Colour analysis: How to pinpoint the most flattering colours for you

If you live in muted tones or black, you could be missing a trick - often, colours can be flattering, slimming and make you stand out from the crowd.

It’s all about finding the best colours for you using colour analysis. But if you don’t fancy handing yourself over to a fashion stylist, how do you figure out which colours work for you? Never fear, we’re here to answer all your questions…We sought out the wisdom of personal stylists to help you find the colours that will best enhance your natural complexion and make you feel more confident.

What is colour analysis:

Colour analysis is a method of determining which colours of clothing and makeup shades harmonise with a person’s skin complexion, eye colour, and hair colour.

Celebrity stylist and lecturer at London’s Fashion Retail AcademyAnthony McGrath, said, “It’s useful to have a colour analysis with a stylist or professional colour analyst. In a nutshell you can use your skin tone (skin, hair and eyes) to determine whether you are warm/cool, and your overall colouring (so how dark your skin is and the colour of your natural hair) to determine light/dark.”

What skin tone am I?

If you regularly find yourself asking, “What colour suits me?” you need to start with the basics. The basis of colour analysis is figuring out whether your skin tone is warm or cool.

A couple of colour analysis tests can help you figure your skin tone out quickly and easily.

Personal stylist Elaine Davies said, “Look at the underside of your arm in natural daylight, if you have a pink or rosy undertone and blue tinted veins you have a cool skin tone. If you have a golden or apricot undertone and green tinted veins you have a warm skin tone.”

Still not sure? Try holding a piece of gold fabric under your chin (or trying on a gold necklace). Now do the same with a piece of silver fabric or jewellery. Which shade lights up your complexion and makes your eyes pop? If it’s silver, you’re cool. If it’s gold, you’re warm.

  • Cool skin tone

If you have pink or rosy undertones (like Angelina Jolie, Renee Zellweger, Lucy Liu or Halle Berry), your skin tone is cool, and colours with blue undertones will suit you best.

  • Warm skin tone

If you have golden undertones (like Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Heidi Klum or Beyonce), your skin tone is warm, and yellow-based hues will most flatter you.

Colour analysis based on your skin tone:

Once you’ve got your skin tone sorted, you can move on to asking, “What colour am I?”.

You might have heard friends referring to themselves as Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter types. But what does it all mean?

Well, if your skin tone is cool, you belong to the Summer or Winter family. If it’s warm, you have Spring or Autumn colouring. Some people span multiple groups, but one tends to be primary.

Read on to find out which colour family you belong to…

Summer colouring

If you have a cool skin tone, naturally ash-toned blonde or light-mid brown hair (with no red or gold highlights), and pale blue, green or grey eyes, you have summer colouring.

Winter colouring

If you have a cool skin tone, ash-toned medium to dark brown or black hair with no red or gold highlights, and deep blue, green or brown eyes, you belong to the winter family.

Spring colouring

Woman in mirror

If you have a warm skin tone and golden blonde or light-medium brown hair with golden highlights, you have spring colouring. Spring types may have a mixture of warm and cool elements to their colouring.

Autumn colouring

If you have a warm skin tone and red, auburn, dark brown or black hair with red, gold or chestnut highlights, you belong to the autumn colour family. If you are pale, you probably have freckles.

Can my colour change?

Have you had your colour analysis years ago, but now feel like your colour has changed over time? Your primary colouring remains the same throughout your life, but going grey, colouring your hair or even getting a tan can alter how flattering certain shades appear.

A tan may cause ‘spring’ brights to appear more flattering than usual, for example, whilst your go-to ‘summer’ pastels seem to wash you out – you may even wish to consider opting for a warmer hair colour to complement your holiday glow. As we age, skin and hair begin to lose pigmentation. This doesn’t change our natural colouring, but makes it even more important to know which colour family we belong to, so that we can choose shades which enhance, rather than drain, our complexions.

What colours suit me?

According to the experts, we can all wear virtually any colour – it’s simply a matter of figuring out which shades suit us best. Go too dark and your clothing will throw black onto your face, which “tends to widen and drop the jawline,” explains Polly Holman, an associate lecturer at the London College of Fashion.

Meanwhile, “a colour that is too light will throw white up onto your face and make you look washed out.” The darker your eyes, hair and skin, the bolder you can go. The lighter your natural colouring, “the paler and closer to pastels you should go,” she advises.

Colour analysis

However, knowing which colour family you belong to can help you to figure out exactly which hues will flatter you. Wearing one of ‘your’ colours close to your face will light you up and make your hair and eyes ‘pop’. Further down, though? Anything goes!

MORE: What body shape am I? A guide to body types and dressing different body shapes well

So, if you can’t bear to bin the black (which can cause shadows to pool in lines and crevices when worn too close to the face), invest in a coloured scarf. Read on to find out which shades you should be looking out for.

Summer

Teresa Chambers, a lecturer at London’s Fashion Retail Academy advises,”Summer types look best in soft pastels with blue undertones . Think light blues, pinks, yellows. Grey and blue hues (from pastel blue to navy) will also look great. However, yellow-based colours such as orange, tan, mustard, coral and salmon pink are less flattering, and pure white may wash you out, so opt for soft off-white tones instead.”

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Winter

Winter colouring calls for the boldest and richest of blue-based hues.

Teresa Chambers said, “Vivid, icy, cool and clear primary colours are great. Vivid blues, reds and golden yellows will complement your skin tone. Think scarlet red, fuchsia pink, royal blue, emerald green and deep purple. You can also get away with black, charcoal grey, pure white tones and deep purple.”

However, you should try to steer clear of muted pastels and yellow or orange-toned shades, including rusty browns and brick reds.

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Spring

Spring types suit warm ‘true’ brights such as brick red, coral, salmon pink and true blue. Beige and ivory hues will also flatter. However, icy pastels, deep tones and dusky or muted shades may drain you.

Anthony McGrath said, “Warm and delicate with yellow undertones are good for spring types. Dusky pinks, soft greens, neutral light greys are great. Although these types can also wear burnished oranges and deep purples and look fabulous.”

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Colour anlaysis

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Autumn

Anthony McGrath advises, “Rich autumnal colours flatter autumnal skin most, often with a warm/golden undertone, so think earthy reds, bronzes, rich browns, chocolate and burnished golds. Warm muted tones like olive and dark greens, terracotta red and burnt orange enhance autumnal complexions.”

However, you should be weary of insipid pastel tones and harsh brights. You can get away with navy, but other blue-toned hues might not work so well.

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Colour analysis

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How to work out if a colour works for you on the spot:

Stranded under fluorescent changing room strip lighting with little to no idea whether that particular shade of red counts as scarlet or brick? Don’t worry – simply try Polly’s ‘Blink Test’. Stand in front of the mirror wearing the item in question. Now… blink. “When you open your eyes, if you see the colour before you see yourself, then the colour is wearing you,” she says. “If you see yourself first, then you’re wearing the colour, which means it suits you.”