Colour Balance

When your colouring is stronger than your clothing colours, then your clothes appear even more subdued and ineffective by comparison.

When your jewelry is brighter than you, you become duller by comparison.

When your eyeliner is too dark, your eyes cannot balance it. The eyes closes in and looks smaller.

What is this whole concept of balance and colour in personal colour analysis? The goal is that everything you wear so matches who you already are in darkness, coolness, neutrality (meaning warm and cool at once), clarity of colour, saturation…any colour parameter, that to the viewer, your person and your decoration are as one.

A woman walks into a restaurant. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and a pale sunshine complexion. Nobody can see anything but the dark eyeliner and black spider eyelashes. She only wears a line of liner on the upper lid, but still her makeup is stronger than she is. She is reduced by comparison, as is everything else she is wearing, if anyone even noticed it. Taylor Swift cannot balance her eyeliner, so her eyes appear small and squinty in the face.

Actually, people couldn’t help but notice the clothing. She had on a black suit. Once you got past the eyeliner, the black block kept dragging the eye back down. The blonde hair on the black jacket may have been pretty, but she looked too serious, too old, and too solid (which we translate to heavy). Her presence is reduced, and the importance of every word she speaks is reduced. The suit and eyeliner muscled their way on stage, grabbed the microphone, but they had nothing good to say. Colour is always about its closest neighbor, because that’s what determines how the colour looks.

Even Kate Middleton, in her engagement photos, wears too much dark eyeliner, so the eyes look smaller. There is blue in the liner, to match the dress, and once you get past the black lines, you become caught up in the blue. If the blue then sparkles, and the woman sparkles less, the woman just got duller. Human coloring usually cannot match the intensity of cosmetic pigments, let alone their bizarre effects of frost/sparkle/glitter/prismatic reflections, etc. Some women can match it with ease, but the cosmetic industry wants us to believe we call can. Think about your friends out shopping on a Saturday. Honestly, can their natural coloring balance the world of shimmer? Can most of them balance darkness beyond medium?

These are separate concepts from looking yellow, sallow, or other aspects of balancing heat. The focus today is mostly on, can you match the saturation and darkness? Matching the degree of warmth or coolness is another issue altogether, as in warm colours make me look ill. That is a different kind of balance.

Open this article in a new window (the link should do that automatically). Resize the two windows so you can see this one and the pictures side by side.

Now these are my impressions. If you disagree, that’s ok. In fact, please tell me why so I can see it your way.

Try to slow down time as you look at each photo and answer this : What was the FIRST thing your eye took in ? The second?

Also, take the time to look at the thumbnails under the slideshow. If you put a fulcrum at the midpoint of the picture, which way would the picture tip? Would any pictures stay level? Do any effects look so out of place on the person that they seem to have been Photoshopped in after?

January Jones

The black dress, black hairband, and black brocade in the dress are all more than the girl can balance, so they seem too prominent. Blue eyeshadow just competes with blue eyes, as it always does. I saw the red lips long before I saw here eyes. The strong eyebrows save her on the L. They are long gone on the R, but not as far gone as the lips.

My deep-down reaction to both pictures is that I have no idea who this woman is.

One can always say nice things. The hair color on the L feels quite good on this girl, a point aimed at balancing degree of heat.


What feels like it belongs on this woman? We won’t talk about the lashes because nobody alive could balance those, and as a 20 year old celebrity, she can do what the rest of us would look nuts in. The lashes were the first thing I saw when the picture opened.

The colours on the L are ok. When your eye makeup is very frosty, or blingy in some other way, your eyes get dull to the same extent, as hers have. You may feel her eyes look pretty, but are you looking at the eye color, or is your attention preoccupied with the makeup color or application? Think about discerning exactly what you are looking at.

The toffee blonde of the hair is not so bad. I can imagine a sweater this colour, and it wouldn’t wear her, or the other way round. It might turn her skin too yellow if she can’t balance the amount and type of heat, meaning that Autumn and Spring have different heat.

