Ok people, pack your toothbrush and a clean pair of undies, because over the next couple of weeks I’m going to take you on a first class flight {only the best for you!}, and the destination is the land of Colour Confidence!

Sounds like a great place to live, don’t you think?

I love Colour.  In fact, I love colour{S}.  And I don’t really have a preference – I’m pretty much all inclusive {within reason}.  BUT.  I’ve realised that LIKING Colour doesn’t necessarily equate to being GOOD at Colour.  Know what I mean?  In fact, it could actually mean that you’re really, REALLY bad at Colour.  Yikes!  {Definitely NOT a citizen of the land of Colour Confidence *sad face*}

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

But, as much as I love Colour, I kinda feel like Colour’s that person you’ve seen on Insta who you know you’d be awesome friends with IRL, but she’s got way more followers than you so you don’t really know how to approach her, cos you don’t wanna come across as a weird, stalkerish kinda person, so you send {hopefully} funny messages to her in reply to her stories and posts which totally crack you (and every single one of her 45,000 followers) up, and it’s all a bit awkward, and you don’t know if she actually insta-likes you or if she just thinks you’re odd and replies to you out of pity…  Hypothetically speaking, of course… *insert side-eye emoji*

Is there a secret formula?

I have often felt like there is some secret colour formula that I don’t know about.  Or a secret ingredient, which took your colour combos from ‘hmmm…?’ to ‘Mmmmm!’.  So I’ve decided, ENOUGH WITH UNCERTAINTY!  I wanna know, when I put THIS colour next to THAT one that I’m not making a terrible colour faux pas!  It’s time to become friends with Colour!  And I’m talkin’ insta-bestie status, dammit!

I asked some of my favourite artists/designers/inspirers to tell us how they see colour, what it means to them and where they’ve learnt what they know.  And as I’ve read through their responses it’s made me realise there’s so much more to choosing colours for a project than knowing how to use a colour wheel, and it’s different for every person.  There ISN’T just one colour formula.  There’s LOTS!  Which is great!  Because it means there’s no *right* answer, and no one way to do it.  But also, not great!  Because it means there’s not just one simple formula for doing colour *right*, so to speak.  Colour speaks to everyone differently and can say many different things, and that’s the beautiful thing about it.

But there are a few theories, tips and tricks we can use in our colour journey to help us make *good* colour decisions {and to have colour confidence} that won’t leave us feeling disappointed with the outcome.  I’m going to share what I’ve found through my own investigations over the course of this series, and I hope that it might be of some use to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking.  Fasten your seatbelts, and throw all your colour baggage out the window because we are about to embark on the first leg of our journey.  Thank you for choosing Wife-made Airlines, and we hope you enjoy your flight!  (Incidentally, flying has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re about to discuss.)

What’s colour theory got to do with me?

Unless you only use black and white in your creative projects it’s pretty obvious that colour theory is something we should all know about.  It’s an important part of quilting/sewing/anything within the visual arts realm {and beyond!}, because our intention when we create, is that people will enjoy looking at it.  Enter colour theory.  

Believe me, colour theory is going to help you become a citizen of Colour Confidence! 

Some creatives are lucky and have a natural ability to come up with winning colour combinations.  They have what’s called ‘colour intuition’ and they intuitively use it.  Sneaky little monkeys!

Others don’t.  {Me.}

When it comes to sewing and quilting a lot of the work has already been done for us with the invention of fabric collections {luckily for those of us lacking in this department}.  The designer of that collection that you just purchased a FQ bundle of has painstakingly chosen a range of colours that work together according to their personal preference {and probably a Pantone colour booklet}.

But sometimes we don’t want to use a complete collection of fabric in one quilt.  Sometimes we want to root around in our scrap bin and make life really hard for ourselves/have fun.  And this is why you NEED to know about colour theory.

Finding Colour Confidence with Wife-made

What is Colour Theory?

Ok, let’s start at the beginning {because if you were anything like I was in school, your eyes probably glazed over as soon as you heard the word ‘theory’.  Yes, even in art.}  Colour (or ‘color’ depending on where you live) theory is a number of principles relating to the mixing of colours and the visual impact or effect of those combinations, particularly in relation to the colour wheel.

