Color analysis (art)
In the cosmetics and fashion industry, color analysis, also called skin tone color matching, personal color or seasonal color, is the process of finding colors of clothing and makeup to match a person's skin complexion, eye color, and hair color. The goal is to determine the colors that best suit an individual's natural coloring and the result is often used as an aid to wardrobe planning and style consulting. Color analysis was most popular in the early 1980s.
There are a wide variety of approaches to analyzing personal coloring. The most well-known is "seasonal" color analysis, which places individual coloring into four general categories: Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. More recent systems subdivide the seasons into 12 or 16 categories. Many different versions of seasonal analysis have been developed and promoted by image and color consultants worldwide. Some color analysis systems classify an individual's personal combination of hair color, eye color and skin tone using labels that refer to a color's “temperature” (cool blue vs. warm yellow) and the degree to which the hair, skin and eye colors contrast. Color analysis demonstrates how colors are capable of being flattering or, conversely, unflattering. Colors that are unsuitable for the individual can make a person look pale, for instance, or draw attention to such flaws as wrinkles or uneven skin tone.
One practical application for color analysis is that by limiting wardrobe color choices a person will likely find it easier to coordinate his or her clothing and accessories, thus possibly saving time, space and money. However, color analysis can also be costly for the individual, both in regard to the fees of professional and less than professional analyses, and subsequent clothing and cosmetics purchases. One problem is that there is no standard training or degree required to market oneself as a color analyst. Color analysis is a marketing ploy, which has been controversial since its beginnings.
- 1 Early History of Color Analysis (1850s-1970s)
- 2 "Seasonal" skin tone color matching for clothing and cosmetics
- 3 Prominent systems of "seasonal" color analysis
- 4 Systems of contrast analysis
- 5 Color psychology
- 6 References
Early History of Color Analysis (1850s-1970s)
Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786–1889) was a French chemist and superintendent at the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris. He wrote four treatises on color, making him the authority on color theory in the mid to late 19th century. His principles of successive contrast (an afterimage effect) and simultaneous contrast (how two colors next to one another will mix in the mind's eye) had a significant impact on the fine and industrial arts. In the 1850s, Chevreul's ideas on color harmony were prescribed for an American audience lacking any education in color harmony. Godey's Lady's Book (1855 and 1859) introduced "gaudy" American women to Chevreul's idea of "becoming colors" for brunettes and blondes.
Albert Henry Munsell (1858-1918) was an American painter, teacher of art, and the inventor of the Munsell color system. He had visited the tapestry works of Chevreul and studied color in France. Munsell classified colors according to value, hue, and chroma. Value is the lightness or darkness of the color. Hue is the pure color, and chroma is the colorfulness or intensity of the color. After Munsell's death, one of his sons took over his business and started the Munsell Color Foundation. By the 1920s, a color revolution had occurred in the U.S.A. with the development of new color industries, including also the production of color swatch books used as a marketing tool.
Johannes Itten (1888–1967) published The Art of Color in 1961. He was a German-born artist and art educator who expounded upon the principles of simultaneous contrast which Chevreul set forth in his 1839 treatise. Itten proposed the notion of "subjective color," which he discovered while teaching a class assignment on color harmony in 1928. The students chose colors, lines and orientation that showed themselves "as they are." To Itten, subjective color is "the aura of the person." For example, a high contrast brunette will choose dark colors and high contrast, "suggesting a lively and concentrated personality and intense feeling." On the other hand, for a fair woman of low contrast the "fundamental contrast is hue." He links these subjective colors to the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter and notes: "Every woman should know what colors are becoming to her; they will always be her subjective colors and their complements." Itten believed that "subjective colors" were of a lower artistic value and significance than what he deemed "objective colors," color harmonies of a higher order.
Dorr and Caygill
Robert C. Dorr (1905-1979) was an American artist who observed, in 1928, the harmonious effects of paint colors when using the same undertone of either blue or yellow. In 1934, in Chicago, Dorr began working on furniture design using his own color theory of undertones and developed his ideas on color psychology. He worked on a textile group for a manufacturer, after which he began working as a professional color consultant for cosmetics companies. Dorr created the Color Key System using color palettes where an individual's complexion is either cool (Key I) or warm (Key II). Those who are Key I have blue skin undertones, hair colors, even blue-white teeth, while Key II individuals have yellow skin undertones and hair colors, and creamy white teeth. The Color Key Program consists of two palettes divided into blue or yellow undertones, Key I and II, each containing 170 colors per fan. In Key I, orange is not represented in the palette, whereas in the Key II palette, magenta is missing. Orange and magenta are the color indicants of yellow and blue undertones. Dorr's Color Key Program took all races into consideration and no race was limited to any one Key palette. After moving to California in the late 1950s, Dorr taught courses and gave lectures on his Color Key Program until his death in 1979. The color company Devoe Reynolds originally developed, in paint chips, their Key 1 & Key 2 color matching system from Robert Dorr. According to Bernice Kentner, Dorr is the originator and "unsung hero" of color analysis.
