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How to work with color

How to work with color 



Last week we looked at hues, values, and saturated hues. We know that with yesterday’s and today’s technology there are an infinite number of colors that can be made. Digital printers can print almost any hue we program for - colorful, crisp colored fabric. Artists can make many, many hues by adding just a bit more of the hue next to the one they are working with on the color wheel or black, white, or grey. But how do we know what hues go with each other. Before your start, it needs to be hues you like or the person receiving the quilt/project will like. If you are making it for someone else and you asked them what colors they like, don’t complain about using those colors. The project isn’t for you, and you asked them what they wanted!!!!




The easiest is to do a rainbow and keep the hues in order – ROYGBV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet). You can start anywhere in the sequence; you can add hues in-between – tertiary hues and more. You want to make sure the value or saturation is the same. You could do a two color/hue quilt – one hue with a white, black, or grey background. Make sure there is contrast between your main hue and background (See below for the tricks on testing this). You could also use a very light or very dark version of your main hue or a low-volume print in the colors you choose. Several years ago there was an exhibit of red and white quilts in New York put together by the Folk Art Museum. You can see it here. It was at the Armory in New York City. The Armory photo gallery gives you another view here. A book about the show was also published.




Hue combinations that look good together are based on the color wheel. You could use just the primary hues, secondary hues, or tertiary hues together. Yellow and Blue or green, orange, and violet for examples. You may not like a combination, so don’t use that one.



Complimentary hues are ones across from each other on the wheel. Red and Green, Yellow and Violet, Blue-Green, and Red-Orange for example. (Side note: mixing these colors gives you brown.)


Analogous hues are next to each other on the wheel. It’s usually three colors from the basic wheel – red-violet, red, and red-orange; blue-green, green, and yellow-green for example.


Split-complimentary hues are the colors around one of the complimentary hues chosen and the one across. Green, red-orange, and Red-violet or orange, blue-violet, and blue-green for examples.


Monochromatic is several shades/tints/tones of one hue. You could do a navy blue, blue, light sky blue, and white. Violet Craft's Lion on the shop wall is a monochromatic orange scheme.


A couple of sites with more information and good visuals are The Quilting Hub and Scrap n Frames 


How do you use all this information? Start with a scheme in mind (one of the ones above) or pick a fabric you really like – this could be a print, batik, or solid. Then find companion fabrics – hues in the print, a quiet background that makes the print pop, a hue across the color wheel (Complimentary) from your fabric’s hue or a split complimentary. You could do an analogous set of colors and then add the complementary of the middle color for a pop (blue-green, blue, blue-violet plus orange). Look at the pattern you want to use. What hues, combinations did the pattern cover use (unfortunately there isn't always a good picture or colors on a cover, but if you like the pattern - change the colors). Go to Pinterest, google images, or the pattern designer’s website or blog to see what other people have done. Ask us or a friend with a good sense of color for ideas. We have many spouses with great eyes for color. They join for the fabric buying outing (and they don't comment about how much is being spent ).


We have a large color wheel in the shop you can use to help decide what hues you want to work with. The back side shows the different combinations above to help with selection as well. I have the wheel above on order too.


Tricks to see how the hues and values look using your phone’s camera:   


1) Get out your phone and take a picture of the fabrics you have pulled to sew with. Then look at the picture on your phone. The hues look a little different to your eye on the phone. Does one jump out or look wrong to you? You may need to change it out or not use that one. It could be too bright or look flat next to the others (wrong shade, tint, tone, or not saturated).
     [After taking the picture, just tap on the picture to the left of the spot you hit to take the picture. This will take you to that picture in photos. This also allows you to return to your camera by touching the arrow at the top left of the photo screen.]




2) Edit the picture into black and white and see how the fabrics look.
To edit: there should be the word EDIT on the screen with the picture. Touch that.
Now there are a bunch of pictures/symbols on the screen. Touch the one that is three little circles overlapping.
Under the picture on this new screen, are a bunch of little pictures of the top one all lined up and a box surrounding one of these little pics. Slide this line to the left all the way. These are preset choices for changing the picture. Some brighten, some highlight the center, there are three that remove the hues and give you black and white pictures. You can look at all three of these. If one of your fabrics has too much white in it or is too dark, it will stand out in the picture. Also, you can see if there is enough contrast between the fabrics you want to put next to each other. Can you see differences or do they all look the same shade?

Now that your head has exploded with information, some simple pictures of fabrics that arrived this week.
Aquatica by Dan Morris for QT Fabrics (these are digital, not batiks!)

Liberty, Glory, Freedom by QT Fabrics

Discover by Windham Fabrics
Happy sewing everyone

Phyllis and the QA staff

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