For the technique of opening the palette to harmonize colours into Seasons, full credit goes to colour analyst and Sci\ART trainer, Terry Wildfong. The method works equally well with fabric, cosmetic, jewelry, and any other item that you want to place into the best colour environment, the one where the palette and the item will bring out the best in each other. The palette stands in for the person of the same natural colouring.
Items purchased online should be easy to return. Expectations of perfect accuracy from pictures on screens may be overreaching. If your preference or the purpose of the garment requires it to be perfectly in Season, shop in person.
The general question when I shop online is, “Does this item share enough in its colour properties to be worn extremely well by a person of this colouring, and will they allow the item to look excellent in return?”
Readers had some questions that we can talk about first.
- Do I use special lighting?
For harmonizing colours, I always work between 10AM and 4PM with indirect daylight (no sunlight) on the screen. I use a Macbook Pro that is about 3 years old. Some monitors add a definite colour cast that you’d want to be aware of and perhaps use a different device.
There is a full spectrum lamp on the screen. This is a 23W bulb with a 100W equivalency. It does not emit huge light. I buy mine from LifeLite in Canada. It fits into a standard fixture. The bulbs used for PCA are larger and emit more light. Full Spectrum Solutions in the USA is a good source, or many others, I would think.
The CRI is 96. The CRT is 5800K. A CRI over 5000 and a CRI over 90 are desirable. Both numbers should be specified on the box.
Many energy saving bulbs emit an oddly coloured light. Many full spec bulbs don’t have the specifications on the box and the light is often too yellow or not balanced. Colour is light. The wavelengths of light entering the object greatly influence those that will come back out.
White is the most difficult colour to place in Seasons, IRL or online, because it reflects so many wavelengths including the lighting itself. Black is also challenging for the similar reason that it reflects so few colours and they can be quite subtle.
- Does photography change colours?
Undoubtedly yes. The photographic effects are unpredictable, with no average effect that could be expected from every image within the same store, or across different stores.
For the most part, I evaluate the colour on the screen without assumptions such as, “It’s probably not that warm and goes into this cooler Season.” For every item on every site, I start from the beginning using the image as it is presented. I do compare the colour to as many other things in the image as possible, which we will see later in this post.
Certain sites have a tendency to present colours that are slightly muted relative to what comes in the mail, LLBean and JCrew as possible examples, but it is variable. I have had this experience with Nordstrom and Macy’s also.
No site that presents higher saturation comes to mind but it certainly happens with certain items or textile pigments. I see it in online client images with drapes whose colours I know, or in my own videos, where human, textile, and cosmetic pigments are translated differently.
There may be variability between camera sensors and software. Some seem to average the colours in the image. If the drape is very warm in colour, the rest of the colours are cooled, or vice versa. This seems to happen more with iPhones and some digital cameras, and less (or less noticeably) in fashion photography. I am not sure how to get around it. I have played with white balances till I got tired of getting no satisfactory or predictable result.
Some sites are extremely irregular between thumbnails and larger image, or larger image and video. ASOS is an example. The video often shows an item that is less saturated than the pictures. When picture, video, and thumbnails are all different, it’s impossible to tell. I usually go by the video.
- How does shine affect Season or images?
The colour of the highlight is dependent on the light source, often causing the item to appear lighter and warmer.
The smoothness of the shine may contain helpful clues. The smoother the shine, the whiter the highlight, the more likely to move into Winter. If the shine is grainy or pebbled, meaning that the surface is uneven, the highlight tends to be more muted but this is not consistent. If the highlight is grayish or not very different in colour from the textile, the shine is more characteristic of Summer and Autumn- influenced colour.
- How do you use colour clues in the model?
Everybody everywhere understands colour by comparing it to something.
A model is helpful. I try to establish relationships and rationality. If her shoes are clearly Autumn, discordant clothing is probably not Autumn. This goes beyond my taste to what humans generally (but not always) agree on. Few people would pair whisky brown with candy pink or dusty grape.
Whether her hair is dyed or not doesn’t matter, it’s just a colour block. Same with lipstick, it’s just a colour block. Yellow hair is more likely Spring-side but many golds are redder, heavier, and actually work better with Autumn. True red lips are probably Winter-influenced. I don’t get more specific than that.
The model is also good for general assumptions. If the model has black eyes and hair, we can be fairly comfortable that she belongs to one of the 5 groups with Winter-influence. I think in terms of more than and less than relationships than her Season. If a model is medium in her colouring and her head is receding while the clothing is coming forward, it is probably brighter than she is.
Plants, furniture, shoes, brick walls, or any other comparison opportunity are useful.
If the item is pictured with nothing else in the image, I go to #5.
- Can I make outfits?
