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Thanks to Fran for today's question!

How do you decide what colors go well together?

I think trial and error is the biggest one for me. It’s just trying things out and over time, learning what works better/worse to my eye/preferences. You can also look at other people’s looks for inspiration and see what combinations seem to pair well, and once you try them, you’ll have a better idea if they go together with your skin tone/undertone/features.

— Christine

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42 Comments

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I’m pursuing a BA in Art History, and I have some studio arts background, so I think about what I’ve learned, liked, and didn’t like from those experiences. Helps a lot!

Profile photo of Pearl

Oh the cursed how! I am still trying to learn how to pick colors that would go together on my eyes, then coordinating colors for cheek and lip. I’ve tried on my own but I think I play it too safe and pick colors that don’t contrast enough and end up looking all like the same color. I’ve taken to watching tutorials and trying those combos or similar, going in store and asking an MUA, or my failsafe – getting a makeover.

I had a similar experience when I was starting out and getting more into makeup. Marlena from Makeup Geek on YouTube has some great videos on how to pair your eye looks with your lips and cheeks, really simple and informative. I still struggle with this though and I think it might be helpful to buy or download a color wheel so you know which colors compliment or oppose each other.

This is something I struggle with too. It’s really hard to find resources on this because most content made about this online just likes to pull up the color wheel and talk about color theory. And while some of that is helpful, it doesn’t address the multitude of colors, finishes, or combinations people wear. Or it only talks about two products: lipstick and eyeshadow, or blush and eyeshadow, but not lipstick, blush, and eyeshadow.

I still struggle matching the rest of my face with certain colors. For instance: red eyeshadow. And just because blue is on the opposite end of the color wheel doesn’t mean it’s the answer! Blue lips? All the time? Or cool toned lips?

I reached out to Dustin Hunter, who said he was going to do a video on the topic, but then he didn’t D:

General things I have learned:
– Neutrals go with any lip, including Black, White, Brown, Taupe, Gray, Silver, Gold, some coppers, bronzes, and rose golds
– Burgundys and pinks can also go very far if they are eyeshadow colors.
– Keep cheek and lip colors in the similar tonal family (cool, warm, neutral), if not the same colors exactly

I actually don’t know. I’m 100% colorblind, so I just pick whatever shades I think look good, even if they don’t look good to the rest of the population.

Same here – on weekends, I play with makeup, test out color combos at home and while running errands, just to see what works. I also look at blogs and internet for inspiration.

Profile photo of Nancy T

Most likely, the color wheel from being in art schools. Plus, artwork itself has played a role in helping me to envision different combos. I would also say that like most of us out here; trial and error is quite the teacher! Because, I may try to replicate a similar look, shadewise, that I loved on someone else who may have close enough coloring to my own to convince me it’ll work, only to try it and realize that my eye color is too different and throws the color combo off on me! Such is life, and art: unpredictable! 😄

Profile photo of Wwendy

Same for me: practice and experience. At times, I rather miss the days when I would slap a single eyeshadow and go. However, I’m all about the gradient and imposing depth on these hooded eyes because I so needs it. I do approach it somewhat analytically and go about choosing colours of varying intensities to put in depth where it doesn’t exist. With no proper crease on my eye type, a basic 3 colour eye job doesn’t make me happy. It doesn’t have enough nuance or depth for my tastes. So, I tend to start light and then build finding products which will lend themselves to creating that illusion of depth. 98% of the time, I wing it and choose as I go. Why? Because I believe you can put any colour together, but the trick is pairing the right intensity as well as the right finish for the job. I tend to wear the same outer corner lifted eye shape so my choices are easy, my experience has already told me what types of shades work best for that shape and where I need to put them. Blending helps a lot and permits wider colour choices than you would expect. Blending can be muddying though if you have chosen colours which are too similar in tone or depth.

I also get inspiration from products.. typically starting with something I haven’t used in awhile or, even better, a new product I want to try and then I get creative around that. For example, today I started with my new Zoeva pencil (Female Attraction). It immediately made me think of MUFE petrol blue so I grabbed my MUFE 15 artist shadow palette The fun part, I picked the frosted mauve shade for my inner highlight which really popped and worked well against the blue/teal. It was an instinctive move and a pairing I had never made before and I was totally into it.

Eyeball it. Don’t be afraid to change your position: 3 days ago I had a purple look going that was turning out far too cool and too one-dimensional purple so I warmed up the crease with a warm mid brown and then feathered in a red eyeshadow to just above crease and just below shadow on lower lash line and it nailed it.

I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, I’m not a big fan of all warm, all cool eye looks. Mother natural tells me warm and cool and neutral shades can all play and have fun together and look beautiful. Ground your look with some neutral basics and then add in the fun..the colour.

I think some people are natural at this and can pick shadows barely thinking. I cannot I’ve had to think and work at it. Still holds true.

I rarely copy other people’s work since I do not have their stash and already have more than enough product to play with. Also, chances are they are younger than me and probably do not have my eye shape either. Best bet: practicing on myself so I learn what is best for me.

