If you’ve heard about seasonal color analysis but aren’t sure how much it matters or where to start, this blog post will get things clarified for you!
In this post I’ll tell you how seasonal color analysis works, how it helps you, and the main types of analysis out there.
This topic can be confusing and sometimes it might seem like you need to take a professional color analysis course to really understand it.
Today I want to break it down in a way that helps you feel confident and excited about figuring out your best colors.
I’ve read LOTS of articles about it online. Some great, others not so great.
But something that was lacking in many articles about seasonal color analysis was the basic explanation of how color works. I wish I had grasped this earlier on because the whole thing would have made SO much more sense.
When you understand how the properties of color align with the season categories used in color analysis, you will be less dependent on charts that show different eye colors and hair colors to try to match yourself.
You’ll understand what you’re looking for and those charts will help confirm without being your only hope for identifying your color type.
In Part 2 of this series, I will walk you through how to do a personal color analysis to figure out your best colors.
Today we are simply getting a clear grasp of what seasonal color analysis is and how it works at the core.
You may be able to place yourself in a category just from reading this post.
But even if you still aren’t sure which category you fall under, you will have a foundation of understanding that will make a personal color analysis less confusing.
So don’t skip this!
Ok, let’s dive in! Here’s what I’ll cover:
- What is Seasonal Color Analysis?
- How Will Knowing My Color Season Type Help Me?
- How Does Seasonal Color Analysis work?
- How Color Works (understand this and seasonal color analysis will make SO much more sense!)
- Where the Seasons Come In
- How the Color Seasons Match Up With A Person’s Complexion
- Side-by-Side Comparison of Cool and Warm Women of Color & Other Non-White Ethnicity
- What are the Different Kinds of Seasonal Color Analysis Out there?
What Is Seasonal Color Analysis?
With seasonal color analysis you find a set of colors to wear that bring out the best in your complexion.
The following people paved the way to help explain color and group colors into sets (or seasons) that actually line up remarkably well with a person’s complexion.
- Henry Munsell – helped explain properties of color in the early 1900’s
- Carole Jackson – published Color Me Beautiful in the 80’s to assign one of four seasons to person
- Mary Spillane + Christine Sherlock – expanded the 4 classifications to 12
Each set of colors in seasonal color analysis share specific properties—properties that match the combined characteristics of your skin, hair, and eyes.
How Will Knowing My Color Season Type Help Me?
I used to think that dressing according to my color season would be limiting and boring. I actually avoided finding out “my type” for a long time for that reason!
After finding the colors that suit me (and doing the same for many other women) I have a different perspective.
It’s true… only sticking to a handful of colors can be limiting and boring.
But knowing your color type is different. It opens up your eyes to new possibilities and helps you shop with better judgement.
Here are the benefits that come from knowing your best colors:
- Helps you look more vibrant and healthy. As moms, we are often sleep-deprived and don’t always have time to do our make up. If you wear the colors that match your complexion, your skin looks clearer, the circles under your eyes are minimized and your teeth and white of your eyes look whiter. You just look healthier and enjoy that natural “glow.”
- Helps you more easily plan a wardrobe color palette. There are so many colors out there. If you’ve been trying to come up with a color scheme you may feel overwhelmed not knowing where to start. Knowing which colors look best on you becomes your starting point. Download the SAHM capsule plan printable right here!
- Saves you money and helps you make better use of what you buy. When you wear the colors that make you look good, you tend to love those pieces more. You will naturally gravitate towards them more and more and use over and over again.
- Helps you buy clothes that easily mix and match because they have the same chroma (amount of color or saturation). Mixing colors works when the colors have the same amount of gray in them. If you know you are a Soft Summer, your colors will be cool-toned but they will have gray mixed in so that they are more soft or muted. But if you’re a Clear Winter , your colors will also be cool but have zero gray in them and be brilliant and striking. Mixing colors that have gray with colors that are pure doesn’t work in outfits—a common frustration you run into when you don’t know which kinds of colors to look for.
How Does Seasonal Color Analysis Work?
Ok, let’s get to the good stuff.
Read this section a couple of times if need be. Ask questions in the comments if you still don’t fully understand and it will help me add more clarification to make this even easier to understand!
Seasonal color analysis finds your match in a set of colors reflected in nature.
I emphasize match because it will make it less subjective trying to find the right color season for you if you’re looking for those similarities in coloring rather than arbitrarily trying to decide which colors look good on you.
We naturally have biases about which colors we like (aside from what truly suits our skin/hair/eyes) and that can often complicate finding your color type.
To find your best set of colors (aka color season type), you will be essentially matching certain properties of color with your complexion.
That’s why it’s important to understand how color works.
How Color Works (understand this and seasonal color analysis will make SO much more sense!)
Did you know colors have three main properties that make it easy to organize them into groups?
