark Winter, focussing on red variations that would not appear in True Winter. 


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The red shirt from the previous panel is on the left side along with a dark fuchsia dress, to act as True Winter reference points.

The Either group includes items that might be worn by both Seasons. In the top item, the brightness increases and may be where Dark Winter ends and True Winter begins. The dress at the bottom may work well for True Winter, in the classic tones of red and black, with a tapestry effect looks terrific on Dark Winter without being so extreme that True Winter couldn't wear it.

On the Dark Winter side, rust and dark coral are examples of colours that would not appear in True Winter. The wallet with the poppy design has a white background, with texture to mute the white slightly. The warm red in the poppies may be as light as Dark Winter red would be. The necktie is a ruby colour, softer than red rubies, with gray dots to further enrich the red background.

The V-neck top and bracelet in the next row belong with the redwood family of colours, with high pigment saturation for Winter. The V-neck top in the lower row is bluer, a colour that might fit into the cooler side of Dark Autumn, but the white dots may be discordant for that Season. Burgundy and maroon colours are particular to Autumn-influenced Seasons. True Winter versions are more red-purple and brighter, as we see in the dress on the lower left with the cool fuchsia reflection.

In the watch, the silver and the diamonds make a nice warm-cool contrast with gold and the coral, an effect Neutral Seasons wear well. The watch face is a gorgeous lipstick for both Dark Seasons, but may be a little orange for many Dark Winter.

See the gold in the bracelet above and the watch below? More orange above, greener yellow below. We’ll talk about metals soon but for my own taste, I prefer the golden red-orange in the bracelet for Dark Winter. Dark Autumn may fare better in the greener gold, or a Spring type but with the colour of the face, this item may be most suited to a Dark Season. 


TW > DW 3: Green and Olive

In terms of colour associations, I think of the True Seasons, like True Winter, as speaking one language, one voice, with no accent. We don't sense colour influence or energy from a second group. The colours on the True Winter side give neither a smoky nor sunny (for Spring) impression. They are pure versions of the colours.



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In the bags at the top, we have two versions of True Winter green, one with more visible yellow and one in a more traditional blue green. Yellow is part of green and doesn't necessarily mean the colour is warm. The question relevant to warmth is, which yellow went into making the green. The brightness of these two bags, meaning the pigment concentration, is close, whereas the items on the Dark Winter side are a little softer.

Between the dress and vest at the bottom of the True Winter column, the difference may be the texture of the fabric, but texture affects how we see colour. The vest might work within the Dark Winter group, but the dress with its whiter reflections is harder to imagine on the Dark Winter side.

 In the Either group, the medium dark green and silver bracelet would get along on both sides. The plaid coat may be a cool green, but the matte woven textile and plaid print turn up the volume for Autumn. The sleeveless blouse at the bottom may be that language that could be understood on both sides.

 Over on the Dark Winter side, are the colours smoky, sunny, or neither? They're smoky, meaning dark and muted, or you may have a word that you prefer. The True Winter colours are neither smoky nor sunny, so it’s harder to apply those nuanced adjectives. The bag at the top is dark green between forest and olive, with suede to soften the colour for Autumn, plus an embossed flower print to add subtle texture, texture being a great Autumn effect.

The sleeveless top is smooth and shiny, with a darker reflected light than the True Winter dress. The coat is a rich green with wooden toggle buttons, that would hang well in a log cabin, but less well in True Winter's igloo. The earrings are  a mix of brighter and softer colours to tone the overall brightness, along with texture in the silver. The dark olive skirt and wallet combine leather’s ability to hold rich colour and look durable, which Autumn is happy to work with, and creates shine in a lower key than the sharper, whiter shine of True Winter.

In Winter colour combinations, I prefer neutral backgrounds next to the bold colour, perhaps with one or two other colours in smaller areas. On the other hand, we evolved to see the world as reassuringly normal and healthy when warm light and many colours occur together. Dark olive could make great jeans or a jacket for a Dark Winter worn with a neutral colour, whereas on a warmer Autumn Season, olive could comfortably be combined with other colours in equal area.


TW > DW 4: Blue, Pink, Brown, and Prints

 Here, we look at colours that are either very typical of any Winter and have more flexibility in combinations, or so un-typical of True Winter that they would identify well with Dark Winter.


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A version of sapphire blue is found in all three Winter palettes. Also, as a colour, blue gets darker as the brightness climbs, which Dark Winter enjoys. White and Black could be here as well, colours that get along with Winter colouring in general, and adjustable depending on what’s added. 

 Blue items are shown across the top, with a clear blue scarf in True Winter. As we move closer to Dark Winter, we have the wallet in the Either group in darker colours and just a strip of yellow. The bag in Dark Winter is greener as Autumn teal arrives, with a metallic finish that also speaks to Autumn, who looks great in that dry type of shine, like a mineral of some kind. 

 Next come the colours that are more particular to their group, beginning with brighter pinks in True Winter that are also cooler than the coral colours in the scarf in Dark Winter. In the Either group is an envelope bag with a lightly textured dark pink fuchsia flap and dark hardware, both of which are agreeable for Dark Winter.  

