Colour Analysis Questions From A Winter Reader
Many readers live too far from colour analysts to have access to the in-person experience and try to work through eliminations on their own. This post offers my answers to some of the questions I receive.
The most useful part of the exercise may be learning to see how different we look wearing different colours. Not just a little different. A lot different. Collecting this information takes the first 15-20 minutes of the personal colour analysis (PCA). Beyond our predictions and preferences, what is actually happening that someone else would also see – a new way to view the world.
Great colour analysts don’t need special aptitudes or colour vision. I have neither. With any skill, some people may have more talent in certain areas early on, but these are surpassed through instruction and continued effort of the right kind. Some analysts or clients may have a natural ability in matching or combining colours, also easily exceeded with expertise and practice. Practice is the ground in which fiber-op brain circuits grow.
In the last post on colour and conventional wisdom, I link The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle, about how to practice better and reach goals faster, and how to teach the same way, a book for every teacher, coach, or parent. Teaching using our skills and stories is useful to the student to a point, and otherwise a chance to hear ourselves talk.
Nobody is talented at everything. Everybody is talented at something. A method based in a strong and thorough foundation, followed by practice fueled by the desire to bring something into our lives, these are how we get better. Don’t worry about where you start; it doesn’t matter. Just start and hold on to, “This is who I want to be.” until it becomes part of your identity.
The questions that follow ask for opinion answers. All perspectives are welcome. I would sincerely love to hear them. If you disagree with me, I would love to hear that too, to see how things look through your eyes.
If ten professional colour analysts answered the questions that follow, you might read ten different answers. However, in a live draping exercise, working in the same system with the same drape colours, we would place a client in the same Season.
Words like flatter, warm, or violet have different meanings in each reader’s mind. My answers may also seem vague to acknowledge the inherent ambiguity of describing colour with words. Like capturing the essence of music with language, we run up against limits.
Season can only be known by me through in-person analysis.
Are the 3 Winters flattered by true white and ink black? Have you ever met a Bright Winter or a Dark Winter who is more flattered in yellowed ivory and browned black?
In Winter orange if it had the saturation and darkness that a Winter needs and more like red-orange, could it be flattering or only passable? What would be the viewer’s opinion? What type of energy speaks?
Would a Bright Season need to apply stronger make-up to flatter her clothing and natural pigmentation or they are fabulous without makeup in the neon shades?
Have you ever met a Dark Autumn who is near the neighbouring Season of Dark Winter whose natural appearance seems very neutral and bright? This person appears muddy in True and Soft Autumn, as it the colours were too weak next to the person?
Yes. Some Dark Autumns are tawny, some are more pink-beige, and some neutral beige among Caucasian skin tones. A wide variety of skin, hair, and eye colours are found in Dark Autumn, all of which can look fairly bright.
Question 14 talks about similarities between Dark Autumn and Bright Spring. The same can happen between Dark Autumn and Bright Winter and although I have not met the person who is both at once, the situation is understandable. Conceptually, these Seasons seem miles apart, but the world isn’t conceptual. We humans are made of the same 3 pigments that follow the same rules of colour mixing, and are lit by the same sun; we are not miles apart.
The phrase ‘seems neutral and bright’ carries too little information without a second data point, and hopefully a third, but overall, they are brighter (more saturated in their colours) than Soft or True Autumn colours.
Various analysts might describe the effect other than ‘looks muddy’ but we can say that Dark Autumn looks incomplete in Soft and True Autumn.
Darkness is easily confused with brightness. We see darkness and think it means more pigment, but the colour or person may be one or both. This cannot be known without testing.
Are Bright Seasons flattered by light colors? Have you ever met a client can only wear the medium and darker shades from the Bright Winter palette?
Yes, Brights are flattered by their light and lightest colours, very much so.
And no. Wearing only dark colours places a heavy constraint on what is possible, on how good they can look, and what they can express or communicate through appearance.
I have not met a person who can only wear dark colours in any of the 12 Seasons. Everyone can wear every colour in every palette. That’s why this whole system is so amazing, because it hands you the whole gamut of colour choice as it applies to you. Various colours might be preferred by various people in the Season, or used in various ways. Like a magic puzzle, the colour pieces fit together any way you like so long as they come from the same Season. I have personal preferences, for example my love of colour on Springs over gray with gray, and my love of gray with gray on Summers, but you participate in these decisions.
I’m not looking for breathtaking with every colour, in the same way that I don’t want to listen to my ten favourite songs over and over. I want a building with doors, windows, floors, faucets, walls; parts that work together to create a highly functional and beautiful whole. I want to get in and out of stores faster than before, buying better stuff than I could have picked on my own, use the system for everything I add to my appearance, and have it last me the rest of my days. This PCA system does just that.
If a neutral Season chose colours of the same value and chroma as the neighbour Neutral Season, and only a little warmer or cooler, will it clash with her natural beauty, look OK, or would it depend on the person?
