Zyla’s System of Color

I like David Zyla’s system of color well enough to recommend his book to my readers, and use the reference of the hands and fingertips on my clients.   In short, it tells you that the colors found in your own skin, hair, and eyes are your personal best colors, and it takes the four-season system of color a step further.  This is good stuff.

There are, however, limitations.   And the biggest one is that you have to use a little creative license with those colors!  It helps a very great deal if you’re someone who can really see color, and extrapolate corresponding “right” colors from what’s on the paper.

Here’s a picture of my eye:


According to Zyla, the ring around my iris is my “first base” – the color I should wear when I want to be most forceful, taken most seriously.  My version of black.

This is a lovely color.   Very soothing.   I wear this color… but it’s not “my black”.   That’s bright navy.

Why would I choose navy over teal?

  1. Navy has a more powerful connotation for the viewer than does teal.  It’s not black – but I look terrible in black.  The cultural and emotional connotations of dark blue include reliability and professionalism – the same kind of connotations that black has.  It’s not as expected as black (which I view as a plus) but it is “understood” as a serious color, worn on serious occasions.
  2. My eyes, seen from a distance, look like they have more of a dark blue ring – especially if I wear blue, which I do often.
  3. Although Zyla thinks that the teal should make me feel most clarified, it just doesn’t.  That’s a great color for me to feel relaxed, like myself, and chill.

Another theory of Zyla’s is that you can find your best basic light color (aka white) from your skin.    Here’s my hand:


The color that blends everything together would be a soft golden peach.   And that’s a fine color on me – in lingerie.   In *anything* else, it looks incredibly blah.  It blends so well with my skin tone that I might as well be wearing a paper bag.  Yawn-city.    My “white” is actually ivory, preferably an ivory with a very golden or pink cast.

What’s going on here?

I think it’s that David Zyla, as a creative with an incredible eye for color, assumes that his audience has that same eye.   But in my experience, many folks just don’t.   The ability of humans to see fine variations in color varies.  (There are online color sight tests if you’re interested in this).

I learned a great deal from his book, I narrowed down my Spring color scheme and nailed a few bits of color psychology to the ground that have been extremely helpful.  (I use his “relaxing” colors quite often to pick soft greens and muted aquas, for instance).  I think others can, likewise, gain a great deal from his work.

But it’s only a piece of the puzzle.

Read his book, think it over, add it to the pile of information in your head…. what do you know about you?   What do you want to say about you?  It all works together.

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