Seasonal and Tonal colour palettes - making sense of it all

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Last week, Melissa and I took ourselves off to Hampshire to meet top colour analyst Nicola Davis. Nicola is trained under Colour Me Beautiful's Tonal Directions system, and is one of the most successful consultants using this system.

Longstanding Kettlewell fans will have seen comparisons of the tonal and seasonal systems before (you can read one I wrote recently here), and we have been researching the perfect way of using both systems together to help find your best colours.

Now that we've met with the brilliant Nicola, we understand both systems fully and can help you understand, shop and wear your best colours with even more confidence, regardless of whether and how you've been analysed.

Understanding where you sit on the colour wheel from both a seasonal and tonal perspective, rather than simply the phrase 'I'm a Spring' or 'I'm a Clear, Warm and Light' in isolation, will help you discover even more colours that you can wear, and how you should be combining them to create outfits that wow! And if you've never had a formal colour analysis, read on for how this information will help simplify things for you.

What is tonal analysis?

If you've been analysed under a seasonal system, you might not have come across tonal colour analysis. Without getting too in depth, tonal analysis doesn't describe your colour palette simply as a season, but instead describes its dominant, secondary and tertiary traits (dominant is always listed first, secondary and tertiary are interchangeable and can be listed in either order after the dominant).

The six tonal direction designations are Warm, Cool, Deep, Light, Clear, Soft, so you might, for instance, be classified as Warm, Light, Clear, or Cool, Deep, Soft. While they don't always relate precisely to specific seasonal palettes and seasonal sub-types (the narrower palettes of 'wow' colours within each season, such as the Blue Spring colours or the Soft Summer colours), a translation is possible. And that's where we really feel the magic happens - adding the knowledge of your dominant tonal direction to your seasonal palette is the key which will unlock your best colours, and the best way to combine them. Even if you don't know your seasonal sub-type, we're going to be discussing how to start to consider your dominant tonal direction in the coming weeks and months.

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Adding tonal directions to your season

Firstly, don't panic! We'll still be using the four main seasonal palette designations every single time we describe a colour. This means that each and every colour will continue to be coded as either Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.

However, we want you to also understand where you sit tonally, in order to fully understand your own personal palette, including those colours which might work for your particular seasonal sub-type but might not work for everyone who shares your season.

As such, we've created a translation guide for you, to help you understand how your seasonal sub-type relates to your dominant tonal direction.

For each of the tonal directions groupings below, I've created a 'translation' into the appropriate seasonal sub-type, so you can see which dominant tonal direction applies to you.

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The soft cool pink on the left makes Jo look chalky and washed out, whereas the warm coral pink gives her a healthy warm glow.

Cool

Your dominant colouring is cool with no warmth to it. To achieve harmony and balance, you need to wear colours which have blue or cool undertones and which can be from a light to deep tone. Avoid yellow and golden based colours entirely. You might opt for a more tonal look, or some contrast, but high contrast can be overwhelming for you.

Cool, Soft, Deep = Brown Summer

Cool, Soft, Light = Sweetpea/True Summer

Cool, Light, Clear = Bright Summer, Sprinter Winter

Cool, Deep, Clear = Sultry Winter

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Jo experienced the client journey under the tonal directions system. These Cool colours are too stark and icy for Jo's skintone, making it look pale and washed out.


Warm

Your dominant colouring is warm and golden. To achieve harmony and balance, you need to wear shades that have a yellow or golden undertone, and avoid all cool tones. Your best colours can be from light to moderate depth. Warm up your navy and greys with, for instance, yellows and corals.

Warm, Clear, Light = Golden/Warm/True Spring

Warm, Clear, Deep = Vibrant Autumn

Warm, Soft, Deep = Leaf/True Autumn

Warm, Soft, Light = Soft Autumn, Light/Pastel Spring

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The Warm colours are much better on Jo, giving her a more even and glowing complexion.


Light

Your dominant colouring is light and delicate. To achieve harmony and balance, you need to use light to medium depth colours. Do not overpower your natural colouring with dark combinations and when you wear the darker colours of your palette, keep the lighter shades near your face.

Light, Warm, Clear = Pastel Spring

Light, Warm, Soft = Pastel/Light Spring, Soft/Light Blue Autumn

Light, Cool, Soft = Pastel/Light Summer

Light, Cool, Clear = Sprinter Winter, Bright Summer

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The Light palette doesn't have nearly enough depth for Jo, and we lose the brightness and contrast in her skin and eyes.


