How to Create a Color Palette for Your Personal Style

Developing a truly stylish wardrobe is no easy task, especially if you’re lacking in some serious fashion inspo. For most of us, though, figuring out what colors look best can be, by far, one of the most frustrating problems to untangle when trying to find our own sense of style.

Sometimes you might love a color on its own (or on someone else), but know it’ll look blah on you. Maybe you don’t even know what colors will look good on you. Or you’re used to wearing certain shades and want to be a bit more adventurous, but you just don’t know where to start.

That’s why developing a color palette for your clothes might be just the solution you need. All the style preferences you have, and the style aspirations you want to reach, can be translated into a color palette that you can stick to as you change up your wardrobe. Here’s how to find your color wheelhouse and make getting dressed a piece of cake.

Think about what colors you love most

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

walking on sunshine #HCWearsWhat | photo via @a_nnabae, shot by @micho_vo

A post shared by Her Campus Style (@hercampusstyle) on

Developing a color palette for your wardrobe begins with figuring out what colors you already love and wear with pride. Think about your favorites, and then create a palette that incorporates all of them.

Victoria Armet, a junior at the State University of New York Oswego, loves to pick a favorite color and expand her palette from that one shade. “My advice is to find one color that looks wonderful on you and build around it, determining whether or not to focus on warm tones or cool tones,” Victoria said. We’ll definitely get into warm and cool tones later, but having a “signature” color can totally point you in the right style direction.  

For example, if you love the color burgundy, then make sure to add it, and other colors that complement it, into your own color palette. Usually burgundy and black look sophisticated when put next to each other, so those two colors can be the base for your palette. Whenever you stumble across a piece that’s one of those colors, you’ll automatically know what to pair with it.

Also, try to think about how the colors you prefer translate into garments. For example, if you love burgundy, how do you want to wear it? As a lovely top, or a statement flared pant? Maybe you prefer the color as an accent, like a burgundy beret, instead of clothing. Work these colors you adore into pieces you think will look the best on you.

Consider your undertones, but don’t let that limit you

Usually the first concern with finding the right colors to wear is how they’ll complement your skin tone and hair color.  

Your skin’s undertone and your hair color can indicate what colors will accentuate the hue of your complexion. Check for whether you have a warm, cool or neutral undertone, and then try picking out pieces with colors that suit that undertone. According to StyleCaster, “most people fall between one of three categories: Cool, Warm and Neutral”. They also say the best way to check for your undertone is to look at the veins on your wrist. If your veins have a bluish color, then you have a cool undertone. If your veins are green, then you have a warm undertone. And if you have purple veins, then you have a neutral undertone.

Also, check your hair color. If your hair has a bit of a greyish tint to it, your hair has a cooler undertone, and if your hair is more brown, red or yellow underneath, then you are warmer. Figure out which ones you have, and then try wearing colors that complement those tones. Kennedy Castillo, a sophomore at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, knows what colors do and don’t go well on her based on her skintone. “I usually choose my fashion color palette based on my skin tone. For example, I’m very pale so I know pastels don’t look good on me,” Kennedy said.

Warm undertones are usually best highlighted with reds, oranges, yellows. These colors bring out the vibrant warm hues in your skin. Cooler undertones look best with cooler colored clothing, like blue, purple and green. And if you’re neutral, then you can rock both of these colors in your wardrobe.

Still, don’t think these are hard and fast rules you have to abide by. Use these tips as a guideline to get you started and help you adventure into other color choices. If you’re someone with cool undertones, but think you look incredible in a mustard top, then awesome! You just found a color you love and can incorporate into your style, whether it “matches” your undertone or not.

Related: 6 Things to do When Shopping Makes You Insecure

Categorize your colors based on garment type

This goes back to thinking about how a specific color would translate into an actual article of clothing. You could feel super chic wearing the colors fuchsia, emerald green and lemon yellow – but maybe putting them all together feels too wild. And bright yellow pants aren’t perfect for every occasion, so it may be safer to settle on a summery top instead.

