{Wardrobe Planning} My Custom Color Palette

I've long believed "Custom Color Palettes" are sort of like horoscopes. They're fun to read about, fun to know, easy to "believe" if you want to - easy to discredit if you don't. I've even rolled my eyes in the past hearing people cry "I can't wear ___! I'm a cool autum!" NONSENSE. The only reason you can't wear that color garment would be if your hands fell off when you tried to put it on, and nobody was around you to finish dressing you. (That's a really weird image to start a blog post. You're welcome for that!)

But Seamwork published an article in 2015 that I've JUST now caught wind of (Thanks Capsule Friends!) - and it feels way more science-based than "color guides" of seasons past,  so I gave it a whirl!

This is NOT my process. This is theirs. They deserve full credit for this genius-ness. And you should definitely take time (immediately!) to go read it in full. This blog post is simply my experience with the process, and ways I tweaked it along the way. Enjoy!


First things first: Success lies in the photo!

You do NOT need to be a pro to take a worthy image - but you DO need to take the right image. You may be tempted to just snap a photo in your cubicle or post-bedtime by bathroom-light, but you must know that it will not work. You need FLAT, EVEN, NATURAL light to avoid shadows, hot-spots, and possible color-casting that will artificially warm or cool your skin tone. 

  • Face a daylit window straight-on. As in, toes and shoulders parallel to the window. No twisting! Twisting = shadows, shadows = bad. 
  • If the sun is hitting your window straight-on, stand JUST outside the window-glow. (Hold a pocket mirror up as you walk away from the window. When the sunlight falls below your neckline, that's where you'll take your photo.)
  • Turn off ALL other light sources. Close your laptop. Turn off that hall light. Close doors to other rooms if the lights must be on. Each of those lights carries a different color profile and will confuse your palette skin tone pulls.
  • Don't wear anything bright. Black works best. When light hits colors, it bounces (or "casts") that color onto the next surface it hits. If that's your face - we run into the same problem as above.
  • In an effort to even skin tone (to get the most accurate skin tone pull) - rub some lotion - gently! - with your finger tips on your face for 30 seconds. This will bring blood to the area, moisturize dry spots, and even out your complexion for the photo. Don't skip the lips!
  • If you must wear makeup, wear it light. There's no reason to avoid it completely (especially if you'll be wearing makeup when you wear the clothes you make in the resulting color palette!) but you do want to know that the palette you get in the end represents YOU and not YOUR FOUNDATION. 
  • Wear your hair down. The longer my hair is exposed to the sun, the more bleached out it gets. It's important to me that the "hair" color I pull reflects both the color at the roots, and the lighter ends. 

Your photo should more/less look like this. If there are shadows, bright spots, and multiple light sources (blueish tones on one side of your face, yellow tones on the other) - reread the instructions above and try again!

If you're the type for editing - DON'T. Or like, do, for correct exposure and minor (MINOR!) white balance tweaks - but know that anything you do to brighten eyes or soften wrinkles or whatever else you do is cheating you out of an accurate color reading. Sideline your vanity for this project. LESS IS MORE! 

Now upload your final photo into Adobe Color CC (Per the Seamwork Tutorial).

Seamwork suggests you pull a skin, eye, and hair value. I say pull:

  1. Hair (from the roots)
  2. Hair (highlights/ends)
  3. Eye (iris)
  4. Eye (whites)
  5. Skin (Forehead center, or halfway between the side of the nose and your cheekbone)
  6. Lips

You'll get twice as many colors this way - and while many of them will be duplicates, I think they're a more complete representation of your skin's undertones and overall color profile. 

Write down the hexadecimal code for each of those color "pulls." You can use a free browser plugin (like ColorZilla) or open a screen shot into photoshop and use the color dropper tool there to find the value. 

Then, click the rainbow wheel in the top right corner of the screen. Enter 1 of 6 values in the center box, where the upward triangle denotes it's the "base "color. Rotate through all the menu listings (Analogus, Monochromatic, Triad, Complementary, Compound, Shades). Each will provide 4 colors from your custom color palette! 

You're supposed to remove duplicates, and at some point I'll probably even weed through mine further to eliminate colors I will just NOT be wearing. 

Which brings me to a minor tangent: this is only a prescriptive exercise if you WANT it to be. Nobody is going to chase you down the street, palette in hand, forcing you to wear pastels if you don't want to! Or jewel tones, or neutrals, or whatever your "color palette boogyman" may be.

I feel about "custom color palettes" the same way I feel about suggested clothes by body type, and print-mixing guides. It's interesting - and based in theory of some sort - but not "rule" and definitely not to be considered at all if it feels limiting or makes your fashion exploration less fun. You do you. As long as you're wearing what you like with confidence, I support you 100%. 

If you spend an hour in photoshop, You can even make a cool little graphic like this! But it's totally not necessary. 

I was surprised to find SO many colors I already buy and wear a lot. For someone who didn't believe all the hub-bub for the first 30 years of her life - my subconscious certainly did! 

I'm also excited to see all the potential LIP COLORS in this mix! When I asked my Sephora Stylist (30th Bday Present to Me was a makeover - fun!) what other lip colors I should wear, particularly those I might never reach for myself, he brought me these two:

PS, Thank you, My Sephora Makeover Genie, for telling me "Take a picture so you'll remember!" 

PS, Thank you, My Sephora Makeover Genie, for telling me "Take a picture so you'll remember!" 

I'm really excited to see how this impacts my sewing going forward. If sewing with a plan didn't curb my fabric-impulse-purchases, this sure will. It may take me off the trending "Pantone Colors" meri-go-round - at least as far as I can help it. (Pantone does still have strong influence over what fabrics manufacturers make and stock in stores, so there's that.)

Before I go, since I took the perfect photo for it, I'll leave you with a little game of "If Becca's Face Was Symmetrical." This must be what they mean by having a "good side" (though my husband would probably say my best side is my back side. Boys.)


Have you had your colors "done" - professionally or DIY? What did you learn? Has it had a lasting impact on you? I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!