Discover Your Colours – Warm or Cool?


 personal colour analysis
In honour of my new colour system (The Absolute Colour System of 18 colour directions) that I’ve been working on for the past few months, which has finally arrived from the printers, I thought that I’d do a week on colour concepts.  Why does colour matter so much?   It’s the difference between looking your healthiest and best, to looking washed out and unwell.  Have you ever had the experience when people ask “are you feeling OK?” when you feel just fine?   That’s the colour not doing you any favours.   The right colours will liven your complexion, make you look healthy, draw attention away from your butt up to your face (making you look slimmer and taller), make your eyes pop and your skin glow, no need to pack on the makeup or tan (fake or not) to look your best.
 how we see colour
How does it work?  Back to physics 101 – as illustrated in the picture above .  So what is happening is that the colour is reflecting – as I always think of it like the Buttercup Principle – when you were a kid did you ever put a buttercup under someone’s chin to see if they liked butter?

Everyone’s chin glowed yellow (because of the reflection of colour), so every colour that you wear is reflecting onto your skin, whether it is flattering or unflattering is related to various pigments in your skin such as carotene and melanin.

 The first step in any colour consultation is to work out if the client is warm or cool in their colouring as this one step can have the biggest impact on choices of clothing, hair colour and makeup.
Just knowing warmth or coolness will determine the makeup palette you choose (makeup is more general, less colour specific than clothing, we tend to wear softer, less intense makeup colours than we choose in our clothing).
For best results, get a mirror and place in on a window sill in good natural (filtered) light, not direct sunlight. If you dye your hair, tie it back or clip it off your face (sometimes I need to cover hair as the dye colour is unflattering and distracts from what the colours are doing to the skin).   Now wearing a white top so that your clothing doesn’t distract from the colours place just under your chin a few layers of coloured fabrics, a warm version, then a cool version of the same colour – Olive Green/Pine Green,  Orange Red/Cherry Red,  Coral Pink/Hot Pink,  Gold/Silver (see pic for colour ideas).
Watch your face (not the colours), quickly move the warm colour away to reveal the cool colour, it’s at the moment of change that you will see the biggest difference in the affect of the colour on your skin.  Often it’s easier to see on someone else, so ask a friend or family member to help you (or of course see a professional).
What you need to look at is the areas around your eyes – does the colour bring out shadows and dark circles or make them disappear?
Look at around your mouth – do you appear to get a 5 o’clock shadow (not something any woman I have met wants) or not?  Sometimes the chin can go a bit green too with unflattering colours.
Look at your face as a whole – does your complexion look more even and bright, or does it look florid, or washed out?
These colour can only tell you so much, you’re just trying to determine whether you’re warm or cool, once there you will then need to figure out other factors like intensity of colour and best depth of colours, but this is the all important starting point.
If you would like my professional opinion on your colours (as well as your body shape) that’s all part of my 7 Steps to Style program – go check it out now!


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • Thank you so much for your post on colours. My mom took me to a "Color Me Beautiful" party in the 80's, and I could not be placed into any of the seasons. Over the years, I have tried to figure out where I belong in the Warm or Cool groups. I do have bluish undertones in my skin, but also have a yellowish tint to my fair complection. I look forward to trying your color groups!

  • Several months ago I was lucky enough to have an expert advise me on my best colors. Since then, it's been very exciting to try colors I had previously discounted and it's opened up a world of new possibilities (although budget constraints have limited my experimentation lately.) And yes – Imogen was the amazing expert who advised me! She really knows what she's talking about.

  • I have had this done quite a few times – I have been warm, cool, bright and now soft. No one can definately "call me" warm or cool. I pretty much sit in the middle without much contrast. I do however always find this interesting 🙂

  • I'm definetly going to try this one.
    Wonderful post. Thank you very much!
    Are you thinking about coming to Toronto?I would love to attend a seminr with you.

  • I need to take these colors and make them into full screens. Then I can just hold the laptop up to my face:). I am almost certain however I am cool colors, since I don't like anything with yellow in it ever.

  • I recently found out that I am a winter, and I look really good in bright reds, blues, teals. I am now trying hard to reconcile this with my love of grunge, distressed fabrics, etc.

