Art + Culture

What’s in a Color?

As a makeup artist, color finds its way into daily conversation without much thought. But what happens at a deeper level is often what determines the outcome of what choices are made when deciding what colors to use.


In his beloved quote, “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare begs to challenge the belonging-ness of the subject; in this case, the person bearing his title. The underlying question seems to imply a deeper assumption: the idea that a name in itself carries a certain degree of separation.

I pondered over the idea over as I was mixing colors for a photo shoot: what if I were to replace the word ‘name’ with ‘color’? Could there be an opportunity to explore the idea further? What did certain colors symbolize to me? How did my interpretation of a color affect the way I perceived my surroundings? How could I use these interpretations to guide my vision in creating a look?

Perhaps many of these questions have already been answered intuitively as we pick up on subtle messages of meaning from our environment. So how has color come to dominate such a large part of the way we live? From the clothing we wear to the powders we apply to our faces, it is indisputable that color plays great significance in our lives.

Curious to explore this idea further, I sought out the opinions of the expert on color: Pantone.

While on the Pantone website, I came across this nifty test that tells you about your Color IQ (if you didn’t know you had one, don’t worry – neither did I). The disclaimer below the test indicates that different factors, such as lighting can influence the way colors are perceived. Did you know that the way we perceive a color is affected by the colors surrounding it? (Example: blue eyes appear ‘brighter’ next to blue’s complimentary colors, yellow and orange)

Backgrounds Effects – The human eye’s ability to correctly perceive the color is affected by the surrounding colors, a phenomenon known as simultaneous contrast. Always judge color in a neutrally colored environment.*

Retinal Fatigue – Our eyes get tired very easily. When we stare at an object for longer than a few seconds, chemicals in our eyes start to deplete and begin sending incorrect information to our brains. When visually evaluating color, you should always rest your eyes between samples.*

I received the following results and apparently have a harder time with discerning differences in the shades of green (could this somehow relate to my frustration with my green thumb – or rather lack thereof?).


How does your ability to discern color compare to others in your category? Find out here.

More fun on Color:

Check out this hypnotizing visual created from complex algorithms using color analysis. Does this remind anyone else of the original visuals from iTunes when it was first released in the early 2000’s?


Image courtesy of RETTUCE

Fun fact: Did you know that you can change the color palette of your iTunes Visualizer display by pressing the [/?] and [P] keys?

Ever tried your hand at an “adult” coloring book? Every time I stop by a Barnes & Noble, I am tempted to pick up one. Let’s be honest – I have the attention span of a dog. In anticipation that I may never make it through a single page to get my money’s worth, I have continued to put the book back on its pretty display shelf before hitting the register.


Image courtesy of

*Information provided courtesy of Pantone. For more about The X-rite Color Challenge, see here.

Featured Image Courtesy of Jenn Collins. Makeup by yours truly, Christina Asai.

Comment below on your fondest first memory of a color! 

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