Permanent Makeup Color Theory – Short Guide

By Katarina V.| Last updated on August 22, 2023
Permanent Makeup Color Theory - Short Guide
⏱️ 4 min read

Color theory for permanent makeup is one of the most important aspects of any PMU training, and no educator will fail to mention it.

However, PMU trainings, live or online, vary in quality and thoroughness, and they can be overwhelming, so students sometimes find it difficult to take in all the information at once.

So here’s a short guide through PMU color theory perfect for new artists trying to master PMU, experienced artists looking to brush up on their theory, or even clients considering getting a treatment.

What Is Permanent Makeup Color Theory?

Mastering PMU color theory means being familiar with the general rules of interaction between different pigment shades, their behavior in the skin, and different Fitzpatrick types, skin tones and undertones.

To predict what a pigment shade will look like healed, you have to know the properties of the formula, and assess those of the skin: its type and melanin content, undertone, thickness, the degree of blood supply, skin, overall state, age.

Skin type is easily determined according to the 6-degree Fitzpatrick scale.

The Fitzpatrick Scale by PMUHub

Here’s a guide through Fitzpatrick types for PMU artists.

Regardless of type, any skin can have a cool, warm, or neutral undertone.

Here’s a useful tool for determining the undertone on Fitz 1-3:

The basis of all color theory is the interplay of the 3 primary colors – red, yellow and blue.

The way they are merged into secondary and tertiary colors used for a variety or PMU pigments plus the touch of color skin itself is what determines what the healed results will look like.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel is the basis of all color theory in general, not just in permanent makeup.

This portrayal of primary and secondary colors is extremely helpful in PMU, as it shows how the primary colors mix with each other, and what colors are complementary to each other – direct opposites – which allows for neutralization.

The Color Wheel by PMUHub

Warm and Cool Undertones

The colors usually used in PMU are mostly shades of brown for permanent eyeliner, microblading and other brow procedures, and pinks and reds for permanent lips or areola reconstruction.

Pink shades are “cooled“ reds, so it’s important to take into account the shade of the lips.

If they are naturally warmer, the pigment will look redder. If they have a purplish hue, it’s usually necessary to neutralize it with some warm orange first, and then build up the desired shade.

Brown is actually made up of all primary colors mixed in different ratios, so it can have a variety of undertones.

If the shade contains a higher percentage of blue, chances are the pigment will fade into a cool grayish. If it contains more red or yellow, it will be closer to orange.

You should never use pitch black pigments for PMU, as they generally contain quite a bit of blue and can quickly fade into a bluish gray.

Extra Tip

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with different formulations and common ingredients of pigments, as different types of pigments fade differently.

Here’s a guide through carbon and iron oxide pigment formula.

Why Is It Important to Master PMU Color Theory?

Every artist should be well-versed in color theory, as getting the color right is essential to satisfying results.

There’s much more to picking the right color than meets the eye.

Deciding what will look good once the results heal takes time and practice, but the first step is learning the basic rules.

That way, you’re able to predict what a certain pigment shade will look like healed, whether it’ll work with or against your client’s skin tone and undertone, whether it’ll blend with the client’s natural hairs.

Plus, color theory is crucial for successful eyebrow tattoo color correction.

If you’re not an artist but a client considering a PMU treatment, getting informed about permanent makeup colors is still a good idea, as it will help you get the idea of what you can realistically expect, and you’ll be able to explain to your artist what you want done.

Permanent Makeup Color Correction Theory

With so many artists practicing PMU nowadays, and so many people getting a bit of PMU work done, salons have been flooded with correction appointments.

It’s very common for PMU pigments to eventually fade into a not-so-great shade if they are not touched up regularly, either into a bluish gray, or a warm orange.

This can be a result of many factors including sunlight exposure and certain skincare products, but every system breaks down pigments at its own pace and in a different way.

That’s why the same shade can fade into different hues on different clients.

In order to fix the color, you have to be trained to determine just the right amount of just the right shade of pigment that will neutralize the unwanted hue.

This means you’ll have to know what the undertone of the pigment you’ll be using is, and what the client’s undertone is.

How To Do PMU or Microblading Color Correction?

Do I Need to Take a Class in PMU Color Theory?

Taking a separate class for PMU color theory is not obligatory, but it certainly can’t harm.

Although all PMU trainings should give an intro to color theory for permanent makeup, it’s always possible this part of the course may not have been thorough enough, or you may have been focusing more on other aspects of the training, and you don’t feel like you’ve completely mastered it.

If this is the case, you should definitely consider signing up for a PMU color theory class. Many academies offer this class online, so it won’t take too much time or money, yet it can significantly improve the quality of your work.

Final Tip

The undertone of a pigment formula is best determined with a simple trick. Apply some of it on a sheet of white paper, put it under running water, and the stain left will reveal the undertone.

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