The 12 Colour Equations

The first draft of the Training Guide came back from my wonderful editor. Iryna, my equally wonderful book formatter, is waiting to start but I still have some work to do. I’ve been keeping my head down and not attending to posting articles and answering comments as I should. My apologies for that.

I should sound more excited because I am. I’m really looking forward to these training events – maybe especially the part where we put our feet up at the end of each day, have a glass of wine, and share some informal conversation. That and going across the street (from the hotel in London ON) to swatch makeup at Sephora. It’s going to be good.

I am not going to talk much today. Many have asked for the 12 Colour Equations from the book, Return to Your Natural Colours (linked over in the right column) to be posted all in one place. Here, they be. Any that have appeared previously have a link to that article posted with the title. Explanations are in the articles and/or the book itself.

A reminder that these palettes went through Photoshop’s colour model, my computer, the servers, and your computer before you saw them. At each step, they changed a little. No two readers are seeing the same thing. Don’t use them to buy clothes or makeup. Use them as comparison with the eleven others. To choose your colours and know your true darkness range, use your 12 Tone swatch book. Nothing else is calibrated right.

Use them to notice how my taste prefers to see neutral colours used, the overall degree of colourfulness, the use of complementary colours (to each other and to the skin undertone), and the gradual or sharp flow between colours. The geometric figures make it hard to impossible to illustrate watercolour diffusions between colour blocks, so for that, you need to read the book or other sections of this website.


True Winter

If you see light icy gray, feel free to sub in diamond and platinum, certainly neutrals for you. These also can be used in place of white to set the high contrast range with black.

Very purple, this Tone. Not much red, but a lot of pink, fuchsia, and purple. No. 5’s purple is also a near neutral colour for True Winter, more magnificent than black against the skin tone.



Dark Winter

In the article Colour Equations Dark Winter.




Bright Winter

Easy one. Shoot the sat up to 98-100%. Small areas of complementary colours. Something has to be happy, which means a little random (repetitive=predictable=work=Autumn).

Not too happy. If it gets too happy, rein it in. Move it darker. Make the pattern repeating. Bright Winter is the, Life is a party. So, how come I’m not having fun? paradox.

Something has to be delicate too. Add significant jewels profusely. Jewelry is your normal.

And shiny shoes and purses. Super shiny is also your normal.




True Autumn


The original is darker and more saturated in Photoshop. They lose when they’re uploaded. As dark as the belt inset in #1 feels right.


Soft Autumn




Dark Autumn

In the article Dark Autumn CE and Apparel.




True Spring

In the article Light And True Spring Neutral Colours at the Office and CE.

True Spring is a (2 colour + 1 neutral) or (2 neutrals + 1 colour) look. Actually, that’s probably everyone’s best way to use neutrals, but when you wear the 2 colour, they can both be equally sized if you choose (others might use 1 large and 1 smaller block), and they can be complementary or at least quite different colours (others would wear colours of the same family or neighbours on the colour wheel). When you wear the 1 colour look, make it a bright one, not one of the gentler ones.




Light Spring

In the article Light And True Spring Neutral Colours at the Office and CE.

Bright Spring




True Summer


Not happy with that one, it uploaded at the very low end of the saturation possibility. The bigger problem is that it looks too warm. True Summer hinges on absolute coolness. Try again to give a better sense of the darkness and saturation levels. Darn, now Soft Summer looks too light. It’s all about comparison.



Light Summer

In the article Light Summer CE and Being Not Pale.



Soft Summer

In Soft Summer’s Gorgeous Colour and CEs.




Undertone Equations

Also in the book RTYNC, I write an equation called Undertone Colour for each of the 12 Tones that describes how I see my version of the 12 undertones happening. The undertones are shown in the top right corner of the 12 colour layout pages. Below is a graphic that shows the colours I saw as the building blocks of those undertone equations.

To be really clear, I am not a colour mixing expert. This is only how I figure it in my head and much of it is probably incorrect. You gotta start somewhere. This colour chart is a good guide to the colours referenced.




Blue = French Ultramarine

Red = True Red to Alizarin Crimson



Blue = Cobalt Blue

Pink = Rose Madder Genuine looks right. In the photo below, I used Permanent Rose, Cobalt Blue, and some yellow to make the colour at 6 o’clock, True Summer.

Gray = is gray really added? As a product of black in pigments, a single drop can take over a mixture. Is the muting of the Tone done with complements alone to preserve the blue-pink undertone? I don’t know. In the colour circle below, no black was used, even for the Winters.


Yellow – the daffodil, the buttercup.


Gold = Raw Sienna to Gold Ochre.


Practicing The Undertones

A year ago, when I was thinking about the Undertones for the book, I did this. The white page at the top gives you a white balance.

I have many watercolours. If I had one straight that felt right, I used it, though it could easily have been made from the neighbour colours.




True Winter: Winsor Violet + Ultramarine Blue.

Dark Winter: Crimson Lake + Sepia.

Bright Winter: Permanent Red + Cadmium Yellow.


True Summer: Cobalt Blue + Permanent Rose + Spring yellow.

Light Summer: Cerulean Blue.

Soft Summer: True Summer’s mixture + Sepia.


True Spring: A mixture of Cadmium Yellow, quite warm on its own + Lemon Yellow hue.

