Your colour season determines which colours flatter you the most. This knowledge is therefore a great benefit when you are developing your personal colour palette. But finding out which colour season you are can be tricky.
This comprehensive guide is designed to help you determine which of the twelve colour seasons you fall into. You'd better set some time aside, this is a long read!
Before we dive into the analysis, it's a good idea to understand exactly how seasonal colour analysis works. If you are interested in the theory behind colour analysis, please refer to this post.
The Twelve Colour Seasons
In the 12-tone seasonal colour analysis, there are twelve colour seasons:
Each seasonal colour palette mimics the natural colour aspects of an individual falling into that colour season. What does that mean? You have a natural colour palette, which is manifested in your skin, eyes, and hair. The aim of colour analysis is to identify this natural colour palette and to match it to one of the twelve colour seasons.
We do this by evaluating your natural colouring along three colour dimensions.
The three colour dimensions
Colour theory states that a colour can be described by its settings on the three dimensions of colour (also known as colour aspects): hue, value, and chroma.
I. Hue & Temperature
The hue scale tells us how warm or cool a colour is. The more yellow is added to a colour, the warmer it becomes. The more blue is added to it, the cooler it becomes.
In other words, we need to ask: Do you suit warm or cool colours? The answer will depend on whether your features have warm or cool undertones.
The value scale tells us how light or dark a colour is. The more black is added to a colour, the darker it becomes. The more white is added to it, the lighter it becomes.
Here we need to ask: Do you suit light or dark colours? The answers will depend on how high the contrast between your features is as well as how light or dark your individual features are.
The chroma scale depicts how bright/saturated/clear or muted/soft a colour is. Clear colours are pure colours. The more grey is added to a pure colour, the more muted it becomes.
The question here is: Do you suit highly saturated colours or greyed-out ones? The answer will again depend on the contrast between your features as well as how high the natural grey content of your colouring is.
The six colour characteristics
The two extreme ends of each of the three colour scales give us six colour characteristics in total. They are:
HUE:warm or cool
VALUE:light or dark
CHROMA: muted or bright
Each one of the twelve colour seasons has a primary (dominant) and a secondary characteristic (and a tertiary characteristic - which is of less importance) that define that colour season:
The seasonal colour palettes
Each seasonal colour palette is designed based on that season's colour characteristics. The colour season's primary (or dominant) characteristic drives the colour palette, meaning the colours will sit at one of the extreme ends of that scale.
The secondary characteristic also influences the palette but to a lesser extent. The colours sit somewhere between one of the extreme ends and the middle of the scale.
Your natural colour palette
Just like the seasonal colour palettes, your natural colouring can be described along the three colour dimensions. One of the three scales will be the driver of your natural colour palette. This is your dominant characteristic. It can sit on any of the three colour dimensions, and it will be one of the six colour characteristics we discussed above. Since it is the most important aspect of your colouring, it will also have to be the primary colour characteristic of your colour season.
Next comes the secondary characteristic, which is the second most important aspect of your colouring. If your dominant characteristic sits on the value (light or dark) or chroma (bright or muted) scale, your secondary characteristic will sit on the hue scale (warm or cool). If it sits on the hue scale, your secondary characteristic will sit on the chroma scale (bright or muted).
You also have a tertiary characteristic that will sit on the third colour dimension - either the chroma or the value scale - but it's of less importance.
To sum up, what we are doing in colour analysis is twofold:
(1) Identify the colour dimensions of your natural colour palette
(2) Match your natural colour palette to a colour season
One last thing to note here is that no two individuals look alike. Therefore, you may look different to the examples given below but still fall into that colour season.
Which season are you?
Now that are know what we are looking for, we can determine your colour season. First, we will identify your dominant characteristic and then your secondary characteristic.
The dominant characteristic
The dominant characteristic is the aspect of your natural colouring that dominates your overall appearance. Which aspect of your colouring strikes you first when you look in the mirror?
Remember, your dominant characteristic can sit on any of the three colour dimensions and is one of the six colour characteristics. Let's go through all of the six characteristics in more detail:
Note that when you are comparing your own appearance to the examples given, you might notice that you don't look like any of them. The point of the images is to show you how the dominant characteristic can present itself. Look for a similar effect in your own appearance, not an exact match.
