An introduction to color theory, for you – the cosmetic connoisseur!
What is color theory? And, how does it relate to the world of cosmetics? I hope this mini-series helps you differentiate between warm, neutral and cool tones, helps to find your undertone, and most importantly, helps to find colors best suited for you.
What is Color Theory?
Color theory has no standardized definition because every artist and media likes to fight over a neat, concise definition. If you Google it, you’ll find as many definitions as artists. However, for the sake of this series, I’m going to give you the definition I learned as a child—color theory is the basic guide to how we use colors and the visual impact colors have.
Colors are so important to us. Imagine a world completely in white or in reverse, completely in black. It’s a pretty bleak world, isn’t it? Colors make the world interesting! Colors, quite simply, make the world the stunning place it is.
In order to understand colors, we need a very basic tool used by every artist in any field—the color wheel. I’m sure many of you have seen this sucker at least once. It’s actually one of the most useful tools you can use, especially if you’re trying to pick out a color for yourself. The problem is most people give up trying to use this because they don’t know how to read them. We’re going to work with the most commonly used color wheel—the Itten color wheel.
The three colors in the middle, which make a triangle, are called primary colors. These colors are the basic colors we see in every day. If you have someone who’s color blind, they might be missing one of these colors. These colors, as you can see, are yellow, red and blue. These three colors also represent warm (red), neutral (yellow) and cool (blue) tones.
The three colors connected to the triangle are called secondary colors. These are colors that are made by combining two of the primary colors. For example, mixing red and blue makes violet.
Finally, the circle surrounding the primary and secondary colors are called tertiary colors. These are colors that are made by combining primary and secondary colors from the wheel. You’ll notice the primary colors are still noted in the tertiary wheel; this is simply for reference.
Notice how cool tones stay in between blue and yellow and warm colors stay in between yellow and red. This is important. Warm tertiary and secondary colors will always stay with warm primary and vice versa. You can’t put orange-red on the cool-tone side; the colors of our world don’t work that way. It’s a warm, saturated color, like poppy petals.
I want to leave you with this to help you with the next task. Look at the images above: one warm and bursting with warm red-orange poppies; the other, cool and bursting with bluebells. Which is the first one your mind chooses?
Stay tuned for our next installment, you’ll be running circles around that color wheel, we promise!