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Colour masterclass - identify your green

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Ever looked at a colour that doesn't quite match your colour palette, and found yourself unable to decide whether it tones in with yours, or if it actually sits in another palette entirely? Today's colour masterclass is here to help. We're going to take one colour which has a version in every seasonal or tonal palette, and consider what makes it belong to one palette or another. The colour we're going to use today is Green, but many of the lessons learned will be applicable to any colour under the sun.

Deciding whether a colour sits in your palette is really about gathering evidence; some colour theory, some instinct - all of it helpful to guide you towards your very best colours.

Hue

The first characteristic of a colour we consider is the hue. This is simply the name of the colour - is it red, blue, orange, turquoise...? This won't necessarily tell us whether a colour belongs in a season or not, but it can be helpful when we consider things like relative temperature later. In this case, of course, the colour we are considering is simply 'Green'!

Naming the hue can also sometimes eliminate/reduce the likelihood of one or two seasons. Black and White (in their truest sense) only exist in Winter, for example, Blue (without any teal/petrol undertones) is vanishingly rare in the Autumn palette, while Yellow exists in only one or two instances in the Summer and Winter palettes.

Relative temperature

The temperature of a colour refers to how warm or cool it is - more warm colours have more yellow in them, while more cool colours have more blue in them. However, looking at colours in terms of the seasonal palettes is not as simple as all yellows being warm and all blues being cool, but about relative temperature -let's look at our Green example.

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All greens are a mixture of yellow and blue, which can make it tricky to be sure whether they are warm or cool, but once we start to compare our green to other versions of green, it becomes simpler. The warmer greens have a 'nature' feel - leafy, or even slimy! The cool greens on the other hand, have a blue look, and are redolent of gemstones - jade, malachite and emerald.

If you're comparing your chosen green to your seasonal or tonal colour palette, the first thing to consider is does this green have the same, more or less yellow than the greens in your palette? Being a small amount warmer or cooler doesn't necessarily mean it won't belong, but it's one of the first pieces of evidence you can gather.

Bonus tip: It can also be helpful to have in mind a somewhat neutral (in terms of relative temperature) green, and try to picture whether your chosen green is warmer (more yellow) or cooler (more blue) than your 'neutral' version. This will tell you, in tonal directions terms, whether the colour is dominant Warm or dominant Cool.

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Saturation

Saturation is where things start to get interesting.

The saturation is simply how much of the hue exists - is it at full strength, or is the hue turned into what we call a tone, where the depth of colour is the same, but more and more grey is added, until the original hue has almost or completely disappeared?

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Look at how fully saturated your green is. Does it feel like the volume is turned right up on the colour, or is there an abiding feeling of greyness? Don't worry about lightness or darkness yet - think purely in terms of whether there is grey added to your green, dulling it down, creating a tone, and reducing the saturation level.

  • Spring - your greens are all highly saturated - they have no greyness added to them.
  • Summer - your greens tend towards the less saturated end.
  • Autumn - your greens tend to sit somewhere more towards the middle, although can extend both towards more and less saturated.
  • Winter - as with Spring, your greens are all fully saturated. No dulled down greens for you!

It is worth noting that although both Summer and Autumn have predominantly less saturated colours, they both have a small handful of colours that are more saturated - again, we are using the saturation level as one of our clues on the detective trail of deciding whether a colour sits in our palette.

Saturation can help us with whether our Green sits within the 'Clear' tonal direction palettes (Spring and Winter - more saturated) or the 'Soft' (Autumn and Summer - less saturated) palettes.

Shades and Tints - Value

Considering value can feel very similar to looking at tones, but the key difference is that we aren't adding grey - a mixture of black and white - to our colour, we are adding only black or only white. When we add black to a colour, we create what are called shades, whereas adding white creates tints. This means that the colour continues to look quite pure and relatively saturated, but simply gets darker or lighter.

Tints

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  • Spring - the season we most associate with pure tints of a colour, there are so many Spring colours when we create tints!
  • Winter - think about the extremes - you have some very white tints in your ice colours, but otherwise your colours are generally at full strength. Nothing in between!
  • Summer - you have lighter colours, but they tend to have grey added rather than pure white, giving them a smokey feel and turning them into tones.
  • Autumn - you have very little in the way of tints, due to the relative depth of your palette.
  • Shades

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    Once we get into shades, we lose Spring entirely, and there are few Summer colours either - again, Summer's colours, even the darker ones, have grey added, giving them a softness, rather than true black. Winter is home of the darkest shades, while Autumn also has a degree of darkness.

    • Spring - We lose Spring entirely when we get into shades. Springs colours are all light and clear - there is nothing heavy, smokey or dark about this palette.
    • Summer - There are a few shades in the Summer palette, but again, almost all of Summer's dark colours are tones (with grey added) rather than shades (with black added).
    • Autumn - Shades occur in the Autumn palette, giving the depth and richness that looks so good on this warm toned palette.
    • Winter's colours can exist anywhere along the shades spectrum, from full brightness of the hue to almost entirely black.

    In tonal directions terms, tints belong to the Light dominant tonal direction, while Shades belong to Deep.

    Trust your gut

    This one feels tricky at first, but learn to tune into your instinctive reaction every time you look at a colour. Does it feel comfortable to you? Can you imagine wearing it? If your first instinct is to recoil in horror at how full on or boring it is, there's a really good chance that it doesn't sit in your palette, or at least not in the part of your palette that is best for you.

    This one is an often neglected part of the evidence gathering, and it's a skill you'll pick up over time, especially if you consciously think about it every time you look at colours - I have been known to do it with car colours when driving on the motorway!

