The color wheel—that circular diagram that shows the relationship between visible hues—isn't a tool used only by color theorists. It can also be a handy instrument for you, helping you choose which shades work best for everything from your skin's undertone to your eyes, lips and nails.
"The color wheel can be especially helpful in giving guidelines for your makeup shopping, much like using paint charts when designing the colors for your home,” explains celebrity makeup artist Tim Quinn.
Here is how to take the color wheel for a spin to become a master of makeup.
Choosing Makeup for Your Eyes
Specific eye shadow pigments can enhance your eye color, and the color wheel can ultimately help you decide which complement it best.
“As complementary colors are directly opposite each other on the color wheel, choosing a shade opposite of your eye color makes both colors appear brighter,” Quinn says.
Quinn often uses eye shadow palettes rather than a single shade. Palettes tend to have different tones in the same color family, making it easy to combine colors and add depth using brighter and darker tones.
- If you have blue eyes, stick with palettes offering earth tones, golds and coppers. Try: Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Palette in Brown Copper.
- If you have green eyes, seek out palettes containing purple shades. Try: NARS Trio Eyeshadow in Arabian Nights.
- Those women who have brown eyes can pull off virtually any shade, since brown is a warm neutral color. "Their best complements would be blues, greens and purples,” Quinn says. Try: L’Oréal Wear Infinité Project Runway Wear Infinité Quad in Mystic Gaze.
Selecting Lip Colors
The color wheel can be useful when selecting lipstick, as well. First, figure out your skin's undertone. You want to use a shade in the same family (for example, warm or cool), rather than in one opposite it, to brighten your complexion.
"In this season of reds, I like to advise that red-orange lips tend to look good on warmer-toned women, including olive complexions, whereas blue-reds are amazing on cooler-toned and pale skin,” Quinn says.
- If you have a warm undertone, seek out a warm red. Try: L’Oréal Project Runway Colour Riche Lip in The Muse’s Kiss.
- If you have a cool undertone, look for a blue-based red. Try: Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense in Satin Bordeaux Red.
Picking Nail Polish Hues
When it comes to finding that perfect neutral polish, nail artist and Makeup.com contributor Simcha Whitehill also suggests going with a shade that matches your skin's undertones.
- If you have a warm skin tone, she recommends finding a peach polish, like Nails Inc. Nail Polish in Elizabeth Street.
- If you have a cooler complexion, opt for a soft taupe shade. Try: Essie Nail Polish in Playa Del Platinum.
Whitehill says you can also look to your outfit when experimenting with the color wheel to find that ideal nail hue. If you are wearing primary colors, for example, dress your nails in a complementary primary color. That means if you are wearing a bright yellow dress, try a bright blue, like Illamasqua Nail Varnish in Force.
Photos: Getty (main); Chad Engle (color wheel)