/ daily makeup

Color theory: the basics

Most people would argue there’s nothing fun or practical about theory. But color theory just might be an exception — it is, after all, a theory that is actually useful in real life and is fun to experiment with.

Stick around to learn how you can bring out your best features, using a few simple (and colorful) guidelines.

Tip 1: Bring on the blues

Think back to elementary school art classes — the teacher started explaining something about color theory, and your first thought was: “When am I ever going to use this?” Hopefully, you managed to remember that something called a “color wheel” exists, and today you can use that long-forgotten knowledge to do a full face of make-up.

Alt text

So here are the basics. Colors that are placed opposite each other on the color wheel are complementary. When they mix, they cancel each other out and create a gray neutral shade. But when they are put right next to each other, they create a strong contrast, which makes both colors much more vibrant.

All this theory comes down to one basic “rule” — using a complementary eyeshadow or eyeliner will make your eyes pop. To bring out the bluest of eyes, go for an orange, red or violet product. For green eyes, red is the obvious choice, but you can also go for a darker violet or a more orange-based yellow.
At first, you might think that you really don’t have that many options, since complementary colors usually come in pairs. The truth is, you can use the whole opposite half of the color wheel and still get the “pop” you’re looking for. Blue will always be orange’s best friend, but yellow and red sometimes work just as well.

Pro-tip: Keep in mind that eyeshadows, much like your skin, have undertones. If the undertone of the eyeshadow matches your skin tone, you’re good to go. If not, try again.

Tip 2: Gush over blush

Color theory can help you achieve the most natural look, even when you’re wearing a full-coverage foundation. To start off your base, go for a foundation that matches your skin undertone. Remember to work in thin layers and to blend each layer as you go. Set and move on to the fun part!

Contours and blushes sometimes get a bad reputation, as they can quickly turn you into a clown. To avoid scaring yourself in the mirror, pick a blush that compliments your skin tone.

Blushes are usually red, pink or orange, but the key here is to find how these colours are mixed in the first place. For example, a berry blush is the perfect choice for green eyes — it’s made out of red and some blue, so it just makes sense to pair that with green.

Tip 3: Hot and cold

At the other end of the spectrum, color theory is all about cool and warm shades. Knowing the difference is simple enough — half the wheel is warm, the other half is cool. But in reality, the difference is much more difficult to spot.

Pro-tip: Your “basic” orange is considered a warm shade, but some oranges are blue-based, which means there is some blue mixed inside. An orange like that works well even with cool skin tones. Any “warm” shade can work with cool tones, just as much as any “cool” shade can work with warm tones.

The best advice we can offer is to try, try, try. When you’re on the hunt for your ride or die make-up products, you have to pay attention to the shade, undertone, texture, finish, and the list goes on.

The sheer amount of options in stores can be overwhelming, so your best bet is to think before you buy. Ask for testers that you can take home and then actually test them.

Try the product in natural light, outside, inside, in every possible scenario… and then decide if it’s good enough for you. Make the product work for your money and remember that disappointment is a natural part of the process.

Products list


  • Laura Mercier creme eyeliner in Cobalt
  • YSL All In One BB cream in clear
  • Bourjois Radiance Reveal concealer in 01 Ivory
  • YSL Kiss & Blush no. 11
  • Kryolan eyebrow palette
  • YSL Rouge Pur Coutur lipstick no. 52
  • L'Oreal False Lash Superstar mascara