  • Anoymous – the seasons are way too constrictive – I am cool (undertone) but have a yellow overtone. I've often seen clients with a warm undertone, yet a pink overtone. Don't let the overtone throw you – it's a different way of looking at yourself and colour.

    Doll – thanks! I'm glad you're having fun looking at new colours (even if it's just window shopping!).

    Vicki – I notice you're in Melbourne – I'd love to figure out what you are – can you email me – I am doing a training and need some models for my students to drape if you're interested.

    Nurmisur – Sorry not coming to Canada this year (as far as I'm aware!). There are some great consultants there though.

    LPC – ha ha ha – and that lovely blue glare from the screen will be so flattering!

    Ranksubjugation – you never have to wear bright colours even if they suit you – you could stick with neutrals – and you can still distress a coloured fabric. I'd be interested in seeing your colouring – would you like to email me a photo?

  • I'm with Dollcannotfly, I had a very similar experience and am really enjoying experimenting with all of my new colors particularly in the realm of nail polishes. I still miss my pastels but I look better without them.

  • This is great. I always think I know that cooler, muted colors suit me best but i'm never really sure…
    I know for certain that black isn't doing me any favour close to my face, though.
    I've had this: are you feeling fine? question going on several times… and I'm sure it was color related, so I'm really looking forward to your series of posts!

  • Ooh, this is going to be a great week!! I love messing around with colour.

    Like so many others I was "done" in the 80s (even worked briefly as a colour consultant myself) and was a Spring. Two (crikey, nearly 3!!) years ago Imogen revealed me to be 'dusky cool deep'. And what a difference it has made. I would heartily recommend everyone who's not sure to have a personal consultation – it really does make a difference with a trained eye.

  • I´m cool ;). I have always felt attracted by cool colors. I did have an analysis done many years back and still have the color chart I got. There are colors that I´m not fond of, never had them, maybe never will. I think that discovering your colors goes far beyond your clothes. I tend to choose colors from my color palette for my interior decoration also. Since I have a family, and my hb slips to the `warm´side, deciding colors for the home is challenging.

  • Great! Thanks for guiding us in the colour world!!! It is going to be a great week! I did the exercice with the pieces of clothes to find out if I am cold or warm. With some colours, it seems clear, for instance with the greens. The emerald green makes me look healthier than the bluish green. But then with the reds it gets more dificult. Maybe cause red is allready a hot color? It seems that the cold reds suits me as well as the hot ones (…). Question: In the case of blues, I know bright turquoise is good on me, but then lilac blue looks also good. Wich one are the hot one? … LOST

  • This is such a complicated thing. I have about the pinkest skin on earth so am a cool, but I have reddish brunette hair and blue eyes with gold flecks, so I'm an autumn. (And have been typed as such by a professional.)

    I do think I look better in some warm colors – wearing fuschia makes me look like I have a big red nose, while wearing a muted warmer shade calms all that pink down – but I have no idea why that's so.

  • I tried this, and although I can see the change in skin tone when I hold up different colors, I really can't tell which ones look better on me! Is it possible to be "neutral" and look good in warm and cool colors?

  • Very interesting articles!

    This is a subject I always have a hard time getting a grasp of. I can say that when I was in my 20s & 30s, I would get compliments every time I wore periwinkle, light pink, pure blue based red and black. Medium brown, which I wore for years, turned out to be one of the worst colours on me, made my complexion look terrible, older, ruddy as well as emphasized every flaw. Lime green is also terrible on me.

    It was quite enlightening to me when I had my hair coloured a reddish brown and stopped with a brown jacket I had been wearing to death. Suddenly everyone was commenting on how much younger I looked and how my complexion & skin coloring appeared so different and lovely.

    I hope I can figure this out now.