- Hue – how much warm (yellow) or cool (blue) color it contains
- Value – how light vs dark it is (in other words, how much white it has).
- Chroma – how pure vs shaded it is (in other words, how much gray it has).
Therefore, if you slice the color wheel in half, you get a cool side and a warm side. Warm colors are on the yellow side and cool colors are on the blue side.
The color wheel above shows you only the color hues.
TIP: If you want to keep it SUPER SIMPLE, you can simply find out whether you are warm or cool and stick to the colors on that side of the color wheel.
However, an actual color wheel (and in depth seasonal color analysis) includes the difference in value and chroma possible with colors. Just a reminder:
- Value is light to dark (in other words, how much white it has).
- Chroma is clear/pure to shaded/muted (in other words, how much gray it has).
This is where color can then be grouped in many more ways.
Instead of just warm or cool, you can have any mixture of Warm, Cool, Light, Dark, Clear/Pure, and Shaded/Muted.
That’s how you end up with 12 or 16-season types.
I recorded a quick video to demonstrate the differences in hue, value and chroma.
In the first few seconds the video shows me going through different pure hues. Then I change the value of my pure pink hue by adding white (dark versus light). Finally I change the chroma of my pure pink hue by adding gray.
So why am I explaining this so thoroughly?
If you understand these properties of color (hue, value and chroma), your season type will make so much more sense to you.
Plus you’ll be able to tell what makes one color different from another and why it helps or doesn’t help your complexion.
Where the Seasons Come In
The four seasons in nature are used because they line up nicely with the four main groups of colors used in color analysis. It’s not a perfect correlation but it works pretty well:
- Light Value + Warm Hue + Pure/Clear Chroma = Spring. In the spring you’ll find vibrant clear colors that are warm (yellows and greens) and light.
- Dark Value + Warm Hue + Shaded/Muted Chroma = Autumn. Fall colors are dark and deep, and they have lots of yellow in them so they are warm.
- Light Value + Cool Hue + Shaded/Muted Chroma = Summer. The flowers and leaves in this season are also light but they have cooler, more muted properties.
- Dark Value + Cool Hue + Pure/Clear Chroma = Winter. This cold season also has dark and deep colors but they are decidedly cool in nature because of how icey and gray everything is.
Below are the four main color groupings/color palettes that line up with these four seasons.
The purest color seasons are Spring and Winter (diagonal to each other). They have no gray in them. See how bright and pure the colors are above?
The muted/soft/grayed-out color seasons are Summer and Autumn. See how they appear muted above? That’s because they have gray in them.
Here is another graphic which will either fascinate or overwhelm you. If it’s too overwhelming maybe come back to it later!
This shows where the 12 subseasons are mapped in relationship to each other.
There is so much data wrapped up in this graphic that I’ve hesitated to add it here. But for some of you it may be what helps visually explain where the subseasons belong.
I used RED as the color to demonstrate the three properties of color and show how red can be warm or cool, clear or soft, light or dark, and a combination of those.
How the Color Seasons Match Up With A Person’s Complexion
A person’s skin, hair and eyes also reflect a unique combination of hue, value, and chroma.
When picking your season, you are looking for the season with the grouping of colors that match your natural coloring.
Here is a match up of color properties to a person’s properties so you know what we’re looking for:
- Hue (warm versus cool) is determined mostly by the skin’s undertone. However, when skin undertone isn’t super obvious, eyes and hair can give clues.
- Value (light versus dark) is found mostly in the hair but often the eyes give clues too.
- Chroma (pure versus muted—how much gray) is found mostly in the eyes. But it also involves the level of contrast between the hair, skin and eyes. High contrast (striking) is considered bright or pure. Low contrast (gentle) is considered soft or muted.
Examples of Cool Types (Summers & Winters)
Example 1: Summer (Cool + Light + Shaded)
I am a summer because I have light beige skin (cool undertone + light), medium-brown hair (leans light) and gray-blue (muted) eyes.
Summers are (Cool + Light + Shaded). Therefore, my complexion is best matched by the color season grouping of summer.
Example 2: Winter (Cool + Dark + Clear)
My sister, Vanessa, also has cool-toned skin. However because her hair and eyes are on the darker side of the spectrum, she is a Winter (Cool + Dark).
Other clues to her being a winter are the “Clearness/Pureness” of her sparkling brown eyes and glassy fair skin. Don’t worry, in my next post in this series I explain how to use clues to find your color type.
Side-by-Side Comparison of the Cool Seasons: Winter and Summer (My Sister & I)
Example 3: Winter (Cool + Dark + Clear) for Women of Color
The same color characteristics apply to women of color. Black women (and any other non-white ethnicity) will also have either warm or cool undertones.
Kelly, a fellow Frump Fighter, has cool-toned skin, deep eyes, and high-contrast hair. She can pull off the bright, cool, and deep colors of Winter beautifully.