    Styling your green

    The last piece of the jigsaw. Can you wear this colour with clothes you already own? Will it look expensive and stylish against your chosen neutrals, or will it look cheap and brash? Can you picture something you could pair it with right now?

    Pairing your Green with your seasonal colours will also pull it firmly into your palette - this is especially useful for those 'crossover' Greens, which sit at the meeting point of two (or more!) palettes, and are pulled into your palette by the colours they are paired with. In the image below, you'll see both Spring and Autumn are wearing the same Green - Lime - but the styling of it pulls it firmly into place; light and bright and high contrast for Spring, tonal, deep and rich for Autumn. Winters wear their colours with high contrast and splashes of vibrant colour, while Summers suit a softer, more tonal look.

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    As always, there is no one simple rule to ensuring that a colour you are looking at falls within your seasonal palette, but the more familiar you become with the colour theory around your seasonal palette, the more naturally it will come to you. Of course, we take the guess work out of it for you at Kettlewell, and our colours can help you understand your palette more fully, without worrying about whether you're getting it right or wrong.

    Sheila on Jul 03, 2021 1:34 PM

    Great post. So helpful for Summers.

    Linda R on Jun 24, 2021 9:18 AM

    Thanks! I’m working on Shibori dyeing as a hobby this summer. Having the reminders in print to reinforce the Club videos is helpful.

    Una on Jun 23, 2021 1:01 AM

    Well written article and I'm sure any will appreciate it, but far too complicated for me. I have my Autumn HOC of colour wallett since 1996, and three assessment charts from 1986, 2003 and the last only in May. All there in percentages! And if it's not there, I just don't wear it - simple!

    Kate on Jun 21, 2021 9:49 AM

    Interesting article but where do us blue autumns fit? I thought that we sit nearer to the winter end of the palette, but all of my best greens, mostly with blue hues, seem to be amongst the summer colours here (and most of the ones you show for summer are also sold as being suitable for autumns!) Instinctively, I feel I'm ok in all but the springy pale mints and brights, the very dusty greens of summer, and the very bright emerald of winter (and neon apple!). Would be interested in the KW view on this!

    Kettlewell Colours: Hi Kate, because the spectrum of colour is a 3D one, rather than four separate seasonal boxes sat next to each other, there are Autumn colours that can sit near both Winter and Summer - deep teals feel 'wintery' in darkness, but because of their inherent softness they actually sit closer to where less cool but dark Summers meet Autumn, rather than where Autumn meets Winter - they lack Winter's intensity. Hope this helps!

    Barbara on Jun 20, 2021 1:40 PM

    I love these in depth blogs. I now have quite a collection of colour analysis blogs in my ‘favourites’ section. I’m surprised there is no Kettlewell response to Janet Owen’s comments directing her to Jo’s excellent blogs on seasonal sub types.

    Jeannette on Jun 19, 2021 10:10 PM

    This is such a helpful article. I'm pretty sure that I'm a summer badsed on the quizzes and my CMB analysis done 35 (!) years ago, but I'm getting a refresher analysis this week, and I can't wait for the results !

    Sharon on Jun 19, 2021 3:31 PM

    Really interesting thank you, still trying to work out what my palette is but some great tips here

    Wendy on Jun 19, 2021 12:06 PM

    Thank you as always for your helpful information. I love wearing green!

    KAREN S WHITTLE on Jun 19, 2021 10:10 AM

    This is a fantastic explanation. The only bit which I still find difficult is the instinctive part. Nearly all my life I have shied away from some of the colours that suit me best because I considered them too girly ( think pink/purple as I am a deep summer). I veered towards what I think of as "adventure" colours like jungle green and burnt orange. Now I am over 60 I find it easier to accept my pallete and enjoy the refreshing change. I am glad I am in the "deep " part of the spectrum which I am familiar with! I most certainly receive far more compliments and have had to get used people telling me I am beautiful again! I would like wear more pattern but so often designers include tricky colour in the pallete. I would love a very well styled linen dress for hot humid weather with a subtle pattern in my colours - it could be a long search! Thank you for a great job Kettlewell.

    Janet Owens on Jun 19, 2021 9:40 AM

    I had my colours done many many years ago, and was told I was a Spring. However, quite a few of the colours didn't appeal to me. I know I need the bright colours of the spring palette but I'm drawn to some of the softer, cooler colours I see in the Sumner and Winter palette. When I asked my colour counsellor about this she said I fell into a sub-category called a "blue-spring" which is the cooler end of the Spring palette which could pick up some of the colours from the Summer and Winter palette. I've never seen any information on these sub-groups but did feel this was a better explanation of why I didn't like some of the warmer colours. Do you have any more information on sub-groups or do you feel there is no such thing, I'm sure others must feel the same as I did and benefit from a little "tuning".

    Louisa on Jun 18, 2021 6:19 PM

    Great article ~ well explained ~ thank you!

    I find some colours seem different in real life. I really liked Eucalyptus on other summers but found it too warm for me and have reordered sea green. Love the teals~

    Louisa on Jun 18, 2021 6:13 PM

    Great article ~ well explained ~ thank you!

    I find some colours seem different in real life. I really liked Eucalyptus on other summers but found it too warm for me and have reordered sea green. Love the teals~

    Pat on Jun 18, 2021 4:09 PM

    This is sooo helpful for me, and others that allowed our beautiful grey/silvers shine during isolation.

    Thank you, bookmarking this one!

    Holly Plake on Jun 18, 2021 1:22 PM

    Thank you for sharing this! I love the color green 💚 and always confused of what shades I should wear as a winter. This helped me a lot!