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Thread: Figuring out Color

  1. #1
    Super Member tkhooper's Avatar
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    As I work on my first quilt I realize that I need to know a lot about color that I don't know. So I've been searching for information that will help me make the quilts that really have that WOW factor. So far this is what I've found.

    It isn't just color that I need to consider. But it's a good place to start. And the first thing I need is a Paint Color Wheel. If you have one for photography that one is different and won't work the same as the one I'm working with.

    If you know how to work a color wheel skip this part.

    The color wheel has cool colors on the left hand side if yellow is pointed up. It has warm colors on the right hand side.

    The primary colors are Yellow, Red and Blue. The secondary colors are Orange, Purple, and Green.

    Complementary Colors are opposite one another on the color wheel.

    Ok start reading again if you skipped the part about how the color wheel works.

    Now about Color Schemes. There are six standard color schemes that will give you good color combinations to help you get started choosing your fabrics.

    Monochromatic - This just uses one color.

    Complementary - Here only two colors are used and they are opposite one another on the color wheel.

    Triad - As you guessed this uses three colors and they are all equal distant from each other on the color wheel. So the primary colors would fall into this color scheme and so would the secondary colors.

    Tetrad - Four colors are used in the color scheme. Here you would choose complemetary colors on the color wheel but not use them. Instead you would use the colors on each side of each color. So if you choose Yellow and Purple as you complements you would use Green, Orange, Blue and Red.

    Analogic - This is a three color combination. Here the three colors would all be beside one another on the color wheel.

    Accented Analogic - Is another color scheme that uses 4 colors. It has the 3 colors all beside one another on the color wheel but an extra color is added. The complement to the center color is included in this scheme.

    These six combinations can make some basic fabric choices much easier; but, it doesn't stop there.

    We also have neutral colors that aren't on the color wheel. These include: White, Black, Grey, Browns, Tans and Creams. These colors can be included in any color scheme without disrupting the look of the scheme. Or they can be used exclusively to make an eye catching quilt. silver and gold also fall into the neutral colors if they are a metalic.

    Once the color scheme is choosen are we done?

    Since I'm still talking probably not. In order for a quilt to pop we need to understand how to use not just the hue but the warmth of the color.

    Cool colors are blue green and purple. Warm colors are Yellow Orange and Red. Cool colors recede in a pattern. Warm colors pop. This is important to know especially if you choose to use all of one or the other; because, your going to have to use a different technique to get the quilt to pop.

    That different technique is color value. Color value is how light or dark a color is. For example a pale yellow is very light. While an antique gold would be a medium color. So if you were doing a monochromatic quilt in yellows and you wanted it to pop putting a pale yellow next to an antique gold would cause the pale yellow to pop and the antique gold to recede.

    If you are choosing color on the computer the easiest way to decide it's "value" is to import it into a graphic program and then select a black and white view. This will give you the "grayscale" Where a color falls between white and black on this scale is it's value.

    So lets go back to our color schemes. (Wish I had a stash right now)

    Monochromatic. Lets say I want to do a blue quilt. In order to make it interesting I want to make sure I have a selection of values of blue. What does that mean?

    I want one fabric that is a blue small print with a white background. That fabric is going to pop in my pattern. Then maybe I want the same pattern but with a black background. That one will recede in my pattern. And maybe I want a solid blue as well. That will work as a mid-value color. If you choose a large print fabric be aware that depending on how you cut the fabric some pieces may have one value and another piece a different value depending on where on the fabric you cut. If anyone has an example of a monochromatic quilt and would like to share it please do.

    Complementary Color Scheme -

    Ok, lets go with christmas colors red and green. Make sure that the basic color are about the same value. For example if you go with a burgandy then choose a forest green to go with it. Both of these are in the darker values for their colors.

    Would you believe I'm late for an appointment. I'll be back later to finish this.

  2. #2
    Super Member tkhooper's Avatar
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    I have a few more minutes.

    A nice addition to the red and green would be one or more of the neutrals. Now so far we have one cool and one warm color so the red is going to have the pop factor. If white is added it will become the pop factor. But if black is added the red will continue to dominate the color scheme. And again if a red print has a white background it will take center stage. But if you add a green with a white background it's going to come in conflict with the red and they will fight for dominance. So if those are your color choices placement is going to become incredible important.
    The lesson here is constantly pay attention to the value of your colors/fabrics.

