Before the invention of AccuQuilt fabric cutters, cutting fabric was probably the hardest part of quilting. But now, because fabric can be cut with ease, choosing a color scheme for your quilts may be the hardest part of quilting. While color schemes and designs are a personal choice, there are still tools you can use to make your decisions easier. One of these tools is color theory. Consider it the AccuQuilt of the color world. Color theory, a centuries-old practical guide to understanding color, is used heavily in visual arts, and you can use it too.
The Color Wheel
The color wheel, a circular chart representing the relationship between colors, is a handy tool when it comes to deciding on a color strategy for your quilt. Color wheels are based on three primary colors (red, yellow, blue), three secondary colors (green, orange, purple), and six tertiary colors (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green). A variety of color wheels can be found at arts and craft stores, and you can even find representations of them online. Keep a color wheel at hand as you design your quilt and use it as a tool to guide your inspiration. There are a variety of color wheels, but this post will reference the 12-color wheel specifically.
But first, why?
What’s so important about color theory and quilting? Quilts give feeling to a room, to a mood, and to the eye. Intuitively, you know you wouldn’t use the same color scheme for a little boy’s birthday quilt that you’d use for a wedding quilt, but color theory can bring a little bit of science to your decision making, so that the boy receives a lively quilt, and the couple receives an elegant quilt.
Create Harmony in your Quilts
Color harmony can be thought of as a pleasing arrangement of colors. If your color choices aren’t harmonious, then your quilt could look chaotic or it could look, even worse, dull and boring. Formulas for creating color harmony are many, but here are five formulas you can reference when choosing the color of your fabrics.
1) Complementary Color Scheme
Complementary colors are any two colors that are exactly opposite each other on the color wheel. The complement of red is green, yellow is purple, and red-violet is yellow-green. Using a complementary color scheme, with its high contrast, can create a feeling of vibrant energy.
2) Analogous Color Scheme
Analogous colors are three colors that are found directly adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Examples of analogous colors are blue, blue-green, and green. Similar in hue, analogous color schemes result in a visual smoothness. With this scheme, you can use one color as the focus, one as support, and one as an accent.
3) Split Complementary Scheme
To find split complementary colors, instead of choosing the color exactly opposite your main color, choose the two colors on either side of it. If your main color is orange, your complementary color would be blue, and the two colors on either side of blue are blue-green and blue-purple. So your color scheme would be the main color of orange, and your two accent colors, blue-green and blue-purple. Similar to complementary, split complementary results in a vibrant but less tense color scheme.
4) Triadic Color Scheme
Triadic colors are three equally spaced colors on the color wheel. Harmonious and dynamic, examples are violet, orange, and green, or blue-violet, yellow-green, and red-orange.
5) Monochromatic Color Scheme
The monochromatic color scheme uses shade or tint variations of the same hue. If your main color is blue, then you’d use different tints (lighter) and shades (darker) of blue. The monochromatic scheme creates an elegant and sophisticated look.
Applying color theory to solid blocks of color is pretty easy, but it takes a bit more time and practice when you’re applying it to patterned fabrics. When you’re choosing your design, pay as much attention to accent colors of the pattern as to the main color. Bring your color wheel with you to the fabric store or have it handy as you shop online. Color theory is a useful tool that will guide your intuition and help you break out of any color ruts you’ve been stuck in lately.
Show Us Your Hue
Have you already been using color theory for years? Is color theory totally new to you? Share your stories, help your fellow quilters, and show off your favorite color schemes and try some new ones too.
Remember, sharing is the binding that keeps our quilting community pieced together. Find and follow AccuQuilt on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. We can’t wait to hear your stories and see your colors.