Following on from my blog post on Understanding Colour – Tints, Tones and Shades, Sherilyn asked me:
When considering what colors look best on a person, (I look best in tinted colors) should one go outside that range for contrast…say a tinted blue blouse with a chocolate brown suit….or should one try and stay with in their best range a tinted blue blouse with a mint suit? Sherilyn
Tips on How to Mix and Match Colours
Whether you want to mix tints, tones, pure colours or shades, you want to think about mixing colours of a similar value (lightness or darkness) and those with the same colour properties (tints with tints, shades with shades, toasted with toasted). By mixing colours with similar properties (or resonance) together, you are creating a harmonious colour scheme.
As you can see from the picture above you want to mix all light colours together and then create your contrast level using a neutral. Below are options of mixing pure colours, toasted colours and shades – just to help you get a visual picture of how colours with similar properties work so well together.
Pure colours are bright and look best with other more intense colours and neutrals.
Toasted colours are warm but softened by brown (take that pure bright warm colour, pop it in the toaster and soften the colour down a touch).
Shades are colours with black added.
You can see that by mixing colours with a similar property, they look much more related and harmonious, rather than mixing a tint with a shade or a pure colour with a toasted colour, it just won’t work as well. In fact, that is one way of creating a colour scheme that clashes.
If you want to know the colours that suit you best, why not do my 7 Steps to Style program that includes a personal colour analysis from me (no matter where you are in the world). You’ll discover if you are better in tints, tones or shades. Whether you have a warm or cool undertone, plus you ideal contrast levels so that you can create outfits that harmonise with you and make you look fabulous.
Wow, that is an extraordinarily useful explanation! I had a wee lightbulb moment – hadn’t truly understood the link between the contrast level and the neutrals before! I’m in the toasted colours (been assessed as exotic, though zesty was close second) but I’m still trying to understand my contrast level. Medium I think (auburn/toasted ginger hair, medium blue/grey eyes, pinky beige skin with brown freckles) I feel a bit washed out in low contrast.
Rachel – so glad that this has helped! You sound Medium contrast from your explanation.
Thanks Imogen :0) and Oops that should have been “spicy” as a close second!
Im not sure why, but when I choosing colors I would never wear same intensity when it comes to pure bright colors or pastels. I often pair these with “toasted” colors to downplay them. Like a taupe top with black trousers and bright red blazer, I feel that that a bright blue would look too overwhelmed, not that it looks too much on me, just because Ive never liked the look of 2-3 brights together (on anyone) unless one is accesories. If wearing blue with red, I prefer a dark muted blue with it.
One guess is that this has something to do with my personal style (the color personality post you wrote long time ago), because I love wearing one dramatic color with more subdued earthtones or classics. Pastels, I love wearing with cool earthy tones like babypink with burgundy. (overall, I must have an ecclectic style but with a classic silhouette because I often break these type of guidelines…ankle booties with longer skirts, clashing color properties etc). 😛
Sounds like you are wearing the more neutral version of the dark colours.
So can burgundy, olive, stone, plum, slate-blue, petrol (deep teal) etc be treated like neutrals? These are the typical colors I usually wear with pastels and pure colors, but not always matching the undertone (e.g. plum with coral and the rest of the outfit in black/beige/navy/brown etc. 😛
They can to a certain extent – when they are darker – they usually act as neutrals.
This & the linked post are so helpful! Would you please provide a fuller definition of “toasted”; I think I’m in that group but it doesn’t seem to be color mixed with black or white. Love your blog; completely unique and fun too! Cheers, TinaPete
To create a contrast level can any neutral piece of clothing be used or does it have to be only bottoms?
Any neutral piece. Just using bottoms here as an example
Imogen, thank you for this post i found it helpful to see the colours in action, so to speak. Good guidelines and ideas for colour combinations. I like medium colours rather than pastels or very dark colours, problem is i am a spring pear and wear dark colours on bottom and like to wear lighter brighter colours on top so i probably wear more med to high contrast. Does this mean i need to wear darker tops to be more low to medium contrast?
Robyn – not sure what your contrast level is – you can be a spring and have a high, medium or low contrast level – there are no rules as far as seasons and your contrast. It’s to do with colour of skin, hair and eyes. Any light/dark combination becomes high contrast. If you have fair skin and hair but medium eyes – then a medium contrast. It’s only if you also have very light coloured eyes as well that you would go for a lower contrast.
Imogen thanks so much for this post. I am not real sure how to pull all the rules together, I am still trying to learn that but this post definitely helps. I’ve recently questioned whether I am warm or cool in coloring as I have been pegged both ways,(ironically cool when I was younger, and warm now, but I believe I am medium contrast (Medium dark brown hair, very fair skin, pink cheeks and light eyes that vary from usually gray or steel blue but can appear teal or green yes they really do change colors). I was told that you can tell if you are warm or cool by looking at the veins in your wrists to see if they are blue or green I have one that looks blue and the other green. I do know that the lighter colors flatter my face, not my figure that is why I was curious how dark a contrast I could pull off for my (problem areas)my guess would be a medium contrast color then right???
