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A Visual Guide to RCMA Foundations

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog.If you see this post elsewhere, it has been stolen.*


This is a visual guide to “How to Choose Your RCMA Foundation Shade” and with a deeper explanation to the colors in each category. Hopefully, this will help you to choose the right colors to suit your skin tone. This post is more in-depth than my previous post on RCMA.

RCMA (Research Council of Makeup Artists) cosmetics was created by the late Mr. Vincent Kehoe who was one of the great makeup artists in Hollywood.  If you think this line is just another foundation line with a vast array of colors, well think again!  Mr. Kehoe actually took his vast knowledge of colors during his years in the Hollywood film industry and actually worked with the film brands like Kodak to develop foundation colors which would look like skin in film and television shows.  This is how complex RCMA foundations are.  They aren’t just a mix of colors.  The pigments are mixed to work with the temperature of lights, various grades of film, and human skin tones.  This is how the line was created which is why it is one of the best pigmented foundations in the universe!

More on color theory: How to Understand Foundation Colors via Color Theory


Unlike cosmetic counter brands which contain about 30% pigment, RCMA contains about 55% making it a line that will not fade or change on skin.  This line looks most realistic in any type of media from real life to photography and film.  There is no other foundation which matches every type of skin tone.

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When you are choosing an RCMA foundation, please be aware there are two formulas: Color Process and Color Appliance which is labeled AF (appliance foundation). Color Process is made for application onto the skin whereas Color Appliance is for application onto prosthetics, it contains castor oil to prevent the latex from melting (or something technical like that). You want the Color Process foundations for regular streetwear.

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While cosmetic counter brands tend to categorize foundations within the general shades of skin tone; they ignore within each tone there are levels or degrees of depth.  RCMA offers the different depths within each of the undertones of color for a better match.  Basically, if you are not of Caucasian descent, you will most likely ignore some of the colors since they will have nothing to do with your skin tone.  The same goes in the other direction, if you are of Scottish descent, you won’t be looking into the tan colors.

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Three important points when choosing an RCMA foundation:

     1 - The depth of brown you have in your skin.  Maybe you have very little and are close to a cream complexion. Or, you are of ethnic origin and have deep brown skin.

     2 - The undertone in your skin.  Do you have peach tones? Red tones (ruddiness)? Yellow tones?

     3 - Categorize your skin level within your depth of brown.  Would you consider yourself pale or more on the dark side. Once you have all three of these in mind, you should be able to narrow down your choices.

RCMA Foundation Colors

  • Anything containing red is considered warm.
  • Anything containing yellow is olive.
  • Beige is considered to be a pink.

The following are very special pale shades. The first two were developed for the Star Wars film. The latter were made for still photography fashion and for runway.  These lack the natural skin tone colors and are more for the editorial effect, allowing the colors of the makeup (example: eyeshadow, blush, lip colors) to be the center of attention.  However, they can be used to mix with other foundations to lighten or even as highlighting creams.

  • Porcelain-very paler (for the young queen character)
  • Ivory-a bit deeper but still very pale
  • F-1-very light pinkish
  • F-2-pale cream tone
  • F-3-pink cream
  • F-4-light cream

Special Shades & F Series


The KA series was created for the pale to light skin tones which are close to white but not as dark as the KO series. This line could have originated from the old KO-A through H series.  The foundation does contain some yellow to give a bit of realistic warmth and depth to the skin all the while neutralizing some of the pink.

  • KA 1 - Pale cream
  • KA 2 - Light cream
  • KA 3 - Medium cream
  • KA 4 - Deep Cream

KA Series


Even though this line is an Olive series, note it contains warmth or a bit of ruddiness or redness to it, specifically a peach or peach pink; thus the reason it is described as warm olive.  This line is to give warmth and more depth to a neutral beige skin tone.

  • Gena Beige-pale
  • Olive 1-light
  • Olive 2-medium
  • Olive 3-deep
  • Tantone-dark
  • Olive 4-darkest

Olive Series


The KO Series is one of the most common colors and suits many of the skin tones within a neutral to warm range.  This line has a balance of yellow and peach, so if you have either undertone, you can use this one easily.

