Another Take on Colour Palettes: David Zyla

As I scrolled through TikTok last night, another take on colour palettes crossed my path – so of course I dropped everything and spent an hour figuring out my colours!

This method comes from David Zyla, who is a stylist for TV and celebrities. His book, Color Your Style, surely explains it all, but the part that intrigued me is that he has you build a palette based on the colours of your own skin, eyes, lips and hair.

Here’s the outline from his website:

Right away, I’m wondering how this would work for someone who has deep skin. Yes, “palm-coloured” is a euphemism the Black creators use for White people online, so I guess a Black person’s palm could be “their version of white”, but it still seems dubious. The book was written in 2011, and he has worked on a bunch of big soap operas etc as costume designer, so I’d like to think he has tried this with a variety of skin tones.. surely? Just something to keep in mind.

I started with a few no-makeup pictures of myself, and fudged it slightly by including a baby picture of myself when I had bright blonde hair! (Lesson on of finding your colours – feel free to rig it. Trust your gut.)

I used Canva to put these images together. Sometimes I used the colours that the program pulled from the pic, and sometimes I adjusted them to get a tone that was more generally accurate. I also pulled out a few colours that Zyla didn’t suggest, like the contour shade my skin goes in shadow, and the warm brown of my freckles.

Let’s take a moment to chat about my skin, shall we? I’m very fair (as in, until the past few years, usually too fair to find a foundation shade) and that means that my translucent skin lets all the redness shine through. Anyone else in the same boat? For years I thought that means I was cool toned. As I dive deeper into colour though, I actually think I’m neutral, with both warm and cool tones. I’ve mostly figured that out by playing with my wardrobe, like in this post!

Now we get into poetic license! Is this picture circa 1983 accurate in colour? Did I ever have cherry lips? I don’t know and I don’t care. I wanted the contrast from my blondest hair and I wasn’t going to pass up that soft red lip colour!

Here is my final palette!

Voila! It is… boring! But then I realised that these are actually my core makeup colours, the basics that support the colourful eye shadows I enjoy. Here are some swatches of my favourite makeup items that tie to this palette:

The nail polishes are what I have on my fingers and toes right now, which seem serendipitous! I don’t use or wear anything that deep slate grey from my iris. The lipsticks are my two top favorite shades for years, the eye shadow is the one I wear when I want to look bright-eyed, and the eyeliner I wear every day.

Remember when I talked about how I think I’m neutral, rather than cool toned?

This palette is a good example of why. Six of these colours lean warm, and only three are cool. More importantly, they are all a bit dusty and unsaturated, which I why I identify as soft summer or soft autumn. This palette also reflects the fabrics I like in that it was very light and very dark, with a mix of warm and cool mid-tones. That is precisely my jam when it comes to prints!

So did David Zyla inspire a new wardrobe colour palette for me? No. But it did help identify colours that enhance the way I look, which for me is the basis of a good makeup routine. If I liked more somber dressing, I think clothes in these colours would look great too. My very first suit was a deep brown with a caramel pinstripe, which I wore with a pale blush sweater. For years I’ve thought “Why on earth did I buy a brown suit?” but maybe 24 year old me know what I was doing!

Anyone curious to give it a try? Even just off the top of your head, do the colours of your eyes, lips, hair and skin make up the colours in your wardrobe palette in any way? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


4 thoughts on “Another Take on Colour Palettes: David Zyla

  1. The idea of matching your clothes to your skin/eyes/hair is utterly weird to me. I definitely don’t do that. I have blue eyes & I pretty much never wear blue. Though I do have a preference for a cooler color palette. For make-up it makes more sense though. I barely wear make-up at all, but I do have go-to lipstick color I’ve been using for more than a decade. It’s just a few shades brighter than my natural lip color, a cool muted pink color. But maybe I need to actually make a palette before I write this method off entirely. I just resist any palettes that have me wearing anything other than head-to-toe pink, hahaha.

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    1. I’d be curious to see how your palette would turn out! I agree it wouldn’t make for a wardrobe that brings me joy 😉

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  2. I too am one of those peeps who can’t find foundation cuz the pallor is real. I used to use the YSL touche eclat in the lightest colour and I found that worked pretty well. Now, alas, I don’t even bother. I should start caring again!!

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  3. I read about Zyla’s color method a few years ago when I was deep-diving on color and style systems. I feel like I might have played around with things, but I never posted them. In some ways it’s very similar to the color system in “The Triumph of Individual Style” which I also did a review on. In that book you use the same idea of skin, hair, eye color (it recommends using the whites of your eyes to find “your” white rather than the palm of the hands, and is clearly much more aware of the variety of skin tones possible) in order to find your basic color palette. I think that these color palettes that come from the body tones are good for determining complimentary makeup colors, but I agree that it makes a super boring color palette for clothes though. I do think that what it can be helpful for is looking for other colors that make sense in terms of intensity of chroma and also warmth or coolness. The Your Color Style system also uses colors from the body to help determine which category you belong in, but then has more exciting colors that coordinate within that category. I actually really like this approach because it opens up a whole color wheel of options, but helps to narrow things in terms of depth, brightness or softness, and warmth or coolness.

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