For brown, True Winter has the bell sleeve blouse in a colour that is very dark and more red or purple. In the Either column, the dark brown tank top is a little greener, which is fine, still very pigmented and dark. The lower items in Dark Winter are a warmer brown, slightly more orange or neutral than purple or greenish, in leather and suede to soften the colour slightly. The gray sleeveless top is a neutral, mid-darkness, metallic tone that any Winter might adapt to make a variety of outfits.

The leather skirt for the Either group features leather to soften the black and create the Autumn impression with a strong natural material, plus grommets around the hem speaking to Autumn strength, functionality, and durability. White, red and black works well on Winters and in this design, the mirror image symmetry is appealing for any Winter. The dress at the bottom of the Either group is basic black and basic white, and if the style suits the person wearing it, could be fine for all Winters as a springboard for a Season-specific look. 

Orange is a kind of brown. The Dark Winter variations could be coral, like the scarf next to the wrist cuff, or a darker coral shown in the wallet with the golden clasp. Dark Autumn could carry that wallet beautifully, with a more earthy overall quality than the scarf. Dark coral looks like a version of rust, an Autumn hallmark colour with no close counterpart in True Winter.

The wallet with the roses is black and red and suitable for Winters, but the warm, soft green may appear grayer than it is next to True or Bright Winter outfits, compromising the full beauty of the design.

 Prints are a good way to be comfortable with colours. The clear lemon yellow in the True Winter racerback tank has an acidic quality. The more golden yellow in the floral Dark Winter T-shirt too warm for True Winter. The cuff bracelet has a great metallic tapestry effect with colours that would fit less easily in the True Winter lineup.

 The print in the dress at the end of True Winter has good distance between light and dark (contrast) and the base neutral is pure cool white. As a three colour combination in an outfit, print, or beads in a bracelet, white or silver is beautiful with fuchsia and blue (and would look great in an igloo).


TW > DW 5: Texture

 For the next images, we will combine colour with other effects that are attractive for Autumn-type colours or people, adapting them for this mostly-Winter colouring.


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Texture can be a feature of the fabric itself, like lace or wool, or added as details such as embroidery or beading. Texture affects how colour looks, and also the shape a garment assumes, which relates more to style and body type topic than Season. In general, I think of True Winter as smoother in surface texture than Dark Winter, more ice than earth, but as we mentioned, texture is variable with body type and composition. A True Winter with very textured hair might look great in more texture in apparel.

In terms of colour, what does more or deeper texture do? It softens colour and therefore the colour of reflected light, which why so well suited to Autumn's inherent colour softness.

On the True Winter side, black and red are shown in basic versions of the colours and the lace is a finer gauge. The drama comes from the contrast with black and the colour simplicity, with the texture adding a pretty detail but not really changing any colours.

We don't have an Either column in this image, but these could be worn by a Dark Winter as well, being straight up red, which is generally easy for Winters the way that blue is for Summer.   

On the Dark Winter side, with two Seasons speaking, we have the beading on the bag, adding depth or height to the surface. The shine is muted though the metal is a Winter neutral, and the movement of slight is slower than crystal.

 Heavier gauge lace and warmer reds describe the warm strength of Autumn. The shoe is Dark Season burgundy or oxblood, with a touch of surface texture to break up the way light moves across it without compromising the shine and jewel tone of Winter.

The striped sweater shows a slightly warmer white between beige and pure white. The gray stripe might look a little dull on True Winter, recalling lead or iron rather than steel like the sleeveless top we saw back in the previous panel, #4.

The cropped burgundy sweater, combines a dry shine, like a mineral, a rougher surface that adds the 3-D quality of Autumn, while maintaining the jewel tone of a Winter colour.


TW > DW 6: Depth and 3D

3D is like the next level of texture. It's a great Autumn effect because the low angle of light at the Autumn time of year gives shapes a rounded appearance, as though you could see behind them, whereas Spring light gives an impression of seeing through things.

Distinctive 3-D can be added in fabrics or outfits, using layers or thicker items like scarves, but the effect can be spectacular with jewelry. The other nice advantage is that effects can be combined, like colour and depth or jewel tone andtexture.


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In the True Winter lineup, we have the blue drop earrings as very smooth, in a single bright colour, with very little detail. The colours don’t need it.

The bracelet is overall quite light in colour and metal and the edges are sharp, like shards of ice. No Autumn (or Spring) energy is obvious in this items, it looks and feels crisp, sharp, and cool.

 The black drop earrings are similar, with no extra colours and little detail, allowing shape and contrast to have more presence. Dark Winter could wear these, as well as the beaded bracelet as the final item in True Winter, but they may communicate more next to True Winter.

On to Dark Winter.

The silver ring with the rough texture and raised design around the edges has height in the entire piece and is too nature-inspired to qualify as bling, plus it features texture in a gemstone colour that's quite dark.

The Black mamba bracelet uses a print with a textured snakeskin theme plus warmer versions of yellow for Autumn's presence, and visible light to dark contrast for Winter.