Light Spring: Permanent Rose + Spring yellow + trace of Cobalt Blue.

Bright Spring: Permanent Rose.


True Autumn: Burnt Sienna.

Soft Autumn: True Summer + Yellow Ochre. I like yellow ochre, it has a thickness and opacity that reminds of a strong Soft Autumn visual I have, which is fudge.

Dark Autumn: Brown Madder (and maybe some red or blue, I don’t recall)



16 thoughts on “The 12 Colour Equations”

  1. Christine, thank you for the wonderful post! It is a great addition to the Colour Equations section in your book.

    Could you, please, give more information about the training dates and how much it is going to cost.

    Thank you,

  2. This is a very, very helpful post. Thank you so much for continuing to do this kind of work that exhibits complexity, richness, and thought.

    I am one of those Soft Summers with neutral-warm hair and eyes, and so for years I tried to wear Soft Autumn clothes and makeup. It doesn’t look bad, but I have to wear much more makeup to try to force my skin to “blend in” and “fit”. It’s tiring, and when I don’t do a good job I look pale and tired. My eyes are surrounded by, literally, pink and blue skin. When I wear a light cool-beige foundation and a little rose colored lipstick, it makes the warm green in my eyes pop in contrast and I look lovely. When I pile on inexpertly applied bronze and gold eye makeup, I look rather sick. My eye color looks great against bronze and gold, but my skin looks dead.

    Seeing your color wheel juxtaposed next to the Undertone Comparisons really helps me explain to myself what is going on with my looks. Studying these illustrations really gives me a feeling of security that although the intuitive tendency is to match makeup and clothes to eye color and hair color, this is not the most advantageous strategy.

    Thanks again for all you do. I follow everything new on this site!!

  3. Thank you for the post, Christine!

    For a light haired (blonde, white/silver) TW, would the colour equations still be the same? I’m asking because during my Sci/Art analysis, I was told that my long white hair worked as a large block of contrast, which allows me to wear darker ensembles than, say, a dark haired TW.

  4. Wonderful post as always! What’s the best way to stay informed about the training?

  5. Christine, great post. Wonder if you would explain how brown gets added to Spring.

  6. As helpful and thought-provoking as ever. Thank you Christine!

    I was surprised seeing the comparison of my undertone compared to the other springs – so blued!

  7. Information about the training will appear here on this website in the form of a blog post. I expect to begin teaching in February or March. The Training Guide is 95% written. It will be formatted and printed in January. Everything else is set to go. Regarding cost, I expect about $3000. When I was trained 4 years ago, the cost was 2200 (+ travel) and it was over 2 days. That was my benchmark. The course I teach will be over 3 days, in London, Ontario to begin with. The total investment may be 10,000 once you have training, drapes, and all the other supplies. Not bad to be in business for yourself after only 3 days.

    Luna – hair factors in just as skin does. A woman with very dark skin will look better in an icy light or white block alone near her face. A light skinned woman would look more balanced if a dark element were combined near the icy light – and for both, I’m presuming dark hair, so as long as you can see the hair, maybe any complexion looks fine in icy light. There was a series of articles (videos actually) recently called Contrast for the 12 Seasons that talks a fair bit about Winter and contrast. It needs to be high but I don’t think how it’s done changes much from woman to woman, other than what I just said about skin colour. I guess you could wear darker outfits and enhance the contrast, that would look just fine. It’s an option, not a necessity.

    Shirley – do you mean how it’s worn? Or what kind of browns are in the palettes? Did you have one of the Springs in mind?

  8. Christine,
    Will the drapes you recommend we purchase after training be from sci/art/spectrafiles or 12 tone/amelia butler?

  9. Katie, If Spectrafiles sells drapes, I was not aware of it. I haven’t seen Amelia’s drapes but I would imagine that they would be perfectly consistent with the Sci\Art palettes. There may be other sources of drapes too, but any I recommend would be from the Sci\ART palettes. It’s the system that works.

  10. I have been flogging this website for the past few days and am truly impressed by the depth of insight you bring to this subject. After a pretty eye-gouging day scouring the mall dressed in True Autumn colours and feeling really revved up, I pulled back a bit and identified myself more correctly I think as a Soft Autumn, perhaps with a reasonable range. Can’t really describe the deep note all of this has struck. Two things especially: Other people make more sense and are easier to share the planet with, and the very great difficulty I have had with my own appearance is being harmonised. I think that’s a fair word for it. Respect!

  11. In soft autumn 5 and 6, what are the colors for skirts/slacks? 6 looks like dark brown on my monitor, but I’d like to know what you intended it to be. As for 5, it looks black on my monitor but I’m sure that’s not what it’s supposed to be.
    Thank you. As always, your posts (even older ones that I return to) are instructive.

  12. Christine,
    The colour equation for soft autumn doesn’t have any text or a link to an article for it, will that be added at some point?
    Love your website, lots of inspiration :D
    Best regards,

  13. Those colour equations…I should remove them. They may represent my view of PCA from 5 years ago, but like most people, my belief and understanding of things has grown and changed. Rather than add text to the post, you might purchase the second edition of the book, which should be out in Nov. You may also be able to purchase the chapter on its own in a Kindle view, if you prefer.

  14. I am definitely looking to buy the second edition when if comes out
    I just wanted to read more about how to understand them. But I’ll gladly wait

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