What is a Swatch Book?
Basically a "Swatch Book" is a collection of swatches that an artist or designer might put together for reference during a project.
Although a large number of people are familiar with various commercial spot color books, a swatch book is not limited to just colors. Decorators, designers and others often have books with more than simple color chips. That leads into the question of just what is a 'swatch'
What is a "Swatch"?
In general artistic design work, I normally hit a different definition of "swatch". It's not just a color, it's a "sample" or "material". It could be a simple solid ink color, or it could be a heavy plaid cloth. Moving into software, "Gold" is another good example. "Gold" is a texture, not a color (just ask the Blender artists out there). From an artist/designer's viewpoint, they tend to think in terms of a swatch book as "a collection of things I've pulled together to use for this project". I *think* some of the problem comes from saying "Pantone swatch book" and such but not keeping in mind that it is just a subset of general "swatch books". That is, it is a "swatch book but with only solid paint swatches". Then again... I have used foil Pantone books, so those definitely fall into the "material, not just color" category.
Some examples I've seen in swatch books are
- Spot color samples (Pantone, Trumatch, Focoltone, Toyo, etc)
- Counter material
The key here might be to think "material" instead of just "color". Although one might work with just colors, others might want to extend to a bit more.
And think of the use case. Say a comic artist is working on a project. He would probably want a "swatch book" for each of his characters, and perhaps one combining them. Then he might also want to add a book per character per lighting condition ("daytime", "nighttime", etc). When he went to use it, he might like to just select "Fred's skin" and apply it to an area. Then "Fred's shirt" for another. Those might just be simple RGB colors, or the skin might be a simple gradient and the shirt might be a checked pattern.
However... the artist most definitely would benefit from being able to define those books once and then just reference them from each of the programs he uses to create things.
Swatches in SVG/Inkscape
For SVG work, we'd probably like to be able to include gradients and patterns also. "Brushes" might also be nice... but I think those are something a bit different. For the apps I've seen that differentiate brushes from patterns, brushes get to be more of blobs of complex procedural code.