Getting More From Your 12-Tone Swatch Book
March 17, 2013 by Christine Scaman
As you leave your personal colour analysis, you have a gorgeous little booklet that contains 65 colours that harmonize to perfection with the colours in you.
You head straight for your favourite clothing store. Within 10 minutes of being there, you notice that matching those swatches to real clothes isn’t quite so straightforward. Is close enough good enough? It wasn’t when you were sitting in front of the analyst’s mirror.
The harder you try to match those swatches to clothing, the harder it all gets. Maybe there’s another way to go about this. Forget about the little swatches. Look at the entire palette all at once. That’s how you look to others, all your blues, reds, yellows, browns, whites, all churned together at once.
One of the greatest gifts in my life, one that humbles me because I feel I did nothing to earn it, is the woman who trained me. Four years later and I’m still learning so much from her. She is an amazing colour analyst. Terry took a break from PCA. She’ll soon be seeing colour appointments and training again (in Western Michigan). You’ll meet her in an upcoming post. She showed me this most excellent way of appointing a colour to its Tone or Season.
>> Fan the Colour Book all out.
>> Lay it on the fabric.
>> Better yet, look around the store or your closet for two items in similar colours. Even once you get practice at this, without a comparison, our visual system just hangs there, thinking, “So? I’m waiting for your next move here.” Give it a comparison, any comparison, and it gets (gets both in the senses of ‘to understand’ and ‘to fetch’) what you want. We have no idea what a colour is anywhere, in a fabric, in an eye, or in a person’s face, how cool, how dark, how anything, until we compare it to something. If you happened to compare the colours of a face to a calibrated colour ruler, why, now you have a Personal Colour Analysis worthy of the capitals.
All those salespeople who feel they have enough experience to match your foundation by eye, who can “just tell by looking at you”, are the last folks I’d purchase from. That’s not because I don’t trust them from a theoretical POV, even though I don’t. It’s because I’ve wasted more $$ on those cosmetic purchases than any other. They may be the North American Head of Training for Whatever, doesn’t matter. May have more experience but they have the same eyes as everybody else. I’d buy from the new person who would feel better if she tried a few to compare. The more experience a colour analyst has, the more they’ll insist that you have a seat in front of the mirror and watch some drapes change.
Let these random thoughts float through your head:
>> Do these two things belong together, even if the exact colour swatch isn’t there? Often, it won’t be. Why not? Because you have many blues. If the book included them all, there would be no space to show you your span of greens. Or reds.
>> Does the palette look like more than the fabric, as if the swatches are separating from the fabric, or the reverse, where the palette looks dull and easy to ignore on that fabric colour? They should bring out the best and the most in each other. The eye should feel rest and ease, aware of both palette and fabric equally and happily.
We’re looking at a True Autumn 12-Tone Colour Book (from www.truecolour.com.au) on Light Spring fabric. Even though neither the swatch nor fabric colours are exactly as they appear to an eye, you can see that the Autumn colours are rendering the fabric to might-as-well-not-even-be-there. Overpowering clothes do that to us. As you see, they are not bringing out the best in each other. The swatches are separate, pulling up off the fabric, not blending comfortably with it.
>> Look at the reds. Could you make some beautiful lipstick combinations?
These swatches come from the Light Spring book. Again, the fabric in the photo is far more grayed than it really is. Still, they belong. They feel good on the fabric. The lipsticks work, both warm and cool options. Did you feel yourself relax when your eyes moved from the upper photo to this one?
>> Find the oddest, most extreme colours for that Tone. Do they work well with the fabric colour or would you never wear them together? When the harmony is right, there are no unpleasant combinations.
>> Are the neutral beiges/whites/taupes/grays really enhanced or boring? Or changed in some way, like greeny?
These are Light Summer swatches on that Light Spring fabric. Me, I wouldn’t wear the mauve taupe with the yellow green fabric, and it’s way more yellow green in real life.
>> Look for the complementary colours to the fabric colour. The pairs should be downright exciting.
>> Make some colour schemes. Monochromatic, analogous, contrasting. It should be easy.
Light Summer swatches again on Light Spring fabric. Close but no bell ringing. Those greens aren’t great together. That’s not a monochromatic scheme that works.
Are you thinking, “There are no right or wrong answers here. How am I supposed to know if I got it right?” How very astute of you. In French, they say, “Les gouts et les couleurs, ca ne se discute pas.” It means, “There’s no accounting for tastes or colours. Let’s talk about something else. How about religion or politics?”
It means that you can’t be wrong. And from there, you will settle in and get better. If you know your Season and have a coordinated closet, practice seeing harmony there before taking it into stores.
Beauty and belonging are where your eye sees them. Do you know what a split complementary colour scheme is? It begins with the usual red-green, blue-orange, or purple-yellow pair and shifts one of them just a little on the colour wheel. Much more interesting, dimensional, and stimulating than the straight red-green formula.
From your colouring to your Munsell positions on the 3 colour scales to your Tone’s book of swatches, you create your very own piece of art.
Art is partly a formula. Without some feeling, individuality, or expression, it just stays a formula. That’s where you come in.