When you start to think about choosing and using colour, one of the first things you learn is that there are lots of rules; rules, rules and more rules about which colours combine attractively together and how to create nice combinations.
It is true - red and green do contrast each other well; and blue does look good with orange - but if you always stick with the same old combos it all gets a bit predictable.
Now, I am not much of a rule follower, and I believe pretty much any colour can look great with any other colour, so long as you blend them together successfully. What I am saying, in essence, is anything goes, so don't get too hung up on the rules!
The key is to create a pleasing bridge between colours.
So - how do you do it?
Well, here are 2 easy ways that I often use:
Method 1: Build a bridge through grey
Choose two colours - anything you like; here I have chosen a sludgy green and a chocolatey brown fabric. (I have taken the predominant colour from each of the fabrics and turned it into a solid colour underneath to make it easier to see on the screen.)
Now, go through your stash of fabrics - or the fabrics at the shop, and start with one of the fabrics. Find a fabric that is similar-ish to your starting fabric, but has more grey in it. (Remember the tones from my last blog post?????) You are aiming to shift the fabric towards grey and then move out again, away from grey. Using solid colours it might look something like this.......
and in fabrics, something like this.......
What do you think?
Now all you need to do is draw an imaginary line (as straight or wiggly as you like) inside the wheel and then identify colours along the line - it is as simple as that!
da daaa!!! (as my friend's daughter would say)
Why not give these techniques a try and see if you can make some nice colour combinations. To keep a record of it try taking a little snip from the fabrics you select and stick them into your colour resource - if nothing else it will make you smile to see some nice fabrics together!
Thanks for reading.
More about colour wheels
So by now I hope you have a colour wheel - or at least gone to the fabric shop - and searched the shelves for some pure hues. The cleanest, brightest examples of each colour you can find.
Here is my pure (ish!) hued colour wheel
(Remember: hue is the arty name for what everyday people refer to as colour. You know, 'red' 'blue' green' and so on)
So - if you aren't going to use just pure hues what other options are there?
This is where we come to some other familiar, but not always correctly used terms:
tint tone shade
These 3 words are well used and regularly misused when it comes to talking about colour. Understand what these 3 terms really refer to and you will be well on your way to understanding why certain colours and fabrics 'go' together and why others don't work so well.
What I suggest is that you now try to make yourself another two colour wheels with real fabrics, this time one made from fabric tints and one from fabric tones.
Don't bother with shades. To get a good selection of true shades (that is ONLY black added) in fabric is fairly difficult.
Usually finding tints is easy - just try to be sure they are clean and bright - only white has been used to make the fabric lighter.
The shades are a little more difficult, and it is important to realise why. True shades are gloomy and in general it is more appealing to the eye to have a little white in the mix - so turning them into TINTS. The only way to really get a grip of this is to compare lots of fabrics and really analyse them to see if you think they have just black added - or grey.
TIP: Go and stand in front of the yellow or green fabrics in a quilt shop display. (I don't know why, but for me it is easiest to see with green or yellow) Look really carefully - I mean really carefully at the colours. Try and see if you can detect if the colours are clean or muddy. Has white, grey or black been added to the original pure yellow or green?
Why am I making such a big deal of this?
Well, have you ever wondered why certain fabric combinations just don't look quite right together, even though you think they should? Depending on whether white, grey or black has been added to a colour will have a big impact on whether it 'goes' nicely with other colours or not.
Take a look at these:
Obviously this is all very subjective, and some people like certain combinations whilst others don't. What is important to understand is why.
If you look at a selection of fabrics and it doesn't quite look 'right' think about whether you have shades, tints or tones in your collection. Sometimes just changing the 'odd one out' can turn a so-so selection into a beautiful one.
I hope you do manage to make some colour wheels - but even if you don't, do start looking at colours more critically and decide whether it is a pure colour, a tint, a tone or a shade. It will help you tremendously with your growing understanding of colour.
Next time: Making colour runs and blending one colour into another.
Thanks for reading.
So - what did I do?
I made a colour resource; I didn't call it that - I just had a book with bits and pieces inside of all the activities I did. But, that is what it has become. If you are wanting to learn to take control of colour then I can recommend this method of bringing together all you know and learn about into one place. When I see it all as I turn the pages everything seems to fall into place - plus I don't end up losing scraps of paper or samples of fabrics!
Over the next few weeks, whilst I am travelling and may not have much in the way of fabric and facilities to stitch, I am going to blog about creating a colour resource. Today I start with an old chestnut......
When I started making quilts about 9 years ago I made pieced quilts. I wasn't very accurate in the beginning, but I stuck at it and now (well, most of the time!), when I do piece fabrics into traditional quilt blocks, I am able to do a good job. My points match and my seams lie nicely. Learning this skill took time. It is the same with colour. Instead of always letting someone else lead the way with my colour choices I began to apply the knowledge I was learning and got on with it myself. In the beginning it took me hours - pulling bolts of fabric from the shop shelves and making huge piles. De at Midsomer Quilting was very patient with me. Fortunately now, the piles I make are much smaller and the whole process much quicker!
I bought lots of books, did lots of exercises and went on lots of courses. Over time I began to understand how colour works, the relationships between colours and how to put nice combinations together.
Here a few of the better books I have read...
Given that you can buy a nice colour wheel like this you may think my next suggestion is a bit stupid, but bear with me. Spend the time to make a selection of colour wheels from fabrics. Yes - go to the fabric shop and seek out a full colour wheel of fabrics. Start with pure hues and buy the smallest strips of fabric you can. Scraps are perfect - but it is important that you look through the whole stock. To coin an old phrase, you need to see the wood for the trees! You are looking for pure colours that do not have any white, grey or black mixed in with them. They are the colours that look clean and bright.
What do you do when you can't do something? You go and learn!
You can piece them, applique them, fuse them or just glue them onto paper if you wish. The outcome isn't really all that important, but what is important is the process you will go through in sorting through mountains of fabric and really looking at colour. I mean REALLY look.
I appliqued mine and keep them in a drawer for old time's sake. I don't refer to it, but it taught me such a lot.
I would love to hear from you if you do make one, what you think of this as an idea, and how it turns out if you do.
I will move on to tints and shades.