I. Hue: Warm vs Cool
If your dominant characteristic sits on the hue scale, it will be either warm or cool. If you cannot clearly identify with either of these two characteristics, hue will be your secondary characteristic.
Your dominant characteristic is warm if the first thing that strikes you about your appearance is the obvious warmth radiating from your features and the complete absence of coolness. Your skin has an obvious yellow, golden, earthy, or peachy undertone (with clear green veins).
Contrast: The overall contrast level of your features is medium. No feature is extremely light or extremely dark compared to the rest.
Eyes: Light to medium brown, olive green, dark hazel, light hazel, warm blue (often with a yellowish rim around the pupil). Medium to dark brown for darker ethnicities but with obvious warm undertones.
Hair: Usually neither very dark nor very light, has a medium intensity - light to medium golden blond through to brown, or strawberry blond through rich and warm red (copper) to deep auburn. Darker ethnicities may have deep golden brown or even brown-black hair with obvious warm undertones.
Main aspect: The obvious warmth coming from your appearance. It could be either a radiant, warm glow or a more subdued warmth (depending on your secondary characteristic), but there is an overall lack of coolness.
Deciding factor: Silver makes you look pale and pasty, but gold makes you shine.
Secondary characteristic: Muted or Bright
Your dominant characteristic is cool if the first thing that strikes you about your colouring is the total absence of warmth and the distinctive coolness coming from your features. Your skin has obvious greyish, blue, pink, or red undertones (with clear blue veins).
Contrast: The overall contrast level of your features is medium to high. You may have very dark hair in contrast to a lighter skin tone.
Hair: Ash blond through to brown, chestnut brown with no reddish highlights, silver ash blond, grey/silver mix. Darker ethnicities may have dark brown, brown-black, or black hair.
Main aspect: The obvious coolness coming from your appearance combined with a higher contrast between hair and skin. This coolness can either be a frosted, icy vibe or a more gentle, subdued coolness (depending on your secondary characteristic).
Deciding factor: Gold makes you look yellowish and sickly, but silver makes you shine.
Secondary characteristic: Muted or Bright
Value: Light vs Dark
If your dominant characteristic sits on the value scale, it will be either light or dark. If you cannot clearly identify with one of these two characteristics, value will be your tertiary characteristic.
Your dominant characteristic is light if the first thing that strikes you about your appearance is the absence of depth in your features. Your skin, eyes, and hair are light for your ethnicity. Note: You can be a light season if you are not Caucasian. It's difficult to find examples, but if you have very light features for your ethnicity, don't rule out the light seasons.
Contrast: The contrast between your skin, hair, and eye colours is low (may be medium for darker ethnicities) - meaning that all features are rather light.
Eyes: Light to medium blue or green and light hazel or light brown. You are not light if you have brown eyes and are Caucasian (see Soft seasons).
Hair: Very light - Light to medium ash or golden blonde, or soft/light auburn, or light to medium brown for darker ethnicities.
Main aspect: The lightness of the features' colouring (not to be confused with muted colouring: it's not greyed out but much more lively) and the lack of depth to the features.
Deciding factor: Very dark colours age you, but light, colourful tones make your appearance pop. Note that light colours in this analysis are not to be confused with muted colours, which are greyish. Those will make you look washed out.
Secondary characteristic: Warm or Cool
Your dominant characteristic is dark if the first thing that strikes you about your appearance is the depth of your hair and eyes. This characteristic is one of the more confusing ones. It can either mean that your features are dark for your ethnicity or that there is a certain depth to them that requires darker colours to bring them out. Consequently, this does not mean that dark is the dominant characteristic of all dark-skinned people. The point is that the colouring is darker in relation to your ethnicity and in combination with a high contrast. On the other hand, a dark blonde person with dark blue eyes can have a deeper colouring than what is typical for blonde individuals because they have a higher contrast between the features (although this is quite rare).
Contrast: The contrast between your skin, hair, and eye colours is medium to high. Your dark hair and eyes stand in contrast to a lighter skin tone.
Eyes: Black, black-brown, red-brown, brown, dark green or dark hazel; in some instances a very deep, dark blue. If you have an eye colour other than the ones stated, you are not dark.