Suzanne Caygill (1911–1994) was an American fashion designer and color theorist who developed the Caygill Method of Color Analysis. A milliner, poet, dress designer and night club singer as a young adult, Caygill turned her attention to color in 1945 and worked the rest of her life creating individual style guides and color palettes for clients and teaching design seminars. Caygill may have been influenced by her association with Edith Head, wardrobe designer and consultant to Hollywood studios and stars. She was likely influenced by Robert Dorr's Color Key Program, already in popular usage when Caygill began focusing on color more intently. Dorr and Caygill were also both working in interior design and color psychology in the late 1940s and 50s. In the 1950s, Caygill starred in a self-improvement television program on fashion and relationships, "Living With Suzanne," which aired on CBS in Los Angeles, and began to teach seminars in which she described her work on style, personality, line, and color. Many devotees attended her classes, adapted and popularized her theories of personality style and color analysis in the late 1970s and 80s. In 1980, she published Color: the Essence of You and established the Academy of Color. In this book, Caygill identified a wide range of sub-groups within each season, and gave them descriptive names such as “Early Spring”, “Metallic Autumn”, or “Dynamic Winter”, each with its own set of special characteristics. Caygill believed in the fundamental link between style, color and a person's personality. The Suzanne Caygill Papers, Circa 1950-1990, are held within the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library, Cornell University.
"Seasonal" skin tone color matching for clothing and cosmetics
Starting in the 1970s, the availability of high-quality, accurate and inexpensive color printing made it possible for the first time to produce books for the mass market in which skin tones and clothing colors could be accurately reproduced. The result was the near-simultaneous publication by a number of authors of books proposing systems of color analysis designed to allow the reader to "discover which shades of color in clothes complement your natural coloring to look healthier, sexier and more powerful."
The authors of these books all present roughly similar ideas. Most agree, for example, on the following basic points:
- Most rely upon a color system in which the colors are divided into four groups of harmonious colors which are said to match with the four seasons of the year. The seasons are, to some degree, arbitrary, and it sometimes happens that someone will be on the cusp of two seasons. But, as Carole Jackson insists, "with testing, one palette will prove to be better [more harmonious] than the other." Jackson also acknowledges, however, that the reference to the four seasons is nothing more than a convenient artifice: "We could call your coloring 'Type A,', 'Type B,' and so on, but comparison with the seasons provides a more poetic way to describe your coloring and your best colors."
- An individual's basic color category, or season, remains the same over his or her lifetime, and is not affected by tanning, because "[w]e still have the same color skin, but in a darker hue."
- Skin color, rather than hair or eye color, determines a person's season. Bernice Kentner warns, "Remember, do not rely on hair coloring to find your Season!"
- A person's color season has nothing to do with the season of his or her birth or favorite season of the year.
Prominent systems of "seasonal" color analysis
A large number of color guides have been written since the 1970s. Unfortunately, as Alan Flusser notes in Dressing the Man, "their methodology was ... tortuous in detail and demanding in time...." Moreover, many of the books—and many of the associated color analysis websites that continue to exist to this day—were intended merely to be an entry-point to understanding color. The reader, it was hoped, would make further investments by ordering color wheels on which to determine the shades that looked best on her, or by attending seminars or workshops where a professional would review color swatches with her.
The section below attempts to provide this information in a more comprehensible and usable manner, outlining each author's system separately, but using the same set of subheads in the same order for each, in order to allow comparisons between them.
Deborah Chase, The Medically Based No Nonsense Beauty Book (1975)
Chase explored the impact of skin pigments on coloration. She noted that there are three primary pigments that give the skin its color: "Melanin, which gives the skin its brown tones; carotene, which imparts the yellow skin tones; and hemoglobin, the red pigment in the blood, which gives the skin its pink and red hues....The three pigments--melanin, carotene, and hemoglobin join one another to produce our flesh tones."
