So you’ve just been draped, and you leave your analysis, overjoyed and mind reeling. You head home and throw open your closet doors, eager to sort through your wardrobe. Now what?
Learning to spot harmony takes time, patience, and practice. The first step to being able to accurately spot harmony is to understand the characteristic color dimensions that are unique to your tone. This means developing a firm understanding of the specific hue, value, and chroma represented by your tone. Let us start with a few definitions:
Hue - refers to the names given to pure colors (e.g. red, blue, yellow, etc.) For our purposes, we will use hue to define how warm, cool, or neutral a color is. Warm colors have a yellow undertone; cool colors have a blue undertone. To visualize this, imagine you are going to paint a warm autumn landscape. In order to unify the colors and give the painting the warm undertone, you might paint the entire canvas yellow before you begin. This yellow undertone will now be present in every color painted on top. The same process can be used to convey a cool summer's day, except one would choose a primary blue rather than yellow. Neutral hues are further broken down into warm-neutral and cool-neutral, thus having a mix of yellow and blue undertones.
Value - refers to how light or dark a color is. Value is best represented as a scale from white to black. The colors found in the Light seasons have white mixed in. Similarly, the colors found in the dark seasons contain black. On a color sphere, like the one found further down, the value scale runs vertically from pole to pole. The Light season colors will be found near the top, and the Dark season colors near the bottom.
Chroma - refers to how clear, bright, and pure a color is, or how soft, dusty, and muted a color is. The Bright seasons have the highest chroma, whereas the Soft seasons have the lowest chroma. On a color sphere, the bright, clear colors of Bright Winter and Bright Spring are found around the equator (and thus are also medium in value). The soft, muted colors of Soft Autumn and Soft Summer are found around the core (also medium in value).
These three color dimensions are intrinsically linked. Remembering that the vertical axis is our value scale with the lightest colors at one pole and the darkest at the opposite pole, we can see that as we change one dimension, we in turn change another. The dynamic between hue, value, and chroma is what makes each season unique. One can literally pinpoint on the sphere where the colors from each season come from. The goal of personal color analysis is to determine your hue, value, and chroma. We can imagine being able to plot them on the sphere, thus the colors surrounding 'you' are those that are most harmonious with your personal coloring (aka your season).
Below is an updated and more detailed version (© TCI 2017) of the table found in Kathryn Kalisz's (founder of the 12-Tone Sci/ART method of PCA) book Understanding Your Color: A Guide to Personal Color Analysis. Upon exploration, we can begin to see the color dimensions that differentiate the seasons from one another. For example, Winter and Summer are both cool in hue; Summer is lighter and more muted, while Winter is darker and brighter. Likewise, Spring and Autumn are both warm in hue, but spring is light and bright, while Autumn is dark and muted. As one who harmonizes with Dark Autumn, I look for colors that are warm while simultaneously dark and somewhat bright. I know I have strayed when a color looks too dusty or is overly saturated with yellow undertones. One who harmonizes with Bright Winter should look for cool colors that are neither light nor dark but are very bright and pure.
A solid understanding of your tone's dimensions will go a long way when out in the real world trying to find clothing, cosmetics, or accessories that harmonize with your personal coloring. With the above table in mind, let's look at a selection of True season purples from the True Colour International Classic Swatch Books. Notice the hint of blue undertone in the cool seasons versus the hint of yellow in the warm seasons? How Summer and Autumn are more muted than Spring and Winter? Or how Autumn and Winter appear darker than Spring and Summer? Even though Winter and Summer share coolness, Winter is clear, crisp and intense where Summer is dusky, gentle, and relaxed. Likewise, Spring and Autumn share warmth, but Spring is light, bright, and dazzling, contrasted with the deep, vibrant, and rich nature of Autumn. Understanding what differentiates your tone from another can be just as useful as understanding your own. It is my hope that this series will leave you with a firm understanding of your tone, how it relates to others and how to use that knowledge when searching for harmony.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this series, in which we will explore the anatomy and information packed into the TCI 12-Tone Swatch Books.