Peyton Nugent, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, organizes her closet to meld all her different colors together cohesively. “I have my closet organized by color, and think it has been really helpful when pairing pieces together because you can visualize color combinations right in front of you. For example, if I'm feeling a cozier look with knits I can pull from the section with softer colors like creams and neutrals and layer those pieces together. And you'll even notice what color combos you tend to gravitate towards more because you'll notice they take up more room in your closet,” Peyton said.

Basically, just break up your favorite colors into realistic and trending garment options. For example, make a “neutrals" category, where you can put your more muted selections, including blacks, blues and grays that can be bottoms and jeans. Then make a “brights” category for shades like pinks, purples and reds that could translate to tops or dresses. Then all you need to do is pair up muted and neutral pieces with your brighter ones.

You can also never go wrong with complementary colors (colors that are across from each other on a color wheel). Red and green, blue and orange—these are complementary color combinations that can look awesome in any outfit.

Chloe Todd, a freshman at Hawaii Pacific University, loves to pair complementary and similar shades together for her wardrobe color palette. “When I'm at the store, I usually compare the colors in the patterns I like and try to create an outfit with colors that complement what I already own. For instance, I bought a maroon shirt because one of my favorite skirts has tiny maroon flowers dotted all over it. The idea here is to own outfits that are all around the same taste, and I've found that it usually works out so that I don't have a wardrobe full of clothes in varying shades of black, but rather clothes that all end up complementing each other—not just the ones I specifically shopped for to match,” Chloe says.

You can also try a monochromatic look, where you wear the same color in different shades. For example, if you have a “bright” baby blue dress and a more “neutral” dark blue denim jacket, pair those together. Then follow that fit with some white and baby blue sneaks, and you have a gorgeous monochromatic look. Look at what colors you already have in your closet and categorize them so you can match them up to make a harmonious outfit.

Get inspiration from Instagram

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

spring semester fit inspo: | photo via @taylorsharai

A post shared by Her Campus Style (@hercampusstyle) on

Look through Instagram for style inspo, and when an influencer wears a color combo you need ASAP, screenshot and file it away for your own planning (you can also archive the photos so you can look back at them for outfit inspo later). After looking through all of the photos you’ve accumulated from all the Insta fashion icons you follow, you can start to see which colors show up the most.

Jana Brzovski, a sophomore at Marist College, loves to use Instagram to spark style inspiration. “I LOVE fashion influencers on Instagram, so I definitely get a lot of inspiration from them! I feel as if fashion influencers put their own spin on current trends and I often times find myself creating outfits based from one or more pictures,” Jana says. Create a moodboard filled with all the colors you like, then look at it as you shop and pick out pieces with the same color palette.

Another tip that may work for you is Instagram’s “dropper” tool in Story mode. One trick that graphic artists use when designing color palettes for characters they draw is to take colors directly from other drawings and photos. You can do the same for your outfits.

First, take a screenshot of an Insta outfit post you love. Then, open the screenshot in Insta's story mode and use the dropper tool to pick up the colors of the outfit. Scribble them on the side of the photo to create your own mini palette. Do that for all the different outfits you love and see if any colors keep repeating. If they do, consider adding that color to your own personal wardrobe color palette.​

Style is whatever you want to make it, so be confident in your color choices and make sure those color choices make you feel confident. If you feel insecure in yellow, you don’t need to force yourself to wear it.  Audrey Lent, a senior at California Polytechnic State University, says that she “honestly, [focuses] on colors that make her feel confident in her workplace…that’s when I’m most productive – when I’m comfortable within myself”.

Like Lent says, colors that make you feel like a boss are a MUST in your color palette. But don’t be afraid to experiment and throw in colors that you may not have tried on before. It’s all about looking at your wardrobe in a whole new way and broadening your horizons through dissecting not only color but how you feel in one shade or another. Use these tips as you please if you need some more direction, but try on some shades that clash with your normal wardrobe. You might just end up loving them.