color theory for makeup artists

Colour theory for makeup artists – Interview with Terri Tomlinson

Colour theory is one of the most basic fundamentals for any artist, and especially important as a makeup artist. If you struggle to match someone’s foundation correctly, going back to basics and refreshing your knowledge of colour theory is a great idea.

When I was teaching diploma I would begin on day one teaching basic colour theory, and give my students an exercise to create their own skin tone using just the three primary colours (red, yellow and blue), black and white.  I recently took this challenge myself on a Facebook Live.  It’s a great little refresher.

But being a great makeup artist is so much more than just matching foundation, or correcting discolouration like dark under-eye circles or hyper-pigmentation.  It’s about knowing which are the right neutrals to use on your client to suit their skin; which is the best shade of brown eyeshadow?

I recently had a chat with Terri Tomlinson, a makeup artist with over 30 years experience. While working with her students at Makeup Training Academy in Dallas Texas, Terri realized there was a gap between traditional color theory and makeup. She saw that makeup artists of all levels struggled to grasp color theory, and the importance of it, in their work. This gave Terri an amazing idea and in June 2017 she released a one-of-a-kind tool for makeup artists and anyone who works with skin called The Flesh Tone Color Wheel™. A color wheel in browns!

Watch the interview on YouTube HERE

We chatted about Terri’s background as a makeup artist, and she shared some of her favourite jobs, working behind the scenes with sports stars, and even a job with an elephant!  (I’m so jealous – elephants are my favourite animal).  Working in production and commercial print, Terri quickly learned the difference between having someone look “made up” and camera ready – it all comes down to the right colour choices.

Many makeup artists use colour theory instinctively, but having the technical knowledge and skill is important, particularly when you are starting out and gaining experience.

The big difference between makeup artists and traditional artists is that we work on skin, so our canvas is already specifically coloured.  We don’t work in grey scale.  Terri’s Flesh Tone Color Wheel helps artists recognise the skin tones they are working with, and therefore choose the right colour products for each person in their chair.


color theory for makeup artists


Terri has recently taken her color theory class online, which is great for those of us staying safe at home right now.  You can find out more about Terri’s online course in Color Theory for Makeup Artists at

This course is designed for makeup artists of all levels, and teaches artists how to go from traditional colour theory to colour theory in browns. Moving through the course, artists will become colour matching experts.

You can purchase Terri’s Flesh Tone Color Wheel HERE

Thanks Terri for taking the time to chat with me, and I am certainly looking forward to taking this course!


1 thought on “Colour theory for makeup artists – Interview with Terri Tomlinson”

Comments are closed.