As an analyst, I am often asked to accompany clients on a shopping excursion. Carrying multiple swatch books can be a burden sometimes. My solution was to ask if I could purchase the combination strip from each of the 12-Tone Swatch Books and thus the Combination Swatch Book was born! Not only does this swatch book contain the combination strips from the classic and corporate fans but Amelia created all new color combinations too. Since these are not available to the general public, I thought I would share the new combinations. I do believe that these new combination strips may make an appearance in a new product in the not-too-distant future. For more information, on the combination strips in general, please see my post discussing the parts of a swatch book here.
* The Soft Summer combination strips did get new combinations but my prototype swatch book mistakenly got the originals. I will update this blog post when the new, replacement strips arrive.
The True Colour International 12-Tone Swatch Book is the finest, most accurate color tool available. Each swatch book is printed with the highest quality archival materials. Barring any prolonged exposure to the elements, the colors will not fade or discolor. I recommend keeping it in your purse/handbag/diaper bag or glove box, so it is always accessible. You can't use it if you can't find it!
The swatch book, like the test drapes, is a tool and visual guide to finding the colors that harmonize best with your tone. Attempting to eyeball harmony without your swatch book, more often than not, ends with disappointment and frustration. Even as a certified color analyst, I still use my swatch book while shopping.
A solid understanding of the "anatomy" will go a long way in helping you get the most out of your swatch book. There is a lot of information packed into this small package, and this post will help you get acquainted so you can maximize its usefulness.
Anatomy of a Swatch Book
The Front Cover
The front cover of your tonal swatch book has a hue specific to your tone and your tones version of "black." Not all tones should necessarily wear black but, in a pinch, the most harmonious black can be found on the cover. When compared to the other tones, you may notice that not all blacks are the same. Here, it's easy to see the "black" of Soft Summer is actually a very muted charcoal-grey, much different than the stark, true black of Dark Winter.
The Fan Blades
The colors found on the fan blades represent the range of your tone, from the lightest to the darkest hues. The contrast level of your tone is also reflected in the range of hues. You will notice that each individual color chip has a number and a letter. The numbers are there for reference when discussing particular color within an individual tone. The letters designate whether a color is considered a Fashion Neutral (FN) or an accent (A). Fashion Neutrals are good choices for pants, suits, sweaters and shoes. In addition, there are three strips representing your tone's versions of red. These "reds" range from pinks, corals, true reds, burgundies, plums and even oranges depending on your tone. These "reds" are considered accent colors but also double as suggested lipstick and blush colors. Do not get hung up on the FN or A designation, let your creativity and personality be your guide.
Every client receives a True Colour International 12-Tone swatch book containing 65 hues representing the range of color found within their palette. These colors are accurately harmonized based on their hue, value, and chroma for each tone. For a primer on tonal dimensions, please see Part One of this blog series.
The human eye is estimated to be capable of differentiating millions of hues. The 65 hues found on your swatch book are in no way the only colors that will harmonize with your personal coloring. They are a small but wide-ranging sample of the colors within your tone. In many regards, they are the boundaries based on the hue, chroma, and value limits of your season. Here you will find the lightest and darkest, brightest and softest, colors within your tone. That being said there are certainly more colors available within each tone; however, the availability of different hues is not endless but rather appear as variations on the theme. These extra colors will not "match" any particular color on the fan but will still harmonize and connect with your tone's overall theme. Will every client wear each color the same? The short answer is no; one's individual preferences plays a large role in how you wear your tone. You may find you prefer the lighter colors, or that you feel more comfortable in the darker hues. You also may find that you do not care for a certain color within your palette, but rest assured, of the available options, it is the best version of that color for your tone. Amelia Butler, founder of True Colour International, discusses this in much further detail here. It's worth reiterating that the swatch book is just a tool to help you recognize harmony.
The Combination Strip
At the back of the swatch book, you will find a strip of suggested color combinations. In my opinion, this is the most useful blade of your swatch book! This strip should be your go-to when initially looking for harmony. I will discuss this in further detail in the third and final segment of this series. For now, let's just focus on what the strips represent. In the Classic swatch book, the combinations are various accents with fashion neutrals as seen below. Each tone has the same combinations of accents and neutrals, but the colors and contrast levels will vary between tones. For example, Soft Summer has much lower contrast overall than Bright Winter. How you choose to wear your tone's colors is entirely up to you. Your personality, whether you stay home or go to work, and even your Image Archetype may all influence how you mix and match hues. The combination strip is just a guide to jumpstart your creativity.
The Back Cover
The back cover has some tidbits of information you may find helpful. The letter abbreviations can be found here for reference, along with suggested jewelry and accessory colors.
