Color And Fashion; How To Use Warm And Cool Colors

(This site sells and is sustained by MyClothingHelper. The product that tracks and organizes what you wear.) Understanding warm and cool colors is the icing on the cake of color matching. In this third article in my series on color matching outfits, I’ll explain how you can add another layer of color harmony by matching warm colors with other warm colors and cool colors with other cool colors. It may be worth going back to check out my original articles where I explain the color bloodline and complementary colors.


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What Are Warm and Cool Colors? If you were to place a dozen red blouses next to each other, you would notice that each one was actually a slightly different version of red. This is because all colors have at least a small portion of other colors in them. It is this smaller portion of the overall mix that controls whether the color is considered warm or cool. Warm and cool are terms that are best understood in comparison. Looking at two red blouses of the same value (how light and dark they are), one blouse will appear to have more yellow, or more blue, in comparison to the other. The blouse with more yellow is considered to be warmer. The blouse with more blue is considered to be cooler.

Why is this important? Because when matching clothing, warms are more naturally matched with warms and cools are more naturally matched with cools. Can Yellow and Blue Also Be Warm and Cool? If colors are warmer or cooler based on the amount of yellow or blue they contain, what about yellow and blue themselves; can they be warm and cool too? Yes, they can. If we put two blue skirts of the same value together, one blue will be warmer or cooler than the other. The same would apply for two yellow skirts. Leaving the realm of fashion for a moment, a lemon peel is a cool yellow because it has a hint of green. A ripe banana peel is a warm yellow with a hint of orange. In comparison to each other, the color of the lemon is cooler than the color of the banana. In fashion, traditionally the best matches are made when you match a warm top with a warm bottom or a cool top with a cool bottom. Matching warm with warm and cool with cool brings your outfit into harmony. That harmony can make you feel and look great. All Colors Lean Either Warm or Cool Think of the sun, a warm yellow with a touch of orange. Now imagine the sky, a cool blue with at touch of red or green. In every color, we can see the other colors that help create the dichotomy of warm and cool. Consider a warm yellow dress. The natural match for this dress is a color that shares a common bloodline. Green shares a bloodline with yellow because green is the offspring of yellow and blue. So we know that green is a good match, but what particular green would be the best match for a warm yellow dress? Let’s now consider the two green sweaters. If one has more yellow in it than blue, it can be called a warm green. If one has more blue in it, then the green sweater can be called cool. The better match for the warm yellow dress is the warm green sweater because the warm green sweater shares more of the yellow color bloodline with the yellow dress. Warm and Cool in Blacks and Whites, Browns and Greys Blacks and whites and browns and greys are very versatile colors that are considered easier to match than other colors. However, warm and cool still applies here. A bleached white shirt is cooler than an off-white shirt with a touch of cream (that is, a touch of yellow). A brown pair of pants with a touch of yellow or orange is warmer than a brown pair of pants with a hint of blue or green. Therefore, an off-white shirt is a better match for pants with a touch of yellow or orange because they are both warm.  Conversely, a bleached white shirt would be a better match for a pair of brown pants with a hint of blue or green because they are both cool. Putting Warm and Cool Matching to Practice Think of warm and cool not strictly as either more yellow or blue but rather as a combination of yellows (yellow-orange, yellow-green) and a combination of blues (blue-green or blue-purple). Make it a practice of trying to see the warm or cool within your own wardrobe, in magazines, when shopping, and in all painted items. Trying to grasp the distinction of warm and cool in words is a lot harder than looking at and discovering it in everyday items.

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Color And Fashion. Color Matching 101: Make Great Clothing Matches by Understanding Color Theory

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Matching clothes to make an outfit may be subjective, but color is an objective reality. That being said, understanding color theory can make life easier when matching clothing. Knowing how colors are created tells us how and why they are related to each other. Since colors that are related are natural matches, understanding this relationship will make mixing and matching clothing easy and fun.

Monochromatic Color-Matching.

The easiest way to match clothes is to use a monochromatic color scheme. A monochromatic color scheme features a lighter and darker version of the same color. Pairing a light blue top with a dark blue bottom can be called monochromatic matching. A color will always match a whiter, greyer, or blacker version of itself.

An outfit utilizing a monochromatic color scheme of a deep yellow top and lighter yellow skirt.


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Analogous Colors and the “Color Bloodline”.

On a color wheel, colors adjacent or next to each other are called analogous. If we think of color as a family bloodline, the closer we are to the “parent” color, the easier the match. For example, when we add a small bit of yellow to red (going clockwise on the color wheel) the result is red-orange. Red-orange and red are easily matched because they are colors of the same color bloodline, that is, the red bloodline that is dominant in both colors.

Red and red-orange are adjacent on the color wheel and are therefore called analogous. That makes them a natural match.

An example of analogous color matching. Blue and purple are close too each other on the color wheel and are therefore an easy match.

Monochromatic and analogous color matching are the most intuitive and therefore the most popular type of color matching. But there are other more compelling methods of matching as well.

Creating Color: The Three Primary Colors. 

Red, yellow, and blue are the three primary colors. With paints and dyes, all colors can theoretically be made from these three primary colors. Mixing red and yellow will give us orange, yellow and blue make green, and blue and red will yield purple (or violet on the color wheel). These resulting colors, orange, green, and purple, are called the secondary colors.



A Shared Color Bloodline Creates Natural Matches.

Since two primary colors create a secondary color, in the color bloodline, green can be called the offspring of blue and yellow. Green shares half of its color bloodline with blue and the other half with yellow. Colors that share a color bloodline are a natural match.

Practical Examples.

Following the color bloodline, offspring colors are a good match for their parent. A warm green skirt will match any variation of a warm yellow or warm blue top. A cool purple pair of pants will match any variation of a cool blue or red top. A warm orange dress will match with any variation of a red or yellow sweater.

This green skirt and yellow top match each other because green is an offspring of yellow.

Multiple Colors.

All of our theoretical matches have been based on solid colors. But the same theory holds for clothing containing multiple colors. For example, consider the picture below. The blue jeans and the dark blue in the plaid are a simple monochromatic match and the green in the plaid matches the jeans because green is an offspring of blue.

Sometimes clothes will have many colors that make matching confusing. If the colors are distinct, we can pick out one color to match. If the colors are to subtle to pick out, if we take a step back and look from a distance, we will notice an overall color effect. That is the color we should try to match.

Looking at the close-up on the left reveals many colors including red, brown, yellow, blue, and green. We should pick one of these colors to match with this shirt.

Matching Browns and Grays.

Browns and grays are very versatile and look great with many colors. When trying to match browns and grays, identify whether the brown or gray is warm or cool, that is, does it have more of a cool blue in the mix, or a warm yellow or red? It’s always a good idea to match warm with warm and cool with cool. Check out the next article in our Color Matching series to learn how to match complementary colors in your outfits.

The MyClothingHelper Blog is dedicated to producing quality content on practical and fashionable living advice. If you liked this article, please take a minute to explore our website and visit the store page.