Have you ever opened your closet to a rainbow array of colors and thought, well, it’s going to be black pants today, I guess. We have all fallen victim to the closet color overload, where our clothing feels incapable of being mixed and matched, and just doesn’t even seem to look good on us. Well, here’s where seasonal color analysis can help you out.
Seasonal color analysis is a system that takes our skin tone, natural eye tone, and hair color and formulates the best color palette for us based on those factors. It takes into account our undertones (hue) and the value (light versus dark) of our skin, hair, and eyes and uses that to find the types of colors we look best in.
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How do you determine your season?
Seasonal color analysis is broken up into three main factors:
Hue: Your hue can either be cool or warm
Value: Your value is either light or dark
Chroma: Muted/soft to bright/clear
And are evaluated from your:
- Eye color
- Hair color
Your skin tone, hair color, and eye color will fall into one of four main seasonal categories: winter, spring, summer, and autumn.
The base families are named after seasons because each season has an established color association with it already. For instance, we think of oranges and red for autumn, icy white and pale blue for winter, lush green for spring, and light, airy colors for summer.
This is not a new concept and goes back to impressionist painters who had to accurately represent a seasonal landscape by the tones, hues, and shades they used. But the concept of seasonal color in regards to your own hair, skin, and eyes was popularized by Carole Jackson’s book “Color Me Beautiful” in the 1980s.
Anyone else have flashbacks of their mom trying to properly categorize them when they were a teen? No, just me. Well, I plan to give you some easier-to-digest resources on how to determine your seasonal color.
Why does my seasonal color palette matter?
Discovering your seasonal color can help you hone what colors look best on you and help you discover what new shades you should integrate into your wardrobe. It also provides clarity on why a certain shade might not work for you.
Seasonal color analysis is a great place to start with your own unique color palette. Certainly, you can expand it and develop a color palette that is uniquely you. However, this information will help guide you on how to choose colors outside your palette as well, by knowing your hues and picking colors with the correct undertones.
This should not be a limiting experience, but rather setting up a strong foundation to build upon.
As you can see in the below image, we have the same girl with a color that brings out her best features, a color that is neutral (doesn’t highlight but doesn’t take away from either), and a color that is wrong for her. (if you don’t see it, try imagining her in a full dress in that color).
The more you train your eye to see the depth of color, and the hue of the color, the more you will be able to accurately picks colors for your season. However, we will be getting into foundational color palettes for all 12 seasonal color analyses shortly.
So while your hue will relate to whether you have warm or cool undertones. Your value (light or dark) will include your overall coloring, but will more specifically focus on your hair color.
Hue: Warm versus Cool
To give you a better understanding of the two hue options here are some examples.
Warm hued faces will have less contrast between their skin, eyes, and hair color. They often have golden or rich undertones.
Cool faces will have moderate to high contrast in their features. They often have darker hair and more pale skin. But all races can have cool undertones, and it breaks down to having a contrast between your skin tone and your hair.
Now, that is just the first two base categories, there are actually 4 main hue options.
- Olive – Note olive skin tone is considered a cool undertone. The undertone is blue, and the overtone is green, which creates a yellow-olive complexion, but here we are focusing on the undertone.
How to Determine Skin Undertone: Seasonal Color Analysis Step 1
In order to determine your exact undertone, you can try one of the following tests. These tests work well for most people, but they can create confusion. If you aren’t getting a clear undertone after a specific test, try another one. And, don’t get too hung up if one test feels like an outlier.
The jewelry (metal) test
In natural sunlight put both silver and gold jewelry on your skin. Which one looks best? Which one gives you more even-toned, healthy-looking skin? If you look best in gold jewelry then you have warm undertones, and if you look best in silver jewelry you have cool undertones. Be careful about bias with this test. Your natural instinct may be to pick the jewelry color you wear most.
Vein Color Test
Look at the veins in your inner wrist. If they are mostly blue or purple you are cool-toned. If they are mostly green you are warm-toned. This test can be extremely helpful to some people and confusing for others (who may have different colored veins). So use each of these tests carefully and apply what works for you.
The White Paper Test
For this test, you can use a piece of white paper or a clear white piece of fabric (avoid ivory or off-white). Hold the fabric or paper near your face, sans any makeup, in natural light. If your skin looks more yellow, peachy, or golden, then you have warm undertones, and if your skin looks more blue, red, or pink, then you have cool undertones.
Tan or Burn test
If you tan really easily you have warm undertones. And if you burn or are unable to tan at all, then you most likely have cool undertones. Although, there are always exceptions to this one.
If none of the tests so far have given you clear answers there are two more options for you. You could be neutral-toned. Every person is technically a mix of both warm and cool tones, however, there is usually one dominant family. For neutral-toned people, there is no dominance and there is an even balance of both warm and cool. This could be the reason your test results show different answers when comparing different options. For instance, you might have green veins, but look best in gold jewelry. OR you might even have both green and blue veins but tan easily.