I never look at veins! I’ve seen people with warm faces and cool arms! I go with the skin on the face as that’s what makes us look healthy or unhealthy. You may be just warm, rather than being very warm.
Just remember, even if you’re wearing lighter colours, wear lighter on the area you’re happier with and slightly darker on the problem areas. And yes – medium colours work for all, and a medium contrast can be worn by all!
This post is fantastic. I’m a low-medium contrast depending on what I do with my hair. My one “concern” is that I feel darker colours are better for my shoulders (V-shape) and more professional -however I know lighter trousers are better for V-shapes. I’m a cool winter and personally prefer the look of say patterned trousers vs white trousers as they really stand out. Darker bottoms =smaller below. How can I work around that?
Patterns, even if they are darker will draw more attention they are a great substitute for very light bottoms. Also, you don’t have to go really light on bottom and really dark on top, just think about one being a bit lighter or darker than the other.
Thank you so much
This is so beautifully explained. Thanks!
Imogen, a post from a while back, but can you please enlighten me…?
1. you say and demonstrate above:
‘Whether you want to mix tints, tones, pure colours or shades, you want to think about mixing colours of a similar value (lightness or darkness) and those with the same colour properties (tints with tints, shades with shades, toasted with toasted).’
but if I am high contrast (and bright and cool), why could I not mix colours of a different value, ie bright dark purple and light bright turquoise together (then add a light or dark neutral)??
2. (other query)
lots of black people are really dark skinned, dark haired, dark eyed, but all of them have white teeth (or at least much lighter colour than their skin/hair) and there’s the whiteness of their eyes, so are they in actual fact always high contrast?
3. don’t know if you’ve seen this film: Confessions of a shopaholic, but I am a bit puzzled about how suitable that green scarf is for her…(see pic below)
that green seems to be the exact same colour that I would go for, in fact one of the colours I have identified as my signature colour. but I have cool and bright colouring and the actress most certainly is warm, as has red hair. isn’t green meant to be the colour that ‘should you get it wrong, it will make you look ill’?? it doesn’t make sense, it can’t be her colour and my colour too. what do you think?
thank you v much!
1. They just don’t work together as well. Try it and you will see. Look at interior design as well – you will see the same concepts used.
2. Depends – sometimes yes, sometimes no. Many don’t have bright white teeth, and the whites of their eyes may be dull. Depends on the person.
3.You are right that is a cool green and neither that or the cobalt blue she is wearing work for her colouring.
1. you teach me something new everyday!! will try to see for myself, but I have already taken your word for it…
a. what about black and white? both bright but one’s dark and the other light, many dresses/tops mix them as a pattern (or does pattern count for less), but also the classic white blouse, black blazer – not so good then? or this only applied for colours, and black and white count as neutrals?
b. high contrast no-no then, how about medium and light or medium and dark? (let me guess, slightly better, but still not great? ie it should be dark-dark, or light-light or medium-medium?)
c. I assume with jewellery it’s not a problem, ie (all bright and cool) light coloured jacket, different colour but still light blouse, one dark neutral skirt but the necklace and earrings can be either dark or medium or light colour (but should be bright and cool)?
2. I guess some are high contrast, others more medium. low contrast though is unlikely though I assume?
3. funny how in a film like this they ignored such things. same goes for dressing celebrities. they can appear in such incongruous colours sometimes, they are in dire need of ‘Imogen Lamport expertise’…
Such good illustrations, Imogen. I learn something useful from every post you share. I have fair, warm skin with lots of pink in cheeks and lips. I identify with Sherilyn’s changeable eye colors. I am looking forward to hearing from you re my Signature Colors in my Intriguing palette!
Very clear post. I wonder as well: what about mixing clear colors and shades, tones with tints etc? Or mixing colors with different levels of warmth/coolness? I know, staying within ones palette is perfect, but it’s so hard when you don’t see those colors often! And I want to be able to wear some colors of my second best and third palette also, esp. on my lower body where it matters less.
It is much more tricky to mix different intensities, and you can mix warm and cool to a certain extent if they are both the same intensity and value. It’s easier to mix a neutral of a different intensity with your colour.
Hi Imogen. Reading one of your latest posts, and following links as I normally do, lead me to this post. If I am high value contrast (light skin, dark eyes and hair), would I choose the high contrast clothing as above ? ie. The light skirt with a dark top. According to another article you wrote about personal value contrasts, I should be wearing one colour with a neutral, all neutrals, or monochromatic. But I can’t grasp if that’s a light and dark mixed or something else. Please help xx Regards, Barbara
You want light and dark together if you are high value contrast – now if you are neutral with one colour – you can wear a dark neutral and light colour (or a light neutral with a dark colour). Or if you are going monochromatic – using blue – then a light blue with a dark blue.
Thank you. That makes a lot of sense 🙂