How to Use Your Personal Color Swatch Book with Confidence

June 24, 2021 6 min read 2 Comments

indigo tones personal color swatch book color match examples with nail polish, clothing and scarf

You wouldn’t choose a shade of paint for your living room without consulting a swatch book of color samples, would you? You should also give your wardrobe the same level of consideration.

Once you complete your initial color analysis consultation, you’ll become the proud owner of your very own color swatch book. This handy tool, also sometimes called a color swatch palette or color wheel, fits easily in a purse or pocket and helps you identify your unique colors in clothing, fabric, paints, and more. 

Using your swatch book might feel strange at first, but with a little practice, you’ll be able to pinpoint your signature shades in everything from t-shirts to hair color to wallpaper. The Indigo Tones Personal Color Plume© swatch book lets you shop confidently for clothing, accessories, cosmetics, hair color, and any time color choices are made. Read on to learn how to use your swatch book to build a coordinated, colorful wardrobe with total confidence.

Indigo Tones Light Summer Swatch Book Palette

Curated Coordinated Closet in Light Summer Color Harmony 

How to coordinate your closet with color

Your goal is to curate a closet full of clothes you love, to have a few key accessories that let you pull multiple different outfits together, and to have a consolidated cosmetics bag with only the makeup that harmonizes with your skin tone.

Ideally, from now on, everything you purchase should align with the colors in your swatch book. These colors will automatically enrich the appearance of your skin tone, your natural hair color, and your eyes. In addition, it should reflect your unique style and fit your body’s shape.

Be patientTry not to be overwhelmed by all you have learned about your coloring and color harmony. Don’t worry about the clothing items in your closet that aren’t quite right.  A personal color consultation is about learning to make better choices for future purchases. 

Once you learn how to use your color swatch book to find the colors that work best for you, this information will last a lifetime. But the process of creating a simplified, harmonious wardrobe takes time and commitment. Give yourself some space to become accustomed to getting to know the colors and shopping differently.

Take a look at a picture of my closet from just 10 years ago, and compare it to the photo I snapped this morning. Because I’ve curated only the shades and fabrics that work with my swatch book and style, it would be glaringly obvious if I tried to work in an item that didn’t quite fit. Once you get the hang of sticking to your colors, you’ll naturally gravitate toward the items you’ll love for the long term, and your wardrobe will start to take care of itself.

color coordinated closet using an indigo tones personal color swatch

1. Understanding Your Personal Color Swatch Book 

Your color swatch book is laid out in sections. Each color family is grouped together, usually moving from the lightest colors closest to the pin, out toward the darker colors at the top of each page. This matters when it comes to creating the right contrast that works with your seasonal tone. For example, soft seasons suit low contrast (think complementary shades of one color), while bright seasons suit higher contrast (think dark and light or bold color combos).

The cover page of your swatch book has the name of your seasonal tone harmony. It references a month of the year and reflects the vibe in the landscape that also harmonizes with your natural coloring. You should look to the natural world during that time for inspiration on how to wear your colors and what color names and colors will work best for you.

The first pages of the book are your neutralsThese are the colors found in your natural hair color and occasionally, your eyes. Your neutrals will be your versions of white and gray. For some, neutrals also include black, brown, taupe, cream, ivory, and so on. These shades will be the building block colors in your wardrobe. Your closet should have shoes, pants, skirts, belts, purses, coats and layering pieces in these colors. At least one quarter of your closet should be in these colors. (See my closet above for reference).

The last page represents your metallics. Reference these shiny shades when choosing jewelry, eyeglass frames, accent stitching, buckles, snaps, buttons, metallic clothing, and so on. 

The pages in between are your color family groupsThese are your versions of the basic color families: red, blue, yellow, green, purple, and orange. These colors are unique to your seasonal tone and don’t overlap with other seasons, although some may look similar to a season that has something in common with yours. 

Some of the colors on the swatch book may appear to be the same color, but a closer look under natural lighting will show that they’re actually distinct shades. The more harmonious colors are to each other, the more they can resemble each other, creating a flow that is pleasing even to the most untrained eye.


 indigo tones light summer green swatch book match exampleindigo tones light summer green swatch match example

2. How to match colors to your swatch book

A “match” should be an exact match, not “close". The colors on the swatch book and the color on the item (fabric, cosmetic, nail polish, yarn etc.) should literally bleed together when held next to each other. You shouldn’t be able to tell where one begins and the other ends. When there is harmony, the fabric might actually look like it matches several colors on the book. The color palette and the fabric create a oneness that feels right and unified. 

Even a slight discrepancy can prevent the “magic” that color harmony can bring you. It is best to recheck the match in direct sunlight because the lighting in the typical store can be inadequate. If you find that the color doesn’t match don’t be afraid to return the item.

There are thousands of colors in the visible spectrum and the Personal Color Plumes© have been created to represent the essence of the seasonal tone with as much variety as possible. In order to be a useful tool for shopping, they represent variations of the key color families without being cumbersome.

