3. February 2017

Colourtyping part 1: introduction and the 4-season-system

Some topics are part of your whole life, others are more like a boomerang: When you think you let go of them, they return.

Colourtypes are in a way both of it for me. I already wrote about them before, but honestly, these articles were no good ones.  But now I am pretty shure that I worked through the theory and really understood it. This is why I explain the colour types/colour seasons to you again today and in the following weeks, first the 4-Season-System, than the 12-Season-System. There were some aspects which I had to make clear to me and really made all the difference – and I am pretty shure they will to you too.

What are the benefits of colour typing?

As for every categorization it also counts for colour typing that the categories make life easier and simpler and this is why I appreciate them a lot. It is all about guidelines, not about rules or restrictions. It is just about having a structure to make thing better, more harmonic. For me personally the colour typing is extra fun and useful because:

I love pretty clothes

And I’d rather own a smaller exquist wardrobe than tons of clothes hard to combine. With the colour seasons you are safe here, as they always match and do the best for me individually.

I love people with a recognizable style

My dear Nickike and also Luise (both summer types or more precisely: Soft Summer) are very straight in their style. I love the recognizability and that everything matches in an effortless way.

As an illustrator I know that you choose a certain colour type (and style) for your characters

which is really nice for character design as it makes it easier for the readers to tell the persons apart and define their characters.

So with the matching colour type you look better in an effortless way, your wardrobe is easier to combine and – if you want – smaller and there is this special effect of “Wow, this outfit is so you!” Like this the colour season can safe you time, money and nerves. In my eyes these are valid arguments.

What defines the colour type?

As always the internet is not consistent about this but I go for what seems to be most logical to me: The own colour type is defined solely by your skintone. Eyecolour and haircolour just complete the image and there are stereotype typical eye- and haircolours to every colour season, but these colours don’t define the season itself. By using make-up or hairdye it is NOT possible to change ones colour type, it is only possible to immitate another season more or less successful. Broken down to the very basics: a cool skintone leads to a cool colour season, a warm skin tone to a warm season. You differ between skin overtone and undertone here and only the undertone is what decides the colour season, so you can look yellowish at first glance but still be a cool colour type. At least when it comes to make-up it gets really, really tricky here (it was for me!), but for today we will only focus on clothes.

Draping oneself or somebody else

So as the skintone is crucial, you define your colour type with absolutely no make-up on and with hair tied back, especially when it is not your natural haircolour. Look for a neutral background in daylight (white wall) and wear a top with a deep neckline so you can see more of your skin and can hide the clothe underneath your draping fabric. Original draping fabrincs are expensieve and hard to get your hands on but for a first tendency you can work with shirts, scaves or towels. You can also print out a full sheet of a paper in a certain colour. Please make shure not to use fabric with shine, patterns or a dominant structure as this distracts from the colour.

If you are a bit tired on the day you want to drape yourself, this is in fact a benefit. You will easily see which colours make you look even more worn and which brightens you up. If you are in the lucky position to be very young with clear and slightly tanned skin and you are a awake and in good mood draping can get way more difficult as the effect of more or less visible flaws won’t show. If you are additionally not one of the stereotypes concerning hair- and eyecolour it will get even more tricky. A second person is always helpful because you naturally have some favourite colours which can but must not match your colour type. For example: the Winter palette is very popular also among people who are everything but a Winter. It would be perfect if the second person has a good intuition towards colours and/or does not know you too good as he or she will automatically associate you with the colours he or she sees most often on you. So a colour consultant makes sense. 😉 But believe me among friends it is just really fun to try to find out which season you are.

The 4-Season-System

The 4-Season-System talks about the 4 colour seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The types are defined by two criteria: colour warmth and colour brightness. The third aspect, lightness/darkness just naturally comes with them but it does not define the seasons! I will repeat and stress that further on.

Warmth: The warmest colour is yellow (not red) and the coolest colour is cyan (not blue). Magenta is neutral in this context.
Brightness: A colour is at its brightest fully tuned up (100% colourdesity) without any mixing in of black or brown. The most unsaturated colour is grey. It is the difference between full colour photography and black and white photography. When we talk about the brightness/saturation of a colour in the 4-Season-System as well as in the 12-Season-System we talk about bright and muted colours.

