J. asked some excellent questions.
I would love to see more posts on figuring out how warm or cool a color is, particularly as it relates to matching colors to one’s fan. What is the very coolest blue? Originally I thought it might be the blue that has an RGB value of (0, 0, 255) – an HSL hue of 240. However, that blue is opposite yellow on the color wheel, so I thought maybe the coolest blue would actually be the one that is directly opposite orange, which would be closer to a hue of 203.
C: Your Q is best directed to an expert in RGB colour models, which is not me. May I suggest that this information might not be what a colour-analyzed shopper needs?
I seem to be coming at PCA the opposite way. Since I have not the knowledge of mixing pigments or colour models, I can only begin where the end result makes sense. From there, I seem to work back to figure out how the parts came together. The order of PCA for a client is not different. It begins in the store and looks backwards to when she sat down in the colour analyst’s chair. What does she need to know? How to use her palette.
Regarding the coolest blue, or warmest for that matter: IDK what warmth of colour means. We say “True Winter colours contain no warmth.” If that means no yellow, then it can’t be. Every human being contains yellow. The True Winter palette contains yellow. The yellow content of True Winter greens is undeniable. Many Winter neutral colours are distinguished by strong yellow content, along with gray and red. The language needs to evolve to say “True Winter colours contain the coolest yellows.”
The best definition of warm colour appears to involve the ratio between yellow and red. The cooler the Season palette, the less red is mixed with the yellows, down to none at all in True Winter. The more red relative to yellow, the warmer the colour is. Please understand that I am guessing at how this works. I welcome any help figuring it out.
Defining a cool colour depends on the colour. For yellow, the coolest version is the one that leans most blue in the ROYGBIVROYGIVB continuum. That order is fixed because it is the order of rainbows on this planet. A cool yellow is green-leaning.
Blue is different in its behaviour. An explanation Kathryn Kalisz once wrote to me:
Relative to each other, a red-blue is considered warm, and a green-blue is considered cool, red being warmer than green on a colour wheel. When these blues are in prints or composition with other colors, then the relationship reverses. Because of the yellow content in the green-blue, it harmonizes better with the yellow content in the other warm colors, and therefore, we call it a warm blue. In a group of colors, the blue-red has a purple tinge and harmonizes with the cool tones. Now it becomes a cool blue tone.
Let’s say there is a ‘coolest’ blue, the blue-purple range being the convention, red-orange the warmest. A more important question to the woman shopping with her palette is,
Does the coolest blue appear in human beings? I think that, like other animals, we contain and see best the colours of our own species, or maybe of organic forms on this planet. Of organic forms, plants will differ since they contain no hemoglobin. We see inorganic pigments but are not coloured as are inorganic elements, dyes, or the various colours computer models can generate. From the original question, does the coolest RGB code even apply to humans?
Despite being a century old, the Munsell system persists because it appears to represent human vision exceptionally well. I don’t disagree. What I see in front of my eyes works. I do question whether Munsell’s system could be a platform for something more interesting, intricate, and complex, more artistic and less technical, beyond the entry point of his colour charts.
For now, those charts interpret human colouring with high fidelity. Incorporating other colour systems like Pantone make less sense to me since they span too many colours, animal, vegetable, mineral, computer, neon, textile, plastic, and so on, that have nothing to do with humans.
Or perhaps I should ask – since it’s really about how one’s face reacts to the color – what is the (theoretically) most ideal blue hue for a cool season – the “ur-blue”?
C: There are many. Lighter, darker, cooler, more or less muted, redder and greener. Perhaps people within one Season probably have their own best blue but who could you find to agree? Taste is not involved in PCA. In fact, we work to extract personal preference from the decision-making.
The important part is that a particular set of colour characteristics or behaviours best harmonizes a particular human colouring. With that set in hand, the client’s job is to become very good at using it.
I believe that Kathryn Kalisz’s Sci\ART colour groupings are the most rational in existence because they keep the 3-way marriage between the physics of light, human biology, and the behaviour of colour intact. We can shuffle the nomenclature forever and never change a thing. That is talking theories first, observable facts after. Wrong order.
Humans are pretty good at judging value and brightness. We’re pretty terrible at gauging warmth because it’s a relative relationship. Maybe that’s why PCA from photos is so unsuccessful for me. Still images are too static to represent how fluidly colour behaves to our real-time eyes, far more than we are ever aware of.
We’re also not great at judging warmth when one of the other colour dimensions changes. I could show you two of any colour from the very same value level and you might think the muted one was darker. Some might say that the muted colour is cooler because it behaves the way our brain knows cool colours do from the world we live in. Cool and/or muted move backwards, or so we think.
Colour harmony is really not about matching colours. We have no idea what colours are, we can’t remember them accurately, and they are never what we expected when we see them a different comparison. Believing in what we think we see, meaning colour matching, is why so many women are paying for less-than-best hair colour and can’t find a lipstick that looks like part of their face.