You can also do a comparison test against other faces with clear undertones. When comparing your face to others within the obvious undertone seasons, it can become obvious what coloring you match best.
Determining your Season Step 2
Now that you know your undertone, you can determine your color season by evaluating your hair color and eyes to further categorize it as light or dark.
There are two cool seasons
There are two warm seasons
Here is how they break down in terms of hair and eye color.
Winter Hair and Eyes
Winter seasons have cool undertones, dark hair, vibrant eyes, and have high contrast between their skin, eyes, and hair.
Summer Hair and Eyes
Summer seasons have cool undertones, but have lighter hair and eye colors. While they have some contrast between their skin tone and their hair/eyes it is much more moderate than the winter seasons.
Autumn Hair and Eyes
Autumn seasons have warm undertones, with dark hair and dark eyes. They do not have high or even moderate contrast between their skin, eyes, and hair, but rather creates a soft blend between all three features.
Spring Hair and Eyes
Spring seasons have warm undertones but lighter hair and eyes. They can still have dark features (skin, hair, or eyes), but there isn’t a lot of contrast between the three features and it feels like a blend instead of stark contrast.
Help, I don’t fit into any of these seasons!
There are 4 main seasons, as we have discussed. But that is not where the seasonal analysis ends. In order to expand upon all the options, they went further and broke it down into 12 main seasonal analysis options.
It starts with your undertone/hue (warm or cool), then goes onto value (light or deep), and then into chroma (clear or muted).
Once we take into consideration all three categories, we have 12 main options. This will help you choose the most flattering colors for your unique season, and guide you towards an easy palette to choose from.
It does not mean you “can’t” wear certain colors. But instead, it is about picking colors with your correct undertone to more easily flatter your complexion.
12 Seasonal Color Analysis
The circle chart will give you a basic idea of what looks and colors we are associating with each of the 12 options.
Now, let’s go over each of the 12 seasonal color palettes and what characteristics they have.
WINTER Season Color Palettes
Cool winters have the following characteristics.
Hair: Ashy blond or brown, black brown or black with blue undertones, silver ( no red or golden highlights)
Eyes: Blue, gray, violet, light brown, icy hazel, clear brown
Skin: very pale beige, pale beige, pale olive, rosy beige, black (no golden hues)
Best colors: Primary colors, pure pigments, fully saturated
Worst colors: golden and brown hues, warm soft tones
Chroma: More clear
Cool winters have high contrast between their hair, skin tone, and eyes. They look best in icy colors and cool colors. Avoid warm-toned colors for the most flattering pairings. Pastels all also generally avoided and in their place, you should go for more vibrant or middle to dark-hued colors. Darker tones can work well for the cool winters, so long as they have a cool undertone.
Cool Winter Celebrities: Liv Tyler, Marian Cotillard, Jennifer Connelly, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brook Shields
Clear Winter `
Clear winters have the following characteristics:
Skin: Cool undertones and light olive complexions
Hair: Medium brown to black with blue or ashy tints (no red or golden undertones)
Eyes: Striking eyes (almost jewel-like) are a signature of the clear winter. Bright blue, green, clear gray hazel, and a rich brown
Best Colors: Vivid hues with cool undertones, intense pigments, icy colors
Worst colors: dusty and muted tones, warmer shades
Hue: Leans towards cool
Value: Medium, learning towards light
Chroma: Clear and bright
Clear winters have high contrast between their skin tone and hair and have striking clear eyes. They are most commonly found with darker hair shades like medium to dark brown but can have lighter hair if it has a cool undertone. They look best in vivid hues that have cool undertones, like icy colors or intense pigment colors. They should generally avoid warm tones, dusty tones, or muted colors.
Clear Winter Celebrities: Courtney Cox, Zooey Deschanel, Alexis Bledel, and Lupito Nyong’o
Deep winters have the following characteristics:
Skin: Olive undertones or deep cool undertones
Hair: Medium to dark brown, black, silver gray
Eyes: dark hazel, dark brown, black
Best Colors: High-saturation colors and rich primary colors, pure pigments
Worst Colors: earthy tones, warm nudes, and warm browns, oranges and yellows
Hue: Lean towards cool
Chroma: Leans towards bright and clear
Deep winters have a rich and high-contrast feel. Their skin tones are not purely cool and could even be considered more neutral. Olive complexions are also included in this. They have dark eyes and dark hair. They look best in high saturation colors and rich primary colors or pure pigments. They should avoid earthy tones, warm nudes, or warm-toned browns, oranges, and yellow.