Here’s a fun and totally cute YouTube video from GCF Learn Free that provides a simple overview of colour theory and the formulas that relate to it.

Can’t remember anything about what you just watched? Don’t worry, neither can I.  Here’s an overview of the key points:

Hue – another word for colour.
Saturation – the intensity (subtlety or vibrancy) of a colour.
Value – how dark or light a colour is, ranging from black to white.
Colour harmony – formulas for combining colours in a way that is harmonious to the eye, as below:

  • Monochromatic – uses only one colour/hue, as well as saturation and value to create variations.
  • Analogous – colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel.
  • Complementary – opposite each other on the colour wheel.  Variety can be added by using lighter, darker or desaturated tones.
  • Split complementary – uses colours on either side of the complement.
  • Triadic – three evenly spaced colours.  They are striking combinations.
  • Tetradic – forms a rectangle on the wheel using two complementary colour pairs.  Works best if you let one colour dominate and the others serve as accents.

Got it?  Don’t stress if you can’t remember all that.  Let’s move on and talk about the Colour Wheel.

The colour wheel

Remember way back in school during an art theory lesson *eyes glazing over* learning about the colour wheel?  You may have had to make one by painting or colouring in the sections of the wheel..?  Well, that little thing that you probably looked at and thought, “When am I EVER going to need to use one of these?” is the foundation upon which Colour Theory is based and illustrates a logical relationship between colours.  For example, red and yellow makes orange, blue and red makes purple, blue and yellow makes green, and so on…

Yeah, but what’s Sir Isaac Newton got to do with anything?

Glad you asked, because interestingly, we’ve got Sir Isaac Newton to thank for the colour wheel and the acronym ROYGBIV.  Way back in the 1600s, while ol’ Isaac was taking a break from the exciting study of Calculus *yawn*, he was fiddling around with white light {as you do} and discovered the visible spectrum of light.  In 1666 he came up with the first circular colour wheel which he developed using musical intervals.  {Of course he did.}

Since then it’s been a topic of discussion, debate and study amongst many scholars, particularly over its validity.  Regardless of how scientifically accurate it is, the colour wheel theory has extraordinary value when used in the visual arts for choosing colour combinations!  Which is GREAT for us.  Thanks Sir Isaac!

Sir Isaac Newton & colour
Image credit: Missed In History

So that’s pretty much what colour theory is all about. 

Over the next few weeks we’ll deep dive into each individual part of the whole theory, but for now, you might like to take a look at a few resources I have come across in my colour investigations that have helped me with my understanding of colour theory and my {work in progress} endeavours to apply it to my creations.

More helpful resources for finding your colour confidence

This YouTube video by Heather Thomas of Wild Heather Designs is very informative.  It provides an in-depth explanation of the colour wheel and how to use it.

Image Credit: CreativeBug

Heather Jones has a great class on CreativeBug called Color Theory for Modern Quilters.  In it Heather covers the basics of colour theory and also offers some tips on helpful tools to use.  {FYI – Not sponsored.  CreativeBug – feel free to sponsor me.}

Image Credit: Carolyn Friedlander

You may already have Carolyn Friedlander‘s book ‘Savor Each Stitch’ in your bookshelf, which is great for you because inside this fantabulous book in which Carolyn works her colour magic, is a section called Color Workshop (pages 56-59).  Carolyn provides an overview of colour theory, as well as tips on how to apply it in your quilts to create your own personal colour story.  Read it!  And again! {Do I need to say how much I love Carolyn’s work. Gah!}

Colour Wheel
Image Credit: Craft Online

A colour wheel is a useful addition to any quilting tools collection.  You can download and print this free one from Love Patchwork and Quilting {just be warned that your printer will affect how the colours print out!}, or purchase one like the image above, here.  {Not an affiliate link, just one I found online.}

Well, I think that’s enough info to keep you busy for a week!  Stay tuned for the next instalment of this blog series, where we’ll discuss another very important part of working with colour before we begin our descent {and you were beginning to wonder when I’d tie in the flying, weren’t you!} into the specifics elements of colour theory, while hearing from some clever creatives about how they see colour and use it in their work.

Get out your passports people, because we are on our way to the land of Colour Confidence!

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