    Triad - I think we have all seen primary color quilts done for children they are bright and charming and eye catching. But triads can also be busy and fight with one another. There will always be two colors on the same "side" of the color wheel. So you will either have two warm colors (dominate) or two cool colors (submissive). A neutral will "control" this color combination and help make it into the color scheme that will pop. If you have two warm colors and choose White that will become the dominate color and will calm down the yellows and reds. If you have two cool colors and choose black or brown then your warm color will really dominate while the blue and green will blend with the neutral.

    Tetrad - This one is fun lets say you choose yellow and purple as your complementary colors. You won't use either of those colors. Your color palette will consist of orange and green, blue and red. Here the orange and red will dominate and the green and blue will be submissive in the color scheme. Varing the value of the colors in your fabric choice will enhance the wow factor but placement of the different colors requires very close attention.

    Analogic - This is one of my favorites. I think it can make some very elegant quilts. With three colors next to each other you can have Yellow, Orange, Red combinations where all the colors are dominate with yellow being the "lightest" value and thus taking the main stage. With red being the darkest and thus falling to the background color. A large focus pint with these colors can make some fantastic medalion quilts. The addition of neutrals can definitely add drama and impact.

    Accented analogic - 4 colors with a complementary color as a part of the mix can make for just about any combination you would like. Add neutrals and the sky is the limit. Just watch out that it doesn't become chaotic.

    I'll try and look up any questions that you have and get you answers. I hope this has helped.

  3. #3
    Super Member Feathers's Avatar
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    TK: THANK YOU...I have so much trouble with colors and usually struggle mightily in selection. You narration will really help me. I appreciate your time and effort in putting all of this together for all of us "color-tarded" quilters.

  4. #4
    Super Member dakotamaid's Avatar
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    Thank you for this tut! I'm printing this out when I get home. :D

  5. #5
    Super Member tkhooper's Avatar
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    Your very very welcome. This is only the beginning hopefully I'll be able to delve into optical illusions, Shimmery fabrics, Textured and Three D fabrics. There is a hole lot to explore yet.

  6. #6
    Google Goddess craftybear's Avatar
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    Thanks again for all of your hard work and information on color.

  7. #7
    Super Member JanetM's Avatar
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    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know that the choice of colors will either make or break the quilt so having this information really will help me.
    I really appreciate you taking time from your quilting to share this with us. Everyday I am amazed at the generosity of members like you in sharing information that benefits so many of us.
    Thank you so much :-D :-D :-D

  8. #8
    Super Member tkhooper's Avatar
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    Your very welcome. I needed to learn the information too.

  9. #9
    Super Member Sheila Elaine's Avatar
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    Thanks TK. Now I'll be on the look-out to see if I can figure out which color scheme is used in a quilt & see if that helps determine whether I like the quilt or now. It makes sense that it would.

  10. #10
    Super Member tkhooper's Avatar
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    I did that at the quilt show I went to on Saturday. There was a monochromatic in green that hadn't used any neutrals and I found it to be very busy. It was beautiful but it wasn't restful if that makes any sense. I find I'd rather look at something that pops. Than something that is busy. The "grandmothers garden" pattern always thrills me when it is done on a black background.

  11. #11
    3699quilter's Avatar
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    Thank you for this information. I have trouble with colors and patterns on the fabric. Not confident enough to match fabrics. I stay with 1 pattern fabric and lots of solids, or I end up buying kits. I guess it just takes practice. My DH does a good job of choosing matching fabric, but I hate to give him any praise. :)

  12. #12
    Senior Member zkosh's Avatar
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    Thanks, TK. That explains why the quilt I am working on came out even busier than I thought. It is a Stack n Whack Lemoyne Star and the kaleidoscope stars are black background with red and yellow tulips and green stems.

    I picked a red background and used yellow for the sashing and 9-patch cornerstones. At this point it is pretty much blinding. I think I will use the tulip/black fabric and make a border for it, but I keep thinking I might have been happier with black sashing. I think/hope the border will tone it down and pull it together. Any thoughts? I will post a picture when I find the camera so you can see what I'm talking about.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Rachel's Avatar
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    Awesome Tute! thanks for posting.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Catherine Marie's Avatar
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    Oh, thank you so very much! I am such a dunderhead when it comes to colours, tone, warm, cool, etc. It makes my head spin. This will be a great help for me if I have to shop for colours on my own. I usually go with my dear quilter friend who visits this site regularly but has yet to join- yes, you know who you are!!!