  • I, too, am confused by the seasonal colors concept. I have medium golden brown hair, brown eyes with gold flecks, and pale skin that used to tan well but now burns. My veins look blue at some times and green at others. I'm most often complimented when wearing burgundy/wine, lavender/lilac, baby blue, aquamarine, peach, coral or vivid-orange/red. I tend to prefer wearing most any shade of green, chocolate brown, mauve, turquoise, teal, royal blue and indigo or violet, and cosmetics in plums/peaches/browns. Chocolate brown is my go-to neutral. If I must choose, it's ivory over true white, charcoal gray over heather gray, and gold over silver. I live in Korea and can tell that some clothing/cosmetics here designed for Asian skin tones really do not suit me! Any guidance for me?? Perhaps I should try your suggestion with the fabrics. . .

  • Even though I'm a natural redhead with more brown than red (but still a bit of red) to my hair, I fall under a similar type to Imogen — my skin's overtones may look warm.

    However, a friend and I discovered a few things.

    1) Silver enhances me over gold. Two silver shirts that I held against my skin, looking into the mirror at my local Wal-Mart, gave me a glow and hid a burgeoning pimple I had. However, I tried the one gold shirt against my face and gold had the opposite effect on me — it made my face look very pale and exaggerated the burgeoning pimple, among other things.

    2) If silver enhances me, then it would stand to reason that cool colors would as well. To me, that's so true. I can easily do black near my face, but not brown. Camel makes me look sick, like gold, and brown does absolutely nothing for me. I have yet to try a soft sky blue shirt near my face, but with my high contrast, I would say that the soft color would wash me out as well.

    So with all this, I can't really see how all redheads should be either a Spring or an Autumn when I (among others) do not look good at all in Spring or Autumn colors. So I'm interested in finding out about this new development.

    • I only now came across this post, hope not toooo late. I have fair skin, greenish eyes and my hair is dark brown, but in sunlight often shines red. I too believed I was warm, but never liker gold, nor looked well in brown or orange. A friend of mine was very helpful in realising I was actually cool, Winter in season analysis. Moreover, Carole Jackson in her book wrote about cool complexion of dark brown hair with red shine. I know her concept is mostly abandoned, but to me it was helpful. Best regards, Jelena

      • I have a niece who has pale skin, red hair and blue eyes. So I see her has having cool skin (and maybe cool eyes) and warm hair. I find the season system would probably place her as a spring but I think that she is more complex than just warm (hair) and light (skin). The season system really doesn’t work for her or other pale skinned redheads! Everybody is different and the colors that suit them are also individual. Also my skin changes color (tans) depending on whether is it winter or summer. Thanks for the post Imogen

  • Samantha – interesting – I've never yet met a natural redhead who has cool colouring. I'd be very interested to see a photo of you (feel free to email me one) to see your exact colouring. The natural pigments in red hair usually combine with a higher carotene pigment in the skin. Otherwise the red hair can make the skin look ruddy.

    Gold and silver are often not the best to drape with as they can be too extreme – I'd be interested to see the differences with greens and pinks.

  • Imogen — I tried to email you the pictures I took a few days back, but all I got was the fail message from my email system. I used the one that you provided in the Contact page (or something like that), and my emailer sent my the fail message.

    This is one reason why I don't think you could be able to tell the difference when I wear a green or a pink shirt because both tones of green or pink that I have are cool, not warm. The green is manlier since it's a men's tee shirt I was given several years back. Maybe I need to buy a warm pink or warm green shirt to show for sure?

  • Hi Samantha, the files may be too big to email through – maybe make sure it's under 1gb – imogen at bespoke image dot com dot au will also get me.

    You don't need to buy, just go shopping and try on a variety of colours to see.

  • Hello and I love your website. Can you take one more question about undertones? I have been analysed all seasons except Winter. My eyes are blue with golden brown flecks, and my face has both pink and yellow coloring. My eye lids are pink and lips are tan pink. When I dress in cool colors my face is too pink, in warm colors I look jaundiced. I typically reach balance by wearing cool clothing and makeup and gold jewelry. Have you ever heard of this? What on earth season am I?

  • Hi Imogen. When I was younger, I was told I was autumn (blue/gold eyes, strawberry blonde/blonde hair, and pale freckled skin). I know I should wear the colors on the left, picture above, but I am always more attracted to the colors on the right! Why is that?

