Makeup Artist Basics: The Color Wheel

Makeup Artist Basics: The Color Wheel

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A very common question I get is: “How do I know what makeup colors will look good on me?” People especially want to know what color eye makeup will look good on them, make their eyes sparkle and bring out the best in their coloring.There’s a reason why I named this column Color Theory. 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. Here’s what any makeup lover needs to know:

Primary colors: Red, yellow and blue. These colors make up all of the other colors on the spectrum.

Secondary colors: The colors you get from mixing the primary colors together:yellow + blue = greenred + blue = violetyellow + red = orange GALLERY: Makeup Color Theory, Explained

Tertiary colors: 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.

Hue: The true color of primary colors mixed together, as well as the secondary and tertiary colors mixed together. These colors are basic and intense. Once you have the basic colors, you can adjust them by adding white or black or gray, changing the brightness and density of the colors. This is how you get pastel and muted colors.

Tint: 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.

Shade: 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.

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The Color Wheel

I love this color wheel because it has white in the center and darker colors around the rim. The colors closest to the center are more pastel-y since they have white added to them, and the colors closest to the rim are more muted tones because they have been mixed with black. MORE: All About Eye Color, Eye Shape and Eye Makeup Tips

Tone: 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.

Complementary colors: 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. Tip For You: In the world of makeup, complementary colors don’t really “compliment” each other because they can be quite garish when used together. But they are great for a statement look. Mossy green eye makeup with a red lip can look stunning. It looks best when complementary colors are used on separate areas of the face, versus right next to each other. (But I am sure there are some amazing and brave drag queens who disagree with me on this one!)

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