How to Find your Power Colors
Updated: Sep 29
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Welcome to the third installment in my Color Theory series. As you may already know I'm a nerd at heart who recently learned the art of Color Styling and is hoping to influence other nerds into taking a logical approach to defining their style.
Let's jump right into what the third installment is all about: POWER COLORS.
Take a quick look at the picture above. Don't these women look amazing against those colored backdrops? Color is truly a wonderful thing, a thing I missed out on for most of my young adult life because I was busy following trends on people who look nothing like me.
After much trial and error, I realized I looked much better in certain shades of a specific COLOR than others.
Being the logical person I am, I immediately dug deep into the world of Color Theory and found just how to make sure I was choosing the right colors for my skin tone, undertone, and contrast.
Now in order for you to truly understand this post you need to already have established your Skin Undertone and your Contrast. Catch up here.
Ok so as you already know there are 3 Main Physical Characteristics that go into choosing what colors complement you best:
Your skin undertone
Your skin/hair contrast
Your skin tone
Using these 3 concepts you can find complementary colors and power colors
Complementary Colors: Colors that complement ONE or TWO of your physical characteristics: your undertone, your skin tone, or your contrast.
Power Colors: Colors that suit all 3 of your physical characteristics
- Skin Undertone
If you don't know your skin undertone yet, you can find it here.
In order to choose colors that are complementary to your undertone stick with shades that are directly proportional to it.
Let's use yellow as an example;
Warm skin undertones should go for warmer yellow-orange-gold shades.
Cool skin undertones should go for yellow-green shades.
Neutral skin undertones can choose from both cool and warm shades.
*For purposes of this guide, if you are a neutral try to look at your closet and determine whether you tend to prefer cooler colors or warmer colors. Even though you can pull off both everyone tends to favor one or the other.
If you don't know your contrast you can find it here.
Skin contrast is extremely useful to determine whether you should opt for Clear colors or Muted Colors. Choosing colors that complement your contrast will add to it and make your already soft or sharp features stand out even more.
Clear colors are true reds, blues, greens any color that is rich in pigments and has little to no neutrals added to it.
Muted colors are colors that have less pigment and more neutrals added to them.
If you have High Contrast (Sharp) opt for clear colors.
If you have Low Contrast (Soft) opt for muted colors.
As you can see here the woman in the picture is LOW CONTRAST or SOFT. She, of course, can wear both of these shades of green.
The more MUTED shade of green complements her skin tone and hair color much better than the CLEAR shade of green.
The muted shade adds to her softness. The clear shade takes over and becomes the focus.
Let's look at a different example using a High Contrast individual:
The CLEAR shade of red complements her skin tone and hair color much better than the MUTED beige.
High Contrast or Sharp Individuals wear true colors very well without being upstaged by the color itself. Clear colors help elevate that high contrast.
Fun Fact !
While researching Color Theory I reached out to a Stylist and found out that stylists often go against contrast when styling models for brand photoshoots!
If the Garment is a CLEAR BRIGHT COLOR the garment should be worn by a low contrast individual so that the GARMENT stands out and NOT the model.
That's great for merchandise styling but in my case, I don't want my clothes to upstage me!
03. Skin Tone
When your skin tone and undertone are combined you can determine what SHADE of a specific HUE (color) suits you best.
Colors that complement you best will relate directly or inversely to your skin tone. The deciding factor on whether it will be direct or inverse is your skin undertone.
Look at the women above, they all have a different shade of blue as a backdrop that complements them perfectly.
If your Undertone is Cool
If you have a Cool Undertone (Like the women in the top row) you will have an inverse relationship between the amount of pigment in your skin tone vs the amount of pigment in the color.
In much simpler terms:
The Darker you are the Lighter your complementary shade will be.
The Lighter you are the Darker your complementary shade will be.
If you have a COOL UNDERTONE use the COOL GRAPH below to determine shades of blue that will best complement you. Just approximate your skin tone on the graph and choose the color below it.
If your Undertone is Warm
If you have a Warm Undertone (Like the women on the bottom row) you will have a direct relation between the amount of pigment in your skin tone vs the amount of pigment in the color.
In much simpler terms:
The Darker you are the Darker your complementary shade will be.
The Lighter you are the Lighter your complementary shade will be.
If you have a WARM UNDERTONE use the WARM GRAPH below to determine the shade of blue that will best complement your features. Just approximate your skin tone on the graph and choose the color below it.
*If you have a Neutral Skin Undertone you can use both graphs.
Related: How to Always Look Put Together
Now you're ready to determine your Power Colors
With what you've learned so far you should be able to know which colors complement you and which colors wash you out.
But when you take all 3 factors into account you are left with your power colors and these are colors you absolutely want to start adding to your wardrobe because they complement you perfectly.
Think of some celebrities MOST iconic red carpet looks:
Rihanna in FIERY RED
Amy Adams in NAVY BLUE
Lupita N'yongo in ICE BLUE
JLo in GREEN
Oprah in NAVY BLUE
(See these looks here)
These are all POWER COLORS for these celebrities because they complement their skin tone, undertone, and contrast.
How do you apply all of these concepts together?
Start with narrowing down the color wheel using your undertone, if you're neutral you can use the whole color wheel.
Use your Contrast to narrow down the shades
Use the Skin Tone Graphs to determine your Power Colors
Remember you can create a gradient for any warm or cool color, not just the ones illustrated below.
Can I have more than 1 power color?
YES! you can have as many as you can find!
Can I only use the colors pictured here?
No, you can use any gradient of any color to determine your power colors.
Can I only use my contrast to select colors?
Of course, you will come up with complementary colors using skin tone, undertone, and contrast individually as well.
What about white, black and gray?
These colors suit everyone but are not necesarily power colors because they don't enhance your features.
What if I have a Neutral Undertone?
Theoretically, both cool and warm colors complement you. If you still want to narrow down your colors you can choose which you prefer.
What is Olive undertone?
What if I don't like the colors that complement me?
By all means, only add the colors you absolutely love into your wardrobe, if this guide doesn't help you choose colors to add to your wardrobe follow your instincts and wear whatever color makes your heart happy!