Understanding Warm and Muted Colours


Would you consider a blog on an explanation of the Enigmatic color swatch. I am particularly interested in why the colors are warm but should be grayed, which is cool. Hmm, is this part of the enigma?! I love the colors and meld into them when I find the right ones but have found them very, very difficult to find in fabric stores and women’s wear. 

The most important thing to learn, when you are learning about colours, is that all colours have three properties.

Think of each of these properties as a continuum and each colour sits somewhere between one end and the other.

3 Properties of Colour

The three properties – Value – Undertone – Intensity I’ve written about here.

The Enigmatic Palette

When you think about the warm, deep and smoky colours of the Enigmatic Palette – Where they sit on each of the continuums would look like this

properties of enigmatic

How to Mute a Colour

Both black and white are cool undertone, so when you add grey to a colour to make it more smoky, you take out both the intensity of the colour and reduce its warmth.  When you start with very warm colours and add grey, you don’t necessarily make the colours cool, you just cool them down some so they are still warm, but just warm instead of being right up the end of the warm/cool continuum.   If you look at the image above, take the very warm green and add some grey, will still be a yellow-green which is warm, just a muted version instead of a brighter one!

 There is another way to make a colour more muted and smoky. It’s to add the complementary colourComplementary colours

When you think about this – the complementary colour is the colour opposite on the colour wheel.  So if you are adding the opposite – this colour normally has the opposite overtone and will either warm up slightly, or cool down the colour as it removes the brightness, remember that blue-based colours are cooler and yellow-based colours are warmer in undertone.  Because you’re only adding the teeniest bit (you can try doing this with some paints to see how little you need to add to grey a colour down while still keeping its hue intact), it just subtly changes the undertone of the colour at the same time as it changes its intensity.

This is why the Undertone of Enigmatic (Smoky, Warm, Deep colours) is closer to the warm/cool divide, rather than being more obviously warm.

Enigmatic - smoky warm deep colours

Finding  Your Colours in Fashion

Just like any other aspect of fashion (which is a retail business, there to make money, not to make you look great or to provide you with exactly what you’re after), along with the shapes and styles of clothing changes, there are also trends in colours.  

You’ll know that I will share each year the Pantone fashion colours to give you an idea of which colours you’re more likely to see in clothes each year, and there will always be some variation in these colours by the time they reach the stores.  You’ll never get the full rainbow of colours in every palette at any one time, but in my experience of shopping with clients, there are always some colours from every palette available.  You just might not find the exact ones you’re after right now and may need to wait, or choose to overdye the clothes to bring them to the colour you’re after.

Enigmatic warm and muted colours

It’s important not to set your heart on finding a particular colour when you shop.  Instead, be open to the full palette of colours available and choose the best for you from what is around, knowing that in a season there will be a new palette of colours to choose from.  Over time you will build out the colours in your wardrobe as what flatters you becomes available.  This season it may be the pinks and greens, next season a couple more colours will become available.

Remember, the best wardrobes are built over time and not in one season or even year!

I created these two images above to show a range of the Enigmatic colours – which you can source locally as what is available in one store is usually available in more!

If you want to know where to get these specific items, you can find them here and here

If you want to discover your best palette of colours – you can get a colour analysis as part of my 7 Steps to Style program (which also includes body shape assessment along with all the other parts of the style puzzle) or just have one as a stand-alone service either in person or in person.

More Tips on Colour Selection

How Often Should You Re-Evaluate Your Style Recipe and Colour Palette

How to Pick the Undertone of a Colour

How to Pick the Undertone of Purple

How to Distinguish the Undertone of Red and Burgundy

Your Ultimate Colour Personality Dressing Style Guide


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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  • This is such a perfect post Imogen. Even though I do not have the Enigmatic Palette, the information is so useful and well explained that I can use it in understanding my own. As a newbie to the Sophisticated palette (from the Elegant one), I find learning about deep, muted colors important for my transition.

  • Lovely! This is the first time I hear about the enigmatic palette. Only knew about the seasons or undertone. Thank you! Are there any other palettes? Sophisticated was mentioned… I really Love to learn more about this.

  • Thanks, Imogen! I now have a word to describe my palette besides warm or cool. I struggled with this, because many years ago I had differing analyses. Back then, there were only four “seasons” to pick from, and I didn’t seem to fit any of them. None of those old systems addressed grey eyes. Thanks to modern tech, I was able to photograph my eyes and discovered rust and gold in my eyes. This is not apparent on casual observation. I gradually started moving to a warmer, darker palette. I realize now that it suits not only my coloring, but also the general satisfaction with my wardrobe. Well done, you!

  • I can see myself in the first selection of clothing but not the second as the second is much too warm for my ruddy skin. Does this indicate I belong in a different palette?

    • There are many different versions of warm – they relate not only to the undertone, but also the value – that is how light or dark the colours are – plus the intensity – how bright or muted they are – as well. You need to get all three aspects of the colours right!

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