The red hair on the R seems to take over the energy of the entire photo. I think it’s too dark and too cool a red. Is it just the big style? I think it would have the same effect in the hairstyle on the L.

Joaquin Phoenix

The suit is stronger than he is. His head looks attached as an afterthought. He does B&W better than others might. Let your eyes relax and take in the whole photo without trying to look at any element particularly. Think about what you are most aware of. For me, it’s the clothes.

He’s not way far off the B&W. Some of you may like it on him. When the balance gets closer to being right, it becomes more subtle. Maybe it’s the coldness of the black that doesn’t work, rather than its darkness. Maybe it’s too saturated for him.

Men usually have more intense coloring than women in a given Season. They can wear darker color because they contain darker color. If this man were Winter, I’d think his hair should be darker at this age, but who knows. Hair is (for me) the most misleading aspect of choosing Season.

Jennifer Hudson

She is much stronger than what she is wearing on the L. In that big, soft, light block, she might as well be naked. Because the clothes are less than she is, the parts of her that are showing seem larger.

On the R, not bad at all. The dress comes just to the edge of taking over, but not quite. That is saying something because the dress is A. red, and B. a big block. By balancing the dress and wearing a good lip colour, her skin clears and looks fresh, not heavy or thick. Her presence has impact and interest. She looks alive, not dumpy.

Ashley Simpson

I have no words. It hurts to look at this child. I’m so caught up in seeing vulnerability that I am having trouble peeling apart all the colour layers.

Dakota Fanning

Looks real on the L. If that jacket is a bomber style, it could be great. If it goes to the knees, the lightness of the girl won’t balance the weight of a big, dense, heavy leather block. It’s the girl coming out to meet you in this photo, not the decorations.

On the R, the eyeliner is much stronger than she is, so it seems artificial, like it’s not part of her. Then your eye sees the face but there’s this nagging distraction of the black in the bottom half that keeps calling the eye down to it. At rest, it should be effortless to keep the eye on the face, and the face should have no look-at-me elements.

Heidi Montag

Hollywood’s love affair with processed blond on black. Read the caption. Should have just had her colours figured out. The facial expression on the L, the whole 2 photos, just say I live to please men, the fashion industry owns me, because I sure don’t own myself. Forgive me, that was honest but not nice. You might love it, perfectly fine. Suffice it to say that the pink is better than the black, as is the makeup.

Skip along…

Emma Watson

One interesting girl. She is darkening with maturity. The medium-everything colours she wore at the beginning of the series worked well enough, and expressed the bookworm nerd persona. With each movie, she more dominates those clothes. They look duller, and duller as she gets darker and sharper.

Though the black isn’t solid on the L, she has no problem wearing it, even when her lips are erased. The eyeliner does not reduce her eyes. She can balance the eyebrows, meaning that they enhance and fit believably into the whole without being so dominant as to stand apart. The white on the L is good, I don’t think she’s drained by it, but I usually prefer her in darkness. She has more clout.

Looking for someone real…

Keira Knightley

The girl is much stronger than the clothes on the L. This is an example of clothes doing nothing for the person. The match between hair and eye colour is interesting, Dark Autumns do this. Dark Winters don’t usually, but brown eyes are more complicated than other eye colours to fit into Seasons (for me).

She is much stronger (so appears as bigger) from the neck up, in fact from the nose up, than from the nose down. Hold up your L hand up to block out the L photo. Hold the other hand up to block the R photo from the cheekbones down. Let your eyes relax and look for awhile, then take down your R hand. It’s like there’s nothing there. Just look at the thumbnail at the bottom of the page, it’s topheavy. Depending on what’s on her bottom half, she could still work this well. If the pants are the same colour as the top, her head will look big.