  15. #15
    Super Member tkhooper's Avatar
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    Black will normally recede and make your colors pop especially if you have used intense/bright colors. So you may not want to do it that way. But I do love black sashing and borders so I know how you feel. I had a very busy red, blue, and harvest gold sampler quilt going and it was looking awful until I added the black sashing and border. I should have done an inner boarder to finish it before adding the black border But I didn't realize it until after I had the other border on. Oh well that's the way it goes sometimes.

    Give your DH the praise. Especially if it gives you quilts that really pop and that you love. Maybe even fix him a special dinner on fabric shopping day. Who knows what he might come up with...the next state fair blue ribbon quilt?

    I know exactly what you mean about your head spinning. I'm like that too. When I can talk her into it I take my best friend along. She is good at matching colors although she says she isn't. I like the colors she chooses.

    3699 I understand where you are comming from. Me I like to march to a different drummer so I can't talk myself into buying kits. But I did read a good tip somehwere. Get the paint chips at the hardware store. The long strips tell you which colors will look good together and the little squares will give you good combinations of the color schemes we've discussed mixed with neutrals. It's so nice when someone else does the work.

    What about Prints

    I have learned that large prints work great as focus fabrics. What does that mean? It means someone else has already chosen your color scheme for you. All you have to do is chose colors that are in that one fabric and your good to go. For example lets say that your focus fabric is a pastel with greens, blues, and purples. If you want to do a medallion quilt you might want to do the framing blocks in the exact greens, blues and purples as are in the quilt but in small prints with dark neutral backgrounds. Like a small print green vine on a black background, A small flower print on a dark grey background. And a purple star pattern with a black background.

    Are you able to visuallize what I'm describing?

  16. #16
    Senior Member Sparky's Avatar
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    I think it is great you are doing this. Your "students" might enjoy experimenting with color choices on this web site. http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/...eory-intro.htm

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkhooper
    I did that at the quilt show I went to on Saturday. There was a monochromatic in green that hadn't used any neutrals and I found it to be very busy. It was beautiful but it wasn't restful if that makes any sense. I find I'd rather look at something that pops. Than something that is busy. The "grandmothers garden" pattern always thrills me when it is done on a black background.
    Did you go to the show in Lynchburg? I am from Rustburg and would have loved to go, but I'm having more fun than that! Am in NC with my daughter and her newborn girl! Took quilting projects along since she didn't have projects for me to do. I'm on vacation!

  18. #18
    Senior Member Catherine Marie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feathers
    TK: THANK YOU...I have so much trouble with colors and usually struggle mightily in selection. You narration will really help me. I appreciate your time and effort in putting all of this together for all of us "color-tarded" quilters.
    LOL!'Color-tarded' quilters...this is me!

  19. #19

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    Years ago I made the rounds of the paint stores and got the little books they had with all the paint colors. It was a big help to me to be able to sort through and mix and match colors before I started.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkhooper
    I have a few more minutes.

    A nice addition to the red and green would be one or more of the neutrals. Now so far we have one cool and one warm color so the red is going to have the pop factor. If white is added it will become the pop factor. But if black is added the red will continue to dominate the color scheme. And again if a red print has a white background it will take center stage. But if you add a green with a white background it's going to come in conflict with the red and they will fight for dominance. So if those are your color choices placement is going to become incredible important.

    Thanks for your effort, energy and knowledge. Color will be so much easier from now on.
    The lesson here is constantly pay attention to the value of your colors/fabrics.

    Triad - I think we have all seen primary color quilts done for children they are bright and charming and eye catching. But triads can also be busy and fight with one another. There will always be two colors on the same "side" of the color wheel. So you will either have two warm colors (dominate) or two cool colors (submissive). A neutral will "control" this color combination and help make it into the color scheme that will pop. If you have two warm colors and choose White that will become the dominate color and will calm down the yellows and reds. If you have two cool colors and choose black or brown then your warm color will really dominate while the blue and green will blend with the neutral.

