What is Color Analysis?

In a nutshell, color analysis is finding the colors that make you look better. As you will see below, the colors you wear can make you look happy or sad, dynamic or dull, ordinary or extraordinary, and even younger or older. Color affects us on two levels. It can make us look more attractive. It call also enable us to be perceived as more dynamic, credible or professional. So, color affects us both physically and psychologically.

Each of us is born with a unique, inherited skin tone. Color analysis is a simple procedure that will enable you to discover the colors that complement your particular tone. At the same time, you will see for yourself that there are also certain colors that work against your natural skin tones. They may cause your skin to look sallow, less luminescent or they may bring out dark circles, wrinkles and furrows.

In the past, a number of books on color analysis said that you can find your color category by looking at the color of your hair and your eyes. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When it comes to color analysis, skin trumps hair and eyes. In the wrong colors, your "blue eyes" do not get dark circles under them, your skin does. In the wrong colors, your hair does not get furrows or lines, your skin does. Of course, color analysis is concerned with achieving harmony with skin, hair and eyes; but this is another level when it comes to color analysis. The skin suffers the most in the wrong colors, and it has priority.

A History of Color Analysis

The first "color and image consultant" may have been Michel Eugene Chevreul (1786-1889.) As the director of the renowned tapestry firm, Les Teintures des Gobelins, Chevreul made it his business to know everything he could about color. In particular, he noted that colors interacted with each other when they were placed side by side. When viewed alone, however, the very same colors appeared quite different. When a client gave Chevreul a fabric swatch of her yellow curtains, for example, he was expected to incorporate that exact shade into the client's tapestry. Alas, when the carpet was completed, the yellow appeared not to match. However, when the yellow fabric swatch was placed next to the yellow pattern in the carpet, the two yellows did match.

Chevreul discovered that the yellow in the carpet had been influenced or manipulated by the other colors alongside it, so that it only appeared different than the yellow of the curtains. The curtains, of course, hung completely alone, so they were not subject to the influence of another color.

Chevreul further discovered that when looking at any given color, the eye simultaneously demands that the opposite or contrasting color on the color wheel be generated. Apparently the eye has a precise equilibrium, so that when looking at red, for example, the eye generates green, even though we are not aware of it. He called this phenomenon Simultaneous Contrast. In 1839, Chevreul published the findings of his meticulous and extensive research in a voluminous publication entitled De la Loi de Contraste Simultane des Couleurs (The Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colors). In a separate chapter devoted to research on clothing and hair color, he concluded that any color worn next to the face, including hair color, would affect the appearance of the skin's color.

The French Impressionists were greatly influenced by Chevreul's book, and Georges Seurat, in particular, became obsessed by Chevreul's theories with his Pointillism style. He learned to "manipulate" colors in his paintings and the mixture of the colors he used would very often take place only in the eye of the beholder, and not on the canvas. Van Gogh used many of the same principles, but his fiery temperament was not suited to the intricacies of pointillism, so he applied the theories in larger dimensions.

Two German-born artists and art educators who followed in the footsteps of Chevreul were Josef Albers and Johannes Itten. They expounded upon the principles of simultaneous contrast set forth by Chevreul, and Josef Albers (1888-1976) published Interaction of Color in 1963. Johannes Itten (1888-1967) had his book, The Art of Color published in Germany in 1961. The dedicated research of these artists, and others, actually blazed the trail for color consultants.

Color in the 20th Century

The concept of studying color in order to change and enhance the way we look was introduced in universities in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, when home economics teachers passed along the principles of color from art studies to their students. Until that time, only artists were concerned with the study of colors and how their appearance could be manipulated and changed.

A few decades later, Suzanne Caygill of California, regarded as the pioneer of color analysis and image consulting, utilized a color system that corresponded with the four seasons of the year. Suzanne Caygill was said to have been influenced by her association with Edith Head, wardrobe designer and consultant to Hollywood studios and stars. In 1980, she published her book, "COLOR, The Essence of You." Caygill used an elaborate version of the "seasonal" color theory, first noted by artists nearly a century earlier. She had sub-types within each season, for example. In her book, she attempts to match personality and body types with seasons and sub-types of seasons. She believed that a person's coloring at birth shaped and influenced his or her personality. For example, when writing about Autumns, she remarks, "The usually strong face will preclude any attempt on the part of an Autumn woman to appear "pretty." If she is pretty, this quality should not be emphasized, since it will not dramatize her personality."

The first popular book on color analysis, Color Me Beautiful, was published by Carol Jackson the same year that Suzanne Caygill's book appeared, 1980. Jackson also utilized a seasonal color system, but it was less complicated than Caygill's. There were a number of technical errors in this book, and for the most part, it was suggested that you "match your look." That is, blondes in pastels, redheads in orange or golden tones, and brunettes in black or other bold colors. Over the years, through practice and experience, most of the information in this book has been superseded.