Bernice Kentner, Color Me a Season (1978)
Bernice Kentner, who had worked as a licensed cosmetologist since 1950, began holding lectures on color analysis in the early 1970s, and in 1978 published Color Me a Season, which went through several printings in the early 1980s.
Like Chevreul and Suzanne Caygill, Kentner drew her ideas from the art of interior decorating. She wrote, "It is possible to color coordinate your home so it is pleasing to the eye....So it is with the human body. The body itself is the background for all color that will be placed upon it. It remains our task then to find what color scheme our bodies fall into. As with the walls of a room we must determine what color our skin is." Kentner also drew on the ideas of Johannes Itten who linked the subjective colors of an individual to one of the four seasons.
Kentner emphasizes that it is skin color rather than hair or eye color that serves as the base from which a color analysis must start. The color of a person's skin determines whether that individual should be classified as a Summer, a Winter, a Spring, or an Autumn. This can cause confusion, because the color of the hair may be the first thing that strikes the observer's eye (particularly if the hair color is dramatic). Thus, "even though [one palette of] colors work best for [a particular person's] complexion, the individual may look like another Season because of haircoloring....I call this their secondary Season." The color of the hair and eyes serve to heighten the appeal of certain color choices for clothing and makeup, and to rule out certain other choices, but all such choices must be made from within the palette that is compatible with the shade of the skin.
To illustrate this point, Kentner offers the example of a woman whose dramatic hair color suggested that she ought to be an Autumn, but whose skin color made her a Winter. When the woman was "color draped" in swatches from the Winter palette, "she came to life", and looked considerably more attractive than she had been when wearing Autumn colors. However, one of the colors in the palette was incompatible with her hair, and was determined to be inappropriate for her wardrobe.
Dominant skin characteristics (an individual's skin may include more than one): "cool with rose undertones"; "may appear almost white, yet the skin will be a bit darker than the very pale-skinned 'Summer'"; "not the transluscent look that a 'Summer' person has"; "Rosy cheeks will not appear naturally on a 'Winter' person"; "Dark-skinned 'Winters' are usually olive-skinned with a blue undertone." 
Dominant skin characteristics (an individual's skin may include more than one): "very pale"; "It is the Summer person's lot in life to never have a suntan"; "transparent"; "fine-textured"; "light with a rosy-red or lilac undertone that does not come to the surface"; "not prone to blushing"; "The overall look of a 'Summer' is colorless".
Dominant skin characteristics (an individual's skin may include more than one): "Light amber with gold tones"; "darker suntanned look with a yellow undercast"; "There is a tendency to blush easily"; "often very rosy"; "there is a lively appearance to skin-tone"; "The overall appearance of 'Spring' is 'Radiance'".
Dominant skin characteristics (an individual's skin may include more than one): "gold or yellow undertone"; "more gold or orange-toned than a 'Spring'"; "Bronze".
The Suzanne Caygill Method
An analyst trained in this system relies on an in-person interview which reveals a range of clues. The most important indicators are the color, light, texture and pattern found in the skin, hair and eyes. Texture, color contrast levels, movement patterns, and facial and body characteristics are secondary indicators that help to determine basic seasonal type and subgroup within the season. Experienced practitioners also often observe predictable personality types and preferences that correspond to a person's seasonal group.
The palette includes colors that are pure pigments, or pigments with added black, or with so much white added as to create an icy, frosted pastel.
Palette colors are usually clear washes or tints, pigments that have white or water added.
These complex palettes may have a blend of black, white, grey or brown added to their pure pigments, creating a wide range of subtle differences.
The palette is dominated by undertones of natural brown pigment, which may range from ochre, umber, or burnt sienna to browns darkened with black.
With this system, almost any color can be found within each season, and many palettes include a combination of both warm and cool tones. The result is nuanced, individualized and unique to each person. The outcome of the analysis is a palette of fabric samples which complement each other and reflect the client. They can then be used as a guide to simplify selection of clothing and accessories and may also be used in choosing home and office interior colors, fabrics and designs.
Carole Jackson, Color Me Beautiful (1980)
The most successful book on seasonal color analysis was Carole Jackson's Color Me Beautiful (1980). The book was a 1980s pop-culture phenomenon and spawned a number of related sequels, including Jackson's own Color Me Beautiful Makeup Book,  and Color for Men, (1984), as well as titles in the same line by other authors. Jackson utilized a seasonal color system less complicated than Caygill’s, and sought to assist each reader to find her own "thirty special colors." [Carole Jackson was the first of the "color analysis authors" to create a retail success story based on her highly successful books, selling swatch packets (a wallet designed to house fabric swatches by season) for use as a shopping companion, a successful line of cosmetics and seasonal color swatches Color Me Beautiful, and a direct selling company Color Me Direct featuring Color Analysis as its key home selling strategy. Most recently Color Me Beautiful has acquired the Color Alliance system which employs the use of color coordinates, designed to match eye color, skin tone and hair color; and through the use of computer modeling creates a unique color palette for each user.]