Sorry for long response..it’s very late and I’m wide awake and unfortunately rambling….

Profile photo of Fran

Wwendy, I love the phrase “outer corner lifted eye shape”, that is such a good, succinct way to say what I do 🙂 and I agree with you about intensity and finish having a big impact on how things look. Sometimes I wear yellow-greens with warm browns, sometimes with cool greys. I think we’re on the same wavelength with this — it’s fun to try different things 🙂

Profile photo of Fran

I agree with you that trial and error is crucial. Regardless of the color theory, you’ve got to try it out to see whether or not it works on you.

A classic problem is what color to wear on cheeks and lips when wearing green eyeshadow, especially if ‘nude’ lips don’t look good on you. For the longest time, I figured that, since I was wearing a yellowish shade of green, it would look best with a slightly yellowish (warm) shade of pink, but that never looked quite right on me. I finally figured out that just wearing my most flattering shades of purplish-pink worked best! Yellowish greens only look good on me near my eyes, which have some olive green in them — they wash me out/look hideous in a top or coat, presumably because of my cool undertones. So putting a bit of yellow-green near my eyes isn’t enough to skew my whole color scheme toward yellow. It works better if I bring the balance back toward blue. On someone with warm undertones, subtle peachy pinks probably look great with olive green eyeshadow. But not on me.

I tend to think in terms of the color wheel and color theory because I’m a bit of an egghead, but there’s no substitute for your eye!

Well, at my age, and after years of trial and error, I pretty much know which colors work for me and which ones to avoid like the plague. I look best in cool pinks, berries, reds, plums for cheeks and lips…..anything in the cool peach family also looks good on me. For eyes….grays, cool browns and taupes, deep jewel tones like sapphire blue (NOT light blue lol), dark purples, deep greens, teals and black are very flattering. I cannot wear bronzer, any shade of warm orange blush or lipstick. I look terrible and tired in those shades. So….I’m pretty much a cool girl lol. It lights up my complexion and makes me happy. 😀

Knowing how colors relate to one another on the color wheel helps me as well as spotting the undertone in colors.

Profile photo of Rachel R.

Playing with makeup and colors and getting a feel for them. I spent hours at a time as a kid with my trusty Crayola 64 color crayon boxes. Both my parents painted, so I think I inherited a good sense of color. I also get inspiration from makeup looks on blogs and YouTube, fashion, and art.

I’m artistic so putting colors together to create various effects and moods has always been easy for me. I also think it helps to observe how colors are combined in nature. Mother Nature is undoubtedly the best and most inspirational artist of all time.

Honestly, 90+% of the time, I go on pure instinct. We take in so many color combinations in our daily lives, whether in clothing, nature, jewelry, etc…, that I believe it becomes second-nature. If I’m truly stumped, or just looking to try something new, I look around me. Sometimes, because the only “color” I wear outside of my makeup is in my jewelry/accessories, I’ll take inspiration from that (sometimes I’ll buy a product, have no idea what to wear it with, then stumble on an accessory later, LOL!). Other times, I just look at my palette, and go from there; most palettes are designed to work cohesively, so I just go from there, and often get inspired for future combos, even with different palettes. When it comes to choosing lip & cheek colors, I tend to restrict my options, but that’s purely a personal choice/aesthetic. I tend to stick to more “natural” shades for cheeks, and when it comes to lips, I prefer to stay in the same “tone” as my eye makeup (ie, I won’t pull out a vampy shade with a bright eye, although I will for a dark/smokey eye, and a neutral eye can go with any lip).

As for what colors will “work” for me, I tend to be very flexible, and go with colors I find pleasing to look at. For example, I really don’t care for orange when it comes to makeup, so it will never be a color I find inspirational. However, since I do have several orange/orangey eyeshadows from palettes, I will still use them to add dimension & depth to darker, smokier looks. I also have extremely dark eyes, and although I am quite fair, I avoid pastel looks (not because they look bad, but because they tend to get “lost” behind my eye color).

Overall, I don’t think anyone can go wrong. Look around, you’ll find all sorts of color combinations in everything, even some surprises! It comes down to personal preferences, and what each person feels is flattering. As I stated above, my features are too dark & strong to do ethereal, pastel looks, but I’ve learned to still incorporate pastels into my eye makeup, as long as I add deeper/brighter accents. If it’s pleasing to the eye, go for it…

I used to be a pro at this, but I stopped wearing makeup for a couple of years and it seems as if I lost my mojo. Tbh Instagram helps, ALOT! I steal alot of youtubers looks and sometimes I put my own spin on it.

I like to pick out my eyeshadow based on what I’m wearing then I pick my lips and cheeks according to the tone of the eyeshadow. If I am wearing cool tones I go with a pink or if I am wearing warm I go for a peach or coral.

I have a terrible time with colors. The hardest thing in the world for me is trying to put colors together. My 30 year old daughter is an interior designer and can put colors together with anything, be it makeup, clothing, interiors, you name it. I wish she didn’t live out of town so I could take her along with me when I shop!

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