One of the most interesting things I’ve learnt at Imageakademiet has been to see what colours will suit a person. Once you learn to see the difference between warm, cool or neutral colours, it’s practically a whole new world out there. Choosing a new top or lipstick is a lot easier if you know that it will complement your skin tone. But before you have a look in the mirror, it’s a good idea to understand the difference between warm and cool colours. I made a little guide:

This basically means that there aren’t any cool yellows (with the exception of a lemony, almost lime-coloured yellow), and that a blue colour needs to be slightly green-ish to be warm. There are also some colours that are neutrals, meaning they will suit people with both warm and cool skin tones.

Don’t worry if it looks confusing at first, it takes practice to see these things with a glance, but understanding the theory means you can begin to practice. Here, for instance:

Now, to the skin tone. One way to decide, is to look at celebrities with the same colouring as you. In my instance, that could be Anne Hathaway or Alexis Bledel, both who are definitely cool (just different kinds of cool, but we won’t get into that now). Examples of warm girls are Tyra Banks, Julia Roberts and Amanda Seyfried.

What makes this method tricky, is that you really need to look at someone in person, in natural daylight and without makeup to decide their true skin tone. And how often do we see celebrities in that situation? Second, hair and makeup can change a person’s colouring quite a lot, and actresses often have to do this because of their job. Third, pictures can be very deceiving because of lighting or photo editing.

My favourite method is the rouge test, which looks something like this:

Colour analysis: warm or cool skin tone? | from

Here’s what to do. You remove all your makeup, find a mirror big enough to see your entire head, and place it somewhere with good natural light. Then find two rouges or eyeshadows (even lipsticks might work), one in a very warm shade of red (meaning it will be rather orange) and one in a very cool shade (an almost purplish pink). You then smear two large spots on your cheeks, like pictured above. Don’t worry about blending them nicely or it looking good – you’re supposed to look a bit like a clown. Then take a step back, and cast a casual glance at yourself.

Does one colour blend better with your skin tone than the other?

Although I did the example picture using PhotoShop, I still think it illustrates my point because (at least to me) it looks like the pink colour blends away into my skin, whereas the orange looks like something that’s smudged on top of my skin. It almost looks like the orange colour is further to the front than the pink. Weird way to explain it, but that’s how I think of it. If you squint slightly, this becomes even more apparent. As the cool colour works better for me than the warm one, this indicates that I’m cool (pardon the pun). I took a picture with my younger (and warmer) sister, both of us without makeup, to make the difference even clearer:

Colour analysis: a comparison of a warm and cool skin tone | from

Now, my skin tone is definitely cool. My teacher said that with enough makeup, she could probably make everyone in my class change their natural category, except for me. With others, the case is not so clear. If you think both colours can work for you, then you might have a skin tone that can handle both warm and cool shades. Yes, this is possible. In that case, your hair colour can “make” you warmer or cooler, and I suggest you choose a hair colour that shifts you towards the colours you prefer the most. No point in going very cool with your hair if you prefer warm, peachy colours, for instance.

One could write several books about all this (and many people have done so), but I hope this post can get you started, at least. If you have any questions, fire away.

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