Deep Winter Celebrities: Anne Hathaway, Christina Ricci, Kerry Washington, Penelope Cruz, and Priyanka Chopra
SUMMER season color palettes
Light summers have the following characteristics:
Skin: Neutral undertone with a possible rosy hint (most likely burns easily)
Hair: Light to medium ash blonde, or strawberry blonde
Eyes: Blue, green, gray
Best Colors: light colors that dusty or powdery
Worst Colors: dark overpowering colors, and high-saturation warm-tones
Hue: Leans towards cool
Light summers have neutral skin that burns easily and can have a rosy tint to it. Their hair is icy and in the blond or very light brown family. They have light-colored eyes like blue, green, or gray. They look best in light colors that are dusty, or powdery. The light colors complement the light tones in their coloring and don’t overpower their delicate features. They should generally avoid dark colors or high saturation warm tones.
Light summer celebrities: Elle Fanning, Margot Robbie, Cate Blanchett, Amy Poehler, and Naomi Watts
Soft summers have the following characteristics:
Skin: Light to medium beige, light brown withe neutral undertones
Hair: Light to medium brown (ash blond tint)
Eyes: Gray, Blue, Hazel
Best Colors: Soft, muted hues, in the cooler color family
Worst Colors: Neons, rich clear colors
Hue: Leans cool
Soft summers have neutral undertones or blue undertones with a pink tint. They can also have brown skin tones that have a neutral undertone. Their hair colors are in the light-to-medium brown color family with ash blond highlights or tints. Soft summers have low contrast between their eyes, hair, and skin. They look best in soft and muted hues that are more subtle (usually in the cooler color family). They should generally avoid clear colors that are neon or especially rich, which tends to overwhelm their complexions subtlety.
Soft Summer celebrities: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cara Delevingne, Ellen Pompei, Jennifer Aniston, and Rihanna
Cool summers have the following characteristics:
Skin: Cool undertones that generally range from medium beige to dark cool brown
Hair: Medium to dark brown with ashy undertones
Eyes: gray, blue, slate
Best Colors: Cool hues that are medium to dark in tone
Worst Colors: warm tones, earthy shades, especially warm yellows
Chroma: slightly leans towards soft
Cool summers have cool or blue undertones to all three characteristics (skin, hair, and eyes). They often have cool or neutral skin tones with grey, blue or slate eyes. Their hair tones are ashy in nature and range from medium to dark brown (not black). They look best in cool hues that are medium and sometimes dark in the color palette. They should avoid warm tones, especially yellow-toned hues or earthy warm shades.
Cool Summer Celebrities: Kate Middleton, Allison Williams, Emily Blunt, and Emily Deschanel
SPRING season color palette
Light springs have the following characteristics:
Skin: fair skin with pink or peachy undertones, may tan, freckles are common
Hair: Light to medium gold blonde and brown, sometimes strawberry blonde
Eyes: Blue, green, hazel, or light soft brown
Best Colors: Light, warm, clear colors
Worst Colors: Dark, overpowering colors
Light springs have peachy or rosy fair skin that may tan or freckle. They have golden blonde or brown hair with blue, green, hazel, or even light brown eyes. They look best in light, warm, clear colors. They should avoid wearing dark or overpowering colors that can wash them out.
Light Spring Celebrities: Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, and Michelle Williams
Clear springs have the following characteristics
Skin: Porcelain, milky white to golden brown, tans easily
Hair: Golden light to dark brown hair, can include copper or auburn tones
Eyes: Bright, clear eye colors. Blue, green, light brown
Best Colors: Saturated, warm hues and bright colors
Worst Colors: Nudes, dusty-muted pastels
Hue: Slightly warm
Chroma: Clear, bright
Clear Springs have porcelain, bronze, and warm brown skin that usually tans easily (can include a brown/black as well). Their hair colors ran from medium to dark brown (with golden undertones) and can include some red or copper highlights. They have bright clear eyes like blue, green, and topaz. They look best in saturated, warm hues. Generally, they should avoid nudes and muted/dusty pastels as it will wash them out. Clear Springs are high-contrast compared to the rest of the spring family, which lets them embrace bright colors easily.
Clear Spring Celebrities: Emma Watson, Adriana Lima, Emma Stone, and Beyonce
Warm springs have the following characteristics:
Skin: Warm toned skin, porcelain shades to light bronze
Hair: Strawberry blonde, golden blonde, light golden brown, coppery red
Eyes: blue, light brown, dark green, and light hazel
Best Colors: Vibrant, warm-toned colors
Worst Colors: cool-toned pastels and darker shades
Chroma: Leans towards Clear and Bright
Warm springs have warm traits in their eyes, skin, and hair. They have warm porcelain, to light bronze skin with golden blonde hair, strawberry blonde hair, or coppery red hair. They have light eyes. They look best in vibrant, warm-toned colors that compliment the glowiness in their complexions. They should avoid cool-toned pastels and darker shades. They look fantastic in oranges and yellows that bring out their warm intensity.
