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One of the things I've learned about colour in studying colour theory and in particular as it applies to Personal Colour Analysis, is to consider the degree of warmth or coolness. We all learned about primary and secondary colours, possibly even tertiary or complementary colours in school and probably along with it the idea of warm colours and cool colours. If your education was like mine you were shown a colour wheel like this one...
and you may have been taught to bisect the circle into the cool and warm halves, usually on the lines right below were we see yellow-green and red, with the top half labelled warm colours and the bottom half labelled cool colours.
I never gave this division any further thought until I began to learn about how colours could work in harmony with people's natural colouring and once learned how the four category system was a simplification of work done by artists in the past, studying human colouring, I encountered the idea of degrees of warmth or coolness. It seems so obvious but I'd never thought about it before. Adding yellow or red to a colour adds warmth to it and adding blue to a colour cools it. I understood this as I looked at the colour wheel because the movement towards blue or away from it and towards red or yellow can be seen but I'd never considered before that people also vary in their degree of warmth or coolness. I thought in terms of whether or not I could wear warm colours and never considered that there would be a degree of warmth or that any other colour property might matter, such as brightness, mutedness, lightness or darkness. But there are so many colour variations beyond what can be shown on a colour wheel and now I know that when I am looking for colours to wear I need to be seeking very warm ones not just slightly warm. I am beginning to learn how to recognise that but it not only takes practice it takes context. We understand colours better in comparison to other colours, which is why it helps to know your colour category and have a swatch fan or book to use for identifying colours that belong with that set.
Since I wear warm colours best, I find it easier to identify the right warm colours for me from within the group of obviously warm. Oranges are the easiest and I need only ask myself if it is muted and in a medium value range. Mistakes are likely to take me into either the True Spring palette, which is a bit too bright, or the Deep Autumn palette which is not quite warm enough and is also too saturated for me. They aren't awful but they aren't best and what I find is that I sense something is off when wearing them.
This graphic gives a good idea of the True Autumn palette. Aside from the teal and turqoise, there are two blues that look like pure blue and two purples that are quite neutral and not warm reddish purples. This is a bit surprising but I did say I would leave purple alone for now... Blue is the focus here. I will try to stay focused.
The blues for True Autumn palette are often described as marine blue, sometimes light navy and periwinkle blue. Colour names are not overly helpful though as you will see if you google a colour name. Quite a range of blue shows up for any given blue colour name. Periwinkle the flower, is usually a purple-blue or pure purple colour and periwinkle the mollusc is a deep purple-blue. But what interests me most is that the purple and blue for the True Autumn palette are not what I would have expected for a palette described as purely warm.
Okay, I Can't Help It I am Digressing to Purple
The kind of purple we think of as warm is a reddish purple. One of the differences I notice between colour systems that use the Sci/ART original colour theory and other systems is the inclusion of a range of fuschia to wine purple colours. What I have learned is that while these colours are technically considered warm, they work better for the people who wear neutral-warm palette because they are colours made of red and blue but for the True Autumn palette yellow, or more accurately gold, is a very important addition to the colours. While I can squint and make a funny face and sort of see the yellow added to the True Autumn blue, moving it in the direction of teal though not yet becoming teal, I don't see any in the purple at all and if it were there we wouldn't have purple we would have brown.
My best theory is that when it comes to the purple it is a matter of being a complementary colour. If your skin is gold-orange in it's undertone which the skin of a True Autumn person is, then the harmonising colours need gold-orange in them too and the one exception is true purple which is the complementary colour. The red-purple that we think of as a warm purple belongs in the Deep Autumn palette and in Bright Spring which is also a neutral-warm palette with rich colours.
I like this graphic for it's side by side comparison of different palettes, though it's to be understood that colours on a computer screen don't always represent reality. The two seasons that have the least blue at first glance seem to be True Autumn and Deep Autumn, though Soft Summer's blues are very greyed and read more grey in this image.
Let's See if I Can Get Back to Blue
We aren't always good at recognising our own best colours though and a variety of biases can get in the way. I've written about how that happened for me and how I ended up being someone who always defaulted to blue. I had no idea how much of a golden glow I could have because I'd never seen myself in the colours which bring that out. Blue generally does not bring that out but rather makes me look quite pale and sometimes a bit grey, however I had become so accustomed to seeing myself in blue I had no ability to recognise it rarely did me any favours. I say rarely because there are blues that work for me although they are not abundant. Just as orange is a no go for those who are purely cool in colouring, and yellow is tricky, blue is tricky for purely warm toned skin and blue based colours are not my best.
Well, now I am a little bit afraid of blue. Or maybe that's not quite the right word. I have lost interest in it seeing how much better I look in burnt peach, gold, muted orange, rust or golden greens. I've all but abandoned pink as well, though warm pinks are better for me than blue. Never in a million years would I have guessed that my best and most flattering colours are in the peach-orange range . Blue has all but disappeared from my closet currently represented by a few teal and turquoise colours which may not be exact matches to my best palette but will do for now.
