Much has been written in the art world as well as in the quilt world about color. This article assumes that you already know something about color, especially the use of the color wheel.
One of my favorite resources is Jinny Beyer’s Color Confidence for Quilters, NTC Publishing Group, 1992, which is still in print. I often use Jinny’s color chips when I work on a commissioned quilt. They are very convenient to carry with me, and they help me create a palette of the colors already present in the space where my client’s quilt is to hang.
You can learn a great deal about color from any of these sources. The color wheel is a very useful tool once you understand it and know how to use it. Any color palette can be analyzed with the help of the color wheel in terms of one of the color schemes we discuss below.
Each scheme has its own look and its own use. Quick identification of the kind of color scheme you build helps you find the missing pieces in the palette.
A monochromatic color scheme is what it sounds like: one color. It uses only value (lightness or darkness–whiteness, grayness or blackness) to create interest.
An analogous color scheme uses colors that lie next to each other on the color wheel. Illustrated at the same distance from the center of the color wheel, these adjacent hues have the same value.
A complementary color scheme uses two colors that lie opposite each other on the color wheel; for example, yellow and purple, blue and orange or red and green.
These are the three basic color schemes every patchwork quilter should know: monochromatic (one color), analogous (two adjacent colors) and complementary (on opposite sides of the color wheel).
There are other definable color schemes, but they are all derivatives from these three basic concepts, using other selections of colors from around the color wheel, plus value (lightness or darkness--tints or shades). When colors become grayed by the addition of both black and white, things get even more interesting!
So, quilters: choose your colors! Pick whatever pops out at you, then echo it in tints and shades. Find its neighbors and their opposites on the color wheel. Add a splash of contrast, and create something bold and perhaps even a little startling!
Most important of all, learn to trust your instincts when it comes to color. No one else in the whole world sees color exactly the same way you do. There are no rights or wrongs; there is only what works, and what does not work. With a little practice, you will soon learn how to spot in a flash what does not work, and to take appropriate steps to replace that misfit!
Some of content of this article came from one of my online quilt classes.
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