Spring: primarily bright, secundary warm.
Summer: primarily cool, secundary muted
Autumn: primarily warm, secundary muted
Winter: primarily bright, secundary cool

And here we see already a big flaw in the 4-Season-System: There is no primarily muted season. As where I live the very muted Soft Summers and Soft Autumns are not that rare this really causes some troubles for some non-stereotypes. But I will come to the 12-Season-System soon enough, I promise. 🙂


Bright, saturated colours and warm please. An Easter basket. That’s the stereotype. You see, lightness is unimportant. Going lighter in the white direction works so that the bright colours become a bit softer and no longer yelling bright like text markers or sports gear. The Spring is the rarest colour season and for most people the first to dismiss, when the try to find out their own. I personally only know two Springs and with one of them I am not quite shure. Spring looks light, but it does not necessarily have to be light.
Try on a smoky blue, black or grey. These should be the worst colours for you as they are muted and cool. If you tolerate them, you are no Spring. BUT: these colours are very, very popular for many fields (business, jeans, classic outfits) and most people believe that black, white and grey match everything, so careful here. The other colour seasons have easier colours to show if they don’t match.

Stereotype: peachy complexion, greenblue eyes, strawberryblonde to goldenblonde hair

Stereotype wardrobe: Watermelon, bright daffodil yellow, glowing peach, light orange and spring green. Many springs don’t go overboard with their colours, as they are so “loud” and calm their type down by wearing a lot of white (a warm white please) which makes them look fresh and light. White blouse and spring coloured scarf. A floral dress. Spring at 100% is just the opposite of easy to overlook. If your personality matches this colour explosion, go for it! If not, really, the lighter combinations with white will do their best for you.

Easy to find for Springs: Sports gear and beach outfits.

Difficult to find for Springs: Winterclothing, except for the outdoor versions maybe. Also business can be really tricky. Men’s wear, really, this season can be tough for a male especiall if he is not the person for sports gear only. Men’s business wear is really tough as a Spring as these colours are just not accepted for men in suits. Depending on the field you work in maybe you can work with the colour of your shirt or at least with the colour of tie and pocket square.

Jewelry: Gold or rosegold als metal, turquoise, rainbow opal, citrine, emerald, turmaline as gemstones and rosequartz as a softer version. Warm and bright please.

Examples: @nataliedarlingblog , I found her over a year ago when she still wore mostly spring colours (scroll, scroll, scroll…) but momentarily she wears… almost everything but spring colours. I guess somebody told her that blondes look great in muted blue (Summertype) or something like that. Look at how she brightens up, when she wears pink, watermelon, peach or orange. The Winter combos in white, bright red and black really knock her out. The many Summer outfits (muted blues) are still quite nice (maybe she is a Light Spring, tolerating a lot from the Light Summer palette) but they don’t really support her appearance.
Here are images which are just gorgeous:  white top with colourful skirt, eißes Top, white hippiedress mit foral embroidery, another little dress with emboidery, every non-Spring would look horrible in this bikini, the same counts for this skirt (maybe a winter might deal with it, but not as she does)
And a celebrety Spring who you will love: Disney’s Rapunzel! For shure, she is animated therefore 😉 but haircolour, eyecolour and dress are too good. Okay, the dress might have been a bit warmer, but Rapunzel really is no Summer, no Autumn and no Winter. Method of elimination. 🙂


In fact Summer is not only the most common colour season in Europe but it is also the coolest colour season (primarily cool, Winter is primarily bright!) and meets us in a muted way with slightly greyish to faded colours. This does not necessarily mean that Summer colours are light, but they can be. It is more like the effect on worn clothes with faded colours. For a Summer (and Autumn) colour season this is nothing too bad, for Springs and Winters this fading ruins their wardrobe. They are the true target group of colour washing agent. THE colour of summer is blue (I mean cyan) in almost any shades. The stereotype pastel look of the Summer palette can be something you really love (soft, natural, ethereal, mild) or something to hate (greyish, dull, boring). It can be all of this, but does not have to. Again: The 4-Season-System does not take lightness/darkness into consideration. A dark Summer outfit can easily be darker than a light Winter outfit. When Spring can be a bit overwhelmingly loud, Summer is a calmer colour season and if you want it to be more present, you can work with patterns, cuts and contrast here.
If you look good in orange you can dismiss Summer for yourself, always talking about clothes close to your face. Belts, shoes or sometimes even trouseres are way less problematic than tops and scarves. Black is really no colour for the Summer either – at least not (you just learned it) close to your face. The summer’s alternative is dark navy blue.

