Monday 10 June 2013

Colour Theory 101: The Colour Wheel

I'm super excited to introduce today's guest blogger, Molli of Molli Sparkles. Possibly the most entertaining blog I read, I think! So, over to Molli...

Lord Latifah knows I love a rainbow! But what would a rainbow be without colour? Well, Jess from The Elven Garden and I were having this very conversation, when she said, “Molli, why don’t you tell us all about it in an upcoming Colour Theory series I want to host?” Well, Jess, thank you for the invite, and don’t mind if I do!

Just so you know I'm not blowing glitter bombs up your ass, I do have some training in what I'm about to tell you. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, and then my Master of Visual Arts (Photography) from the University of Sydney in 2007. Combine that with the genetic brilliance of Grandma Sparkles, and you should have 95% certainty that what I'm telling you is correct. The other 5% is because sometimes I just flat out lie--but I'm sure you'll be able to figure that out. 

Let's get started!

So what is the colour wheel? Simply put, it is a diagram of pigment colours, AKA hues, that shows how colours are created and the spectrum in between. It is most often referenced as a wheel because of its circular nature, however, you may see it in other forms as well. I want to point out, that for our purposes, we are only talking about pigment colours, as opposed to the spectrum colours of light. (Light spectrums become more complex, so we can save that for another day!) Not to bore you too much, but light spectrum colour theory dates back to the 17th century with Sir Isaac Newton, which was followed on by pigment colour theory and its psychological effects by 18th century writer, politician and (thankfully!) artist, Goethe. The colour wheel we know today is probably most attributed to his investigations, and his Theory of Colours, published in 1810. Okay, lovelies, you can wake up again. Chop! Chop! History lesson, over!

Sparkle Colour Wheel

Why don’t we dive into some colour!? Along the colour wheel there are three types of colours: primarysecondary, and tertiary (sometimes called intermediate). You'll see in my sparkle colour wheel above (exact colours may vary due to computer screens!), there are six large circles for the primary and secondary colours.

Primary colours are base colours and can not be created by combining other colours. They are: red, blue, and yellow.

Secondary colours are created by combining two primary colours. They are: violet (red+blue), green (blue+yellow), and orange (yellow+red).

If you have kids in school, you probably helped teach them this, or they came home with a colouring sheet and taught you about it! What may be new, however, are the tertiary colours, which are created by combining a primary colour with a secondary colour. The primary colour is always listed first. They are: red-violet, red-orange, blue-green, blue-violet, yellow-orange, and yellow-green. Tertiary colours should be your go-to colours for adding depth to your quilts, otherwise you run the risk of looking like a cheapskate who only bought an 8-pack of Crayola crayons. Tertiary colours are usually the ones that look rich and sophisticated, and are natural blenders. Your stash is probably full of them, and you didn’t even know! Coral? Teal? Wine? These are all names for variations on tertiary colours!

Tertiary Colour: Blue-Green

So those variations, right? We’ve really only talked about twelve colours, and we all know there are more than that!  Additional hues (remember, means the same as colour) are created by adding white to create what is called a tint, or adding black to create what is called a shade. Collectively, this is referred to as its lightness. For instance, we all know red+white=pink. Pink is thereby a tint of red. Blue+black=navy, so navy is a shade of blue. If the colour gets lighter, it is a tint, if it gets darker it is a shade. I always remember because: I’m a shady lady, who always wears a dark smoky eye! Work, momma, work! Again, these tints and shades add visual interest to your quilts. I keep hearing navy is the new grey (don’t know about that yet!), and low volume fabrics (many of which are just super-tints) are all the rage, so definitely make room for them in your stash. You probably already have them, but at least now you know what they are called.

Moda's Get a Clue with Nancy Drew: Tints and Shades of Blue

Now, last but not least, is my personal favourite, saturation. Do you ever get some fabrics and they look a bit, dull? Not, dull, as in boring, silly, but dull, as in a bit greyish, or washed out? Conversely, do you have some fabrics that are super intense and have a really deep colour? That’s the hue’s saturation level! I am a big fan of saturated colours, but be aware, if everything you use is intense, it might wear the average viewer out. (Not me, bring it on, I say!)

Jeni Baker's Color Me Retro: High saturation, balanced by white.

So, have you got all that? I know, I know, it’s a lot to absorb in one sitting. My suggestion to you is go grab a random piece of fabric and see where its colour(s) fit into all of this colour theory mumbo jumbo. (Do this while drinking a big glass of cabaret, which as we learned is a shade of a tertiary colour!) 

It is important for us quilters to continually educate ourselves so we can improve our quilting. I mean, who wants to send a hot mess out there into the world? There’s so much that can be done with colour, and once you know a bit about it, you can really turn your own quilts into works of appealing art. The more you know, the more you grow, the more you sew!

Over the next few Mondays, see how these colours can be combined into various colour schemes to really put your skills to work! You're gonna go from black and white zero, to rainbow hero!

Colour Harmony – Monday 17th June - Guest Post by Jess of Quilty Habit
Colour Context – Monday 24th June - Guest post by Jennifer of SecondhandDinosaur
Value, including low volume – Monday 1st July - Guest post by Rebecca of Making Rebecca Lynne

A big thank you to Jess for organising such an educational series, and inviting lil' ol' me to tell you something about it! And, if you ever need a hand with colour, drop me a line, because anyone can


Katy Cameron said...

Ahh, I just knew Molli would describe colour theory in a whole new way :oD

Susan at said...

Awesome! Thanks for the entertaining post!

Janine @ Rainbow Hare said...

Brilliant post! Molli is a fab teacher :)

Annabella said...

Great post - thanks so much! Off to check out Molli's blog :)

Beth said...

Great post Molli and great idea for a series Jess!

Jess @ Scrappy n Happy said...

Great post! Very funny and educational at the same time!

nicole said...

Thanks for the informative, and amusing post!

jeifner said...

Great explanation of tint vs. shade :)

Jessica said...

Sparkles make everything better! Thanks for the post Molli, and thanks Jess for introducing us to Molli, off to check out Molli's blg now

Kelly said...

Fab post by the lovely Miss Molli!

Newbie Jen said...

Glitter bombs away!

Lovely post!

Unknown said...

This was a great color theory lesson, and I learned a lot, and I've been quilting since 1994.
But I always say....learning is a lifelong, not process, but gift we are given; use it wisely.
I learned so much and thought about color in a whole new way.
Thanks, Molli.

Unknown said...

Molli you can glitter bomb me any day chica! Loved this post because it was informative, sassy, and to the point. Thank you!

Benta AtSLIKstitches said...

really interesting, and fun, wish all teachers were like Molli

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