Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Choosing Colors

My sister, who is an art teacher and accomplished watercolorist, pointed out to me that I should explain WHY I chose the colors I did. Not everyone has training and background in art and color theory. Some of you have what we call "an eye for color" and some do not. Some of us just SEE that some colors look better together without knowing the "rules" behind it. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the subject. I will attempt to give a little nutshell lesson here and give you more later.

Most of you learned about the color wheel some time in your life. You know that the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. Unless you're talking about light, black is made up of a combination of all the colors and white is the absence of color. You can play with paints or crayons and discover this if you have never done that. I used to give my kindergarten students only red, blue, and yellow paint at the easel the first week of school. When they asked for green I told them that they could find it by mixing two of the colors together. They always found it. AND they never forgot it. Later I added white. Another week I added black. Play is a good way to learn.

I've attempted to put together a makeshift color wheel made up of fabric, for that is what we are dealing with anyway. The primary, or first, colors are red, blue and yellow.
You can make secondary colors from these. The secondary colors are green, orange, and purple (or violet). If you don't already know, red and blue make purple, red and yellow make orange, and blue and yellow make green. Using only these colors, you can learn in important lesson on combining colors. If you take any secondary color on the color wheel and go to the primary color opposite it, they will be complimentary colors. For instance, purple is a compliment to yellow, orange is a compliment to blue, and green is a compliment to red. (You may have discovered as a child that if you mix these compliments in paint, you will get a brown.) Adding white or black gives you tones and shades, which I will discuss another time. If the colors are in a small print, for instance, a yellow background with tiny purple flowers, your eye tends to blend these colors when viewed from a distance and the fabric will tend to look brownish. For this reason, you have to be really careful of the size of your print. Always view a fabric's impact on another fabric from a distance.

If you don't want to use complimentary colors, which tend to be eye popping, you can choose another type of color scheme. You can choose two primary colors that are side by side, for instance. Blue and yellow are very popular colors. Or you may choose to use different values of the same color - an all red quilt, for instance. You can add interest by throwing in touches of a secondary color. Red with touches of orange or purple. Blue with touches of green or purple. Etc.

There are some good tools in the stores that might help you. A good one to have is the 3-in1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom. It is by C & T Publishing. It is the equivalent of having someone knowledgeable hold your hand while you choose colors. It has color "swatches" for each of the 24 colors they have given (they give you an entire spectrum) and on the backs of each are color plans.

I'll talk more about color later. Consider this a refresher for "stuff" you probably already knew. Color is the one thing that will make your quilt either ho-hum or outstanding, regardless of your workmanship. I've seen beautifully quilted quilts that just aren't pretty because of the colors. It is something you should be aware of.

Until next time, notice colors in nature and how they combine. They don't follow the rules and often get away with it, so there are always exceptions!

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