Color Handout For Quilters (Or Beaders!!!)
by Lily Kerns
Summary of Color Facts
4 ways of describing color:
1. RGB- refers to colored light as in TV's and computer monitors; Primaries=
Red, Green, Blue
2. CYMK- refers to printers and photographers inks; Primaries= Cyan,
Yellow, Magenta (plus black)
3. RYB- This is the color wheel you learned in grade school; Primaries=
Red, Yellow, Blue
4. HSV- describes any color in terms of three qualities- Hue, Saturation,
You can describe any color in any of these four ways- it's still the
Hue- refers to the quality that gives a color its name- red-red orange
rather than just red-orange. Color isn't a space on a color wheel - its
a continuum. There's an unlimited number of variations between red and orange
(even though the human eye can't distinguish them all.)
Value- refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color as compared
to black and white. Pink is a light to medium value, dusty rose is somewhere
in the middle and maroon would be a dark value. A series of values from
black to white is called a "value scale". Every hue may have an
unlimited number of values.
Saturation- (also called chrome, purity, strength, dullness and other
terms)- refers to the amount of black, white or gray mixed with a hue. Pure
red is highly saturated; maroon has black added (and therefore includes
less red); pink may have varying amounts of white added; a dusty rose has
varying amounts and/or values of gray added.
Adding black to a color creates a "shade".
Adding white to a color creates a "tint".
Adding any value of gray creates a "tone".
Any hue may have an unlimited number of tints, tones, and shades.
Using A Color Wheel
Color wheels do not exist in nature, but are useful in describing the
visual relationships between colors.
"Color warmth"- This quality exists only in comparison with
another color. Yellows and oranges are considered the warmest (most like
sunlight). Blues and blue violets are considered cooler. But a greenish
blue may seem warmer, in context, than a violet blue.
Neutral colors- Technically, black , white and gray are not considered
colors; practically, they are useful and necessary colors.
Primary colors- In working with pigments (paints and dyes), red, yellows,
and blue (or cyan, yellow, and magenta) are the only three colors that can
not be mixed by combining two other pigments.
Secondary colors- Orange, Green, and Violet are created by mixtures of
Black- If our pigments were perfect colors, you could mix black by combining
the three primary colors.
"Mud"- This is what you get when you mix three primaries red
+ yellow + blue (or by using any combination of those pigments.) However,
these muddy or subdued or dulled colors- much better to call them "Tones"-
Using Colors Together
Complementary colors- Any two colors opposite each other on the color
wheel. Red/Green; Orange/Blue; Yellow/Violet; Blue-green; red-orange, etc.
Analogous colors- any 3-4 colors adjacent to each other--Orange, red-orange,
Monochromatic- Variations of one color
Triad- Three colors an equal distance apart on the wheel. Exciting color
combinations may be discovered when the colors used are not exactly equidistant--a
"skewed" triad. Suggestion: Use one of the colors in purer, cleaner
form--pure and/or tints/--and the other 2 in subdued or grayed form--tones
and shades. Brown for example is a shade of orange (a variety of oranges,
actually), beige and tan are tones of orange, while peach is more of a tint.
Combine these with almost any other colors on the wheel.
Three "Rules" to
1. Every quilt should include some "grays" (i.e. some tones-subdued
2. If the values are right, the colors will work (even when they are
wildly "unrealistic"-provided you've also used less saturated
3. Small amounts of cleaner brighter and warmer colors will give a quilt
sparkle; small amounts of cleaner, cooler colors in the shadows will add
vibrancy to your colors.
©1997 Lily M. Kerns You are welcome to copy this: credit would be