Top: Courtesy of Make Up For Ever; Lancome; Make Up For Ever; Bottom: Urban Decay Deluxe; Stila; Illamasqua
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
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 = green
red + blue = violet
yellow + red = orange
Urban Decay Deluxe Eyeshadow, $18. Shown here in Grafitti.
Try a Complete Box Set, $29.
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.
Blue-Violet: Urban Decay Deluxe Eyeshadow, $18, Shown here in Ransom.
Blue-Green: Stila Eyeshadow Compact, $18, Shown here in Mystic.
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.
Smashbox Cosmetics Eyeshadow, $16, Shown here in Cabernet.
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.
Maybelline Cosmetics Expertwear Eyeshadow Quad, $5, Shown here in Charcoal Smokes
Complimentary 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.
Nars Cosmetics Duo Eyeshadow, $33, Shown here in Blade Runner.
Analogous colors: Colors that are found right next to each other on the color wheel and are generally in the same family.
Warm colors: 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.
Cool colors: Colors with blue or red undertones. Cool colors are more soothing and tend to recede a bit more.
Highlight your eye color. Flaunt your body shape. Harness your confidence. Take our quizzes to better know yourself and get science-based, individualized advice to embrace your true beauty.
Define your curves and discover the best ways to eat, exercise and dress for your figure.Take Quiz
Find out how your relationship personality is affecting you and the people you love.Take Quiz
If shopping for eye makeup is one big guessing game, find your best colors here.Take Quiz
Find out for sure to best interact and deal with others.Take Quiz