Deep

Your dominant colouring is deep and intense. To achieve harmony and balance, you need to wear somewhat darker colours together, tonally or in contrast. Avoid wearing pastel shades on their own.

Deep, Warm, Clear = Deep/Dark/Blue Autumn (suits more contrast) - this is me!

Deep, Warm, Soft = Deep/Dark/Blue Autumn (suits more tonal)

Deep, Cool, Clear = Deep/Dark/Burnished Winter

Deep, Cool, Soft = Deep/Dark Summer 

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Deep is where the magic happens for Jo - her skin is even and smooth, her eye colour intense, and her hair feels natural and in harmony.


Clear

Your dominant look is clear and contrasting. To achieve harmony and balance, you need to wear colours of contrasting depths, or neutrals with brights. Avoid blended or a tone-on-tone look (i.e. two light or two dark colours together).

Clear, Warm, Light = Bright/Blue Spring

Clear, Warm, Deep = Paintbox Spring/Vibrant Autumn

Clear/Cool, Light = Bright/Sprinter Winter

Clear, Cool, Deep = Jewel Winter 

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Clear colours worked quite well, giving Jo's eyes clarity, but weren't as good as the Deep shades.


Soft

Your dominant look is soft and muted. To achieve harmony and balance, you can wear tone-on-tone shades from the same colour group. Darker colours from your palette can be worn with shades that are one or two tones lighter. Use contrast with care and avoid vibrant colours.

Soft, Warm, Light = Soft/Light Blue Autumn, Pastel/Light Spring

Soft, Warm, Deep = Leaf/True Autumn

Soft, Cool, Light = Sweetpea/True Summer

Soft, Cool, Deep = Soft/Brown Summer

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We all agreed that soft was the worst palette for Jo! She looks chalky and boring.


This more universal language will help set the scene when we're talking about seasonal palettes and sub-types/specific colour combinations within those seasonal palettes.

How does this help me if I've been analysed seasonally?

They joy of combining your season with your dominant tonal direction is that it gives you more of your best colours than simply looking at your seasonal palette.

For instance, if you're a Burnished/Deep Winter, there will be lots of Deep colours which will work for you but that we can't in good conscience code as a definite 'Winter' colour. So knowing your tonal direction means that you can browse both 'Winter' and 'Deep' colours to find colours you love, and which will work for your unique skintone and colouring, rather than simply looking at the colours which will suit all Winters but don't take into account where you sit within the Winter palette.

We're going to be talking a lot more about these crossover/tonal direction colours and palettes in the coming months and really helping you get to grips with using your dominant tonal direction to support your seasonal analysis.

How does this help me if I've been analysed tonally?

The same, but in reverse! If you've been analysed as Cool, Soft and Light, for instance, you've probably browsed the dominant 'Cool' palette, perhaps Soft and Light too, but possibly found too many colours or been unsure how they will pair together. Using the season related to your palette as well (in this case, Summer) will give you a sense of how to put your colours together, and help you search for inspiration on our seasonally coded website.

How does this help me if I've NEVER been analysed, or I don't know my seasonal sub-type?

This is where our real love of tonal directions comes in - if you've never been analysed, it can be an awful lot easier to figure out your dominant tonal direction than it is to figure out your seasonal palette. We're going to be talking more about this in the coming weeks, but for now, take a look in the mirror. What's the first thing you see? Dark eyes, tanned skin and dark hair? You're probably a Deep. Mid tone 'is it blonde, is it brown?' hair, soft eye colour and medium skin? You might well be a Soft.

Don't panic if you can't see this quite yet - we promise more tips and tricks in the future! Our seasonal palette quiz should be enough to get you started for now.

Now you can head to Shop by Colour in the navigation bar to find YOUR colours - enjoy!

julie on Nov 29, 2020 8:38 PM

thank you for including the photos showing a range of colours for each tone. I have only been analysed by season but seeing the groups of colours together made it easy to see which would work best for me, and brilliant to then be able to search for those colours on the website.

Barbara on Nov 06, 2020 2:57 PM

Very interesting and I look forward to the next instalment. I like my Autumn palette and know the areas in it that suit me best. If I look at the Warm palette there are Spring colours there too. Will I just have to learn how to filter them out with experience and your help? However I can see that the two systems support each other.

Linda on Nov 02, 2020 3:36 PM

Iโ€™m a soft and it would be wonderful if you could do some colour inspirations from a tonal perspective? Fingers crossed!

Eileen O'Boyle on Oct 30, 2020 11:38 AM

This is so helpful and interesting. And yes, I will be looking under the 'clear' banner because as a Paintbox Spring, there are colours there that I love, that are not characterized as Spring. Thank you soo much.