    • There are lots of reasons why we psychologically like certain colours – we may have had great experiences or terrible experiences where a colour was around us or related to a specific person. We remember 70% of a message via colour alone so colour influences us. We can still have all the colours we love in our life, we just might look better when the colours we wear are the flattering ones, but you can decorate your house however you choose!

  • Hello Imogen,

    I’m very glad I found your blog. I nearly have the same “problem” as Samantha. I’m quite confused by the seasonal system and very unsure what colours to wear.
    My hair is golden blonde with a reddish touch, but not as “light” as a typical spring’s hair. My hair is a mix of thick coppery hair and light blonde thin hair. My skin is very fair, translucent, thin and more neutral than really warm or cool. I think I have warm undertones but there is a lot of pink too. My freckles are light and yellow-beige-brown. My eyes are more aqua & teal than blue but I think clear. My lip colour is a warm but decent fleshy coral. I look good in teal, some greys, green, aqua and peach but peachy shades have to be very clear – if not I look dull and tired.
    I’m too clear for autumn but too warm for summer. So it might be spring but I feel that spring is too intense for me. And yellow and orange does not much for me – I think. I thought about a spring-summer blend but I’m not very into pastels. What can I do? And undone I miss this springlike glow about me, I look more like Rupert Grint! *g*

    • Romy – I don’t use the seasonal color systems but will do some posts on colour to help you. Colour is really something that is hard to figure out on your own without the tools of a professional colour consultant.

  • Thank you Imogen for your very quick reply!

    I have to admit that I’m a little sceptical towards consulting a professional because I’v seen so many wrong results. And I’d like to understand my colouring myself so that I’m more independent from fans and systems. Do you know what I mean? And I’ve made “progress” so far but there is still something missing, this kind of “wow-effect” that makes everything perfectly clear. 🙂

    • Romy – I think it probably depends on which consultant you see and their expertise and the system they use. All a fan or a system is is looking a colour properties and putting them together in a coherent and scientific way – well that’s what mine are!

  • Hey, Imogen.
    I’ve started looking into the `colours I wear` issue when what I just loved (brown, for instance, or black) got bad reactions from people. Also when I noticed that despite my big blue eyes and big pink lips, I never stand out in pictures. I started with a red jacket, which worked for a while, just because it was so unusual for me. Got to pastels and pink, which I found too much. Ended up stuck on grey, rose-pink and navy-blue. Very recently I found the seasonal colour analysis on the Internet, figured I might be a soft summer..; ash brown hair, it sometimes gets reddish, grey-blue eyes. As for my skin, it looks fair, with a bit of pink, but still hazy, neither cool, nor warm. I guess the overall looks quite velvety, not clear, not cool, not warm. Even though my eyes are blue, so cold, and my hair is brown-red, so warm, on a fair, but not cool skin, I still do not see contrast. Do you think you could help me?

    • Alexandra – you’d need to send me a photo as even though you have a great description I need the visual to give you any sort of direction. Sounds like you’re warm, but just warm and probably smoky rather than bright.

  • Thank you, Imogen, for the quick reply. I just took a picture of myself again, and hmm…I look so pale in this one.
    I used the light of day, took it just in front of the window. I`ll send it, I am sooo curious :).

  • By using a grey scale, I determined that my eyes are medium blue, my skin and hair are similar in value. Also, I took clothes from my closet which were too cool and they will be delivered to a woman’s shelter this week. It is great to have fewer clothes to choose from, a contrast from my former beliefs. Next, I will sift through my scarf collection to choose those to keep and which would also be donated. Your blog is the best on color I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us.

  • Hey Imogen!

    I have green eyes with flecks of blue
    I have pale pink toned skin and I blush easily
    I have a lot of freckles
    I suit silver more than gold
    I look good in black and royal blue
    My veins are blue toned more than any other colour

    I would really appreciate it if you took the time to work out what I should dye my hair to to flatter my skin and eyes.

    Thankyou soooo very much!!!

    Love Rebekah xx

    P.s. What undertones and overtones should I have done in my hair ?

  • Colour is so interesting, but it’s the psychological stuff behind it all that really does my head in!

