Seasonal color analysis is a great way to see which colors you should wear. With the quiz at the end of this article you will be able to determine whether you are a summer, winter, spring or autumn color type!
The seasonal color analysis starts with the basic 4 types named after the 4 seasons. This is a very good start but experience has shown that 4 personal color types are oftern not enough to explain everyone.
As a result the color analysis has been extended to cover 12 personal color types.
It is still helpful to start with the basics though. To find out which season you are, you first need to know your dominant characteristics.
Basic 4 season color analysis
The base characteristics are the lightness and temperature of a color. To make it simple we assume that there are two possibilities for each.
Every color is either warm or cold on one side or light and dark on the other side. This gives us 4 different combinations which are named after the 4 seasons:
- Warm and light – spring
- Cool and light – summer
- Warm and dark – autumn
- Cool and dark – winter
This means if you are light you are a spring or a summer. Which of the two you are depends on whether you are a warm or a cool type. Dark types will always be autumn or winter, which one exactly again depends on whether you are warm or cold
As stated above one word of warning, this rough typography will only work about 25% of the time. Most people are not as clear cut and sticking with only the 4 types will mean you miss out on some colors you could have in your wardrobe!
There is a chapter below that explains the concept of light vs. dark, and warm vs. cool but this is not required to find out your personal color type! Just scroll down to step 1 of the test to find out your personal color type without the more technical background!
Still with us? Then let’s spend some time on what the difference between the color characteristics really are.
Quick aside: color theory history and basics
Before we go deeper into the color analysis topic we should clarify on three important concepts. In the list above we already used lightness (light vs. dark) and temperature (warm vs. cool). What has not been mentioned so far but is equally important is the saturation or purity of the color (bright vs. muted). What do we mean by this?
Color saturation: bright vs. muted
An easy way to think of this characteristic is by imagining adding grey to a color. A completely pure color (100% saturation) means there is no grey element whatsoever. An example of this is bright red. On the other end of the spectrum you have a color so muted there is no color left. A color with 0% saturation is basically just a medium grey.
You can see an example based on the orange we use for our Styled 24/7 website:
Color lightness: dark vs. light
This characteristic is very similar to the saturation characteristic we just discussed. Instead of grey however we are adding black or white to a color.
The extremes in this case are a pure black or a pure white color.
You can find an example based below. The base color used is the same as in the previous example:
Color temperature: warm vs. cool
Last but not least we have the color temperature. Unlike the previous examples there is no other component added to the color (like grey or black / white). The color itself is perceived as warmer or cooler.
Please note that every color can be warm or cold. A common misconception is that orange is always warm and blue is always cold – this is not correct.
Even if you are a warm season you can still wear blue or green – just warmer versions of them. Similar as a cold season you can wear red, orange or yellow as long as they are cold.
You can see an example with the now familiar base color below. To come back to the point we just made: Even though orange may be perceived as a warm color you can see that there are cold and warm versions of the same color.
Bringing it all together
For a better overview we have combined all the discussed variations of our base color into the wheel below. The box in the middle represents the base color, arranged in a circle around it are the light / dark, bright / muted and warm / cold variations.
Please note that the two light and two dark versions of the color are identical each, they have been added twice for a better visualization.
With the addition of the saturation (= amount of grey in the color) to the basic characteristics of lightness and temperature we now have 3 distinct characteristics of each color.
How does all this apply to the seasonal color analysis?
For the seasonal color analysis this means that each of the 4 main season can be further split into three “sub” seasons.
Spring is light, warm and bright. Sub-seasons are:
- bright spring
- light spring
- warm spring
Summer is light, cold and muted. Sub-seasons are:
- muted summer
- light summer
- cool summer
Autumn: dark, warm and muted. Sub-seasons are:
- muted autumn
- dark autumn
- warm autumn
Winter is dark, cold and bright. Sub-seasons are:
- bright winter
- dark winter
- cold winter
If we combine the defining characteristics for the 4 seasons with the color wheel we discussed earlier we get the color analysis wheel to the right.
How do I find my sub-season?
Which of the sub-season you are depends on which of the color characteristics applies the most. This goes back to the drawback of the original 4 season color analysis that the majority of the people cannot be categorized to the 4 basic seasons.
Let’s take Winter as an example. Winter seasons have a high amount of black added to theirs colors (dark lightness, tendency to dark colors) but only very little grey (bright saturation, very bright colors). All winters have a cold color temperature.
Not all three color traits apply to each winter to a similar degree though. In case you are dark and have a tendency to cool colors both characteristics might not be very strong. Assume you do look very good in bright colors – the brighter the better. In this case your overall season is winter however within the winter season you tend to bright. Congratulations you are a bright winter!
As an interesting fact the color analysis is actually an old concept, the first theory has been published in 1810. The seasonal color analysis has been made famous by the book “Color me beautiful” by Carole Jackson which was published in the 1980’s.
Due to the limitations discussed above the original 4 seasons are largely replaced by the 12 seasons. In case you are a bright winter as used in the example above you would not have been happy. With just the 4 seasons you would fall between spring and winter with no way of really finding out what colors work best for you.
