The Undertones of Colours

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I sometimes describe colours as being really warm or only mid warm or even just a little warm and I’ve been asked to share some pictures so you can see the differences.

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In this picture I’ve taken three colours and moved them from the really warm through the mid warm, via a little bit warm to a little cool and onto medium cool before ending at really cool.

Can you see that there is more yellow making up the colours in the garments on the left of the picture, whilst more blue in the ones on the right?

The problem with the early seasonal colour systems is that they took all their colours from the extreme right or left as far as undertone went, rather than having options for people who are closer to the warm/cool divide. There are many people who are less obviously warm or cool, and they struggle figuring out where they sit within any of the less nuanced colour systems.

You may also find this post on undertones, colour and ageing useful.

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15 Comments

  • Thank you for clarifying this concept with a picture. I can see the gradual difference. I feel like I am towards the middle of the spectrum leaning towards the warm side. For some reason the greens and blues are the most difficult for me to determine but now I will look for a yellow or blue undertone.

  • Thanks so much Imogen! I think I can now identify which colours are warm or cool, but since you introduced the pures, shades, tones, tints – that can be a bit more challenging for the amateur! Looking at these colours above, I guess at the end of each spectrum, there’s the pure colours, in-between softer/toned down versions!?

  • There are many people who are less obviously warm or cool, and they struggle figuring out where they sit within any of the less nuanced colour systems.

    Thank you very much Imogen. Yes, I thougt I was an extraterrestrial… ūüôā

  • Thanks Imogen, I feel like I am starting to get a better grasp on color theory thanks to your examples. In response to Susie above my understanding of tints and tones and shades is different than hers… Would you clarify. I thought tints were lighter having white in them, Tones or shades were deeper in color. Pure were just that…no white added no black, blue or brown added. I would love for you to expound!

  • Thanks so very much for displaying the color spectrum and clarifying this issue. I’m one of those who doesn’t fit neatly into any of the four original seasonal color palettes. My coloring is such that I look best in those colors that are in the middle of the spectrum; colors that are neither too warm nor too cool. It took me years to figure it out, and I feel so much better now that I know.

  • Thanks for all the time you put into each post to make things so clear.

    I cheat when it comes to some shades of green when my haircolor has more red in it. I have definite warm tones in my fair skin, but I like some of the greens that have a similar color as your sample photo, far right. Do you think I’m fooling myself that I’m carrying it off? I feel pretty when I wear it.

  • Thank you Imogen, I liked this post, I too struggle with some colours and can not tell if they are warm or cool , in particular greens and blues, for example the greens above all look good to me , i am warm, maybe if I put the colour nest to my face I may feel otherwise.

  • Dear Imogen, as always sucha a wonderful post
    thanks for lighting me up the week with precios information
    best regards,
    Francesca

  • Very interesting illustration. I believe I’m just-warm, and interestingly, from the above line-up, I’m pretty sure I look better in the cool browns, but warm red and greens. Does that make any sense?

  • Thanks. This was very helpful. I am not really on the warm / cool divide I am decidedly cool in most colors. I can do all three, silver, gold and rose gold in jewelry. But because of my brown skin with yellow undertones and very dark hair, I really struggle with yellows, greens and browns. The wrong one makes me look sallow. Because of your chart I realize I need warm to middle yellows but cool greens (like emerald). Cognac is my favorite brown, it is basically a nude for me. Any other advice for us in-betweeners?

  • Hi I’m really greatful for your blog and post which helped me discover my undertone
    I’m warm fair skin with brown hair and eyes I just want to ask I will dye my hair light blond or ash blond but can I wear the same shade of colors I’m wearing now with my brown hair as I’m warm undertone or should I lighten or darken the colors???
    Please answer me and if you have posts about this please linke them
    Thank you for your time

    • If you are warm, then don’t dye your hair ash blonde as it’s cool and will make you look washed out. Go more golden blonde. If you dye your hair light you will become light in value and need to wear lighter colours rather than darker colours. You can search up any question here on the blog using the search bar!

  • This gave me so much more clarification! I had the concept of value down, as it’s on a spectrum from light to deep, and intensity is starting to become clearer (no pun intended) especially after reading about tints, tones, and shades. I feel ridiculous for ignoring the spectrum that flows from warm to cool. I think I know where I’ve been going wrong with yellow and green all my life. And red/pink. I’ve had the intensity and value down, but assumed warm and cool were very limited. I’m not as warm as I thought, but I’m far from cool. The was a major color world revelation! I’m so excited!

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