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Color: Hue, Value, and Saturation

Color: Hue, Value, and Saturation 

So far, I’ve written about sewing machine upkeep, history of quilting, material, thread, interfacing, rulers, and needles.  Now it’s time to start a new project – a quilt, English Paper Piecing, cross stitch, whatever your heart desires. The pattern is up to you. The colors are up to you. But we know how difficult it is to choose colors for a new project or to change the colors from what you see on the pattern cover or in a magazine.


Let’s start with color theory and the color wheel. Color is what we see when light waves are absorbed and bounce off of objects in our environment. There are colors from light and colors from pigment. We deal with pigment color from things, fabric, digital colors, floss, thread, etc. Colors from light is slightly different. You can learn more about all of what I’m writing about at Learn - artspeak. Also look at the previous lesson from artspeak. The link is at the bottom of their page.

Color has three parts: Hue, Value, Saturation

Hue is what we see – the “color”

The hues are divided up from the three main or primary colors. All other colors are made of primary colors, black, or white. The primary colors are RED (magenta), BLUE (cyan), YELLOW (think of Prime Numbers in math – divisible only by themselves or 1). Your secondary colors are combinations of the three primary colors – Red + Blue = PURPLE/VIOLET, Blue + Yellow = GREEN, Yellow + Red = Orange. Lastly you have tertiary colors – combos of primary and secondary colors (think of directions on a compass – a little more north of northeast (NE) is North Northeast (NNE)). These are your yellow-oranges and blue-greens, etc. With today’s technology, there are all kinds of gradients of hues between the Secondary colors. Digitizing the hues have added too many hues to count.

Value is how dark or light a color is due to adding black or white. If you are darkening a color or hue, you are making shades of the original. If you are lightening a color/hue, you are tinting it. If you add grey to a hue, it is the tone.


Saturation is how pure the hue is, the intensity and brilliance of the hue that we see. Are neighboring colors from the color wheel sneaking in? Is there any black, white, or grey added in? If that happens, the hue isn’t saturated. We talk about saturated color with hand dyed yarns and batiks a lot. With blenders and solids, we look for a true red, yellow, green, etc. In the wheel above the saturated hues are in the middle. The shades are on the outside of the saturated hues and the tints are on the inside of the saturated hues.


Beyond the three groups of hues (primary, secondary, tertiary), hue names come from the universe. At the shop, we say that having the job of making up fabric and thread/floss color names would be so much fun. Many of the names come from things around us – food, plants/flowers, weather, etc. Any company's solid line has an array of names for their solid fabrics. Kona has Breakers, Avocado, Highlight, and Royal. Michael Miller has Majestic, Acorn, Chive, and Whisper. It goes on and on. The Martian Colour Wheel has named lots and lots of the hues, tints, shades, and tones. It’s a fun take on color theory. You can click HERE to learn more about this.



Next week we will talk about how to put the hues together, types of groupings.

Check out all the new, lovely hues and prints that have arrived. New Christmas fabric has started arriving. The Grinch Tree Skirt is great.


New patterns have arrived too. 


Don't forget to check our calendar for classes. Easy curves, simple bargello, half-square triangles and flying gees, and beginner classes are all scheduled.

Happy sewing everyone,

Phyllis and the QA staff

Quilting Adventures                                                                     Hours: 
6943 Lakeside Avenue                                                                  Tues thru Sat  10 - 4 
Richmond VA  23228                                                                     Sun - Mon  Closed
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Quilting Adventures
6943 Lakeside Ave
Richmond, VA 23228
(804) 262-0005
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