To truly work with colour, I think we have to embrace the inherent unknownable. Have you read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”? The best book I have picked up in ages. Colour requires a space for mystery to be OK as we learn to work with it, just like Harold learned to do with the larger reality of life. Dragonflies embody the physics of flight and impossible magic. Leaving room for both enriches and enlarges the experience of the dragonfly.
Learn to work with your colours. Don’t put your attention into non-existent rules. Accept the palette you have, from the system you chose, and practice finding what aligns with it. I know you’re trying to do that. Logic is how we begin. It is helping you ask all the right Q. Keep doing what you’re doing.
I’m getting the idea that maybe finding a “cool” hue might be about finding the coolest shade of that color. For instance, a very green blue would be relatively warm, but a very blue green would be relatively cool?
I have a tendency to think a color might be True Summer until I compare it to my fans, and then I realize it looks more Dark Winter. I think perhaps I’m looking for cool colors that are muted, and instead sometimes find a cool color that is slightly DARK instead. Ok, technically this isn’t a question. : -)
C: Questions related to application are taking us in a more constructive direction. We would love to bring the answers down to one set of criteria, If This Then That, a safely anchored set of rules. Colour analysts would love that even more but it doesn’t work that way.
Colour is as fluid as any magic, now you see it, now you don’t. Try not to think in terms of how it has to be. Learn to work with what you see in front of you. Instead of logical predictions, put the two things together and look, as you did here. In ‘realizing it looks more Dark Winter’, you absorb what makes it not True Summer without even trying.
We can’t compare the heat of a green-blue and a blue-green unless we’re certain that the other variables, value and saturation, are fixed. As soon as one aspect changes, everything changes. Something had to be added or subtracted – red, yellow, blue, something. Adding yellow to mixtures might warm them, and it lowers saturation. Therefore, True Warm Seasons will not be fully saturated. We can’t change one thing without changing all the others.
True Summer and Dark Winter are variations of warmer, muted True Winters. They got there in different ways. One adds Summer gray. One adds Autumn orange (brown is added to Autumn, brown being dark orange). This is hardly new information. I’m just not sure how much it matters to the client in the store.
Doesn’t even matter to the colour analyst as long as she can read her drapes and knows her own limitations. Every analyst, like all humans, is limited in her colour acuity, even if only colour matching, by the absolute need for real time comparison. Add to that the chemical limitations of biology (fatigue, sleep, eye strain) and lighting on rod and cone chemistry, and calibrated comparison is the only hope I have of getting a true result.
Were there too many limitations to bother (or to admit to) for doing PCA? Not if you ask me. It simply acknowledges reality. In the real world, nothing needs to be perfect to work extremely well. We are surrounded by examples. Experts learn to extract the maximum info from the real world framework. In any field, experts are constantly on the lookout for information which can be trusted, and that which cannot. If a system can’t stand up to inquiries on that subject, well now, that might be when to not bother.
Weirdly, I’ve also found that I sometimes have trouble telling whether a given blue, green or purple color fits into True Summer or Soft Autumn. Some of the colors seem SO similar – for example, True Summer 3.10A compared to Soft Autumn 5.8A, or True Summer 4.6A compared to Soft Autumn 5.6A. I know I’m supposed to try to figure out how well a fabric goes with the whole fan. But truly, if I had any one of those shades in a fabric, I don’t think I could possibly tell which fan it went best with.
C: I understand the problem. Soft Autumn blue is not obvious to understand. I test many (that end up in Soft Summer) before finding one.
If you can’t tell by looking at the whole fan, look at each colour group separately. The whole fan is WTMI (way too much info) coming in. Separate out the reds and decide if the palette looks calm and strong or has taken a step back.
If you have both True Summer and Soft Autumn palettes, do the Summer lipsticks look frozen? They will if the fabric is Soft Autumn.
Can you assemble a white shirt/gray pants outfit from the palette for that shade of blue? Summer wears blue well, it might not matter that much. It is not necessary to doubt every purchase, just move away from obviously poor choices.
Look at the green strips. Do they make sense or are they just hopeless together?
Look at the colours that really define the Season. Do Soft Autumn peanut butter and ochre yellow look great with the blue fabric? If the blue fabric were a turtleneck, could she find a beautiful lipstick?
As a True Summer, are there some blues in other seasons that would look just as good on me as my own blues do?
C: It depends on the sensitivity of the viewer. When the wavelength of the colour and the person match, the appearance can clarify, focus, and captivate in a way that other Seasons’ colours would not attain. That said, most folks have never seen that and could not recognize it. This is not a reason to compromise (which Summers don’t like and Autumns insist on), just don’t get too immobilized by a perfect standard. Red, yellow, brown, beige, or purple are the colours to be more rigid about between these Seasons than blue.
Most of the world is so used to seeing wild mismatch, and so used to adapting for changing lighting over a day, that they’ll see something good going on even when colours are close. Vision didn’t evolve for us to look beautiful. It evolved as much as it needed to for us to eat and not get eaten before we mate and raise our young.
You probably have several fine blues from all three Summer palettes, and maybe a few low contrast choices from True Winter. If you can identify the great blues and ignore the million blues that are not even worth trying on, you are way ahead of the game you were playing pre-PCA.