Dominant skin tones (an individual's skin may include more than one): "Very white", "White with delicate pink tone", "Beige (no cheek color, may be sallow)", "Gray-beige or brown", "Rosy beige", "Olive", "Black" (blue undertone)", "Black (sallow)".
Dominant skin tones (an individual's skin may include more than one): "Pale beige with delicate pink cheeks", "Pale beige with no cheek color (even sallow)", "Rosy beige", "Very pink", "Gray-brown", "Rosy brown".
Dominant skin tones (an individual's skin may include more than one): "Creamy ivory", "Ivory with pale golden freckles", "Peach", "Peach/pink (may have pink/purple knuckles)", "Golden beige", "Rosy cheeks (may blush easily)", "Golden brown."
Dominant skin tones (an individual's skin may include more than one): "Ivory", "Ivory with freckles (usually redhead)", "Peach", "Peach with freckles (usually golden blonde, brown)", "Golden beige (no cheek color, needs blush)", "dark beige, coppery", "Golden brown."
Mary Spillane and Christine Sherlock, Color Me Beautiful's Looking Your Best
Spillane and Sherlock introduced an expanded classification system, in which the four "seasonal" palettes were expanded to twelve.
Veronique Henderson and Pat Henshaw Henderson and Henshaw combine the seasonal analysis method with a classification system based on contrasts in an individual's coloring, returning to the previous color study from Doris Pooser in the early 1990s.
Systems of contrast analysis
In an attempt to move away from the complexities involved in seasonal color systems, some authors have suggested that it is possible to achieve attractive results by focusing instead on the level of contrast between a person's skin tone and his or her hair and eye colors.
Donna Cognac, Essential Colors
The principles of repeating one's contrast level as well as the color temperatures and intensities that compliment their personal coloring are combined in a system developed by Donna Cognac. It relates 16 different color harmonies to the energy of nature's five elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. Palettes are various combinations of these 5 elemental energies. For example, any palette with a very bright appearance or a very warm overall color temperature is a Fire palette to one degree or another and is consistent with the essence of the wearer.
Joanne Nicholson and Judy Lewis-Crum, Color Wonderful (1986)
Another method of analysis was developed by color consultants Joanne Nicholson and Judy Lewis-Crum, whose 1986 book Color Wonderful  explains their classification system, which is based on the amount of contrast in an individual's coloring.
Alan Flusser, Dressing the Man (2002)
Flusser lays out two relatively simple rules:
- The degree of contrast between the wearer's skin and his / her hair and eyes should be reflected in the degree of contrast between the colors in his / her clothes. "[The] great variety of shadings ... can be scaled down into two basic formats: contrast or muted. If your hair is dark and your skin light, you have a contrast format. If your hair and skin tone are similar, your complexion would be considered muted or tonal." A high-contrast individual should dress in clothes with highly contrasting colors. The result will be that the "high-contrast format [of the clothing] actually invites the eye to look at [the wearer's] face because of its compatibility with his [dark] hair and light skin." By contrast, "Encasing a low-intensity complexion within a higher-contrast setting dilutes the face's natural pigmentation in addition to distracting the viewer's eye."
- One or more of the tones in the skin and hair should be repeated in an article of clothing near the face. One option is to repeat the color of the hair in a jacket, tie or scarf, in order to "frame" the face: "The obvious choice of suit shade would be that which repeated his hair color, thereby drawing the observer's attention to what was bracketed in between--in other words, his face." Flusser uses a series of photos of models to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve attractive results by repeating the eye color or the skin tones in clothing articles that are close to the face, and that it is even more desirable to use several colors in the clothes to match some combination of skin / hair / eye colors.
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Color psychology, an extension of color analysis, is a valuable tool that is used in conjunction with the analysis of colors. In reality, the psychological connotation of a color has nothing to do with its effect upon the color of one's face or the results in the mirror. It is necessary to consider both the physical impact color has upon your appearance, and the impact a color has upon the unique persona that one projects to the world.
