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Fall 2012 Color Preview: The Fantasy of Fall

Sara Mason
Pantone Fall 2012 Colors

The Pantone Fall 2012 Color Guide—This information was compiled from Pantone's Fall 2012 Fashion Color Report, which can be found at Pantone is a global company that standardizes the language of color. The Pantone Color Institute studies the psychological and physiological aspect of color and forecasts color needs.

This is an edited version of an article that originally ran in the September 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine. All rights reserved.

This fall, the Pantone color palette is about the magic of color. Fantasy and illusion are inspiring designers and makeup artists alike, with an unexpected mix of darks, brights and neutrals, cleverly manipulating reality into enchantment through fashion and cosmetics.

“Usually fall is limited to a few color palettes, but this fall runs the gamut,” says Michael Marcus, CEO of Michael Marcus Cosmetics. “Like a breath of fresh air, this fall is about finding your own individuality.” And color is what Michael Marcus Cosmetics is about. “We’ve always had bold colors in the line,” says Marcus. “It’s exciting to find the fashion world catching up with what we’ve always believed in.”

“One color ... that’s all it takes,” says celebrity makeup artist Kevin James (KJ) Bennett. “You can use these colors on eyes and cheeks—make it multipurpose if you want.” The popularity of multipurpose products has risen with the recession, allowing consumers to update their looks for fall while staying budget-conscious.


Skin is always in. “Well-cared for skin with a glow and a blot to keep down shine is always au courant,” says celebrity makeup artist Emily Katz. In winter, there is often more matting down of the skin with powder, but too much foundation and powder looks evident, and can age the look. “Strive for flawless-but-alive skin that is the perfect canvas for whatever color looks you may execute,” she says.

It’s important to educate yourself on skin color in order to share information with your customers. “Once they understand their own colorations, it makes it much easier for them to choose makeup that works,” says Katz.


Vivid and vibrant or mellow and muted, the eyes and lips are definitely drawing attention this fall. Bold, smoky eyes with long lashes this season continue to be an emphasis, often featuring bright jewel-toned shadows in colors ranging from purple to green. According to Marcus, the easiest way to wear bright colors is by using them all over the eye lid, hugging the lash line. On the fashion runways, this look is being demonstrated primarily with a naked lip that is flesh-toned or very nude. Paquin loves to play up the eyes, and make the vibrant colors wearable and age-defying for any woman.

“The colors are revolving around purple, browns and charcoal,” she explains. “I am seeing a really strong smoky eye with everything else neutral because the colors are so vivid.”

According to Katz, navy is a new neutral, providing yet another option for meeting customers’ needs. It works well as a sophisticated complement to the fall Pantone colors—particularly Titanium or Bright Chartreuse—as a liner or mascara.

Customers are also pairing a vibrant eye with paler lips. For those older than 20, Katz recommends some color on the lips. “Older consumers require some color on the mouth to enliven the skin; otherwise, it eradicates the lip colorations, which ages the face,” she explains.

The same goes for eyeliner. Although thicker, winged-out eyeliner is still on trend, how old the customer is dictates how bold she can be, according to Katz. Brows are very groomed, but full. “What’s inspiring me personally is the 1960s: an architectural brow with winged-out eyeliner,” enthuses Katz. “Beautiful!”


Bold lips with neutral bases are also great options this autumn. Lipstick can be one of the best buys for a seasonal change. Katz loves the smoky eye, but also prefers a look that’s sheer and almost naked—with a little bit of powder or tinted moisturizer on the rest of the face, paired with a deep lip. “The right color of lipstick literally will light up someone’s face,” she explains. “It will just make a client’s face glow from within.”

And although some customers are not going to do a full-blown makeup change, adding color to the lips is a simple way to provide a fall update. This season, there is a plethora of variations on the similar theme of color from which to choose. “The lips this fall are either deeply toned mulberry-wine-plum brown violets; soft nudes, even flesh-tones; or a very wearable soft rose tone,” describes Katz. “Red is, of course, still being done, but the shift is toward richer colors. It’s also a great way to try a bold new color.” According to Bennett, “A customer can buy a lipstick in a color she loves, but is afraid of. It’s makeup—it’s supposed to be fun!”

Vivid and Vibrant

Pantone’s Fall 2012 Fashion Color Report features vivid, beautiful jewel tones that have been injected into a palette of fall neutrals. As the season transitions from the heat of summer, Bright Chartreuse—a vivid yellow-green—pays homage to a typical spring shade and creates a bridge into the cooler days of fall. Reminiscent of bright green foliage, it provides a perfect accent to every color in the palette. “It’s a fun shade for an eye shadow on dark brown eyes,” says corrective makeup artist Donna Mee of Donna Mee, Inc. She recommends the color used as a loose shimmer shadow and applied with a wet, synthetic brush for a more vibrant fashion look.