By neutral Season, the reader is referring to the eight Seasons that are a combination of any two True Season parents. For example, a Bright Winter is a mix of mostly Winter and a small proportion of Spring in their colouring.
The answer to the question depends on the person, the colour, and how particular one is about clashing. I love orange with fuchsia, navy with lime, and many other mixtures that others would decline. Perhaps it also takes time to know what we’re looking at. At an event where half the people are wearing black, a True Autumn woman who shows up in a dark copper suit with a metallic sheen may be viewed with various levels of disapproval, while I’m elbowing my way through the crowd to ask her how she did it.
Neighbour Seasons don’t have the same chroma or brightness, or warmth, but they have overlaps. Human diversity is high though, and the Season call wouldn’t be made with just one comparison. We use 5 or 6 drapes in 21 different sets, testing both similarities and differences, to make the decision.
If the colours being compared were centered in the two Seasons, not white unless the analyst is given 3 or more colours to work with, and one not a colour that is challenging and appears in Luxury Drapes rather than Test Drapes, say, gray or purple, a colour analyst could tell. If the colours were very near the border, it might be more difficult, which is a good thing when it comes to widening the shopping arena. If the client were near the border, or look one way but drape another, say looks Winter but drapes Summer or vice versa, common enough, it might also be more challenging.
Generally, the warmth difference matters enough to make one better, but the eyes must know what to look for and be sensitized to the effects. I’m assuming that large areas are being compared, large enough to cover the shoulders. I prefer a fair bit of colour area, which gives more pigment to work with (one of the reasons white is difficult, not a lot of pigment).
Does Dark Autumn have any pink that is flattering?
Where is lawnmower guy when you need him? If medium-light vintage coral rose is too -ish to be pink, then no.
Are there Winters who look better in the softer colours and distracting in neon/synthetic?
Yes. As in cotton or crepe over satin, and also Yes, in less intense colour in the same Season for other reasons, such as the nature of the colour, proximity to a neighbour Season, individual colouring of the person, and so on.
Texture has much to do with how we see colour and how it behaves when dyed. In testing situations, we want to separate the Brights from other Seasons, and shine is one way to do this for how it mimics the natural reflectivity of colour and light in these Seasons. Shine tends to add lightness, sharp highlights (near white), and slight warmth (depending on the colour source but in a testing environment, lighting is full spectrum), which are more compatible with Bright Seasons than other Seasons they might be compared with.
In our regular lives, we don’t wear shine, synthetic, or neon every day, although on Winters, it looks fairly normal, meaning it can integrate into the appearance without tipping the balance, becoming apart or the only thing others see. If the palms of your hands were painted in balanced colours and you held them in front of your face, they’d be about even distance away from you, without the need to move one back or forward. Part of physical balance is pushing the right and left sides of the body against one another with equal force or pressure; colour balance is similar in that contributing colours are able to exert equal pressure or tension towards one another. Warmth and value have their say, but overall, synthetic and neon colour tend to balance better with Bright Season or Winter level colour saturation.
Are there Dark Winters who look superb in blackest navy and iced beige?
Yes. Cool beige, like steely beige.
Iced or icy colour is light colour created with pure, unmuted colour (possibly also transparent pigment, but that may apply more to paint artists), plus a cool-bias white. The icy colour may be nearer white or have more pigment, and may eventually tip over into pastel depending on the original colour, and if gray or a warm-bias white were added. A cool (green bias) yellow and white would never become pastel since both pigments are cool.
The cool and warm bias of colours, which I mention in the answer to question 1, is a brilliant way to talk about primary colours and colour wheels. If an artist chose the right 3 primaries, I imagine they could create an entire Season palette. The neutrals would come from the same contributing colours at lower intensity, and complements can create gray, brown, and black. I don’t paint but love reading books about paint and pigments like some folks love looking at cookbooks. Artists seem to feel the same limitations with warm and cool terminology, and look for other ways of talking about colour.
Pastels can be quite light but wouldn’t tip over into icy because of the softness. We see apparel in stores in very light dusty nude pink, and though I imagine it would qualify as pastel, it seems too light for the value range of Summer colours or too desaturated for any Season, and when worn in a large area or next to the face, looks washed out. Stick with your palette and practice the demo your colour analyst offered for knowing what will belong and look great with it.
Have you ever met a person whose natural colouring is very contrasting – like light skin, medium eyes and dark hair and the PCA result will be Light Summer or a Season that is not typically contrasting in colours?
Or those with dark hair, black-brown skin and dark eyes who look best in bright colours and light or icy colours?
Or if someone had a chestnut hair and wore a dark olive green that flatters her hair but the skin is just OK, not glowing?
