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SWATCH CHARTS - Professionally Considering The Color Results They Display

When a color manufacturer sends us a swatch chart, I've observed a usual flurry of

excitement as salon staff members rush to see the exciting new shades the

company is offering. Our eyes are often drawn to the more "interesting", intense shades

of red, deep violet and blue, icy, blondes or very coolest silver/ash shades. A well made

swatch book is a wonderful marketing and sales tool. And, when created with great attention

to detail, a swatch chart can serve as a very good educational guide. Personally, I LOVE

them, and even today, I enjoy being able to look at new charts. BUT, I understand that these

beautiful shades DO NOT show exactly what they will produce when applied to clients.

Good colorists MUST avoid considering that the color on the swatch is the EXACT COLOR we will create when we apply this shade to a client's hair!!! in 999 out of 1,000 cases, this will NEVER HAPPEN! And, to avoid "regret", never, ever show a swatch book to a client. because this leads to a false sense of assurance.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Your new swatch book should note the natural starting color of the swatch.. "before" the advertised shade was applied. Example: Some manufacturers will share that the color results shown are when the shade is applied to 100 percent white (gray) hair. Other brands will say that "a level 6 is applied to a level 6". or that a level 10 is

applied to a level 10".. in order to show the colorist the tonal influence of the shade. Newer

"fashion tones" are noted as being "applied to hair which is pre-lightened to pale yellow".

This information is so important and will help you evaluate precisely what that shade will do

when applied to your client's hair.

WHAT I LEARNED IN BEAUTY SCHOOL: All of us who were students LOVED the new color swatch books! We saw a BRIGHT ORANGE RED we thought was beautiful! A client we cared for as "seniors" came in for clinic day and wanted to have RED hair. Her hair was very dark brown.. almost black.. with a bit of gray. Our instructor mixed this new, exciting shade, and watched us as we applied the color. We processed as directed, then shampooed and conditioned............. When the hair was dry, we were disappointed... and so was the client. Her hair was a spotty warm brown with some orange tone adhering to the previously gray hair. We were so confused and had no idea about what we did wrong. We had looked

at the "pretty picture" the swatch displayed, ignoring that this shade was a level 5 Copper

Red. When you apply a level 5 permanent shade to a level 1 (previously colored!) head,

the result is approximately a level 3 (medium brown) and the tone will be warmer.. but in NO

way what the swatch displayed. Clearly this swatch showed what the color would do when

applied to gray hair or to light hair.. probably level 5 or 6.

I'm sure all of us have our "swatch chart" stories to tell. They ARE wonderful guides but we

must take care to read them thoroughly and to know the numerous factors that affect what

a shade can.. and cannot produce. Please feel free to comment here if you have a swatch

book story to share.

If you have not yet registered to attend my November 1st class in Ct., but plan to do so, I must know ASAP, as we are ordering lunches and class supplies. For more information,

please email me at

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