Trying to identify warm blue is fraught with issues and if you have any interest or curiosity in that just try the link below this image and read the blog post and the resulting comments to see how artists cannot agree on what makes a blue warm. Thalo Blue moves in the direction of green and yellow while Ultramarine Blue moves towards red. Think of the rainbow colours ROYGBIV to picture the colour spectrum. If you think of it as being like a number line with the left direction being warmer and the right direction being cooler, any movement left warms up a colour. But that is only one theory and those who would bend the line into a circle and make the colour wheel, argue that once blue moves right it is eventually going to encounter red, a very warm colour and so Ultramarine Blue, a redder blue, is the truly warm blue.
Coolness and warmth are perceptions of course, not a temperature that can actually be measured and in general when we look at the three primary colours, red, yellow and blue, we see blue as cool and red and yellow as warm. Which blue looks warm and which cool to your eye? The link takes you to an article that argues Thalo Blue is the warmest. While the argument makes sense that's not how my eye sees it.
I spent hours studying this problem regarding warm blue and reading about colour theory and how it relates to Personal Colour Analysis and then I had an epiphany. It's a small one as far as epiphanies go but here it is.
If you need colours that are warmed or cooled, it's best not to look at a colour and ask is that a warm blue or is that a cool yellow? It's better to identify what has been added to it. Of course that's not easy and that's why having a colour swatch fan for your season type really helps. We understand colour best in comparison. We can train our eye to see what we are looking for but it helps to have a guide.
I am looking for colours that suit the True Autumn palette and those colours have added gold, which presumably warms them. That makes the Thalo blue the right sort of blue, whether or not I see it as warm or cool. A darker version of Thalo blue looks somewhat like the colour often called marine blue. I have a winter scarf in a similar colour.
Benjamin Moore paints offer a slightly too dark version of marine blue.
Amy Adams, who is probably a True Warm Spring, wears a lot of blue on the red carpet. Some blues are obviously more successful than others but the Spring palette does contain more blues than the Autumn one does. This one looks good though perhaps not stunning. I believe it to be a True Autumn blue and if Amy really is a Spring she will shine in something a little brighter. There is a muted quality to this blue and True Autumn has a muted quality to it which True Spring does not, though both are for purely warm coloured people and a little bit of borrowing from each other's palette may work for some people.
So according to the Sci/ART system True Autumn is the season with little blue because it is the palette with the warmest AND muted colours. Spring colours are warm and also bright, a little more pure- colour like crayons. Muted blues either become teal or greyed blues and the greyed blues do not work for True Autumn as they are too cool. Blue muted and warmed with gold is what works for True Autumn and there are fewer of these since they quickly become teal or turquoise.
So blue is not my colour and I find I don't miss it. I really do like the marine blue and thalo blue that are shown above and whether or not they read as warm or cool to the eye they do have added yellow-gold so it makes sense that they work with skin that has a gold undertone and overtone. I like small touches of it as an accent with my gold-orange range colours.
In the 12 palette system ( such as in the picture above ) 8 of the palettes are neutral with a lean in either a warm or cool direction. Most people are in one of the neutral categories, which is one reason why the Color Me Beautiful system with only four seasons didn't work out too well for many people. This neutrality is also why blue works for most people. Those who are neutral leaning warm may need to be more considerate of their best blues and those who are purely cool or neutral-cool will find blues to be one of their best options.
Some people, though not all, look great in a colour that is a near match to their eyes. A red head with blue eyes tends to look stunning in a blue that matches her eyes even if she is an Autumn redhead and not a Spring redhead. The types of blue can differ and an Autumn redhead is likely to have blue that is closer to teal or the marine blue shown above. Also note that not every redhead has warm skin so they are not all Springs or Autumns; there are cool reds, which is why statements like 'all redheads look great in X colour' are useless.
Since I am talking about blue I will mention teal and turquoise. These are colours where blue and green meet and they can be more blue or more green while still remaining recognisably teal or turquoise. Being someone who suits yellow as opposed to blue based colours ( or more specifically gold ) my better versions of teal and turquoise lean towards green because they will have more gold/yellow in their mix. If teal and turquoise look more like green than blue, then they don't add to my collection of wearable blues, but rather to my greens. In the True Autumn palette I have a wide range of greens to choose from. As I play with colours and look for the best from within my palette (every person determined to be a certain seasonal palette will still have good, better, best colours within that palette as well as personal favourites) I find that I am most flattered by the colours with a very obvious gold influence. That also contributes to my tending to leave blue behind. It even influences my choice of greens, and I favour the more golden greens over the more neutral looking ones. Perhaps it would be different if I were going for the stunning impact that can be created by a colour that is complementary, some professional and dramatic makeup and a few million dollars worth of jewels.
In other words, if I were walking the red carpet I might try something that looks bold on me, something that flatters and yet competes with my face just enough that I need to decorate my face well. Perhaps purple. But that's not how I generally dress myself. I really like the look of harmony, of wearing colours that look like they are organic to me and because I don't balance much contrast or brightness nor am I flattered by obvious coolness, the very obviously golden colours are my favourites. I see a wardrobe shaping up where my colours are mostly cream, peach, burnt orange and gold-green with denim and brown as my neutral and base colours.
Having Said That...
It's not completely good bye blue because I live in jeans. But that takes blue away from my face and I am more conscious now of the type of blue and aim for a more muted turquoise look to my denim. So it's not entirely good bye to blue but nearly. Blue is somewhat like my ex-husband: okay in small doses but not needed to make me happy.