Not enough specific data points to answer. We run up against the limits of verbal descriptions. In one word, say, violet or asphalt, everyone has a different idea. As the description adds more detail, the confusion multiplies. The descriptions above show colour perception and an awareness of how people are coloured, but words are too general whether they number 5 or 500.
Season is not about what we look like. It is about how we react to colour.
But let’s agree to an average picture of the people in the 3 examples.
In the first two instances, yes, that person is easy enough to imagine depending on the particular colours. Light Seasons can have darker hair than we expect conceptually speaking and in our world of blonde hair dye. If the darkest palette neutral colour were placed on their head, it might look quite dark. Dark-looking hair next to light-looking eyes is one of Light Spring’s variations.
In the third example, hair, eyes, and skin analyze together in the same way, meaning they react to colour in the same way. At times, natural hair colour may be surprising, for example intense ginger or platinum, examples of natural harmony that make sense in the final Season. Once I look at the colours in the right way, meaning an analysis environment, and ask the right questions, I have never seen the person coloured out of harmony or whose features respond differently within their own Season. The features respond differently to the various Seasons tested along the way, of course, eyes better here, shapes lost there. The colour analyst understands how to use her drapes, pick up the clues along the way, and join them together into a cohesive Season.
Glowing skin. I had to think about this one for a bit. It’s not a parameter we test or measure, but we could say evenly coloured skin along with other effects that do or don’t happen. I perceive myself as the ultimate medium person and could never see my skin (or myself) as glowing, which serves only to highlight the importance of self-perception on the part of our clients, and probably something colour analysts must also learn about themselves. For any product, consumers deserve to know what they are buying and can expect, and it’s our job to inform them. This is harder to do with services than say, dishwashers, and humans being humans, emotions, hopes, insecurities, and aspirations worm their way in. If a relative told us from the time we were 12 that our skin is too pink or whatever they came up with, that perception is locked in. The expectation of glowing in every colour may be too generous for certain mindsets (mine are explained above in question 5.)
Is it possible to wear colors that are lighter or darker than your contrast and flatter you? Or there is always a connection with your contrast level and your colours?
If you repeat the hair and eyes colour in clothes in a clever way – same hue, saturation and value – will it flatter most of the people you’ve seen?
Yes and Yes. Repeating one’s apparent contrast level (the reader means the light-dark separation between hair, skin, and eyes) can look great, as if our apparel is a continuation of us.
Two “However,..” situations come to mind. One, our apparent contrast level may not be our actual contrast level and needs testing to be sure. Second, repeating this colour combination daily may begin looking predictable, like a uniform. I see a Season like colours on an artist’s palette, formulas and yet capable of so much expression.
Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed that the question refers to value (light-dark) contrast. There are many types of contrast, all fascinating. Colour contrast refers to a colour’s position on a colour wheel relative to the other colours. The further apart, the higher the contrast. Yellow with yellow-green is low in colour contrast. Yellow and violet are high. Colour contrast might also refer to the relative intensity of the contributing colours, for example, a bright colour and desaturated neutral might be high contrast.
Just saying, be playful, like a child given your palette as building blocks. They’re not worried about formulas or approval. I’m not so good with rules; take me to a store to find light blue and you’ll find me over studying the blacks. I’d rather be wrong than rule-bound or perfect because it meant I was reaching. There’s room for both.
Why do so many analysts put clients into Spring and Summer if the person is darker than those Seasons?
I cannot answer this since I’m not familiar with other systems of PCA.The drapes and the method lead the analyst to the conclusion. We’d have to stand side by side and analyze a client to answer this question, but I assume differences in decision-making criteria.
Different systems are different. In another analyst’s system, their answer might have been 100% correct. Bright Winter doesn’t mean the same thing across the board. In the application of your palette, stay with the system that analyzed you.
I might say that different results are not random in my experience. There’s always a reason. They saw something, they knew what they were doing according to their method, and once our process is complete, we most often know what it was they saw. These clients understand their colours well because they’ve learned to really see themselves.
Have you ever met any Bright Spring who is not flattered in Light Spring and True Spring colours? Or do they share a lot colour?
Bright Spring and True Spring share a lot. Light Spring is is some distance from the highest interpretation of Bright Spring. The analysis process builds the image over a sequence of comparisons. Along the way, you see certain features become exceptional in some way. The final Season gathers the threads together in one place. To end up in Light Spring means some clues may have been missed or dropped along the way.
True Spring? Sure, much easier to imagine. Quite often, we take one step back from an ultimate we’ve never seen. It’s hard to believe in what we couldn’t have imagined, at least in the first exposure. The analyst walks alongside and builds the story with you, but we respect that, having sat in it ourselves, the toughest seat in the room is the one in the mirror.
How far is Bright Spring from Dark Autumn? Both contain Winter but you wrote in the post, Please no Colours, that Dark Autumns often think they may be Bright Spring. What causes it in your opinion?
Thank you to my friend Susan for the spring thaw image.