There may be additional colors that when placed against the book as a whole are “accepted” by the other colors and create a unified feeling (like the above right pic) although they don’t perfectly match any one color. This gets easier to see with practice and by being persistent in getting exact matches early on. The more things you own that are just right, the more your will be able to see clearly what might also work or what is off.   

3. Match the colors on your swatch book to existing clothing in your closet

To get a feel for where your current closet stands in relation to your ideal wardrobe, look at the items in your closet with your swatch book in hand.Pull out some of your favorite pieces and compare them to the colors in your book. If you find a match, that item would be a great starting point for collecting similar items in the future.

Hold on to anything in your closet that you absolutely love or has any of the three characteristics identified during your personal color analysis. These three dimensions of color are the guiding principles in creating color harmony in how you pull an outfit together, and what makes a good investment for your closet. Eliminate anything in your closet that is too far from your harmonious colors and you haven’t worn recently, or doesn’t fit properly.

4. Shop mindfully with your personal color swatch book

Color trends come and go. Wearing only colors that suit you is economical and "trend-proof". Some years, you may not find your colors easily in stores, while other fashion seasons favor your colors and they are everywhere. That is when you might pick up many items all at the same time and stretch your budget if you can.  Shopping resale is also a great strategy for finding style and colors that flatter you at reasonable prices, regardless of what is currently trending.

Try buying just a few inexpensive tops and wearing subtle makeup only in your colors. The feedback from family, friends, and strangers should start trickling in soon. Sometimes family members might need a little time to adjust to a big change, so be sure to be patient with them, too. But even without knowing what color harmony is, other people will start to take note of the effect it has on you right away.

Always take your swatch book with you when shopping. In the beginning, it might be hard to remember to bring your swatch book or to feel comfortable diligently identify exact color matches while in stores.  Eventually it will become second nature. Give yourself some time to get used to looking for colors you may not have gravitated toward in the past. You could match the colors when you get home, but it helps to start using the swatch book as a tool when eyeing clothes, and getting a feel for exact matches. Without your swatch book on hand, finding clothing that works with your style can be frustrating and disappointing.

Be open to purchasing clothes when you see them if they are the right color, style and size, rather than frantically searching last minute for an upcoming event or specific need. When a piece is right, it will be worth the investment! Over time, you will have a thoughtfully curated wardrobe collection of pieces that complement you and each other.

Resist the temptation to purchase clothing because it’s on sale, because it’s a “close” match, or because you are frustrated and want to get something new in your closet.

It takes persistence to pull a wardrobe together that really works for you, but the simple, harmonious end result is well worth the wait!

2 Responses

Kathi Sigler
Kathi Sigler

July 06, 2021

Thanks for the reminder about how to use my swatch book! It is 10 years this summer since you held a wonderful session for my daughter, her future mother-in-law and me. I have my swatch book handy all the time and it has been a great help!.

Kc Rossi
Kc Rossi

July 06, 2021

This is an excellent article. I love my personal color plume from you and just learned a few tips on how to optimize using it. Thank you!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Living in Color

Indigo Tones Blog Colorful Lives Dark Autumn Tamra Asmuth
Colorful Lives, Dark Autumn Tamra Asmuth

November 01, 2021 2 min read

I am thrilled to introduce you to a Rochester treasure and the hippest Optician on the planet - Dark Autumn, Tamra Asmuth, founder of One Hip Chic Optical. Tamra and I realized our shared  passion for color and art during her color analysis many years ago. Since then we have collaboratively helped our mutual clients to confidently wear eyeglasses that enhance their unique style, face shape and coloring.

One Hip Chic offers an interesting selection of unique frames by designers from all over the world. Her local shop was recently named "America's Finest Optical Retailer" by Invision, a leading industry magazine.

Read More
Indigo Tones Colorful Lives Blog Warm Autumn Donald Green
Colorful Lives, Warm Autumn Donald Green

October 02, 2021 2 min read

It was a treat for me to do a "surprise" color analysis for Donald Green for his 50th birthday several years ago.  He was a good sport and went along for the ride and jumped enthusiastically into his Warm Autumn palette.  Donald is a Podologist and runs a specialized European foot care center. I was amazed at his professionalism and attention to detail on my first visit. He and I share a similar exacting approach to our systems and methods and I appreciate the care he gives each and every client. 

In the years since his color analysis he has incorporated his colors into his business branding and lifestyle.

Read More
Indigo Tones Blog Colorful Lives Soft Autumn Peggy Morgans
Colorful Lives, Soft Autumn Peggy Morgans

September 01, 2021 2 min read

I am pleased to introduce you to Peggy Morgans.  She is the founder of Parkway Window Works, an award winning custom drapery workroom exclusively serving interior designers and architects in the Rochester, NY and Finger Lakes region.  Peggy's attention to detail and craftsmanship is like no other and her work is in high demand. I love following Peggy on Instagram and seeing all the incredible completed projects in every color and style.  

I was thrilled to share my knowledge of color harmony to her highly skilled seamstresses and designers in her colorful workroom.  

Read More