  • KO-1-pale
  • KO-2-light
  • KO-3-medium
  • KO-4-deep
  • KO-5-men's light
  • KO-6-men's medium
  • KO-7-men's deep
  • KO-8-men's darkest

KO Series


The KT Series and the K Series were created for tan skin tones of Caucasians.  Mostly these add depth without washing out or making dark skin look ashy.  The KT series although it looks pink, it does balance the skin to give it the natural tan look.  The K Series was actually created for Caucasian portraying Native Americans.  These contain more red than the average.

  • KT-1-pale yellow tan
  • KT-2-yellow tan
  • KT-3-deep yellow tan
  • KT-34-mix of KT-3 and KT-4
  • KT-4-dark tan
  • K-1-American Indian pale
  • K-2-American Indian medium
  • K-3-American Indian dark

KT Series


The KL Series was developed for Latina women or for women who are of medium skin color with a strong peach undertone.

  • KL-1-pale
  • KL-2-light
  • KL-3-medium
  • KL-4-light warm
  • KL-5-medium light warm
  • KL-6-deep warm
  • KL-7-deeper warm
  • KL-8-darkest

KL Series


The Shinto series was created for Asian skin tones or for any skin tone with a strong yellow undertone.  As the color deepens, the depth of brown will have a slight green cast or a coolness to it.  The first four were created for women's skin while the latter four suits mens.

  • Shinto 1-pale with ochre undertone
  • Shinto 2-medium
  • Shinto 3-deep
  • Shinto 4-dark
  • Shinto 5-light yellow tan for men
  • Shinto 6-medium yellow tan for men
  • Shinto 7-deep yellow tan for men
  • Shinto 8-dark yellow tan for men

Shinto Series


The MB series is named after Mark Bussan who needed certain shades for the Star Trek movies and the television series Hotel.  These colors do not stay in one undertone category.  However, they are made for darker skin tones OR situations where there are many bright lights like television and movies. 

  • MB-1-light brown with orange undertones
  • MB-2-medium with orange
  • MB-3-deep with orange
  • MB-4-dark with orange
  • MB-5-lighter with reddish undertones
  • MB-6-brown with reddish undertones
  • MB-7-brown with deep yellow
  • MB-8-brown with blackish undertones

MB Series


The KN Series are the browns in the RCMA line. The colors will take you from the most neutral light brown to the deepest bluest brown.  KN-5 is probably the most neutral dark brown, balancing all warm and cool tones of human skin.

  • KN-1-pale brown
  • KN-2-light brown
  • KN-3-brown
  • KN-4-deep brown
  • KN-5-dark brown
  • KN-6-yellowed brown
  • KN-7-deeper yellowed brown
  • KN-8-blued brown (East Indian)
  • KN-9-deeper blued brown (darker East Indian)

KN Series


The Ruddy Collection - Pink Skin Tones

The following foundations were really the starting point for RCMA.  These foundation contain warmth or some form of "red" in the foundation: pink, peach, orange, and red.  These were originally developed to accommodate the film industry.  Foundation was really a technical tool more than makeup.  The lighting and the development or speed of the film had affected the color of skin.  Foundations had to be more ruddy to end up looking beige on screen and on television.  However, today that is unnecessary and these foundations can be used for people who are more in "Pink" family.  You know who you are.

The KW Series are colors which contain undertones of cool pale peach to pink peach.   These were formulated for women. These lack the usual yellow to make it look like a "neutral" tone.  KW 5-8 contain more than the usual pink due to them originally created for theater lighting. Some of these colors can be used as neutralizers to cancel out discoloration.

