We all know about the color wheel. Red + Blue = Purple, and all that jazz. But did you know it can guide your makeup and fashion decisions? It’s true! And it works like this:
There are 5 basic approaches to the age-old question, “what color looks good with…?”
These are 2+ colors next to each other on the color wheel, which go together because they’re similar.
Orange, yellow, peach (orange/pink), and warm-toned brown unite her lips, eyes, and flower crown. Most people choose neutral tones because it’s easy to stay within a family of color, but it works for crossing boundaries, too- like red, plum, grape, and blue! It’s also the premise of the smokey eye- similar colors in different depths and shades.
One of the colors can be the star, or two can, or three- pretty much every combo of Analogous colors rocks, making them super easy to pull off.
These are colors on the opposite side of the color wheel from each other. Because these are so similar, they can each take an equal amount of weight in terms of the wearing of them.
Red and Green is the classic example. It’s why redheads look phenomenal in true green shades, too. The colors offset each other, making each look richly saturated by contrast.
These can be worn in balance with each other, or one color playing lead and the other playing backup. Complementary colors are universally recognized as such, so it’s a great way to play with a bit more color.
Split Complementary (an acute triangle of balance)
These straddle the color across the wheel, for a more subtle blending of multiple colors.
This gorgeous cloud cover has shades of blue and pink (splitting the complementary purple) and yellow.
As with Triad, and Square, this works best when one or two of the shades take center stage, and the rest play backup.
This balances three colors that are unlike each other but have a common spacing around the color wheel.
Classic Mardi Gras colors are triad- purple, green, and gold.
The trick is to pick one of these as the primary color in the triangle, and have the other two play supporting roles. Don’t try to balance all three colors equally in terms of how much space they get on your face, or it’ll turn into a hot mess.
Square (four colors that go together)
This is exactly as it sounds. It works exactly because of the spacing between each shade, though it’s not my favorite because it can get very busy.
Red, green, orange, and blue. Each color sets the other off, and they’re balanced so your eye isn’t bouncing around in confusion.
In terms of makeup, the easiest option is to make sure the colors are in all in the same brightness. Focus on one of the colors, with the other three playing support.
What do I mean by colors being support? Using one color as a liner, or a browbone highlight, or only on the inner 1/4 or outer 1/4 of your lid, or only in the crease, or as a colored mascara only, etc.
And, of course, playing with color theory in makeup isn’t limited to eyeshadow. There’s your lipstick to consider, the color of your eyes, your hair color, the undertone of your skin, and then of course fashion- your accessories, your garment, your shoes.
In upcoming Eye of the Week posts, I’ll point out what color theory I’m following, for more practical examples. Until then…what questions do you have for me?
I’m a coffee-fueled, hobby-addicted bibliophage who makes cruelty-free mineral eye shadows (inspired by novels). I’m usually in front of a screen (writing, reading, or gaming), but I’ve been known to emerge for geekery, good food, and dark chocolate.