Wear Your Best Colours

Tuesday, 14 April 2009 | Tags: , , , , , ,

When it comes to colours that look great on you, are you a warm tone or cool tone? A winter, summer, spring, or autumn? We find out how to determine your colours, and why you should pay attention to your wardrobe palette!

The Basics

Colour analysis involves two things: your skin tone and your wardrobe. The basic idea is that whichever colours held up to your face make your skin appear healthy and glowing are the colours you should be wearing. Sound easy? Sort of.

Skin tone

Your skin tone is determined by three primary pigments: Melanin (red or brown), Carotene (yellow), and Hemoglobin (red or blue). The tones of these three combined give your skin one predominant undertone, which is what determines your colour category.

Colour Categories

There are a few different theories on colour analysis, resulting in different categories and labels. The most prominent schools of colour analysis include:

  • Seasonal: places your skin tone into a category based on seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall).

  • Flow: expands seasonal into subcategories (twelve overall!)

  • Tonal: one of the newest theories splits colour categories into three: warm, cool, neutral (mid-tone).

Tonal Colour Analysis Details

Tonal analysis has become popular lately because it simplifies the seasonal systems. Here is a quick guide to finding out your skin tone and best colours according to this theory. Cool skin tones

  • Skin has a blue and/or pink undertone

  • Skin appears alabaster white or ivory, usually no freckles

  • Best colours: cool, clear and stark tones that match the skin. E.g. Black, navy, strong purple, red.  

  • Worst colours: brown, rust, dull apricot, beige all clash with cool skin tones.

Warm skin tones

  • Skin has a yellowish undertone

  • Tend to have freckles, and hair usually has red tones.

  • Best colours: warm, autumnal colours like rust, rich brown, olive green, tomato red work well because of their warm yellow/orange/brown undertones, which match the skin tone.

  • Worst colours: black, navy, turquoise, grey, all in the cool range.

Neutral/Mid-toned skin tones

  • Skin tone may range from subtle blue-hues to peaches-and-cream.

  • General colour recommendation: muted bright colours. (Too bright will overwhelm, too pastel will drain the complexion.)

  • Best colours: soft purples, soft blues, sage green, hot pink, all of which are bright but soft, matching the mid-toned complexion.

  • Worst colours: black, rust, icy blue, apricot are examples of shades that are too extreme for this complexion: too crisp and cool (black, icy blue), or too dirty and warm (rust, apricot)

  • Note: neutral complexions may veer towards warm or cool, so some of the colours to avoid may actually complement your skin tone.

Seasonal Colour Analysis Details

You may remember being lumped into a season back in the 80s when this theory was very popular, and it still holds up today. Here is a quick guide to determining your colours according to this theory. Note: this theory involves eye and hair colour, so if you dye your hair, you may end up changing your season.


  • Skin undertones are blue, pink-rose, or purple

  • Skin colour ranges from pearly white to blue black, but can also be olive.

  • Eye colour is a deep warm brown, black, or hazel.

  • Hair is black to medium-dark brown, sometimes with red highlights.

  • Best colours: clear and cool shades like deep blues, deep reds, black, white, silver.

  • Worst colours: milky browns, russets, oranges


  • Skin tone is pinkish, especially cheeks

  • Skin ranges from pale beige to light to olive with a rosy-blue blush.

  • Eyes are cool blue or grey, dark brown, or green-brown.

  • Hair: brunette to blonde.

  • Best colors: soft and muted shades of cool blues, grays, white and pink.

  • Worst colours include earthy greens, deep browns, and vivid oranges.


  • Skin ranges from ivory, peach, golden beige, brown, and yellow.

  • Eyes are warm brown, golden brown, green, blue or hazel.

  • Hair has cold or auburn highlights, dark brown to copper brown, auburn to red, or dark blonde.

  • Best colours: warm and earthy tones like orange-reds, browns, greens, muted navy blue.

  • Worst colours: anything pastel.


  • Skin appears ivory, peach, golden beige or warm brown. Non-caucasian spring women have light-golden skin (African) or light to ivory skin (Asian).

  • Hair is golden blonde, medium-light red, golden or medium brown.

  • Eyes are light to amber brown, blue, or green with yellow flecks.

  • Best colours: bright and floral shades of yellow, coral, green and brown.

  • Worst colours: black, blue-grey, pure white.

A Special Note About Black

Though black is a go-to neutral for many, colour experts say it can age your face by highlighting dark areas under your chin and eyes, and bringing attention to wrinkles in general. This effect becomes more noticeable the older you get.

You can still wear black if you keep the black away from your face. Try:

  • Adding some colour accents around your neck with jewelry, or, for example, a brightly-coloured collared shirt under a black sweater.

  • A low neckline helps create a soft transition from your face’s skin tone to the black garment.



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  • Trisha

    I am impressed with the new tonal system – having been catergorised as a warm, then a deep, then a warm, and so on by colour/style analysists over the years, spending a fortune to try and get it right! Hot pink is my new find – as it suits my skin perfectly, but most browns, oranges, too hot, most blues, navys, reds too cool – I think I must be a neutral. Do you know what style consultants work in this tonal system that includes neutral please?

    • annaandkristina

      Hi Trish, thanks for reading! We worked with Giovanni Amenta in Vancouver on Beauty Call a couple of years ago. He offers tonal analysis, as well as other style consultations. He was great to work with! Here’s his website: http://www.pinkandgrey.ca