Tonal directions and seasonal analysis

(Above) Romantic V Neck 1/2 Sleeve in Cobalt Blue

Here at Kettlewell we talk in terms of seasonal palettes - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, and within that the seasonal sub-types of each season. But if you've had your colours analysed using what is known as a 'tonal directions' system rather than a seasonal analysis, you might be feeling a little bit lost with our seasonal approach.

And we want everyone to be able to access colours in their very best palette, so we've created a full translation guide to help you understand how tonal directions translates into a seasonal system, as well as showing you which Kettlewell shades will work best for your tonal directions palette.

The systems

Most colour analysis systems - including the two UK big names in the industry, House of Colour and Colour Me Beautiful, alongside numerous independent consultants and global systems - use broadly similar divisions between colour palettes. The difference between a tonal directions system (such as Colour Me Beautiful's) and a seasonal one (as used by House of Colour) is not so much in the actual palettes but more the different names of those palettes and the way they are seen to relate to one another.

As an aside, the seasonal system might at first glance appear to only have four palettes, but the sub-types within each season bring it up to a full 12 - you can read more about the four seasons and their sub-types in this blog post. The tonal system used by Colour Me Beautiful has 24 possible palettes.

Today I want to focus firmly on the tonal directions system, and how it translates to the seasonal system that we more commonly use at Kettlewell, to help you switch easily between the two.

What is the tonal directions system?

If you have a colour analysis under a tonal directions process, you will be assigned one of six tonal directions - Warm, Cool, Light, Deep, Clear and Soft - as a dominant seasonal attribute, based on your hair colour, skin tone and eye colour, and then with further analysis one as a secondary attribute (and also a tertiary attribute, but for the purposes of this article we are ignoring the tertiary as we end up with too many palette variations for us to reasonably cover every single possible combination of tonal directions right here). For instance, you might be assigned Light as your primary tonal direction, with Soft as a secondary one. Your primary tonal direction is always first when describing your palette, so in this example you would be described as 'Light and Soft' with Light as the primary and Soft as the secondary signifier.

The tonal directions work together to dictate your personal colour palette. But what do they mean, and how do they translate into our seasonal palette and sub-type system? To read more about each of the six tonal directions and which seasonal palettes they relate to when linked to their secondary signifiers, click on the links below.

Please remember that translations from tonal to seasonal systems (or indeed, between different versions of the seasonal system) may differ because every system is very slightly different and uses fractionally different colour groupings. However, these differences are small, and we're confident that our seasonal coding and tonal directions translations are as accurate as it's possible to be and work with every single analysis system we've come across.

No time to read six posts? Here's our 6 step cheat sheet guide for converting tonal directions palettes to our seasonal system when looking at colours on the website (when looking at any product, hold your cursor over the colour swatch to see which seasons we assign it to):

  1. Light? Look for colours that we assign to both Springs and Summers
  2. Deep? Look for colours that we assign to both Autumns and Winters
  3. Cool? Look for colours that we assign to both Summers and Winters
  4. Warm? Look for colours that we assign to both Springs and Autumns
  5. Clear? Look for colours that we assign to both Springs and Winters
  6. Soft? Look for colours that we assign to both Summers and Autumns

Denise whitehead on Mar 22, 2022 5:50 PM


What a great article!

My Question is I have had my colours with house of colour over the years and have been told two completely different seasons. Winter , summer, and autumn. This is really confusing.

Lynne Crawford on May 09, 2021 9:34 AM

I used to be autumn but now I have let my hair go white/grey I don’t know what I am. I need new clothes but need your advice. Thank you.

Kettlewell Colours: This blog post might help:

Clare Strawson on Jun 26, 2020 11:34 AM

I'm a burnished winter so I should buy colours shared with autumn? However, when I look at your website I much prefer the colours winters share with spring.

Virginia Quant on Apr 22, 2020 5:12 PM

Am not quite following this group and sub group thing! Can one be a cool and deep winter in summer?! I had to cancel my colour analysis with the lockdown, perhaps all will become clear then!

Ann Marie Penman on Apr 20, 2020 4:53 PM

Hi. I’m soft, cool and deep. Does that mean that my best colours are going to be in your soft tonal collection plus also suitable for summer and autumn?

Kettlewell Colours: Because your secondary palette is cool, you will be better sticking to just the summer colours, but preferably go for the deeper ones!

Heather on Apr 20, 2020 12:30 PM

I am about to order the Gemma top in emerald green - as a cool summer what colour scarves would work well?

Many thanks

Kettlewell Colours: As this is quite a bright colour for a summer, we would suggest teaming it was a softer, lighter colour from your palette. How about Silver, Pebble Grey, Ice Blue or even Pink Ice? Navy would work well for a smarter look. Hope this helps :)

Berry on Apr 20, 2020 11:34 AM

Thank you, this is great.

Donna on Apr 20, 2020 10:52 AM

I was advised I was a blue autumn, where would this sit within your tones?

Kettlewell Colours: In the tonal system, this roughly translates as deep & warm.

Ann Marie Penman on Apr 19, 2020 4:08 PM

Does this mean that if I am soft/cool/deep I should be looking for kettlewell colours that are both su and au and also sit within the soft section you have on the website? And if this is true, why isn't dusty rose su and au?

Barbara on Apr 18, 2020 12:05 PM

Congratulations. What a brilliant post. I have been analysed using both systems over the many years I have been interested in colour analysis so I am already familiar with the translations but I enjoyed this post enormously. Thanks Jo.

Beryl Low on Apr 18, 2020 11:51 AM

I have done your quiz and found I am summer, do you have a colour chart I can print off the computer?

Kettlewell Colours: Here is the link to all the summer colours:

Sue on Apr 18, 2020 11:08 AM

Really enjoyed reading this blog! It answers some of my questions regarding colour analysis. I am a summer on your quiz however I know I don’t suit “yellow” based colours & many colours I pick often feature as summer & spring or summer & winter.

I found this very interesting.

Toots on Apr 18, 2020 10:33 AM

Some photos of people as examples of these combinations (Soft+cool etc.) would really help.

Helen H on Apr 18, 2020 10:26 AM

A really helpful post. I've always been a bit uncertain about the tonal system but this makes it very easy to follow. The sample colour you give for each category is a perfect lead-in and enabled me to find myself quite quickly - Clear and Cool! (And a seasonal Winter who really loves her colours.)

Annette Wernstrom on Apr 18, 2020 8:49 AM

Very helpful! Could you please also post a note on how to identify Kettlewell colours for Paintbox Springs?

Kettlewell Colours: For a Paintbox Spring, this page might help you better:

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