Examples of Warm Types (Springs & Autumns)
Example 4: Spring (Warm + Light + Clear)
Afton is a student in my Frumpy to Fabulous wardrobe program for moms. She is a very obvious spring type because of her warm-toned skin, light red hair and clear green eyes.
Example 5: Autumn (Warm + Dark + Shaded)
Natasha, my dear sister-in-law, is a lovely example of a warm autumn with her warm-toned skin, dark reddish brown hair, and brown eyes (with green/blue flecks). All very warm features that lean towards dark.
Side-by-Side Comparison of the Warm Seasons: Autumn & Spring
Example 6: Autumn (Warm + Dark + Shaded) Deeper Ethnicities
Medium to dark skin tones can vary from cool to warm as well.
Here is an example of a beautiful Autumn with warm undertones and deep hair and eyes.
She glows in warm, deep autumn colors.
Side-by-Side Comparison of Cool and Warm Women of Color & Other Non-White Ethnicity
If you are a woman of color or other non-caucasian ethnicity, you are still looking for the same clues: warm versus cool skin undertones, clear versus muted eyes, and light versus dark contrast.
Most women of color are one of the Deep Seasons, Winter or Autumn.
However a black woman with warm skin but bright eyes might even be a Clear Spring (the warm, clear subseason that includes bright colors.)
A black woman with light brown skin and light eyes may be a one of the Summer subseasons.
And for some women of color that are Autumn, a Soft version of Autumn may suit them best (see the second and third examples below to compare).
Deep Winter (Cool)
Deep Autumn (Warm)
Soft Autumn (Warm but softer colors)
Here is our chart again but with one other thing added- each of the ladies within their season.
Do you see how their complexion matches the coloring and characteristics of the season?
What Are The Different Kinds Of Seasonal Color Analysis Out There?
Here is a list of the most popular models of seasonal colour analysis with a brief explanation of what they are and how they differ.
My list starts with the most simple models with the widest net to the more precise systems.
Note: These models aren’t in opposition. They all are based on the same premise and simply build up in complexity.
My favorite has a ❤ next to it.
Warm vs Cool Model
This model doesn’t involve seasons but rather places you in one of two categories based on whether your skin’s undertone is warm or cool.
- Pros: Simple because it only takes hue into account. You should at least know this.
- Cons: Well, it’s simple so it can be too simplistic. When you find out whether you’re warm or cool, you’ve moved one step closer to your best colors but you haven’t found the final answer quite yet.
The 4 Season Color Analysis Model
Popularized by Color Me Beautiful, this model places you in one of four categories based on two values, hue (warm vs cool) and value (light vs dark).
This results in Autumn, Spring, Winter, Summer.
- Pros: Straight forward and popular. You’ll find lots of color palette examples on Pinterest, making it easy to assemble a color scheme for your wardrobe.
- Cons: Does not take into account variations within each season. For example, you could be a Clear Spring (warm, fair skin with dark hair but light, bright eyes) or a Warm Spring (with darker warm skin + very warm reddish hair). The colors that make you look good as a spring are different in these two cases and (I think) should be distinguished!
- Off shoot: Dressing Your Truth. You may have heard about this program so I wanted to mention it here. Dressing Your Truth uses four main types which align with the four seasons. But each type also carries certain personality traits. It’s fascinating and works for many women. For others, it’s too simplistic and just doesn’t categorize them accurately.
The Tonal Color Analysis Model (6 types)
This type doesn’t use seasons but rather grouping of color based on the properties of color. You find your group based on your dominant characteristic.
So you have colors grouped by: Light, Deep, Warm, Cool, Bright, Soft/Muted.
❤ The 12 Season Color Analysis Model ❤
This model is my favorite. It breaks each of the four seasons into three subseasons, giving you a total of 12 types.
For example, the sub-seasons of Spring are Warm Spring, Clear Spring and Light Spring.
Warm, Clear and Light are all characteristics of Spring, so this model identifies the strongest characteristic within your season to help you get closer to your best colors.
- Pros: Detailed without being too complex or confusing. It’s also a super popular model which means you’ll find lots of wardrobe color palette examples to draw from online.
- Cons: A few people still can’t find themselves exactly within one of the 12.
16 Season Color Analysis Model and beyond
Some people don’t feel totally at home in the group of colors suggested for each of the 12 seasons.
The 16 seasons model adds a few types to fill in the gaps.
I would suggest checking out only if you aren’t happy with one of the 12 categories.
- Pros: Many women find a much better match here.
- Cons: For someone who isn’t interested in going so specific, this model may complicate things.
In the comments below, let me know what you find and where specifically you’re stuck? I answer every comment and email I receive.
Do you really just want someone to figure out your color type for you?
My course for moms, Frumpy to Fabulous, includes my personal color analysis!