  • KW-1 - Light Cream
  • KW-2 - Beige
  • KW-3 - Warm Beige (very peach than beige)
  • KW-4 - Olive Beige (contains a smidgen of yellow but still peach)
  • KW-5 - Light Pink (can be used to neutralize brown spots in fair skin)
  • KW-6 - Warm Pink 
  • KW-7 - Beige Tan Pink
  • KW-8 - Tan Pink

KW Series


The KM Series  and the KM Mixed Series of foundation were originally created for men.  They are still ruddy but since these were formulated for men, the colors may slightly be drabbed down since men's skin color usually only accommodates a natural and neutral palette of makeup.  KM 4-8 contain more of a pink/red for their original purpose as theatrical foundations.  As mentioned, any of these colors can be used as concealers, neutralizers, and possibly blush.

  • KM-1 - Olive Tan (Contains just a bit of yellow but not enough to see it as yellow.)
  • KM-2 - Deeper Olive Tan
  • KM-3 - Dark Olive Tan
  • KM-4 - Pinked Tan
  • KM-5 - Reddish Tan
  • KM-6 - Deep Reddish Tan
  • KM-7 - Red Brown
  • KM-8 - Deep Red Brown
  • KM-23- Mix of KM-2 & KM-3 
  • KM-3N1 - Red Tan but slightly neutral. (Mix of KM-3 & KN1)
  • KM-36 -Light ruddy tone -neutral within the ruddy collection)(Mix of KM3 & KM6)
  • KM-37 - Medium ruddy skin tone - neutral within the ruddy collection (Mix of KM3 & KM7)
  • KM-38 - Deep ruddy skin tone - neutral within ruddy collection (Mix of KM3 & KM8)

KM Series & KM Mixed Series


The KW Mixed Series are colors which still have the pink tone but with less harshness.  The colors will work on those who have the pink to peach tone to their skin and can't find a match in the majority of the yellow-based ones.

  • KW-36 - Light with a pink tone - neutral within this collection. (Mix of KW-3 & KW-6)
  • KW-37 - Medium - neutral within this series. (Mix of KW-3 & KW-7)
  • KW-38 - Deeper -neutral within this series. (Mix of KW-3 & KW-8)
  • KW-13 - Medium pinkish undertone. (Mix of KW-1 & KW-3)
  • KW-23 - Darker than KW-13 (Mix of KW2 & KW-3)
  • KW-14 - Medium Olive undertone, you have some yellow but not enough. (Mix of KW1 & KW-4)
  • KW-24 - Deeper than KW-14. (Mix of KW2 & KW-4)
  • KW-3N1 - Slightly neutral. Originally made for the Grande Ole Opry. (Mix of KW-3 & KN-1)
  • KW-4M2 - For tan skin with a golden peach color or for those who want to use as a bronzer. (Mix of KW-4 & KM2)
  • KW-4M3 - Slightly darker than KW-4M2. (Mix of KW-4 & KM-3)

KW Mixed Series


The Special Shades created for actors by makeup artists.  RJ-2 is a natural looking tan which works well on skin that never could find a bronzer for their pink or pink peach skin tone.  This one was created by Frank Westmore for Robert Wagner.  TS was created by Lon Bentley, a custom tan for Tom Selleck as Magnum PI for outdoor shoots.

  • RJ-2 - Natural Tan shade - has a pink to pink peach base.
  • TS - Dark Red Brown color.

Special Shades



After analyzing the RCMA foundations, I found them to be the most complex and fascinating foundations because I began to see how all the pigments which make a skin color are really based on the color of our blood, the color of fat, and muscle tissue.  They all come together so harmoniously and perfectly that I think if Vincent Kehoe wasn't a makeup artist, he would have been a research scientist who could create the perfect human skin color.

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I hope this helps many of you or at least gives you some idea in how to choose your perfect color.  As always, any mention of this blog is better than being an idiot who takes credit for a post on this blog.  Giving everyone good karmic makeup vibes!

Edited to add: Kandace Westmore mentioned to me that the foundations are vegan.  So for you veganites, you have an excellent line of foundation colors for you to try!


*Special thanks to the late great Mr. Vincent Kehoe.*

XOXO,

Olivia



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