- 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 colors of this season are muted with blue undertones (think of looking at the scenery through a dusky summer haze). Late summer blossoms, a frothy ocean and white beaches are seen everywhere. Baby blue, slate blue, periwinkle, powder pink, seafoam green and slate grey are typical Summer colors.
- 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 Millais personifies the color of autumn.
- The colors from this season are clear and icy, like a winter's day; always with subtle blue undertones. To name a few: hollyberry red, emerald and evergreen, royal blue, magenta and violet. Winter inspires pictures of winter berries, pine green conifers and black and white huskies racing through snow.
- Hiliker, Jo Ann; Rogers, Jean. "Color Analysis in the Market Place". Clothing and Textiles Research Journal 6 (3): 26–31.
- Blaszcyk, Regina Lee. The Color Revolution. MIT Press. p. 41.
- Blaszczyk, Regina Lee (2012). The Color Revolution. MIT. ISBN 0262017776.
- Johannes Itten, The Art of Color ISBN 0-442-24038-4
- Itten, Johannes (1961). The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color. New York: Reinhold Publishing. p. 25.
- Itten, Johannes. The Art of Color. p. 25.
- Itten, Johannes (1961). The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color. New York: Reinhold Publishing. p. 32.
- Knapp, Renae; Dorr, Dee (1985). Beyond the Color Explosion: The Color Key Program. Rainy Day. ISBN 978-0961534608.
- Kefgen, Mary; Touchie-Specht, Phyllis (1986). Individuality in Clothing Selection and Personal Appearance. Macmillan. p. 359.
- Colby, Barbara. "A Fail-Safe Color Selection".
- Kentner, Bernice (1981). A Rainbow in Your Eyes. Concord, CA: KenKra Publishers. p. 5.
- The Suzanne Caygill Papers, Circa 1950-1990, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
- Color reproduction technology was still not perfect, causing Carole Jackson to warn her readers, "Because it is difficult to print the color swatches 100 percent accurately, ... verbal descriptions will help you understand the concept of your colors when you shop for clothes." See Carole Jackson, Color for Men. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984, p. 61.
- From the front cover of Carole Jackson, Color for Men. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984.
- Carole Jackson, Color for Men. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984, p. 57.
- Carole Jackson, "Color Me Beautiful". New York: Ballantine, 1980 (revised version, 1985), p. 25.
- Bernice Kentner, Color Me a Season, p. 26.
- Bernice Kentner, Color Me a Season'
- Alan Flusser, Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. New York: Harper Collins, 2002, p. 19.
- On p. viii of the Preface to the 1983 fifth printing of Color Me a Season, Kentner notes that she has "been involved with Color Analysis for a decade or more and 33 years as a licensed Cosmetologist".
- Color Me a Season, p. 24.
- Kentner, Bernice. Color Me a Season.
- Color Me a Season, p. 31.
- Color Me a Season, p. 25.
- Color Me a Season, p. 30.
- Color Me a Season, pp. 26-28.
- Color Me a Season, pp. 28-29.
- Color Me a Season, p. 29.
- Chrisman, Sharon and Lundell, Coralyn, Color Basics/Color Principles, Colour Designers International (2003)
- Caygill, Suzanne, Color: The Essence of You, 1980, Celestial Arts, ISBN 0-89087-195-7
- Carole Jackson, Color Me Beautiful ISBN 0-345-34588-6
- Color Me Beautiful Makeup Book, ISBN 0-345-34842-7
- Color for Men, ISBN 0-345-34546-0
- The front cover of Color Me Beautiful contains the promise, "Whatever your style or mood, you'll glow in your thirty special colors!" Carole Jackson, Color Me Beautiful. New York: Ballantine, 1980 (revised edition, 1985).
- Carole Jackson, Color me Beautiful, p. 47.
- Carole Jackson, Color me Beautiful, p. 49.
- Carole Jackson, Color me Beautiful, p. 53.
- Carole Jackson, Color me Beautiful, p. 51.
- Color Me Beautiful's Looking Your Best, ISBN 1-56833-037-5
- Joanne Nicholson and Judy Lewis-Crum, Color Wonderful 1986 (ISBN 0-553-34238-X)
- Alan Flusser, Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. New York: Harper Collins, 2002, p. 21.
- Alan Flusser, Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. New York: Harper Collins, 2002, pp. 21-22.
- Alan Flusser, Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. New York: Harper Collins, 2002, pp. 24-33.
- Sandy Dumont, Tattle Tale Looks ISBN 978-0-9801071-4-2