Some of our clients desire perfect Season accuracy for every purchase. Others are pleased when they can sidestep unflattering colour purchases, aiming for the general sense of their Season group. I fall in between, looking for colours that can form very good relationships with me and with my wardrobe, cosmetics, and hair colour. I have a thing about clothing and hair colour because so often, they are truly uncomfortable together and nobody ever seems to notice, and I wonder why not.
Holding the palette to the screen, I consider the palette as a whole first. The very moment that the palette is placed up in front of the screen, keep awareness of where your attention goes. Look for roughly equal attention between garment and palette. If you’re ignoring one, or if one feels too insistent, it might be a problem.
Be patient. It takes practice to sense where your attention is. Your subconscious mind knows. You just have to pull the information forward into your conscious awareness.
Sometimes changing what is in front of our eyes shifts the attention but the colours might work well enough. The chemistry of the retina might just feel momentarily shaken up and our decision-making ability is temporarily suspended. This is similar to putting on makeup, especially for Winters. The lipstick or eyeshadow seems like a lot at first. Instead of removing it, it is best to go do something else that does not involve mirrors. When we return, we wonder what the issue was.
As in PCA with a person, if you are not sure about a decision, then you don’t know yet. Both choices remain viable, whether it be both Seasons in an analysis or the garment on the screen with the palette. Keep going.
Spread the arms of the palettes far enough apart to see the garment colour between them. If you can focus on the palette, and then focus on the garment, and think, “OK, this could work. At least they are not pushing each other apart. I can see both at once and find the picture pleasing.”, next, divide the palette into sections. Trying to evaluate an entire palette at once may be like trying to evaluate all the drape colours together at the same time. For me, there is too much information to manage.
First, the neutrals. Are they staying the same? Does the white look fresh and clean? Do grays look about the same as they appeared away from the screen? Can a white shirt/gray pants outfit be easily assembled? If anything takes on a green, yellow, or red cast, so will the face. Could you image the neutral colours as eyeliner and eyeshadow with that garment?
Next, the reds. These are the native reds in cheeks and lips, and the lipstick and blush colours. Could you insert the garment colour into one of the strips and nobody would know the difference? Would you pair the colours in an outfit? Would you wear this blush under those eyes?
Green seems to have two choices in life, to be great or gross. Look at the green strip on its own. This strip may also contain some of the more unique colours to that Season. Is the effect together pleasing or at least convincing?
The yellows. Consider each colour area separately. Has the lightest colour all but disappeared? Is the darkest colour somehow unpleasant? Does one of the middle colours suddenly look as if it doesn’t belong, as if the strip has broken up somehow?
A reader had the good suggestion of using pins on Pinterest. Links to merchandise can be unpredictably here one day, gone the next. For now, I’ll put the pins in the Shopping for Your Season and Style board. If this process works and we do more, I can put the pins in their own board for ease of finding in the future.
For now, as I’m sure you’ve thought of, open the two windows side by side to follow along. If that doesn’t work well, we can do something else next time.
- Light aqua dress, mauve background.
Spring side, no recognizable Autumn.
Light or Bright Seasons possible, both have these types of colours.
The dress is very bright relative to the wall. They are not forming any great relationships or agreements. One might say that the dress is easier to see against the wall but the wall is not enhanced in any way. The wall is Summery, so the dress probably has little or no Summer.
A gain at the expense of another colour in the composition is inconsistent with my idea of harmony. For harmony to be satisfied, the whole must be agreeable. The wall, dress, and shoes from this picture, placed in the same landscape, would be a fantasy, not a solid, capable, believable world. The wall and the dress are not improving one another. It is difficult if not uncomfortable to look at both simultaneously, like a world with the wrong-coloured sky. My conclusion is that the dress and wall are different Seasons.
The shoes are Autumn or Spring or have some of both. They are not doing anything much, neither balancing the head, elongating the leg, or clashing significantly.
Next, I hold the palette to the dress with the arms of the palette spread far enough apart to see the dress through them. If I look at the dress, the Light Summer palette fades. I am almost ignoring it. I can see that certain properties are shared but not enough to feel like they making one another better. The lipsticks have little energy unless she wore only the darker choices, which is a possibility. We would have to see it but I wonder if the lipstick would look weirdly dark or weak or somehow not luscious above this dress.
The longer I look at it, the more the dress is taking on neon characteristics, and this is in dim lighting. The dress is more than most things in the image. I’m starting to think Bright. Worn by a Light Summer woman, the dress will become even brighter and she will become “the woman in that blue dress.”
At this point, I would skip on to the next item.
2. Woman with wavy blonde hair, silver medallion pendant, white distressed jeans, and aqua tunic top.
>Maybe but for sure be able to return it.
Why the top could be (or work with) Light Summer:
It is more muted than the jeans, which we can be fairly certain are Winter. Therefore the blouse is not likely Winter, or not strongly Winter. Even Dark Winter turquoise would probably balance white better, but she could probably wear it, being the muted Winter. I suspect that Bright Spring would also be too saturated but True Spring is possible.
