When shopping for clothes, knowing whether a color is warm or cool is really beneficial.
Warm colors will suit you if your undertone is warm. Cool colors will suit you if it’s cool outside.
You want to match the undertone of your clothes to the undertone of your skin.
Imagine how much time and trials you can save if you can identify whether something is warm or cool just by glancing at the color.
The problem is that determining whether a color is warm or cool is not always straightforward.
You might have a garment in your closet that you’re unsure about: does it fit, do I appear pale, is the color too dark?
This kind of question is an aspect of undertone.
In this article, I’ll show you how to determine whether a color is warm or cool and whether it will suit you.
If you don’t know what you are yet, go back and read my previous article on identifying your undertone: warm, cool, or neutral?
I’ll start with the basics and work my way up to the more challenging situations.
Learn the Difference Between Warm and Cool
Blue, red, and yellow are the three main colors on a color wheel. Purple, orange, and green are the secondary colors in between.
You get a cool side and a warm side if you split it in half. Cool colors include green, blue, and purple, whereas warm colors include red, orange, and yellow.
Although my color wheel has 12 colors rather than six, it functions in the same way: one warm side and one cool side.
You can now discern whether a color is warm or cool by glancing at one of the 12 fundamental colors.
Each Color Can be Warm or Cool
This is the next level. When you begin mixing the fundamental colors, each one can become warmer or cooler, which is when things become a little complex.
Basic blue, for example, is cool by definition. A warm blue can be achieved by adding a small amount of red. It’s a little warmer than our standard blue. If you keep adding red, you will eventually obtain purple. Purple is a warm color that is half blue and half red.
Following this logic, you can see how a cool color like blue may be made slightly warmer by mixing it with a warm color, in this example red.
When you look at a color, it’s usually not a pure color from the color wheel; instead, it’s a mixture of a dominant color and a little something else.
You want to know if that other color is cool or warm, as well as what color it is, so you can tell if the main color is trending cool or warm.
What helps me is to think about whether this color contains a hint of orange, somewhere between red and yellow. Is there a hint of blue in it?
When You Don’t Know
When you see the color of a clothing, you may not be able to tell if it is cool or warm right away.
What should you do in this situation?
For example, if you can’t tell whether a yellow is warm or cool, you might compare it to other yellows to find out. Get a bunch of yellows and rank them from cool to warm in terms of how similar they are. It’s a lot less difficult than judging a single color.
You can get the same exercise while shopping in a store. Remove the garment from the rack to avoid being influenced by the surrounding colors. Compare your yellows in the daylight, through a window.
If you’re buying online, compare the yellow in the clothing you’re looking at (perhaps on a nice screen with good color contrasts) to the yellow in the garments you currently possess or with a color wheel.
What If You’re Comparing Different Colors?
I was comparing yellows in my example. What if I’m comparing two completely distinct colors, such as various intensities of blue and green?
That is the most difficult aspect.
When compared to the other, is one color warmer or cooler?
They’re both green, in fact. The one on the right has more blue while the one on the left has more yellow.
What makes me think that?
I added cards with a blue theme on the right side. On the other side, I’m transitioning to yellow.
This way you notice that they don’t belong to the same family at all. The one on the right is a cool green-blue. The one on the right is a warm green-yellow.
In case you were wondering whether the right one was a green or a blue in the first place, my initial card is clearly greener when I place these two cards next to each other.
Comparing colors is extremely useful and much easier than guessing a single color.
I have two further suggestions for you.
Colors are difficult to discern in artificial light, such as that found in a store. To judge and view the colors as they are, you should place the clothing close to a window.
The same goes for locker rooms. The light in there is usually warm to help you feel comfortable while you try items on. It’s a psychological argument.
However, the light within isn’t reliable. Even if it appears white, it is untrue.
Eyes Like Balance
Once you’ve determined that you’re, say, warm toned, and you’ve selected an outfit that matches, there’s one more detail to consider.
I would add a little touch of the opposite to a warm clothing only for the eye, which means a tiny bit of cool.
It could, for example, be a color within a multicolor print. It can be used as a complement. It could even be the shoes you’re wearing.
It will make your clothes stand out significantly more. People will be curious as to how you achieved it. It’s all about the cool and warm color combinations.
Make sure, though, that what you wear around your face matches your undertone.
Now it’s time to practice in your closet. When you compare your existing clothes, do they appear cool or warm?
With enough practice, you’ll be able to tell extremely quickly.