Being able to see the actual polish and it's name on a stick is ingenious. I use them to figure out combinations without wasting any polish, friends and family can see clearly what the different tones of a nuance are like in real life and I get to look at rainbows of colour while my Ikea Helmers keep my polishes locked away from the sunlight. Yes, they are brilliant!
What To Do:
I don't want you thinking I'm being patronising so if you know how to use a swatch stick, move on. I only include this part because for a long time I was swatching my polishes incorrectly. I have never gone back to re-do the wrong swatch sticks but it is something that no doubt I'll do at some point as I am a terrible perfectionist.
1. Collect the swatch sticks (I always bring out a spare in case of spelling mistakes), a sharpie or other thin permanent marker & your polishes.
2. Label your swatch sticks with the brand and polish colour name. I do not include anything else but it is up to you if you want to add other details.
3. Turn the swatch stick over and paint the polish on the underside *this was where I made my mistake as I swatched the top of the stick, like you would paint polish on a nail. However I later figured out that it affords the polish no protection so swatching underneath keeps the polish protected and prevents it from chipping when the sticks are all grouped on a ring.
4. Complete the painting for all your polishes and leave this way up until the polish is dry.
5. (close up picture showing the underside painted).
6. Once dry you can place your swatch sticks on the rings and pack your new polishes away in the safe home.
Where To Buy:
I get the majority of my nail supplies (bar polishes) from eBay. Its easier for me to get things delivered to my house and eBay has such a wide variety of products at much more reasonable prices than the nail supply stores local to me. If you are a nail tech I know that you can get discounts so it's worth comparing.
Swatch Sticks & Binder Rings:
I buy my swatch sticks from the seller Sinedy off eBay. They are £1.87 for 50 which is a very good price. Other sellers do sell them slightly cheaper so do shop around, however I have ordered from this seller before so know that the quality and service is excellent.
Now these packs of 50 swatch sticks come with 1 long iron nail type thing which you can store your sticks on. However its very difficult to conveniently input a new swatch stick as you have to take all the other sticks off. Also the 50 sticks that come in the pack don't fit on the nail because it's too small. I therefore find binder rings a lot easier to use when organising my swatch sticks. You buy these separately but they are worth it to me. Comparison of the two in the picture below = Top - binder rings / Bottom - Nails.
Now I buy the binder rings from szdepot88 on eBay. They sell in a variety of sizes but I buy the 58mm rings in packs of 10 for £2.86. You need less of these rings than polishes because they can hold a lot of swatch sticks. Again, there are a lot of sellers which sell these rings so please shop around and find the best one for you.
Organisation of Swatch Sticks:
This will be all to do with your personal choice. Some people chose brand, while others chose colour. Some chose both. I have opted for colour but split my glitters on to other rings and organise those by colour as well. There is no right or wrong way here so do whatever you fancy and see if it works. Whatever you decide on will be a delightful display of colour which you'll find irresistible.
Lastly, my advice is to swatch as you go. My collection was quite extensive before I got my first swatch sticks and it took me ages to get it all up to date. Swatching 6 or 12 polishes as you get them is so much easier than having hundreds to do all at once. Plus it also takes time to input your swatch sticks into the correct place on the binder rings and if you don't keep on top of it, you can find you miss polishes or that it becomes too much of a bother to do.
Let me know if this has been helpful, if you plan to start swatching your collection or if you have any other hints and tips for me. I love finding new things that are polish related.
Disclaimer - I am getting no personal gain from these sellers, I am mearly passing on some knowledge which I hope will be helpful.