    I was typed years ago as a Spring (in the old Colour Me Beautiful system), but I never felt comfortable with the colours I was given. They just seemed garish and OTT to me. Further to that, I remember the books all saying that Springs should wear delicate patterns and that girlishness, ruffles and frills all go with the Spring type – yet I’m six feet tall and an ex-athlete! Everything felt wrong, and went against who I am and how my body shape actually looks (colouring aside).

    Then there was the sheer difficulty of finding Spring colours at all – I’m really tall, and have enough problems finding clothes that fit in *any* colour. Often I simple don’t get a choice in what colour to choose because when you’re six feet tall there is only one colour option – or none 🙁 Looking for chocolate and tan just wasn’t going to happen.

    I shoved the swatch I was given in a drawer after briefly dabbling with the bright colours and finding I felt awkward and just *not me*. Black took over everything and I still wear mostly black today. Which actually seems to look okay on me – not great, but okay. Not as awful as I was told it would look, that’s for sure.

    So here’s my questions – how does colour relate to personality, if at all? Are there “toned down” versions of the seasons that we can choose to account for personality, size and bone structure?

    Am I going to look *bad* if I ignore the whole “Spring thing” and maybe choose the stronger, brighter colours from the Winter palette, which at least feel much more like *me* and work with my size and scale? Is it possible that the whole concept of colour typing just doesn’t work for some people?

    I’d really love to hear your thoughts 🙂

    • Personality influences everything you wear. I don’t believe that your colour group tells you anything about your personality. Is suspect you were given a bum steer about your colouring all those years back – sadly back then there were few options. These days there are so many more to choose from. The only way colour relates to personality is how you choose to wear your colours. So some like a bright look – and you can create that by mixing highly contrasted colours. Others like a subtle look, or neutrals or pastels. You can choose the colours that suit your personality from every swatch really. I’ve written some posts on colour personality here – have a search and a read and tell me what you think.

  • Can you please help me? I can’t tell whether I am cool or warm.
    I have blue eyes, fair skin and brown hair.
    I have golden brown freckles, blush easily, burn in the sun, but can tan a little if I am careful. The veins on my wrist appear to be both greenish and purplish.
    My hair is a pale to mid brown, which I have always thought of as mousy. It can have both silvery and golden highlights.
    Am I neutral? And do you think I could dye my hair red? I have always wanted red hair.
    I am so confused, if you can help, I will be so grateful.

  • Also, I wear most colors, except for bright oranges, greens and yellows because I personally don’t like them. Nobody has ever commented that something looks bad on me, though I often get compliments when wearing my favorite warm pale blue color.

  • I think a lot of ladies get confused about colour typing because they still believe there is a colour combination that says Winter or Spring etc – i.e red hair and brown eyes equals Autumn, light hair and pale skin equals Summer – this is all nonsense Even Colour me Beautiful now ignores all this and goes for draping as the only conclusive proof of what group you are in. So two people might have very same colouring, but actually be in different groups – it is how the individuals SKIN reacts with DRAPING that determines your colour group nowadays, not your actual colouring. I do wish ladies would give up this, I have pale blond hair, green eyes ect, so what group am I? Cover your hair and do some testing, but be warned, it is very difficult to do on yourself, as all sorts of things come into play – what colours you prefer, what you’ve worn before, what you fancy being – difficult to be objective about yourself. Don’t buy clothes for a while, save up and get some professional draping!

    • Yes skin is the most important factor, but you still need to take hair into account as it is usually the factor that tells us about our ideal value – how light or dark the palette that works best for us should be. This is why I don’t cover hair (unless the hair colour is a bad dye job that is totally distracting). You need to take all features into account.

  • Hi Imogen!

    I have very light skin and light blond hair. Usually my skin is a bit pinkish and hair almost ash blonde. However, on those rare occasions when I get tanned my skin turns yellow and my hair golden blonde. I usually go for silver in jewellery – though I think both silver and gold suit me – but when I’m tanned gold looks great on me. Is it possible to change from cool to warm depending on my tan?

  • I’m still trying to figure out if I’m cool or warm. I’m fair skinned with a yellow undertone, have golden blonde hair, but very cool blue eyes. Does all this make me warm? And if so, is there something like being just a little bit warm?

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