I wonder if she wears light colours on her body to not look so thin. Would it work on her? It’s the reverse of the automatic assumption that black is slimming. Well, would she look even thinner if her dress were black coffee? I think it would give her body more solid substance, and less of a floated away impression. This woman might use styling details to add shape to her body.

How about Natalie Portman?

Can she balance black or does it take her over? It doesn’t have to be her best.

Does she dominate light colours most of the time, does the balance feel good, or do only some light colours work? Light to medium people, like Soft Autumn, can wear more darkness in clothes than in makeup or hair, so you have to consider both.

Are there photos in which something other than Natalie takes over and keeps dragging your eye back to it?

Does she need warmth? What kind? Orange, yellow, coffee, beer, buttercup, apple cider, chocolate?

Which feels more right? Pixie, hippie, sex bomb, college chic, fresh&lovely, classy&remote?

What does she overwhelm? What overwhelms her?



13 thoughts on “Colour Balance”

  1. So interesting and so well illustrated! I feel like I’ve just had a free consultation or high-level tutorial. Thank you!!!

    Also, please get that book written.

  2. Your explanations are right on target. Very few, if any, celebrities leave their hair color as it is naturally. Surely most women would be pleased with their own natural coloring if they knew the colors that bring out their best and it would give them such peace. You point out so clearly that wrong colors and things that take away from their natural beauty can result in not appearing at one’s best. Thank you for the detailed explanations. They really do help.

  3. Glad you found it useful. Sometimes they wear wrong colour for a movie role, but I still look in amazement at what their stylists send them out in. But we expect them to be trendsetters, and they have great genetics, and unlimited time and money…nothing to do with my life.

  4. I was in the changing room at the gym today. About 6 feet away there was a girl (20, ash blonde, fair skin, blue eyes) earnestly staring at her face in the mirror. She said to her companion,
    ‘I was right, you know. Eyeliner doesn’t suit me. It makes my eyes look all squinty’.

    I just wish is was socially acceptable for a plump, un-made-up 43 yr old woman to go up to a slim, pretty, beautiful-young-thing and say
    ‘It isn’t that eyeliner doesn’t suit you, love. It is just that BLACK eyeliner overwhelms your delicate colouring. Choose a lighter, softer colour like a grey or brown. It would balance your colouring and make your eyes come alive.’


  5. Yes, all day, every day, we see this. I even know women who will say outright that their eyeliner is too dark and heavy, but they keep on wearing it. What is that??

  6. Christine,
    If it is true you may write a book, let me encourage you. I really enjoy your writing style and feel also that the words you speak are true to “you”. They sound like a Winter’s words. :-) Hope to see your name in print one day..

  7. I’ve had two fair young women say they need black mascara to harmonize with their black clothing, otherwise their head looks disconnected. Lol get a clue girls.

  8. To Jo :
    Isn’t it socially acceptable? I think you should have said it… A gym changing room seems to me like a laid-back enough place, and the way you wrote it sounded nice enough? Me, I wish people would give me that kind of advice or clue, because she couldn’t guess, could she, if she soesn’t know about PCA. I think if i saw a girl wondering, and i had an answer, i’d tell her.

    To Christine : once again, great analysis! It does become more obvious when you point it out, but i need so much more practice! Please go on doing these comparisons, I love reading them!

  9. Is ms. portman a soft autumn? Black seemed a bit strong for her to my eyes,while I did see some light and medium colors that were good on her.

  10. Most folks think of her as a Dark Autumn. I could agree with that. A Soft Autumn looks more like the model Gisele Bundchen.

  11. so so autumns definatly have a much lighter and obviously softer look. I actually continued looking through pictures after posting that comment and came to the conclusion of deep autumn to thanks =)

  12. Keira Knightley is a dark autumn? I read very different opinions regarding Keira
    Thanks a lot

  13. I have no idea what Season celebrities are, and I’m not sure of the date of that post/statement. But you’re right, Suzy, I wouldn’t say that today. I see Dark Winter as more likely.

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