The black resin drop earrings have the darkness and the mystery of Winter in a colour that would look nice next to Dark Winter skin. A little bit Addams family, the Goth effect of all black would combine well with velvet, gloves, fishnets, and leather. Any Winter could wear these and 3D effects can work on other body types or design styles than Autumn, but this combination of colour and design could look most at home and least costume on Dark Winter.

The flower ring has a ruby and diamond theme, with a golden centre. The depth is not a swimming pool on a sunny afternoon. This is a dangerous depth, a slightly poisonous effect that Winter communicates well, and the fragrance might not be overly sweet.  

The blue drop earrings have the black and silver rings that recall the rings of a planet or a Wi-Fi symbol, something abstract like the Winter analogies for timelessness or realms where time has less meaning. Black anchors the piece, diamond provides contrast, and the soft and bright blues add texture and colour detail.

In the final bracelet, we have a dark metal with 3-D in the weight and thickness of the item, a combination of Goth and medieval jewelry that could work for Dark Autumn too.


TW > DW 7: Contrast and Themes 

 These examples are all for Dark Winter.


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Autumn themes could include fabric with more density and opacity, heavier knits, twill, flannel and wool for the warmth and depth. We see examples above in a ribbed knit in the blue Polo sweater, animal print, faux fur, velvet, and plush. Buckles, toggles, and chains are also Autumn-inspired motifs.

Contrast is a central concept for Winter. Contrast means big distance between colours, the most familiar example being value contrast, the space between lightest and darkest, or white and black. The cardigan sweater combines high contrast with an animal print, big cat themes being natural in Autumn colours. The bathing suit is an example of another type of contrast made with bright colour and a neutral.

The icy gray hat has light texture and would create lovely contrast with the natural hair colour which is most often dark. The scarf has a chunky knit to create the 3D effect and warmth of wool, with the typical Winter colour combination of white, red, and black. The snowflake print is another easy connection with Winter. 

The contrast in the dress is softer, in light gray to warm black, which acknowledges that Autumn is not a full white to black group of colours. The tapestry effect adds softness by texture as well.

Plaid is an Autumn classic, creating 3D by near and far effect. Dark Winter easily has enough Autumn to translate its colours into plaid. We see the scarf lower left in Christmas red and green with bits of gold, and a plaid and leather bag in classic Winter colours of black and white.

The two skirts (one is a skort) have a folklore or rustic element that bring Autumn to mind. Paisley has a falling leaves imagery that’s congruent with Autumn, in colours of red-black-and-white or on the right, in moderate contrast with teal and white.

The bag at the bottom right features chains and industrial-looking metal, combined with rich burgundy plush. The black sweater has icy peach-pink beading that creates a chunky and natural impression, like seashells or pebbles rather than glitter or twinkle that feel more right with Spring-influenced colours.


TW > DW 8: Metals and Jewelry



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Looking at True Winter first, we have the necklace at the top in neutral colours only and very sharp shapes. Shapes in True Winter people are not necessarily sharp but their colours, meaning how they reflect light, is.

The chain bracelet below could belong on both sides. Chains are great for Autumn but the silver is very cool, almost blue, and may look best next to True Winter skin tones.  

The blue-white quality is in the watch face, and in overall coolness of the silver and black band ring. The textured of the ring with the facetted black stone could work in both groups, although shown here for True Winter.

In the Either group, warmth has not been added since True Winter is a fully cool Season. Next to True Winter skin tones, gold may be hard to see or appear warmer than it is and lose its shine. The palette's lemon peel yellow doesn't translate well into metal. What's been added in this group are darkness and texture.

 Dark Winter includes warmth in colour and therefore can make a home for it in appearance items. For this Season of neutral warmth, silver and gold both work. Since choosing the right gold may feel uncertain, bring in Autumn with gemstones in the Autumn signature colours, in pieces with only small areas of gold. The red earring at the top would be elegant for the Dark Winter with rich red rust in the eyes.

The Autumn advantage of texture is built into the cloverleaf earring in dark charcoal leather. For those with gold in the eyes, try the black drop earrings with the diamond shape and the gold inset. The area of gold is too small to warm the overall skin tone or teeth, but the colour will light up the gold in the eyes.

 Dark Winter looks fantastic in their yellows as clothing, but like True Winter, there's no shade of the palette yellows that is easily imagined in gold. 

Beginning with the rose gold chain drop earrings, the colour might be a combination of gold and dark rose gold, with surface details that are smooth and rough. The colour has more continuity with the corals or reds in the palette than with the yellows. 

The hoop earrings in the black background could be a good medium gold, or alternatively, the softer, cooler version like the ring below. Neither includes extremes of colour or shine.

Silver may be easier to work with for Winter, here in combination with a blue tending towards teal for Autumn in the circular earrings. The purple stud earrings at the bottom may be good for any Winter, but compared with the purple earrings at the bottom of the True Winter lineup, these darker, more oqaque, and less shiny.

The watch with the red strap has a definite log cabin feeling, with black and white arms in the clock face and would be excellent for Dark Autumn (and perhaps more natural or at home).