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Makeup Memo- finding your color palette

Reviewed by Kristen January 19, 2012 1 Comment
Truth #15: There are an infinite number of “right” colors

The TIA readers have been asking in just about every Makeup Memo, “how do I know which colors are right for me?”

This is a tricky question because the answers are infinite given everyone’s unique blend of skin, eye and hair colors. Most simply put, your best colors and tones are the ones that accent your outfit and your physical features.

Honing in on more exact answers takes a great understanding of color theory. For those of you who are already artists or have dabbled in the world of mixing colors, this is going to be easy. For those of you who are new to the color wheel, this may be a bit harder to grasp. Over the next few weeks (so as not to overwhelm you), I’ll go over some general rules and guide you through each step of selecting colors for foundation, eyes, lips and cheeks.

Color theory made easy

This is a picture of a color wheel which shows the primary ranges of colors. In makeup we often refer to undertones of the skin, hair and eyes. For instance the word “cool” refers to all the colors in the green, blue and purple side of the chart. “Warm” is for the other half of reds, oranges and yellows. Colors like “olive” are more green/yellow and therefore a bit deceptive because they are comprised of both warm and cool tones. “Golden” is typically more orange/yellow. However I’ve seen very dark skin classified as “golden” that has a lot of red undertone in it.

Color intuition

Consider the kinds of colors you wear in your wardrobe. Everyone has colors they know they look good or bad in; it’s easy to know which those are based on how you feel and how others react to your look.

Have you ever put on something that instantly made you look ill? That would be your bad color. I love mustard hues in clothes, but they make me look like death warmed over. So that’s a color I know I can’t wear and you’ll never see it in my makeup selection either. On the contrary, we all have that one shirt, sweater or scarf that makes us feel fantastic because every time we wear it someone compliments our eyes, hair or general look. That’s an indication that you are wearing the right color for you and these are the types of shades you can incorporate into your makeup as well.

Hue and vibrancy make all the difference

Hot pink and burgundy colors both contain red in them, but the vibrancy and their hues are totally different. Therefore it doesn’t typically make sense to wear a bright pink lipstick with a deep burgundy shirt. The colors will clash, look harsh and cause confusion.

Similarly the color turquoise may look amazing on you, but if it feels too flashy or juvenile, you certainly aren’t going to feel comfortable or beautiful wearing it on your body or as an eyeliner. However, that same color more subdued can be a wonderful way to incorporate a color that will still bring out your best features and keep you within your comfort zone.

If you are craving more technical information, Marvin Westmore - a descendant of the Hollywood lineage of iconic makeup artists - posted an in-depth article explaining the very exacting technicalities of color theory.
  • March 1, 2012

    by Ann R

    Thanks for the excellent info. I would highly recommend that everyone read Westmore's article (and not just because I have always used makeup to coordinate with what I'm wearing). It's fascinating. Now my only
    Problem is determining my color intuition. I cant even decide what my favorite color is! I could easily be one of those crazy old ladies with light blue eyeshadow up,to their eye brows!

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