Color Theory

Remember the 4 Season Color theory made famous in the book Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson and the color craze that ensued in the 80's? Everyone got "analyzed" to find out whether they were a Summer, Winter, Autumn or Spring.

As I stated in my “About” page, the book changed my life and it made me realize why an old brown sweater of my dad’s that I’d sometimes wear looked better on me than a cute pink one with flowers. It also made me realize I had an eye for color analysis. I never looked at a face again without instantly trying to figure out their season!

The book was a huge success but by the 90’s the popularity faded. There are some who think the whole thing was just a fad, that people can wear  whatever color they want to and look great; that people shouldn’t be ‘confined’ to a limited number of colors in their palette.

Pretty Your World couldn’t disagree more!

Sure, you CAN wear whatever color you want to. But if you want to look YOUR BEST, you’ll want to wear colors that harmonize with your natural coloring. It’s really that simple.

Color Analysis is NOT A FAD! In fact, it’s scientific, based on the 1898 color theory by artist and professor Albert Munsell. Click here for more information about his theory. Its effects are profound. And it can simplify your life by eliminating bad shopping choices in clothes, makeup, hair color and even jewelry and accessories. Think of the time and money that can be saved!

However, there was only one drawback to the 80’s color craze and that was the 4 Season Color Theory (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn) was not complete. It only focused on two aspects: whether a person was Warm or Cool, and whether they were light or dark. A Dark Cool person would be a Winter. A Light Cool person would be a Summer. While this analysis worked perfectly for a quarter of the population, there were many more that it didn’t work as well for. For example, it was found that some people can wear both warm and cool colors and look great. (Discovering in high school that as a Warm Autumn I ‘owned’ brown as a color, it really perplexed me when my friend, who was clearly a winter, could also wear dark brown and look great. It wasn’t fair. But I found out later it was because she was a Deep Winter, who could wear the deeper colors of the Autumn palette).

Eventually the 4 Season theory was later refined and developed into the more complete and more accurate 12 Season Color Theory. I’ve seen other color systems that are based on the 12 seasons but they put a different name on it. And some systems I’ve seen make no sense to me at all.

The 12 Season Color theory is what I talk about most on this website but after having taken some advanced color training, I found an even more advanced color system which utilizes 16 categories of seasons! Does this invalidate all my teachings about the 12 seasons? Not at all. In fact, it reinforced and clarified everything I have understood the 12 seasons to be. The 16 seasons just expanded up on the knowledge.

Since my evolution of learning started with the 4 seasons, then built up to the 12 and finally understanding the 16 seasons, this is how I will present the information on my site.

Also, there are a couple of ways to do a color analysis and I talk heavily on this site about the Dominant/secondary characteristic method. To learn the alternate way, you can read about it in my updated eBook "Color Revival".

Here is a the 12 Season Color Theory in a nutshell:

Each person will have 1 of 6 dominate “characteristics” in their coloring which is the primary determining factor in analyzing them: they are

Deep...Dark and rich. Think Cher or Kim Kardashian

Light...Light and delicate. Think Gwenyth Paltrow or Heather Locklear

Soft...Soft & muted. Think Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Aniston

Clear...Clear & bright. Think Courteney Cox or a young Liz Taylor

Warm...No cool undertones. Think Reba McIntyre or Sarah Ferguson

Cool...No warm undertones. Think Christy Brinkley or Liz Hurley

To illustrate:

If you have deep coloring, then the second determining factor is whether you look better in warm colors or cool colors. If cool colors flatter you best, then you are determined to be a “Deep Winter.” However, the most important factor is that you are “Deep” so wearing what was considered a traditional “winter” color that is light in color won’t work for you. In fact, you can wear some of the deep colors of Autumn as well. Deep Chocolates or Deep Forest Green will look great on you, for example.

You will be either a

Deep Winter or Autumn

Light Spring or Summer

Clear Winter or Spring

Soft Summer or Autumn

Warm Autumn or Spring

Cool Winter or Summer

So essentially, each of the original 4 seasons were split into 3 more defined and more accurate seasons in the 12 season system, and into 4 more subseasons in the 16 season system (the 4x4 Color System). 

This graphic illustrates the 12 Season System

Since I study the differences between the 12 seasons all the time, each one becomes its own unique world to me, with its own special traits. But I do find it helpful to go back to the basics in how these 12 seasons formed in the first place. It may simplify for you as well, as to how 4 seasons evolved into 12, then 16. Also, it is 'going back to the 4 original seasons' which is how most color analyses begins if it does not follow the dominant/secondary method.

The 12 seasons system can also be called the “Flow Seasonal Theory”. In this, the traditional 4 seasons- Winter, Summer, Autumn, Spring-will flow into one another. At the points where they overlap, this creates a new season. For example, the Deep Autumn is really a blend of Autumn and Winter. This person has much of the warmth of the typical Autumn season, but the intensity of a Winter.

Let’s look at the Winter season, for example. From the chart you can see that a Winter that flows into a summer is a Cool Winter; into an Autumn is Deep Winter; into a Spring is Clear Winter.

Where the seasons overlap, you will find some shared colors. The Clear Spring and Clear Winter will share some colors like Emerald Green and black (the only Spring that contains black in its palette!) The Cool Winter and Cool Summer will share colors like Violet and Deep Rose.

I like this chart because it shows why someone, as an example, who is a Soft Summer might look good in an olive color (traditionally an Autumn color), because they are a blend of Summer and Autumn. Some of those ‘traditional’ autumn colors might pop up the Soft Summer. The same goes for all the seasons. Notice that where seasons blend, you will find the colors to be more neutral than strictly warm or cool. Unless your dominant characteristic is Cool or Warm, the remaining seasons are a blend of both warm and cool. So that’s why it’s important to not begin your analysis looking for only warm or cool, unless it’s the most obvious trait. You need to look for the 6 dominant characteristics first: Light, Dark, Warm, Cool, Soft, Clear. Then when you figure out the secondary characteristic, you will find your season. Note: this is only when you do the dominant/secondary method. Other systems will usually begin determining your undertones first.


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