In a previous post I wrote about the psychology of color: how others interpret the colors that you wear.  But not everyone can wear every color – at least not well.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t, for instance, wear blue.  You just need to carefully consider the best blue for you.  So how do you know what that is?

Color Analysis

The process of determining our individual best colors is called color analysis.  If you remember back to the 1980s, color analysis was all the rage.  “Have you had your colors done?  What season are you?”  That was back in the dark ages of color analysis when there were only four options.  You were either warm or cool and either light or dark.  The problem was that not everybody fit precisely into one of the four categories. 

Modern, more sophisticated color systems have far more categories, usually 12 or 16, which provides a far more accurate assessment.  Your best colors are determined by your natural coloration.  (If you haven’t already, please review my post about the characteristics of color.)  When evaluating you during a color analysis, your analyst will consider characteristics of your skin, hair, and eyes including:

This man with very dark skin, hair, and eyes should wear clothing replicates the same intensity and depth as his face.

Skin:  Skin color is the most critical factor in determining your best colors.  We know that skin can range from very dark to an albino white.  The values in between these two ends of the spectrum are infinite.  In addition, skin has color – maybe ivory or brown which is further characterized by undertones.  Two people with the same level of darkness or lightness may have different undertones.  There are three main categories of undertones: cool (reds, pinks, and blues), warm (peach and yellow), and neutral (a mix of warm and cool). Skin color is complex, but color analysts have a variety of tools they use when identifying unique characteristics.

Hair:  Because many people, especially women, color their hair, this can be the least reliable test when determining ideal colors.  Only natural hair colors should be evaluated using the same factors of values and undertones with skin tone.

Eyes:  What color are your eyes?  Brown?  Blue?  Or maybe both!  If you look very closely at your iris, you’ll discover a kaleidoscope of colors with a distinct pattern.  Are those brown eyes a warm or cool brown?  Are the blue eyes a light or dark blue?  Are they a clear blue or a gray blue?  You could even have blue eyes with brown specks, rays, or rings.  All these factors are assessed as part of a color analysis.

This Asian woman looks her best in colors of the Wood-Water palette. The colors enhance her warmer skin tone and at the same time complement the strong contrast between her darker hair and eyes and her comparatively fairer complexion.

Contrast: The value differences between your features is another consideration when you choose color combinations of patterns or outfits.  For example, someone with very pale skin and light hair will look better in lighter colors. Similarly, those with darker values should wear darker values.  What if you have both, for example light skin and dark hair?  Replicate the contrast in your outfits.

When researching color analysis systems, you’ll find that there are different ways to classify each of the options.  As I alluded in the first paragraph, the most common taxonomy is seasons.  I happen to use a system of the natural elements (i.e., wood, metal, earth, water, and fire).  Another system could use gemstones or any other delineator that makes sense.  The most accurate systems should provide you with a similar palette of colors.  Where you’ll find the differences are:

  • Number of color palette options:  Years ago, there were only four options. Now many analysts use a system with 12 palettes.  Personally, I use a system with 16 palettes.  Some highly experienced analysts will create customized options.
  • Quality of palettes: How well is the palette developed?  How many color options does it include? 
  • Analyst expertise:  How experienced and trained is the analyst?  Does she (or he) have the ability to receive additional training or coaching from experts? Is there support to the analyst for help with complex issues?
  • System flexibility: So, what happens if you don’t like the colors that the analyst chooses for you?  The system that I use, Essential Colors, accommodates differences in coloration and personality providing the analyst discretion in choosing the right colors for you.  The integration between your looks and personality is critical.

So, is a color analysis something that you have done only once?  Well, as with most things, the answer is, “It depends.”  As we age, our coloration changes.  The most obvious change is that hair becomes grayer.  But, also skin loses its rosiness.  While these changes are gradual, eventually they’ll result in a noticeable departure from your identified palette. So, you’ll want to reconsider an evaluation when you recognize that your coloration is shifting.

Finally, and most importantly, the colors you wear should harmonize with your complexion.  Do they overwhelm or wash you out?  Do they highlight your best features?  Finding your best hue can make you your best you!

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