Colour theory

Colour theory is the most important step in the PMU procedure because basically you avoid implanting incorrect pigments into the dermis of the skin. 

Why Is Colour Theory So Important?

  • Colour theory is the most important step in the PMU procedure because basically you avoid implanting incorrect pigments into the dermis of the skin. For example, if you choose a low-quality pigment or incorrect colour choice for your clients skin tone, the healed outcome will result in a faded blue, red or grey tattoo. 
  • You may have created a perfect shape for your client, and beautiful hairstrokes or an ombre brow for your client, only for the resulted healed colour to ruin all your hard work, and thus not showcasing your talent skill, and technique. 
  • An excellent procedure done by you can be undone by one simple step – colour/pigment selection. When selecting a pigment shade, you must take into consideration your clients under and over tones of their skin. You would not match a pigment shade based on, for example, just the client’s hair/brow colour. It will be the client’s under/over tone of their skin that will determine the healed result of the pigment in their skin. 
  • Also, some pigment bottles will be packaged in such a way that the bottle will be slightly opaque. A dark brown pigment may seem darker than it actually is upon application.
  • Always test the pigment on the client’s skin when choosing an appropriate colour.

The Principles Of Colour Theory

By definition, colour is the visual by-product of the spectrum of light as it is either transmitted through a transparent medium, or as it is reflected and absorbed off a surface.  Colour is the light wavelengths that the human eye received and processes from a reflective source.

When referring to colour, visually it is determined by measurements of the following:

  • Hue
  • The dominant wavelength of visible colour, what is readily experienced that we see, (for example) yellow
  • Saturation
  • The intensity and strength of a colour ie dull or bright
  • Value
  • The quality of the light reflected / the darkness or lightness of a colour (for example pastel, rich or tint).

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colours

  • Primary colours are RED, YELLOW and BLUE.  These are the only colours that cannot be made by mixing together other colours.
  • Secondary colours are the combination of two primary colours.
  • Equal proportions of primary colours are formed by the relationship between lightness and density.
  • In relation to colour correction it is important to understand the strength ration between primary colours.
  • For example, yellow is the lightest primary colour and therefore requires two times as much to equal the density of red, and three times as much to equal the density of blue.
  • Red requires two times as much to equal the portion of blue.
  • For example, orange is created using three parts yellow and two parts red.
  • Note: blue is not used as a corrective modifier colour due to its high density, and the tendency it has to heal the darkest in the dermis of the skin.
  • Tertiary or intermediate colours are a combination of one primary and one secondary colour.

Note: Most cosmetic tattoo pigments are the combination of tertiary mixtures i.e brown.

  • The above is an understanding of traditional colour theory, however its simplicity can create complications for a PMU artist.  
  • To comprehend colour theory when applied to cosmetic tattooing we must understand the application of colour contained in pigment in relation to the client’s skin colour, and how the pigment used will interact with the client’s skin tone.

This is how we produce beautiful healed results.


There are two categories that colours fall into; warm or cool, also defined in relation to the temperature of a hue. See below:

  • Blue – Cool
  • Yellow – Warm & Cool
  • Red – Warm