There are some models that take the season model even further to 16 seasons. For the sake of simplicity however we will limit ourselves to 12 seasons for now. It is a very good compromise between being able to identify your color season and still have a close enough match of the colors you look best in!
Lets put all this into practice and start with the first step of the seasonal color analysis.
12 Season color analysis STEP 1: Do you have a light or dark coloring?
The 4 base seasons are defined by lightness and temperature. In this test we start with the lightness. You can see the characteristic highlighted in the wheel to the left.
The easiest way to determine whether you are light is dark is by the color of your hair and eyes.
For most people this should be pretty straightforward to identify based on the examples below. There are however border cases (e.g. between light brown and medium brown) where it is not easy to decide whether you are dark or light.
In case you cannot decide yourself you can make sure by asking friends what they first think about when they see you. Do they first note dark or light colors?
Your hair is black or at least very dark. Colors include:
- dark brown
- dark ash color
- dark grey hair
Your eyes also have a very dark color:
- dark brown
- very dark blue
Any lighter color than the ones mentioned above and you are a light type!
Your hair is of very light color. This might be:
- light brown
- light red
- white hair
In case your hair is medium brown or darker you are most probably dark!
As for the eyes they also have light colors:
- light brown
- all but the darkest green / blue tones
12 Seasonal color analysis STEP 2: Do you have a warm or a cool coloring?
Now that you know whether you are dark or light you are halfway through in determining your season. Dark types are either winter or autumn whereas light types are summer or spring.
What is left is to determine your best color temperature to truly identify your season. There are actually two ways to determine the temperature: by looking at your veins or by contrasting your skin with gold and silver colors.
Skin test 1 (look at your veins):
Look at the veins on your inner wrist. What color do they have?
- If they are green, your skin was a warm undertone*.
- If they are blue, your skin has a cool undertone*.
Let’s provide a bit more explanation on this before we continue. The undertone of your skin is determined by three primary pigments that give the skin its color:
“Melanin, which gives the skin its brown tones, carotene, (…) yellow skin tones; and hemoglobin, the red pigment in the blood, (…) gives the skin its pink and red hues.”
Deborah Chase, The Medically Based No Nonsense Beauty Book
The overtone is influenced by age, illness, sun, etc. and thus changes over time. The undertone of the skin stays the same through your entire life!
Skin test 2 (silver vs. gold):
Push back your hair, so that it does not influence the test. Then wrap a piece of gold colored fabric or a golden scarf around your face. Then do the same with a silver colored fabric.
With which color does your skin look irregular and spotted? Which color makes your skin look even?
If gold color makes your skin look healthy and even, you have a warm undertone.
If silver color makes your skin look healthy and even, you have a cool undertone.
If you have dyed your hair, colored your eyebrows or are bronzed, try the same with a piece of skin that is not as exposed to the sun, e.g. the skin of your inner wrist.
Tip: Don’t have golden and silver colored fabric? Make the jewelry test. Does golden or silver jewelry look better on you?
Gold: warm undertone. Silver: cool undertone.
Now that you know which temperature you are, congratulations you have identified your season!
In case you got dark in the first test you are either a winter (if you got cold in the second test) or an autumn (warm type).
In case you are a light type you are spring (warm colors) or a summer (cool colors).
12 Season color analysis STEP 3: Identifying your sub-season
Unfortunately most people have a hard time with the colors of just the four base seasons, this is why we introduced the 12 sub-seasons earlier.
Each season has 3 distinct characteristics (lightness, temperature and saturation), two of them have been discussed already. Let’s have a look at the missing one!
Bright vs. muted colors
For the last characteristic (saturation, how bright or muted is a color?) you need to check the contrast of your face in a mirror.
In case you have a very high contrast with sharp and clearly defined colors you tend to be bright. An example would be black hair with very light skin and deep blue eyes.
Muted types have an overall low contrast in their face. This means the skin tone, hair and eyebrows are neutral and very close to each other.
Almost there: identifying your 12 season type
You know which of the base season you are: check
You know whether you are dark / light, warm / cool or bright / muted: check
What is left is to find out which of the three characteristics mentioned applies the most to you. To come back to the winter example, winters are defined as dark, bright and cold. To find out which of the winter sub season you are you need to decide which of the three traits has the biggest impact on your appearance and which ones you have but to a lesser degree.
Do you have a cold aura around you that is more dominant than anything else? You are fow example only barely dark enough for winter and do not prefer bright or muted colors. -> You are a cold winter
Does your contrast outshine everything else? Maybe your color temperature and lightness are close to neutral? -> You are a bright winter.
Last but not least if you are overall very dark (e.g. very dark hair and a dark eye color) but not of particular high contrast and only slightly favor cool colors: -> You are a dark winter.
Wrapping it up
The same concept can be applied to all the other seasons. Each one has three distinct characteristics and after step 2 of the test you should know which base seasons you fall into.
The last piece of the puzzle is shown in step 3, you need to find out which of the 3 characteristics of your season is the most dominant one. Once you know this you know your subseason!
Let us know if you have any questions or comments from your side.
Now that you know your color season you can also try our body shape test to find out which body shape you have!