Susan on Oct 28, 2020 2:05 AM

Thank you Jo that was extremely interesting and has thrown a pleasing light on an area I was hitherto in the dark about!

It makes so much sense when seen like this on the colour wheel!๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ™

If you find with this that you are sitting next to a different temperature but similar colour intensities does that give you the crossover colours?

Thank you so much!๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ‘

Kettlewell Colours: This blog post goes into more detail about cross over colours and relates to seasonal and tonal palettes. https://www.kettlewellcolours.co.uk/blog/jo/how-can-colours-work-for-multiple-seasonal-palettes

Another colour wheel for your enjoyment!

Mary on Oct 27, 2020 9:33 AM

Thank you so much for this blog and enormous thanks to Maxie Absell for her comment, whose description of herself is exactly me! Iโ€™ve been a big fan of colour analysis for 30 years, seen others do well with it but never felt Iโ€™ve got it spot on for me. This tells me me why and where Iโ€™ve been going wrong. Thank you! Keep the blogs coming please Kettlewell.

helen foley on Oct 26, 2020 8:43 AM

Great detail , thank you.

I'm Autumn and warm but I'm going grey, which I'm happy with .

Does this mean my colours will change?

Many thanks

Helen Foley

Una Daniel on Oct 25, 2020 3:03 PM

I love this article.

Having my colours done over 20 years ago is the best thing I ever did. Autumn, natural romantic and had red hair.

Now grey haired and had colours redone couple of years ago. HOC consultant no longer appears on list, though she helped me with changing emphasis on colours within autumn spectrum.

Now am not sure what my tonal colours are, think they have turned to deep and warm, though sometimes I think I am a leaf. Whatever is correct, I am so enjoying Kettlewell since I started buying in earnest from you.

Looking forward to further bloggs. You have given my life an extra buzz, might sound daft, but it is extra true as the years go by.

Hugs and thanks,

Una Daniel. x

Christine Hyde on Oct 24, 2020 1:12 PM

Thank you for todayโ€™s blog about tonal and seasonal analysis systems. Very helpful. I am excited!

Maxie Absell on Oct 24, 2020 12:59 PM

I love this blog and fantastic to see Jo's colours so clearly analysed here. As a dominant LIGHT with no obvious secondary - though bright is closest . I can wear predominately both some spring and summer colours though nothing too warm, highly saturated or too Cool from each season. The brighter mid tones look best on me , and a splash of colour usually needed to lift a pastel or neutral. I take a tan quite well so can tolerate some pastel colour better in summer! It is great to see your chart and know that you are embracing the tonal system as well as the seasonal. I do not fit perfectly into a spring or a summer palette , as some spring is too warm and highly saturated and some summer colours too cool or dark! I am such a huge fan of KETTLEWELL and just want to say a big THANKYOU for embracing colour in the way that you all do!

Margaret Hall on Oct 24, 2020 9:38 AM

Brilliant, I was colour analysed50 yrs again, light spring. Now white haired, water melon still gets most compliments.Thanks.

Millarno on Oct 23, 2020 10:54 PM

This is great thank you. I am clear warm deep. Thank you for explaining that the secondary and tertiary terms are interchangeable , that helps too. I was told Clear warm deep translates to a spring. But with darker hair that has always been confusing re choosing my best colours. I have a CMB swatch with Includes my neutrals and some brighter and clear colours, so the explanation in the article about paintbox spring/vibrant Autumn makes sense. It will help me choose with confidence in the future.

I am looking forward to more articles and perhaps labelling of colours on the KW site.

Thank you

Laura on Oct 23, 2020 10:41 PM

This is really helpful, Jo. Thank you. The tonal system has always seemed less intuitive for me, but reading your post helps me see how it may be useful.

Helen Williamson on Oct 23, 2020 6:11 PM

Very interesting. I was originally done with CMB over 30 years ago, warm autumn, before they had tonal classifications. I had some spring colours. Was redone in feb โ€˜20 With HoC- now soft autumn, so nearer summer end of palette. I do occasionally order some spring colours. But find now some of the spring summer crossover colours work for me, even the occasional summer colour. Thank you.

Shirley on Oct 23, 2020 5:02 PM

Well done ladies this is a very good description of how this works.

Michele on Oct 23, 2020 4:19 PM

What a great blog - so fascinating to see the tonal approach compared to seasonal. Well done Jo for sitting in the chair! The pictures of you with all the different colours really helps make sense of things and provides another insight into how we find out best colours. Canโ€™t wait to see what more you have in store for us! Thank you!

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