How many pots of pigment does a person need? (a mathematical model)

Posted on Monday, at • 198 views

Please pardon the gaps...

The site is in mid-migration now (manual migration of over 7,000 entries, so there's a lot to be done.) The entry stubs are created for older content, but for the most part, the actual content isn't there quite yet. I am working on it. Unfortunately I have no ETA. But feel free to link to any page! When the content does get populated, the URL will stay the same.

How many pots of pigment does a person need? (a mathematical model)

This past weekend I was repotting my latest additions (the Bete Noire colors and some Gothic Lolita shades from Aromaleigh, a few BE colors, my latest TSS order) and realized that I now have over 800 pots of pigment. Heck, I'm more than halfway to the 900-mark already (853 total). So how does one know when enough is enough? Are there, in fact, too many duplicates in my collection? Granted, I count my blushes and face/body colors (like BE's radiances) in that number; but even cutting out those colors, I've got almost 800 pots of color without blinking. So what happened? Just how much duplication have I got? I pulled out my notebook and started calculating:

We can start out with the basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and grey. So, okay, there's eight pots in the storage bin.

Now we all know that there's not just red - there's red, pink, maroon…and so forth. So add in the light and dark versions of each color, along with the basic starting point (light, medium, dark). (Light grey being white, dark grey being black. I didn't want to count those two colors as colors in their own right, or the final numbers would be WAY up.) That gets you three versions of each of the base eight colors, for a total of 24 pots.

But wait! There's not just lighter and darker. There are the “in between” colors: orange red, yellow green, green blue, and so forth. Add in a bit more of the colors to either “side”, and you get a different shade. Let's call these the “warm” and “cool” variations - you have a warm, neutral, and cool variation of each of the preceding 24 colors, giving you 72 pots (24 x 3).

Are you with me so far? Go ahead, take your time. I'll sip my coffee.

Okay - so we've got our 72 initial shades. But there are two other factors in colors: how strong a color is (saturation), and how light a color is (lightness/luminosity). To keep things extremely simple, let's say that for each option, there's less, medium, and more - three possibilities. We multiply our 72 different shades by the 3 saturation-factors to get 216 colors. Then we give each of those colors their own separate lightness option, giving us 216 x 3 = 648.

Wow. 648 colors! So that should mean that I have some duplicates, but otherwise have just about every color there is, right?

We're not done yet. That figure works if all of the colors are the same finish: all matte, or all sparkly, or what have you. There are five overall groups of finishes that I've commonly seen on eyecolors: matte, pearl, frost, shimmer, sparkle. Okay, so that's 5 distinct finishes times 648 colors…that's 3,240 different pots of pigment one could conceivably have. Over three thousand. And that doesn't get into the minor variations of colors, all the different varieties of taupe (yellow-taupe, pink-taupe, blue-taupe, et cetera), and all the myriad variations in finishes (metallics, sheens - like BE's glimpses - washes, glazes), and so on and so forth. This is a mathematical model. It doesn't cover everything.

Okay, 3,240 colors. So should you collect ‘em all? Well, why would you? You may really dislike a color strongly, and not care to wear it at all - or may simply not have much use for a particular shade-family. There's a whole bunch of colors gone right there. Let's use me as an example: I can wear cool and neutral colors well, but don't look so great in most warm-variant colors. Yellow greens, for example, are right out. I love blues, but I'm not a fan of pastels. So let's start redoing the mathematical model and see how many colors I *should* have. (According to the numbers.) Starting out with the basic 8, I can wear all of those colors - even greens, which are not my favorite. Moving on to lighter and darker, I'm still good. Warm and cool…for argument's sake, let's snick out all the warm colors for me and leave me with the neutrals and cools. So far, my equation looks like this:

8 x 3 x 2 = 48

Moving on to saturation: I can wear highly saturated colors as well as minimally saturated colors, so let's keep all of those variants. For luminosity, let's nix out the “lighter” option - I'm not a fan of pastels, remember. So now my equation looks like this:

8 x 3 x 2 x 3 x 2 = 288

Moving to the finish line - literally, because the next multiplier is the types of finish - I am not a huge fan of mattes. I prefer pearl, frost, shimmer, sparkle. I like a little bit of pizazz. So let's just take “matte” out of the equation altogether (remember: mathematical model, simple is the watchword.) Instead of multiplying 288 by five, let's multiply it by four:

8 x 3 x 2 x 3 x 2 x 4 = 1,152

One thousand one hundred and fifty-two colors. And I currently have less than 900. So okay, then. The next time your spouse/parent/co-worker/friend exclaims, “Just how many colors of pink do you need, anyway?” counter their bemusement with the equation I've just laid out. And be sure to tell them: it's only a mathematical model. It gives a broad view, it gives you a starting number, but it doesn't convey the true complexity of the MMU color system. (You could easily end up with many, many more.)

Like this entry? Check these out:

or look at other entries tagged with


Commenting is not available in this channel entry.