Sunday, June 14, 2009

Working with color - complementary colors

I have no background in makeup artistry or fashion, but I've been working as a graphic designer / art director for about ten years - and now I have year and a half of fine art studies on my back pocket. So I have been working with color quite a lot - why not write something about it.

Combining colors can be quite instinctive for some people, but if you feel insecure there are always the basic tool to get started with: the color wheel, familiar probably for all of us.

Most people feer very combortable when combining color siblings or analogic colors: colors that are located next to each other in color wheel. Complementary colors, however, might feel more challenging. Complementary colors are located opposite each other. To get little bit more out of this little exploration I will choose not just plain single complement pair, but analogic scheme from blue to purple plus complementary accent color from the other side of the wheel. It looks like this.

I know that there are at least of some people who really can rock color schemes like this. But usually it needs quite strong colors in hair, skin and eyes - plus lots of courage. The task will get easier when the other parameters of color are adjusted as well. I pick the four brights from this complementary palette and adjust the saturation in one row, lightness in other.

Wow, much more manageable! Of course it is possible to adjust both, saturation and lightness at the same time. And adjust the lightness towards the dark end. The whole set is not meant to be used together, but from here you can easily pick few colors that nicely complement each other.

And here's a real life implementation of this palette. I actually wore this last week (but forgot to photograph the deliciously yellow nails):

Deep, super saturated blue tights from We Love Colors, an old H&M dress in particularly uggly-attractive shade of yellowish pale brown plus cheap and cheerflul Rimmel nail polish (055 Sunshine) plus some black, white and gold accents.

The dirty shades from the opposite side of the color wheel + just one accent color create particularly easy and attractive combinations, they usually benefit from the freshening touch of white (or off-white) used in the same combination.

Here's another example with coordinating these complements, this time with makeup only. This is not real life experiment, but when I saw the images I knew that I will use this look combined some day. Color Club Catwalk Queen is from the blackened but saturated end of purples.

That manicure would look fabulous combined to simple but bright make-up. I really like eyeliner and don't feel uncomfortable at all to experiment with brights in makeup that relies strongly to eyeliner. I would pick any shade that has yellow component dominating the color, preferably a rich gold in tone (reddish, dirty, greenish, pure, yellowish...) that complements the skin and eye color for simple but festive look.

This is Fyrinnae Lucky Charmed, an incredible metallic finish gold with chartreuse tint. It foils like a dream with water or mixing liquid.

Sorry about the skintone, my camera has fixed settings for white balance, there are lightings when none of those settings quite work. And I'm too lazy to fiddle with RAW images for blog use...

There are many online color wheel tools to play with, try for example the particularly nice and easy Color Scheme Designer.


  1. Thanks for all the information. It's true that I use complimentary colors. I haven't tried the opposite. I guess it would help to have a color wheel. I love color so much. I guess that's why I love nail polish and makeup so much. I don't have artistic talent so this will have to suffice.

  2. Todella mielenkiintoinen ja hyödyllinen postaus..! Minä joka rakastan väreillä pelaamista en ole tosiaan koskaan tullut ajatelleeksi käyttää väripyörää esim. meikkien suunnittelussa.... Kiitos indeed!