Color Theory or Making Your Colors Pop

July 29, 2013

Day #2, Knitting Cruise: Saturday morning started with a workshop on color theory, which, in simple terms, is using colors that work together so that each color looks its best.

In our goodie bag, we each got a nifty color wheel, one more detailed than the one I recall getting in elementary school art class.


Contrast between and among colors is the key here. If you’re thinking, as I was, that contrast is light-dark (white, black, gray), you’re thinking too narrowly (as I was). The talented and charming Ann Weaver took us through a few other types of contrast:

hue: different primary colors (red, blue, yellow)

warm/cool: contrasting between the two sides of the color wheel — red/orange/yellow and blue/green/purple.

complementary: colors that are across from each other on the color wheel are contrasting. For example, red-green, yellow-purple, blue-orange (and variations thereof)

light/dark: also known as “value,” this is how a particular color looks on a gray scale. Ann said that, with practice, one can begin to see this type of contrast between colors by “squinting and looking sideways at the yarn.” When I did this, I saw blurry colors but had no ability to discern light and dark. Colors are gold, apple green, charcoal gray, purple, and cream.


A nifty black-and-white camera app on my phone is really helpful in seeing the values of different colors. These colors are different, but on the gray scale, several of them are the same.


Cool, huh?

Ann had all kinds of examples of the power of contrast — in knitting and in art. Think stained glass windows with all their red, blue, yellow — contrast so the designs can be seen from a distance.

We’re working on the Albers Cowl, designed by Ann, based on the paintings of Josef Albers. Ann brought lots of extra fingerweight yarn for people to choose from if their color combinations needed a bit more contrast. When she looked at the colors I’d selected, she recommended something darker than the charcoal gray I’d chosen for my dark color.

“Go darker,” she exhorted, “That’ll make all your colors pop.” And, with that, she placed a small ball of purple-y black yarn next to my other colors. She was right.



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