Classic vs. Corporate
For each tone, there is a classic and a corporate swatch book. In general, women are given the classic and men the corporate; however, neither is particularly gender specific. Each is sufficient in its own right for discerning harmony. The classic swatch book contains an array of fashion neutrals, cosmetic colors, and a wide range of accent colors. The corporate swatch book explores the darker end of each tone (especially for the lighter/softer/warmer tones) for suiting and menswear. In place of the many cosmetic recommendations, there are also more shirting (lighter) colors and a wider array of neutrals. Each tone expands differently, as you can see in the photos of the classic and corporate Soft Autumn swatch books, the corporate version explores the darker end (lower value) of the tone. The corporate versions of the Dark Winter or Dark Autumn palettes cannot really go much darker than their classic counterparts. The differences in the two are much less apparent but, in general, the corporate swatch books explore the boundaries shared with their sister tones.
The combo strips are also different. As discussed above, the classic strip contains mixtures of accents and fashion neutrals. The corporate combo strip is similar but geared for corporate attire, in that the combinations are shirt/tie or accessory/suiting ideas.
Do you need to own both a classic and corporate swatch book? No, either will do its intended job of finding harmony, but having both is fun and can help you better understand your tone's boundaries.
My hope is that this post has answered any question you have had about the TCI swatch book; however, I encourage anyone with a lingering question to please leave it in the comments. The third and final part in this series will explore the definition of harmony, discuss the predominant color dimension for each tone, and explain in detail how to use your swatch book to find harmony.
So you’ve just been draped, and you leave your analysis, overjoyed and mind reeling. You head home and throw open your closet doors, eager to sort through your wardrobe. Now what?
Learning to spot harmony takes time, patience, and practice. The first step to being able to accurately spot harmony is to understand the characteristic color dimensions that are unique to your tone. This means developing a firm understanding of the specific hue, value, and chroma represented by your tone. Let us start with a few definitions:
Hue - refers to the names given to pure colors (e.g. red, blue, yellow, etc.) For our purposes, we will use hue to define how warm, cool, or neutral a color is. Warm colors have a yellow undertone; cool colors have a blue undertone. To visualize this, imagine you are going to paint a warm autumn landscape. In order to unify the colors and give the painting the warm undertone, you might paint the entire canvas yellow before you begin. This yellow undertone will now be present in every color painted on top. The same process can be used to convey a cool summer's day, except one would choose a primary blue rather than yellow. Neutral hues are further broken down into warm-neutral and cool-neutral, thus having a mix of yellow and blue undertones.
Value - refers to how light or dark a color is. Value is best represented as a scale from white to black. The colors found in the Light seasons have white mixed in. Similarly, the colors found in the dark seasons contain black. On a color sphere, like the one found further down, the value scale runs vertically from pole to pole. The Light season colors will be found near the top, and the Dark season colors near the bottom.
Chroma - refers to how clear, bright, and pure a color is, or how soft, dusty, and muted a color is. The Bright seasons have the highest chroma, whereas the Soft seasons have the lowest chroma. On a color sphere, the bright, clear colors of Bright Winter and Bright Spring are found around the equator (and thus are also medium in value). The soft, muted colors of Soft Autumn and Soft Summer are found around the core (also medium in value).
These three color dimensions are intrinsically linked. Remembering that the vertical axis is our value scale with the lightest colors at one pole and the darkest at the opposite pole, we can see that as we change one dimension, we in turn change another. The dynamic between hue, value, and chroma is what makes each season unique. One can literally pinpoint on the sphere where the colors from each season come from. The goal of personal color analysis is to determine your hue, value, and chroma. We can imagine being able to plot them on the sphere, thus the colors surrounding 'you' are those that are most harmonious with your personal coloring (aka your season).
Below is an updated and more detailed version (© TCI 2017) of the table found in Kathryn Kalisz's (founder of the 12-Tone Sci/ART method of PCA) book Understanding Your Color: A Guide to Personal Color Analysis. Upon exploration, we can begin to see the color dimensions that differentiate the seasons from one another. For example, Winter and Summer are both cool in hue; Summer is lighter and more muted, while Winter is darker and brighter. Likewise, Spring and Autumn are both warm in hue, but spring is light and bright, while Autumn is dark and muted. As one who harmonizes with Dark Autumn, I look for colors that are warm while simultaneously dark and somewhat bright. I know I have strayed when a color looks too dusty or is overly saturated with yellow undertones. One who harmonizes with Bright Winter should look for cool colors that are neither light nor dark but are very bright and pure.
A solid understanding of your tone's dimensions will go a long way when out in the real world trying to find clothing, cosmetics, or accessories that harmonize with your personal coloring. With the above table in mind, let's look at a selection of True season purples from the True Colour International Classic Swatch Books. Notice the hint of blue undertone in the cool seasons versus the hint of yellow in the warm seasons? How Summer and Autumn are more muted than Spring and Winter? Or how Autumn and Winter appear darker than Spring and Summer? Even though Winter and Summer share coolness, Winter is clear, crisp and intense where Summer is dusky, gentle, and relaxed. Likewise, Spring and Autumn share warmth, but Spring is light, bright, and dazzling, contrasted with the deep, vibrant, and rich nature of Autumn. Understanding what differentiates your tone from another can be just as useful as understanding your own. It is my hope that this series will leave you with a firm understanding of your tone, how it relates to others and how to use that knowledge when searching for harmony.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this series, in which we will explore the anatomy and information packed into the TCI 12-Tone Swatch Books.