The yellow component in the top is strong but this may be because of the lighting and time of day, or a Spring colour. Light Summer has colours like that in the palette and she could wear it well enough but it does seem strong next to the palette colours. I would love to go to the store and find that it is more muted and less yellow than the picture.
It is cooler than the hair colour, which seems Spring like, but dyed yellow hair can often be difficult in any palette so I don’t use it. The yellow green grass and leaves look Spring coloured, and the blouse seems reasonable enough.
The model offers me no clues.
I don’t think the neutrals of Light Summer are ideal.
The pendant seems fine but turquoise would allow for cool and warm.
The clutch is somehow not being noticed but that could be the jeans. No conclusion.
The Autumn-like shoes do not seem to share a lot with the top.
3. Woman with coral dress with bow at waist and upswept hairstyle.
I love this colour on Light Summer. My eyes are tuned to look for it.
I do not know her Season but her eyes and eye makeup contain darkness that is causing me to lose the dress. If one thing is enhanced at the expense of the other, something is off. The dress and the woman are not making one another better but neither are they a lot worse. They are just there.
Her head has become mostly eyes, which is taking the idea of eyes as the focal point too far. The idea is not to vanish half the face, or the person’s presence, or spend money on clothing for which the best thing you could say is, “It’s just there.”
Eyes need a face to be anchored in. The building blocks in the image of a person need to stack up: hair, eyes and upper half of face, lower half of face, upper half of body, lower half of body. That is the level-upon-level of positive reinforcement that PCA offers those who have their formula (Season).
The lipstick could be lovely on Light Summer but I’m losing it with these eyes. A face, head, and person are visually balanced when hair, eyes, and lips have similar impact. (Silver and white hair have plenty of impact). These eyes override the face and garment. The eyeliner and the eyes are competing for my attention and I have trouble moving on.
Not sure about the shoe colour but the bow seems to work. It matches, which is fine although not necessarily what we look for. You could find a similar colour in four or five palettes that looks like it matches. Colour matching is not what PCA is.
No conclusions to be drawn from the hair colour.
The fabric texture is good for Light Summer. They look super in it.
4. Same woman as 3 with more lips and dress.
>Close call but no.
This colour for Light Summer may be too heavy but if I were shopping, I’d try it. It may be different off the model. Something is making her skin greener than it probably is and the same may be happening to the dress.
It’s hard to make sense of it with the aquas and greens of the palette, which begin looking frivolous or childish when in truth, they are stunning and vibrant on a Light Summer. Greens are excellent for getting a sense of what could be rational together.
I added this pin to show another version of the previous woman. Although not claiming that this is perfect, and this dress might be Light Summer too, she seems to have more presence than in the previous dress. I can look at her eyes and be aware of what she is wearing. The eyes are supported in a solid face, not a blurred or fluffy-edged face. The lips are doing something. Her hair has richer pigmentation. If it takes darker colour for her to show up, maybe she is a darker Season than Light Summer.
I do not believe for a second that anybody wears only the dark colours in Light Summer, and is still a Light Summer. They might be darker-looking Light Summer compared to some imaginary average but they are the whole Season. The palettes are adjusted for that colouring’s colour ranges and we can mix and match fairly freely within ours. If Light Summer wants to wear her darker green and navy blue, go ahead. It could be great.
Kathryn Kalisz’s Sci\ART palettes are correct. Not rigid, but correct for all person of whatever race, age, or gender. If you can only wear half of one of the palettes to show up, I would be looking for another palette. Other PCA systems will beg to differ on this point and that’s perfectly OK. I welcome all new ideas and ways of seeing things.
5. Long one-shoulder shimmery dark turquoise.
6. So-cute child’s dress with yellow bow at waist.
The colour is soft but gives no feeling of shade or smoke as Soft Summer would.
A faint peach or buttery quality appears in the bow and skirt which is great on Light Summer, in makeup also. Many in this Season wear the warmth beautifully, right up to the edge of Light Spring.
Looking through the strips of the palette, the colour works nicely. The darker choices are fine and the dress holds up to them. The lighter colours do not become weak. The palette has energy and the dress colour has energy.
Holding up the strip with the yellows, it makes great sense.
The bodice may be a bit cool but it does not have any significant brightness. Maybe it’s a bit lemony but True Summer will have difficulty with the warmth of the waistband. Light Summer will do fine with a bit of brightness.
The white is softened, not stark. The glitter is delicate.
The gray and muted silver of the model form are fine and balance well.
Light Summer could use this item to her advantage. Perhaps other Seasons could as well. The colour analyst may be required to place an item into a single Season. A Light Summer client only needs to know if an item could work in her favour or if she is better leaving it at the store.