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A Man's Guide to Color Part 2: Bright and Muted Tones

Updated on April 10, 2019

Bright or Muted

If you did the exercise at the end of the first article you now know whether you are a “cool” man or a “warm” man. If you did not do the test go back and do it now.

Part 1

Now What?

Now that you know whether you are warm or cool you should choose clothing that compliments your tone. Please notice I am not talking about your skin color. We are more concerned with undertones. If you have warm undertones then you should choose clothing that have warm tones. If you have cool undertones then you should choose clothing that is in the cool spectrum.

Think back to our color wheel in article one. We saw a pie shaped graph illustrating the various colors and how some colors were closer or farther away than others. Now think about your hardware store or big-box home retailers. Imagine you were going to paint your den or man-cave. You would not go to the counter and say “Give me a can of blue paint.” The sale person would ask “What shade of blue?” You might choose a dark, medium or light blue but this still would not be enough information for the clerk to mix your paint. They would point you to a shelf (or several shelves) and say “pick a color.” This is because all colors come in various “shades” of intensity. Some blues are more or less blue than others.

Notice on this wheel that the warmest warm is red and the coolest cool is blue. They are directly opposite each other on the wheel. On the outside of the wheel are colors that are more vivid and on the inside of the wheel are colors that more muted. It is easier to start with the vivid, rich colors on the outside of the wheel as these are the purest hues. If you are a cool and you try to wear a very vivid warm colored garment it simple will not look right against your skin. And the same is true if you are a warm and try to wear a very cool color. Wearing the wrong tone can make you look washed out. But we need to also consider the intensity of the color. If the color is very intense and your tones are muted it will appear “loud” and you will look ridiculous. We have all seen the woman with the bright lipstick that is too bright for her, right?

Bright or Muted? Intense or Soft?

You should have a basic concept of the warm and cool tones. Now we need to go to the next level. We need to determine if we are a “bright” or a “soft” person. Brighter colors are referred to as clear or pure while those less bright are referred to as soft or muted. This will determine whether we should be wearing more vivid, brighter colors or if we should choose softer, more muted colors.

Looking back at the color wheel, we said that the brighter colors are on the outside of the wheel while the muted tones are nearer the center of the wheel. So even if we choose the right tone or either warm or cool it still may not be the perfect match for us because of the degree of intensity.

People with softer skin tones look better in softer toned clothing and people with brighter skin tones look better with tones that match their brightness. Please understand, bright or pure is not better and muted and soft is not worse. That is not the point. What we want is to match our tone.

How can we understand intensity? Looking back at the color wheel, please direct your attention to the Red slice of the pie. Notice in the center of the pie slice that Red becomes darker and appears closer to orange and then in the very center of the slice, red looks lighter and ever closer to orange. This is what we mean by saturation. However, if we were to add the color grey to this same slice the colors would be softer or muted based upon how much grey we added.

Notice what happens when we reduce the saturation of the same wheel.



By the same token, notice what happens when we add to the saturation.

What About You?

Let’s keep this simple. Look in the mirror. Look at your hair, your eyes, and your skin color.

1) Dark: Is your hair Black, black-brown, chestnut brown, medium brown, dark auburn? Is your eye color black, black-brown, dark auburn, brown, dark green or dark hazel? Then you are a dark or deep person. And you should consider the more vivid, richer saturated tones.

2) Is your hair Light to blond or light red? Is your eye color medium blue or green, or light hazel? If so then you are considered a lighter or softer colors with more muted tones.

I am sure if you apply what you have learned in this article you will look better (which always makes you feel better) and you should receive more compliments, even if people are not sure why you look better. Who knows? Maybe you’ll pick up a few thousand more Instagram followers?


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