Hair: Very dark - Black, black-brown, chestnut brown, medium brown, dark auburn. In very rare cases, dark blonde.
Main aspect: Dark features in combination with a high contrast between hair and skin. Your features are dark in relation to your ethnicity.
Deciding factor: Very dark colours make your eyes and hair pop, and you can wear them comfortably without being overwhelmed. Light, colourful colours, on the other hand, make you look drained and washed out.
Secondary characteristic: Warm or Cool
Chroma: Muted vs Bright
The question here is whether your colouring is highly saturated and contrasted (bright) or very greyed out and blended (muted). If you cannot clearly identify with one of these two characteristics, chroma will be your tertiary colour dimension.
Your dominant characteristic is muted if the first thing that strikes you about your appearance is how 'greyed out' it is. You have a high content of grey pigments in your colouring. Instead of contrasting, your features are all very similar and blend together. You can at first appear to be light, but you have a richer look.
Contrast: The overall contrast level of your features is low to medium. Skin, hair, and eyes have a similarly low intensity. Features blend rather than contrast.
Eyes: Blend in with skin and hair - hazel, brown, grey-green, grey-blue.
Hair: Neither very light nor very dark - usually ashy. Golden or ash blond through to dark brown, strawberry blond through to soft auburn, medium to dark ash brown, light grey.
Main aspect: The lack of contrast in your features resulting in a blended appearance and the obvious greyness of your colouring.
Deciding factor: Saturated colours instantly draw attention away from you and onto themselves, but muted colours give you a sophisticated elegance. If muted colours make you look bland and washed out, this is not your dominant characteristic.
Secondary characteristic: Warm or Cool
Your dominant characteristic is bright if the first thing that strikes you about your appearance is the clearness and saturation of your features. There is no greyness in your colouring and your features don't blend but contrast. They clearly stand out against each other.
Contrast: The overall contrast level of your features is high to very high. Your eyes may stand out against your skin and hair.
Eyes: May stand out against skin and hair - clear blue, turquoise blue or green, bright green, emerald, or sparkly amber/topaz, brown, dark brown, black. The whites are clearly defined.
Hair: Black, black-brown, medium to dark brown, bright golden blond or red hair, very golden white-blond.
Main aspect: Your features are highly contrasted and saturated. They don't blend and there is no greyness about them.
Deciding factor: You can comfortably wear highly saturated colours without them stealing the show, but greyish, muted colours wash you out and make you look very bland.
To determine your colour season, we now need to examine each colour characteristic in even more detail because each one of the six characteristics is combined with another one to create your overall colouring.
This can be a bit tricky because the secondary characteristic is not always as obvious as the dominant one. But don't give up!
Depending on your primary colour dimension, your secondary characteristic will either sit on the hue scale or the chroma scale.
If your dominant characteristic is on the value (light or dark) or chroma scale (muted or bright), determine your hue next.
If your dominant characteristic is not warm or cool, you should now determine whether warmer or cooler colours look better on you.
The easiest way to determine this is by identifying the undertone of your skin. There are three tests that can help determine whether your skin has warm or cool undertones. Note that if you have a darker skin tone, test 2 may be a little tricky for you. Test 1 will give you better results.
Get a sheet of white (it must be true white) paper or a white towel and hold it to your face in natural day light.
Cool: Against the white paper, the skin appears to have pink, red, or blue undertones.
Warm: Against the white paper, the skin appears to have yellow, golden, or peachy undertones.
Take a look at the veins on your wrist in direct sunlight.
Cool: The veins on the wrist appear blue.
Warm: The veins on the wrist appear green.
Note that this test won't be as obvious with the secondary characteristic. You will need to look a bit harder.
Push back your hair, so that it does not influence the test. Then wrap a piece of gold coloured fabric around your face. Do the same with a silver coloured fabric. If you don’t have fabrics you can use gold and silver jewellery.
Decide which colour makes your skin look even and glowing; which one highlights irregularities and intensifies dark circles?
Cool: Silver makes your skin look healthier and more even; gold makes you look a bit sickly and off.
Warm: Gold makes your skin look healthier and even; silver makes you look a bit sickly and off.
