Makeup fundamentals

03 Colour theory

Colour theory


It is important to enhance the natural colouring of skin, eyes and lips of the client. Colours will also help you conceal and correct unwanted skin tones.

Colours are defined as follows:

Primary colours:

Any colour in the universe can be created by mixing the primary colours together in different proportions:

Secondary colours:

When two primary colours are mixed together in equal proportion, they create the secondary colours:

Complementary colours:

Colours which are the opposite on the colour wheel are called complementary colours.

These are the colours that neutralise unwanted tones or cancel other colours by mixing them together.

In makeup, the use of complementary colours will help you to correct and conceal unwanted skin tones. On the other hand they can also make the opposite colour stand out; a bronze/orange eyeshadow will suit blue eyes.

You can use colour correctors and coloured makeup bases to conceal unwanted tones or adjust the skin tone.

Colour correctors:
  • Green: minimises redness
  • Mauve: counteracts sallow undertones
  • Pink: brightens the skin
  • Yellow: lightens a dark complexion
  • Peach and Orange: ideal for dark circles under the eyes
Warm and cool colours:

Colours are either warm or cool. Warm colours will have a touch of yellow, cool colours have an undertone of blue. By understanding the differences between warm and cool colours, you can better match the foundation and concealer for different coloured skin tones.

  • Cool skin tone: the client has a little pink in their skin. Veins will also be more apparent giving a blue/green undertone to the skin. They tend to burn easily under the sun. People who look good in silver jewelry and accessories.
  • Warm skin tone: the client’s skin has a yellow or golden-olive undertone. They tend to tan easily under the sun. These people might prefer gold jewelry and accessories to silver.
  • Neutral skin tone: their skin has both pink and golden undertones. They look good in both gold and silver jewellery.

If you are unsure about the skin tone of your client, imagine what jewellery would suit them.

To test the foundation, swipe it along the jawline. The right shade should disappear into the skin.

Always ask your client to show you his/her chest, the body can be slightly darker than the face, and you will also find out if your client is wearing a fake tan.

Warm and cool tones also apply when choosing colours for eyes and lips. There is no exact method to determine the best colours, however it is recommended to respect a harmony between colours.



Skin: olive, fair, medium rosy
Hair: dark, black, blonde, ashy tones
Eyes: blue, green, hazel and dark
Skin: Golden, dark, medium yellow based tones and fake tan*
Hair: Golden brown and blonde, red^, chocolate, dark
Eyes: hazel, dark, blue, medium brown
Blush: cool pink, fuchsia, peach
Eyes: purple, brown, black, grey, blue, silver
Lips: pale rose, wine, classic red
Blush: Bronze, orange, peach
Eyes: Bronze, brown, gold, orange
Lips: Nude, beige, brown, orange

*Women with fake tan have a yellow/orange skin tone. Warm shades are recommended for their makeup.

^Women with natural red hair will have cool skin tones but will suit better warm tones for eye makeup.