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.