Warm Spring Celebrities: Amy Adams, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Chastain, Nicole Kidman, and Marcia Cross
AUTUMN season color palette
Warm autumns have the following characteristics:
Skin: Ivory, light olive, medium brown (all warm undertones)
Hair: Medium to Dark Brown with golden tones, Warm auburn, darker red
Eyes: light brown, green, hazel, sometimes dark brown (rich)
Best Colors: Rich and muted warm tones (think browns, rusts)
Worst Colors: pastels and pastel brights
Warm Autumns have warm undertones to their skin and the tone can range from ivory to medium brown. They typically have hair colors that range from medium to dark brown or red (including auburn) all with golden undertones. Their eyes are light brown, green, or (green) hazel. They look amazing in rich and muted warm tones, especially earthy colors like brown and rust. They should generally avoid pastels or pastel brights that wash them out.
Warm Autumn Celebrities: Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Mara, Julianne Moore, and Julia Roberts
Deep autumns have the following characteristics:
Skin: Ivory, Olive (with warm undertones), medium to rich browns with warm undertones
Hair: medium to dark brown, brown-black (can have honey or ginger highlights)
Eyes: Dark-blue, dark green, hazel, dark brown, brown black
Best Colors: Bold, warm colors with rich pigments
Worst Colors: Dusty colors and pastels
Hue: Leans warm
Chroma: Clear and bright
Deep autumns have warm tones in their hair, eyes, and skin. They have medium to dark brown hair with golden undertones. Their eyes are darker, and range from dark blue, dark green, to dark brown or brown/black. Their skin tans easily and ranges from warm ivory to rich chocolate. They look amazing in bold, warm colors that are rich in pigment. They should generally avoid dusty colors or soft pastels as it will make them look washed out.
Deep Autumn Celebrities: Kendall Jenner, Halle Berry, Natalie Portman, Sofia Vergara, Oprah, and Mindy Kaling
Soft Autumns have the following characteristics:
Skin: Ivory, olive, to light brown (all with warm or neutral undertones)
Hair: Golden blonde to dark brown (can have ginger highlights)
Eyes: Green, Hazel, Blue or light brown
Best Colors: Muted warm-toned colors, blended colors
Worst Colors: Stark colors (like black), and high-pigment bright colors
Hue: Leans Warm
Value: Leans Light
A soft autumn does not have a lot of contrast between their hair and skin. Their skin tone often has neutral undertones, but can also have more prominent warm undertones. They look best in muted colors with warm undertones, that pair nicely with their skin tones hue. They also look great in blended colors (not primary). They should generally avoid stark colors (black), or bright colors (high pigment, like fuchsia, etc) because they tend to make them look sallow.
Soft Autumn Celebrities: Gigi Hadid, Gisele Bundchen, Drew Barrymore, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
What are the benefits of knowing your season?
Knowing your seasonal color will dramatically help your style, makeup, and overall look. It will guide your choices on how to use color to flatter your skin tone, what makeup shades to look for, and even what hair dyes will flatter you most.
Knowing your seasonal colors can also help you hone your wardrobe so that you stop buying items that don’t enhance your beauty. The colors that relate to your season will make you look bright, fresh, and alive instead of washed-out or sallow.
The pitfalls of seasonal color analysis
It can be difficult to pinpoint your seasonal color at times. So if you struggle with the methods listed above, or can’t quite seem to place yourself, ask a friend for help. An outside perspective can help you narrow your season down without your innate bias.
You can also take a well-lit photo of yourself and turn it into a black and white photo. This will help you see how much contrast you have in your face. Knowing your contrast will be able to hone which of the 4 base seasons you belong to and from there you narrow it down.
Also, in my opinion, it is possible to fall into more than one season based on the pictures and emphasis of each feature. Countless celebrities have been typed into one season, only to be typed into a different season by a fellow expert.
Will dying my hair affect my seasonal color analysis?
Dying your hair can affect what colors you wear but it is unlikely to affect your overall seasonal color placement. Most hair dye tweaks will not throw off your entire placement as hair is one of the lesser reliable indications of season.
A great example of this is Katie Perry. While her natural hair color is blonde, she looks amazing a as very dark brunette. She still remains a Bright winter, despite the hair color adjustment.
Whew! Have I inundated you with enough color theory and seasonal color analysis yet? These charts are great to save for reference. They can help you hone your wardrobe and makeup to perfectly fit your complexion.
And if you struggle with your wardrobe, and it’s constantly a hot mess that doesn’t work together (even a little), check out my Craft the Closet of Your Dreams Playbook, here.
Now, go be that _insert color season here_ and flourish!
This is a lot of information to digest, so be sure to save the pin below so you can reference your best colors and your season, as needed.