Undertones can be best defined as the hues under your skin tone that never change. While your skin tone changes depending on the lighting and the time of the year, your undertones do not. It’s one of the many things that makes skin tones so unique and beautiful for each person because you could have a similar skin tone to another person but a different undertone. Undertones and the ability to identify them are something that in the makeup community is often regarded as a way to find the perfect makeup products for your skin. If you can identify these tones, you will have a better idea of what colors make your skin look grey or yellowed and what colors make you look your best. It’s also why having a range of shades for all is so important, but that’s another topic for another time.
Even for clothing, being able to identify your undertones help you to identify what colors tend to flatter your skin tone the most. It’s incredible what undertones can help you do.
There are about four different types of undertones. They are as follows:
- Warmer undertones: These undertones consist of oranges, reds, and sometimes yellow colors.
- Color undertones: These undertones tend to include hues of deep blues, greens, and purples.
- Neutral undertones: Neutral undertones tend to be a little more neutral colored, but can work well with a mixture of both warmer and color tones.
- Olive undertones: This undertone is a bit rarer, but works well with golden colors.
Although you typically hear about undertones when talking about makeup, it’s also important to know when editing photography. Today, I’m going to be sharing with you not only why, but how you can find it in your subjects.
WHY IT’S HELPFUL
They Help You Identify What Hues to Change
Remember in this post where I shared about what hues you can often edit to enhance skin tones so that people don’t end up looking grey or very orange? Knowing the undertones helps tremendously with that! For example, my undertones on my face are mostly orange/red, so when editing photographs with myself in them, I tend to spot edit that area to enhance it or decrease it a little depending on the preset I’m using. However, I pretty much never use the purples/blues because I wouldn’t need to due to my undertone. In fact, editing those hues would actually make me look more grey and have the opposite impact I’m hoping to have.
Similarly, identifying the undertone helps you to identify what you need to edit and saving you time trying to play around with all the different hues.
Skin Tone Changes But Undertones Do Not
As you know, our skin tone changes depending on the time of the year it is. Personally speaking, I’m always a shade or so darker in the summer than I am in the winter because the sun is out a lot longer in the warmer months. The more time we spend outside and in the sun, the darker our complexion will get. As a result, in makeup they usually tell you it’s a good idea to have a summer shade and a winter shade to wear. However, what does not change is your undertone.
It’s a lot easier for me to know what hues to edit, when I know what my undertone is because regardless of what my skin looks like, I can pretty much figure out what colors I then I need to edit for my skin tone to enhance it the way that I want.
Skin Tones Vary Because of the Undertones:
Someone can have the same skin tone as another person but have different undertones, so they end up looking different when their photographs are being edited. You can also have people within the same photograph that have different undertones and skin tones so while one edit may look flattering on one subject, it looks unflattering on the other. Spot editing would be the best solution for this, but it helps knowing what the undertone is so you know what you need to change.
For example, in the photograph below, I noticed at least two different undertones. While a lot of times I try to keep that in mind when making our presets, it’s difficult to get it right all of the time, so you may have to adjust the purple hues on one person and adjust the warmer hues on another.
HOW TO FIND IT
You can find the undertones of your subjects a multitude of ways, but there are a few that I would recommend doing, especially if you’re planning to use a preset.
Look at their Jewelry:
Taking engagement or wedding photographs? What color is their ring and how does it work alongside their skin tone? Is it silver or gold? If gold looks even more flattering against their skin tone, they’re probably warm-toned. If silver does, they’re more cool-toned and if they happen to be wearing a mixture of both and both look just as flattering, they’re probably neutral.
It sounds weird putting it like that, but by flattering, you want to ask yourself if it naturally enhances it. It’s one of the reasons why I like to wear rose gold or gold jewelry when I do wear jewelry. I feel it flatters my skin the best and knowing that also helps with identifying my undertone.
The Vein Method:
Check out their veins, if possible. Are they green? They probably have a warmer undertone and you can adjust the reds and oranges. Do they not have a noticeable color to them? They probably have neutral undertones and you can play around with both depending on the composition of the photo. Do they have a blue or purple color? They probably have cool undertones and would look best with purple/blue edits to enhance their skin. This method isn’t the easiest to find though when you’re editing but can be identified when photographing them or looking at the raw images. You can ask them if you can take a photograph of their hand to test their undertones or ask them before beginning and make a note of it.
Check How it Looks Near a White Background
Are they wearing white or near a white background? If it looks slightly yellow against the white background, they probably have warm undertones. If their skin looks rose-colored, they probably have cool undertones. You can also bring a small white piece of paper with you to check, but that may be a little bit awkward.
Trial and Error:
If you’re really unsure because it’s difficult to see their veins in a photograph, you could always play around with it by using one photograph to test it. For example, play with the purples and blues and see what happens. Do they look greyer? It’s probably not their undertone. Now adjust the reds or oranges and see what happens. Do they appear more vibrant without looking splotchy? You’ve probably found their undertone. Then adjust the tints and temp. Does the subject look more vibrant with a bluer temp or a yellower temp?
In the example above, while she looks gorgeous in both photographs and honestly both would work well as a result of the lighting, the one on the right looks brings out her undertones more.
While identifying undertones is helpful in picking out clothing and makeup, knowing it can also help to make editing photography a lot easier! By understanding the different undertones and what edits work best, you can enhance a photograph to your desired look regardless of the presets being used.
What about you? Have you ever used undertones in identifying what edits to use for a photograph?