There are many tricks and nuances that go into creating a beautiful makeup look, but before you learn those, any makeup artist worth his or her salt will tell you that it’s crucial to understand how colors work.
Welcome to the color wheel. I’ll explain to you how color theory works, using the best visuals I know: makeup.
For more information, check out my article Makeup Artist Basics: The Color Wheel
Red, yellow and blue. These colors make up all of the other colors on the spectrum.
The colors you get from mixing the primary colors together:
yellow + blue = green
red + blue = violet
yellow + red = orange
Urban Decay Deluxe Eyeshadow, $18. Shown here in Grafitti.
Try a Complete Box Set, $29.
These are the colors on either side of the secondary colors. For example, red-violet or blue-violet, which you get by adding a little more of the closest primary color.
Blue-Violet: Urban Decay Deluxe Eyeshadow, $18, Shown here in Ransom.
Blue-Green: Stila Eyeshadow Compact, $18, Shown here in Mystic.
Made by adding white to a pure hue. So if you have an intense purple and add white, you’ll get lavender. If you have a bright orange-red and add white, you’ll get a warm orangey-coral.
Made by adding black to a pure hue. If you have a bright red, and add a touch of black to it, you’ll get a deeper, richer red.
Smashbox Cosmetics Eyeshadow, $16, Shown here in Cabernet.
Made by adding gray to a pure hue. This isn’t very applicable in makeup, you just need to know that a tone feels more muted, like taupes, grays and neutrals.
Maybelline Cosmetics Expertwear Eyeshadow Quad, $5, Shown here in Charcoal Smokes
Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel—colors that tend to “vibrate” when next to each other, such as blue next to orange, or purple next to yellow.
Nars Cosmetics Duo Eyeshadow, $33, Shown here in Blade Runner.
Colors that are found right next to each other on the color wheel and are generally in the same family.
Colors with red, orange or yellow undertones. Warm colors are bright and energetic, and tend to pop forward—meaning they draw attention to whatever they are on.
Givenchy Le Prisme Eyeshadow Quartet, $56, Shown here in Khaki Egerie.