Like the name implies, Pink Flambé is a delicious, vibrant pink with a bit of heat to it. According to Mee, it is this season’s best lip color for warm complexions and is especially good for women with dark hair. “Lipstick is a great way to add color to the makeup bag,” says Bennett. He is thankful that oranges and pinks and plums are on trend for lips again, as these are colors that people have shied away from in the past.

“A color I absolutely love that is fun to use over a bronzer for a pop of color is Tangerine Tango,” says Paquin. She applies a small amount of this on the apples of the cheeks and blends it into the bronzer. According to Paquin, Tangerine Tango also looks terrific on its own as a subtle blush and can be used as a sheer lip gloss. It also can be paired with Pink Flambé for a retro feeling.

To bring a calming element to the mix, combine these vibrant, warm tones with Ultramarine Green, a deep cooling blue-green that is neither bright kelly green nor deep forest green. “Green is a color people can learn from; it shouldn’t be avoided as much as people think,” says Katz. She suggests pairing Ultramarine Green with French Roast as a shadow or liner. It also can be diluted with a black to give it a deep tone, or mixed with gray or a slightly metallic hue. “Metallics make some of the vibrant colors that may seem inaccessible more wearable,” says Katz. “Smoked up with a dark metallicized brown on the eyes, Ultramarine Green looks utterly enchanting and captivating.”

Olympian Blue is another beautiful jewel tone for the coming season. “Try Olympian Blue as inner rim eyeliner to brighten the eyes if a client’s usual eye makeup includes black on the inner rim,” advises Mee. “For brown or green eyes, blend Olympian Blue into Pink Flambé for an amazing rainbow effect of color, or try Olympian Blue on the lower eyelid and under the lower lash line, and fade it into the Ultramarine Green for a dramatic evening look.”

Mellow and Muted

Ethereal Rhapsody is a grayed-down purple that also encourages comfort and serenity with its quiet, muted tone. “The beautiful gray-lavender is perfect as an eye shadow paired with a thick sweep of a catlike black liner, or try this color for nails,” recommends Katz.

Katz’ favorite color of this season’s grouping, however, is Honey Gold, a mellow, burnished yellow that is eminently wearable. A fan of this as an eye shadow color for years, Katz is glad to see it in the forefront this season. “Use it with a thin black liner—although a thick black or brown line, or just a couple of coats of mascara—make this color work for many looks and on many skin tones,” she says. According to Katz, it works on almost anyone, especially clients with blue eyes, but should be avoided by those who have skin with very yellow undertones.

New Neutrals

One of Paquin’s favorites this autumn is French Roast, a beautiful rich and robust brown. The tasty, sophisticated hue is a great alternative to the black and charcoal basics typically worn in the fall. “This color really intensifies blue eyes, and is a nice departure from charcoal and blacks for customers with brown eyes, when doing smoky eyes,” she says. Paquin recommends applying French Roast under the eye area, then softening it with a cotton swab, to give it that perpetually on-trend soft smoky eye. According to Katz, it is one of the colors that can work with a lot of people.

Bennett loves the elegant and versatile Titanium because it’s got a bit of warmth to it and less contrast to skin tones. “It looks organic, as opposed to a cold, steely gray,” he explains. It’s a great departure from the bluish-gray that doesn’t necessarily complement every skin tone. Titanium can be used as an eyeliner or eye shadow, and can be layered over other colors for a smoky eye. “You can pair it with Honey Gold, and it looks beautiful with the Olympian Blue or Bright Chartreuse. It also works well with browns and can be mixed with Tangerine Tango,” continues Bennett. “It’s a great transition color for those who are afraid to experiment.”

Rounding out the new neutrals is Rose Smoke, a veiled rose tone that pairs especially well with Titanium, as well as Rhapsody. “Rose Smoke is an amazing base color for all over the lid for brown, hazel and green eyes,” says Mee. “A better option than a typical flesh color, Rose Smoke enhances the green and complements the brown without looking made up.” According to Mee, Rose Smoke is also a great lip gloss hue, layered over lipsticks that are too bright or too dark for some.

Showing Off

From a retail standpoint, the fall colors offer the ability to show consumers endless possibilities. “You can easily showcase one multipurpose product and demonstrate for customers the gorgeous fashion look that suits them,” suggests Bennett.

“Keep it exciting and fresh,” says Paquin. “Help customers make everything wearable by educating them and making it fun at the same time.”

With this year’s palette of enchanting colors more fantasy than traditional, generating excitement for fall won’t be difficult. The variety and range of colors play to consumers’ practical side with versatile, new neutrals as well, meaning there is something for everyone. Each client will have her favorites, so help find a way to bring out her individuality while embracing the enchanting colors of fall.

Learn more about color ingredients and how they can perk up a range of beauty products in “Only Limited by the Imagination: Color Sets Brands Apart.”

Sara Mason is a freelance writer based in the Chicagoland area. She was previously managing editor of GCI magazine.

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