    Tetrad - This one is fun lets say you choose yellow and purple as your complementary colors. You won't use either of those colors. Your color palette will consist of orange and green, blue and red. Here the orange and red will dominate and the green and blue will be submissive in the color scheme. Varing the value of the colors in your fabric choice will enhance the wow factor but placement of the different colors requires very close attention.

    Analogic - This is one of my favorites. I think it can make some very elegant quilts. With three colors next to each other you can have Yellow, Orange, Red combinations where all the colors are dominate with yellow being the "lightest" value and thus taking the main stage. With red being the darkest and thus falling to the background color. A large focus pint with these colors can make some fantastic medalion quilts. The addition of neutrals can definitely add drama and impact.

    Accented analogic - 4 colors with a complementary color as a part of the mix can make for just about any combination you would like. Add neutrals and the sky is the limit. Just watch out that it doesn't become chaotic.

    I'll try and look up any questions that you have and get you answers. I hope this has helped.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by skjquiltnut
    Quote Originally Posted by tkhooper
    I have a few more minutes.

    A nice addition to the red and green would be one or more of the neutrals. Now so far we have one cool and one warm color so the red is going to have the pop factor. If white is added it will become the pop factor. But if black is added the red will continue to dominate the color scheme. And again if a red print has a white background it will take center stage. But if you add a green with a white background it's going to come in conflict with the red and they will fight for dominance. So if those are your color choices placement is going to become incredible important.

    Thanks for your effort, energy and knowledge. Color will be so much easier from now on.
    The lesson here is constantly pay attention to the value of your colors/fabrics.

    Triad - I think we have all seen primary color quilts done for children they are bright and charming and eye catching. But triads can also be busy and fight with one another. There will always be two colors on the same "side" of the color wheel. So you will either have two warm colors (dominate) or two cool colors (submissive). A neutral will "control" this color combination and help make it into the color scheme that will pop. If you have two warm colors and choose White that will become the dominate color and will calm down the yellows and reds. If you have two cool colors and choose black or brown then your warm color will really dominate while the blue and green will blend with the neutral.

    Tetrad - This one is fun lets say you choose yellow and purple as your complementary colors. You won't use either of those colors. Your color palette will consist of orange and green, blue and red. Here the orange and red will dominate and the green and blue will be submissive in the color scheme. Varing the value of the colors in your fabric choice will enhance the wow factor but placement of the different colors requires very close attention.

    Analogic - This is one of my favorites. I think it can make some very elegant quilts. With three colors next to each other you can have Yellow, Orange, Red combinations where all the colors are dominate with yellow being the "lightest" value and thus taking the main stage. With red being the darkest and thus falling to the background color. A large focus pint with these colors can make some fantastic medalion quilts. The addition of neutrals can definitely add drama and impact.

    Accented analogic - 4 colors with a complementary color as a part of the mix can make for just about any combination you would like. Add neutrals and the sky is the limit. Just watch out that it doesn't become chaotic.

    I'll try and look up any questions that you have and get you answers. I hope this has helped.
    --------no idea how my msg disappeared and only my name came through.....feel like a "dork" Thanks for all your hard work, with this info I may just be able to put together a few colors that feel great together.

  22. #22
    Super Member tkhooper's Avatar
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    Well while I was working on my sampler I found out something interesting that I had not realized for those who like to do stuffed applique or trapunto.

    I had a poppy motif done with a small blue monochromatic print. The trapunto has just about disappear. It is totally overridden by the print on the fabric.

    So I would suggest that for this type of quilting technique you might want to stick with a solid tinted fabric. Those are the light pastels. Since the trapunto will create the greatest shade/contrast.

    The other option with the stuffed applique is to use the lighter/dominate color for the stuffed portion and then a darker color or pattern for the background. An example of that is the lady that makes the great quilted bowl. I can't remember her screen name at the moment.

  23. #23
    Super Member no1jan's Avatar
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    Thank you TK, this is great! Very informative.

    As a newbie, I need stuff like this.

  24. #24
    Super Member no1jan's Avatar
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    Sorry hit Send twice. Need another cup of coffee!!! :oops: :oops:

  25. #25
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    Thanks so much for your color expert advice. Now if I could only remember this when picking out my material. I usually ask someone else at the store for their input. Sometimes I think I am color blind..... :thumbup:

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