Stereotype: rosy complexion, greyish blue eyes, ashblonde to ashbrown hair

Stereotype wardrobe: Jeansblue shades combines with pastel pink, mint and light grey. Cool natural shaes, scandinavian look. I see many fashion loving Summer types wearing rather monochrome outfits, often with only two colours and maybe only three colours in their wardrobe. Right now the combination of pastelpink, grey, white and grey seems to be very hip only rarely combined with shades of jeans. But be careful: black and white are no Summer colours, especially black is not! Summer is really soft and mild, black makes him/her look worn, tired and hard. The alternative is the beforementioned navy blue. Black and white lead to more contrast and edgyness in the Summer palette but as I already said this is nothing which is really flattering for a Summer. Cuts are more important but talking about this we transition to body shapes and this will lead to far for today. Nevertheless many Summers miss this edgyness for how they want to be seen at least occasionally. There are Summers who can bear with black and white better than others, but really, in general these colours are not recommended. And well, I know, most Summers wear them nonetheless.

Easy to find for Summers: Summer types have a good time finding their colours, because their type is so common in Europe and fashion brands produce a lot for them. No matter if you look for business, casual or eveninggowns, Summers mostly have a a good time shopping.

Difficult to find for Summers: My dear Nickike really lives her colour seasons, as I already said and for her it was the most difficult part to find not black (and naturally not brown!) basic boots and heals. It is not impossible, but darkblue shoes are harder to find than black and brown ones. If you find some, they are really worth an investment.

Jewelry: Silver, white- and rosegold as well as palladium, titanium and platinum. Amethyst, aquamarine, rosequartz, pearl, moonstone, cool smoky quartz as gemstones as well as all white gemstones like clear crystal and diamond. In fact almost all minerals look good on Summers (and Autumns) as nature’s mineral colours are rarely really bright (except for for example lapislazuli or the black stones like onyx and obsidian). The warmer shades are of ourse not matching the Summer palette.

Examples: Sarah Jessica Parker (in Sex and the City often not styled matching to her solour season), Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Antomy), Luise, Nickike, Andrea, Benedict, Nessa (oh yes! I am so super sorry that I mistook you for a Winter so long, this mistake with lightness/darkness made all the difference here. I will come back to your special case with the 12-Season-System) Jon Michel Hill (Markus Bell in Elementary), Adrian Lester (Mickey Bricks in Hustle) – these are two examples for black men, who just look the handsomest in lilac, pastelpink and babyblue. Elementary in general is a TV series which dresses their protagonists according to their colour season, I will refer to them again. Additionally there is Robin Wright (Claire Underwood in House of Cards) and to have a quick look: @_felistyle. But unfourtunately she is no longer active on Instagram. You see pretty well on her, what I meant with monochrome outfits. I don’t have to pick single pictures as she is super straight in her wardrobe. Also: Jana from bekleidet.net.


Welcome to my world! 😀 It took some time for me to really find my home here but now that I grew some roots here it feels just like the place to be. Autumn is the warmest colour season and comes along with muteed colours. Summer looks more muted than autumn even though both seasons have this crieria at secundary place. Muted colours for an Autumn mean basically adding a brown tint. I want to repeat it again as it was my major mistake to misunderstand the colour seasons for so, so long: lightness or darkness are unimportant! Autumn looks darker than Spring on first glance, but a light Autumn outfit can easily be lighter than a dark Spring outfit. Most Autumn colours don’t look really muted for the untrained eye but more “heavy” or “rich”. This can really be irritating at the start.
Try on a bright cyan. if you can tolerate it, you are no Autumn as cool and bright or your counterparts.

Stereotype: golden complexion, brown eyes, red to auburn hair

Stereotype wardrobe: Cognacbrown, mustard yellow, heavy and rich greens – fall colours. Green parka with brown leatherboots to dark bluejeans with offwhite to creamy or leafcoloured knitwear.

Easy to find for Autumns: Autumn is just perfect for comfy casual clothes in the sense of: there is really a lot in the shops out there. Leather is always easy as brown and cognanc are the most common classic colours here. If you like steampunk you have a good chance to look really good in your cosplay.

Difficult to find for Autumns: Evening gowns with understatement. Gold and burgundy/dark red are gorgeous but for example for a wedding guest easily a bit too present or too close to the bridal gown. Muted browns or greens are super rare among evening robes. Also: children’s clothes. The soft and cool muted Summer palette can already be found especially from scandinavian Labels and the bright Winter and Spring palettes are tradiotionally kids wear. The muted warmer shades are way harder to find and if so they often come from really pricy organic labels…

Jewelry: Yellow gold, brass, copper, rosegold. No silver tones. Amber, carnelian, garnet, emerald as gemstones. As for Summer it also counts for Autumn: natural mineral shades mostly match, but here we go for the warm tones.

