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Makeup Color Theory

Updated on February 12, 2016

Makeup Color Theory | Beauty School Blogger

Color Wheel

The low down on Color Theory

Understanding how color works is a very important part to makeup application.

Primary Colors are the fundamental colors that cannot be obtained by any mixture. There are only three primary colors, Blue, Red, and Yellow.

Secondary Colors are made by mixing equal amounts of two primary colors. Yellow + Red= Orange. Yellow + Blue= Green. Red + Blue= Violet.

Tertiary Colors are made by mixing equal amounts of a primary color and a secondary color, but they must be right next to each other on the color wheel.

Another concept that is very important with makeup is called complementary colors. Complementary colors are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.
When mixed together these colors cancel each other out to create a neutral brown or gray color, but when you place complementary colors side by side you make both colors seem brighter, which gives a greater contrast.

You usually want to base the color of your eye shadows looks to be complementary to your eye color.

Cool and Warm Colors
In order to be a makeup artist you must know the difference between cool and warm colors.

Cool colors suggest coolness, and are dominated by blues, greens, violets, and blue-reds. But reds can be both cool and warm. If the red is blue based, it is cool. If the red is orange based, it is warm.
The same kind of thing can happen with greens. If a green contains more gold, then it is warm. If a green contains more blue, it is cool. Whenever most colors have a blue base, they will always be a cool color.

Warm colors range from yellow to gold through the oranges, red-oranges, most reds, and even some yellow-greens.

There are three main components to consider when picking colors to use. These three components are skin color, eye color, and hair color.

Skin Colors Warm Cool
Light Skin Yellow, Gold, Pale Peach Pink or slightly reddish (rosy) undertones
Medium Skin Yellow, Yellow- Orange, Red Olive (yellow-green)
Dark Skin Red, Orange-Brown, Red-Brown Dark Olive, Blue, Blue-Black, Ebony

For a person with a light skin tone, you can use light colors for a soft, natural look, but using medium to dark colors will give you a more dramatic look.

For a person with a medium skin tone, medium colors will create an understated look, but by using light or dark tones will give you more contrast and appear bolder.

For a person with a dark skin tone, dark colors will be most subtle, but medium to medium-light or bright colors will be vivid.

If you want to use a color that is lighter than your skin tone, look for translucent, shimmery colors.

Have you ever wondered why certain people look better in specific colors? Or why they continue to wear the same colors over and over again? It's because certain colors go well with that person's skin tone, eye color, and hair color. You have to think about all of these things when choosing clothing and makeup, as well as when you want to change your natural hair color.

There are so many people in this world who do not pay attention to the simple rules of color theory, and the things they put on make them look washed out, or like a hussy! So you really need to be careful with what you wear and what coloring you wear on your face as far as makeup goes!

So keep an eye on what you are buying, you'll thank me when you finally get the hang of color theory. And you will get more compliments than ever, when you use some of these easy to follow rules in your everyday life!


Do you look better with Warm, Cool, or Neutral tones?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I know about foundation base color according to skin tone . I need to know about this

    • Rebecca Furtado profile image

      Rebecca Furtado 

      5 years ago from Anderson, Indiana

      Great piece. We all need a color wheel.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      wear do u buy this at

    • profile image

      Munsell Color 

      6 years ago

      Great article here! Color theory is an excellent source in terms of make up. Your insight here really speaks well to other areas of color use as well. Whether it's make up artistry, fashion design, web design, or even home design, color is truly where the magic begins. Great post!

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great job

    • profile image

      EPRO makeup & fashion school! 

      6 years ago

      Such an amazing article- thank you for putting emphasis on the importancy of Color Theory in makeup and fashion! So many forget that THIS is where the magic of makeup begins- so we focus a lot on that with our students- and it truly makes a difference.

      If anyone is holding a dream of becoming a professional makeup artist, but just don´t have a professional school near by or can´t go class everyday due to work and/or family- don´t worry, we have designed a certificate program especially with you in mind:

      keep up the great work!

      Much Love,

      Tove Epro

    • profile image

      marthese grima 

      6 years ago

      thankyou for the information as it helps me to understand better the colour wheel theory

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      where can I buy a colour wheel like this one?

      many thanks

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great info and i think this is what people need to know.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This theory helped me a lot in understanding importance of colours in make up. Thanks.

    • profile image


      8 years ago



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