There have been many Color Me Beautiful "copycats," with most consultants or companies simply changing the four seasonal color category names, increasing the number of color categories – or both. However, the division of colors into four "seasonal" categories, which was first suggested by artists a century ago, remains the most effective and logical manner for categorizing them.

About the same time that Color Me Beautiful appeared, another popular color company unwisely decreed that a fifth category existed. That category contained both Warm and Cool colors. Previously there were two Warm categories and two Cool categories. With the new category, a person could be characterized as having "Cool pink skin but Warm golden hair, or Warm golden skin and Cool black hair." Thus, it was determined that both Warm & Cool colors would look equally well on some people. Interestingly, the majority of people with "Cool black hair" are Asians, and it is extremely rare that they have Warm skin. They DO have sallow skin, however. Sallow skin picks up yellow tones easily when Warm-colored garments like orange and lime green are worn.

This company, and other emerging color companies as well, also placed a great deal of emphasis upon the amount of contrast a person has between the hair and skin. Amazingly, color consultants actually tried to make a determination as to whether a person's skin was warm or cool by using contrast factors. After that, things went from bad to worse, and many color companies now have as many as twelve different color categories.

It is often said today that if you go to three different color consultants, you could be classified as three different color types. The problem stems from the fact that there is very little information in print about the art of color analysis that is founded upon solid technical information. Every book on color analysis that I have in my possession is fraught with error and misconceptions. With each new book on color analysis and image consulting, the errors are compounded. It is rather like the Emperor's New Clothes, and no one has dared to say the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

Color Today


Color analysis has been practiced in the States for more than half a century, and it was in the early part of the 20th century that American Color Consultants began utilizing a four-color system that corresponded with the four seasons of the year. Art educator Johannes Itten had already noted this natural correspondence of seasons and colors for decades. He stated, "I have never yet found anyone who failed to identify each or any season correctly. This convinces me that above individual taste, there is a higher judgment in man, which, once appealed to, sustains what has general validity and overrules mere sentimental prejudice."

To simplify the choosing of your color category, colors are divided into four seasonal categories, and each one matches up logically and visually with a season of the year. Every color in existence falls into one of the four color categories set forth by Itten. By acquainting yourself with this logical division of colors, you will be able to put the information to use in other areas of your life...in decorating your home, for example. Your color knowledge will also enable you to be in less doubt when it comes to shopping.

It is important to know that your color season has nothing to do with the season of your birth, nor your favorite season of the year. It is simply a determination of your skin's basic color tone. It will fall into one of four color categories that is matched up with one, and only one, of the four seasons of the year. Your hair color may change over the years, but your color category at birth remains the same throughout your life. It may deepen with a suntan or yellow or fade with age, but you will always remain the same seasonal color type.

Every color in the world, whether it is your eye color, your clothing color or your furniture color, can be placed in one of the four seasonal color categories. The two brightest seasons of the year, spring and summer, give their names to the categories that contain the brightest colors; and the two seasons with less daylight, autumn and winter, lend their names to the color categories that contain muted colors.

SpringS P R I N G: Spring colors are clear and bright, just like the colors of a spring day. The sun is low on the horizon, so everything is imbued with the golden hues of the sun. The trees and grass have not yet matured, so they are tinged with yellow undertones and are a bright spring green color. Distinct yellow undertones impart a vibrant, electric appearance to everything. The colors of this season are truly like a spring bouquet of flowers enveloped in bright spring green leafy foliage: red-orange and coral tulips, bright yellow jonquils and daffodils. The VanGogh painting below exemplifies Spring colors.



Summer S U M M E R:
The colors from this season are bright and clear, not unlike a summer's day, but always with subtle blue undertones. To name a few: cherry red, emerald green, royal blue, magenta and violet. The grass and trees have matured and have no trace of yellow. The sky is bright blue, and white beaches and blue swimming pools come to mind in summer. Red roses, bright pink geraniums and violet, pink and magenta petunias are seen everywhere. Renoir's painting represents the essence of summer.









Autumn A U T U M N:
Autumn colors are virtually indistinguishable from the rich, earthy colors of the season for which they were named. They are as golden-hued as a fall day, and it is impossible to mistake them for any other season. Typical colors from the palette include pumpkin, mustard yellow, burnt orange, brown, camel, beige, avocado green, rust and teal. Autumn colors are perennially popular, because they bring a feeling of warmth and security. The painting by Peter Breughel personifies the color of autumn.




Winter W I N T E R:
The colors of this season have cool blue undertones, and most are virtually pastel versions of the Summer palette. Baby blue, slate blue, powder pink, seafoam green and slate grey are typical Winter colors. A number of the colors are suggestive of the season for which they were named: winter white and the myriad of icy colors such as icy blue and icy pink. Grey skies tinged with blue and mauve, and bare trees with a grey ghostlike appearance personify the colors of winter, as does the painting by Pissarro.




"I, Sandy Dumont, am the author of this article, "History of Color Analysis", and I release its content under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License