Examples: I, Barbara Meier, Cynthia Dicker, Evangeline Lilly (finally a non-ginger Autumn), Jonny Lee Miller is almost always dressed matching his season as Sherlock Holmes in Elementary, Cordula, Karolina. @aclotheshorse as an example for Autumn over the top with photos often in the golden hour and additional warm filter… Last summer she experimented with haircolours and of course it was just for fun but… blue? Really? And platinum blonde? She just looks best with red hair. I guess this is why she quickly came back to it.
@cmcoving as a fashion blogger wears more than her true colour season of course but in contrast to aclotheshorse she is a Soft Autumn (12-Season-System) and they both show how different two persons of the same season can look. As a Soft Autumn she tolerates quite well the muted cooler shades of Summer, and also some warmer spring tones can be combined quite well. But especially when you see her in bold Winter colours you see that she fades away and a very skinny girl transforms into a bony woman. Here are some Autumn outfits I would like to have for myself (especially as she loves blanket scarves at least as much as I do!):
Hat and shoes! No typical Autumn outfit but you immediately see what cognac brown does for her: a lot! If it has to be black, than please like this! Non-Autumns will look very ill and colourless in this burberry-beige-brown. This pullover! You just see a tiny bit of shoulder and hand, but it is sufficiant to know that it matches her very well. Warm, muted colours, wonderful! Natural earthtones and she just looks stunning. With such an outfit I found her and stayed. And oh yes, always present the hipster coffee… so well.


Just as Spring, Winter is primarily bright/clear but of course not warm but cool. And now it will finally be annoying with the lightness/darkness of colours because Winter really looks darker than Spring and actually almost  always is!  Only the warmth of the colours makes the difference. That Winters look darker than Springs has two reasons: yellow shades look lighter than cyan shades and Winter can wear black, Spring can’t.
Try on a yellowish muted brown. If you can tolerate it, you are not a Winter muted and warm is your Nemesis.

Stereotype: alabaster skin, brownblack or bright blue eyes, dark brown to black hair and red lips. Platinum blonde is very rare. Supposedly this blonde is the only found among Winters, but I can’t tell, if this is true. Let’s say, other blondes are extremely not likely.

Stereotype wardrobe: Cool colourblocking with bright blue to black, white or bright red (a very specific red, be careful!) Snowwhite look with red coat, white blouse and black jeans with red lipstick. Black and white.

Easy to find for Winters: Winter is easy for business and sports gear. The gothic and the rockabilly style almost completely rely on the Winter palette. Children’s clothing is also easy to find.

Difficult to find for Winters: Cozy casual can get tricky, as the warmer, muted shades are way more common in this fiels. But as Winters are the only ones to really work with black and white they have a very comfortable way out of this little, little dilemma.

Jewelry: Silver, no doubt. Also all other silvery metals. Diamond, clear quartz, all white minerals, lapislazuli, onyx, (snowflake)obsidian, saphire as gemstones.

Examples: My sister (please, please never wear this greyishbrown zipper again! You look gorgeous in pink and bright purple!), Snowwhite, Zoey Deschanel, Lucy Liu is almost always perfectly styled for both her colour season and her body shape as Joan Watson in Elementary. @newdarlings (I guess both of them). Some pictures: Just that this hair and make-up work so well on her. Nobody can wear black and white as pretty as Winters. Look at her shoes, how they mismatch! She often wears also colours of the Autumn palette, especially cognac brown, mostly combined with bright white and a bright jeansblue but here you see very well, that these are not really her colours. How yellowish she looks! Black, white and red lipstick – and she is just perfect.


If you are not a stereotype finding a matching cagorie in the 4-Season-System can be really difficult. An ashblonde Autumn? A Summer with golden complexion? A rosy Spring? A yellowish Winter (most Asians are Winters!) And I personally really, really mis the aspect of lightness/darkness in this system. My personal example: I am an Autumn who needs (!!!) Summer make-up and tolerates only few from the Autumn palette. As I tryed to find clothes and make-up at the same time according to my colour season I was trapped for a long time, thinking I am a Summer. But I am not. My skintone is just VERY yellow (both undertone and overtone), so I can’t handle even more warm colour on my skin, as it makes me look like having liver problems. That said, in fact I tolerate more Autumn Make-up, when I am at good health, as than my natural yellow balances itself a bit. But well, the make-up question is really, really a tricky one. I recommend doing the clothing one first as it is supposed to do the best for you even without make-up. So you understand why I transitioned very fast to the 12-Season-System. And there we will read us soon again.
Until then: Have fun draping, trying and guessing! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.