Like your skin, your natural hair colour will also have either warm or cool undertones. Note that if you dye your hair you can change your perceived season, but if you want to know your actual season you should use your natural hair colour. On the same note, the wrong hair colour can make you look off and knowing your season can actually help you choose the right hair colour.
Golden, honey blonde hair that gets warm highlights when you're in the sun has warm undertones.
Ash blonde hair that appears greyish or mousy has cool undertones. Cool hair typically all-over colour with no highlights.
Golden brown hair that gets warm highlights when you're in the sun indicates warm undertones.
Greyish ash brown hair with no natural highlights has cool undertones.
Naturally black hair usually has warm undertones. Black hair dyes often offer a blue black which has cool undertones.
Natural reds tend to have warm undertones. Red hair dyes also often come in cool shades of red.
Together with your dominant characteristic, the result of this analysis will give you one of the following colour seasons:
Bright Spring vs Bright Winter
Bright + Warm vs Bright + Cool
The difference between Bright Spring and Bright Winter is the more frosted appearance of the latter. Both need highly saturated colours, but Bright Winter needs the slightly darker, even more intense colours of Winter, which are a bit too much for Bright Spring. Bright Springs look amazing in warmer, highly saturated colours - such as coral.
If you are unsure whether you are a Bright Spring or a Bright Winter, try Lupita's cooler pink lipstick for Bright Winter and Milla's warmer coral pink lipstick for Bright Spring.
Light Spring vs Light Summer
Light + Warm vs Light + Cool
The two light seasons can be quite tricky to tell apart at first glance. Both are instantly aged if they put on anything that's dark. But they are easy to spot once they are dressed in either Spring or Summer colours.
If you can't decide between the two, try out Scarlett's orangey lipstick for Light Spring and Reese's cooler pink for Light Summer.
Soft Summer vs Soft Autumn
Muted + Cool vs Muted + Warm
Just like the two light seasons, the two muted seasons can be hard to tell apart because both are very unsaturated, which makes colours appear similar. The difference between them is the higher content of grey pigments in Soft Summer vs the higher content of walnut and olive pigments in Soft Autumn.
How to tell the difference? Try Sarah Jessica's nude pink for Soft Summer and Gigi's nude brown for Soft Autumn. Soft Autumns can pull off earthier Autumn shades, which would look off on Soft Summers.
Dark Autumn vs Dark Winter
Dark + Warm vs Dark + Cool
Dark Autumns and Dark Winters both look so elegant in dark, mysterious colours. They are generally quite easy to tell apart though. Dark Winters tend to have a higher contrast between hair, eyes, and skin. Their skin tends to be lighter than that of Dark Autumns.
If you are unsure though, try Olivia's dark red for Dark Autumn and Kelly's dark, purply lipstick for Dark Winter. Purple does not sit well with Dark Autumns.
Determine your chroma (muted vs bright)
If your dominant characteristic is warm or cool, determine your chroma next. Is your appearance muted or bright?
The way to determine your chroma is by identifying the level of contrast of your overall colouring. Does your appearance contrast or blend?
If it contrasts, your chroma is bright. If it blends - i.e. your skin, hair, and eyes have a similar intensity, your chroma is muted.
Together with your dominant characteristic, this will result in one of the following seasons:
True Spring vs True Autumn
Warm + Bright vs Warm + Muted
Both True Spring and True Autumn look off in silver and cool colours. But True Spring needs saturated, fresh colours to truly shine, whereas True Autumn looks amazing in rich, earthy colours. Notice how Jessica's features are more contrasted, whereas Chrissy's blend more.
If you are unsure which sub-season you are, try Jessica's orangey red lipstick for Bright Spring and Chrissy's brown lipstick for True Autumn. Browns are too earthy for True Springs.
True Summer vs True Winter
Cool + Muted vs Cool + Bright
These two colour seasons are both cool and look off in gold and other warm colours. But True Winter is more contrasted and intense than True Summer. The latter is overwhelmed by the saturated colours of Winter and needs a gentler coolness.
If you are undecided between the two seasons, try Sonam's gentler pink lipstick for True Summer and Lucy's brighter pink for True Winter.
Congratulations on making it through this article! You should now have identified your colour season.
You can now go and learn more about your colour season in the next article.