How to Get Creative With Color
As knitters and creative people, we often find ourselves drawn to a specific set of colors. If a project calls for three colors of yarn we can choose them quickly, but how do we choose which color will act as the main color and which of the remaining two
Choosing which color will be the main color takes a little thinking about how you’d like the finished product to look. Would you like a dark set of wrist warmers or would a lighter pair work better for your fall wardrobe? We can set up different scenarios, but how do we determine how the final knitted product will look while it is still just yarn?
There are some basic principles that designers stick to when creating a successful pattern. “Color theory” is the term applied to these rules. Some knitters have a knack for color and always pull together excellent color combinations; those of you who fall into this category may already understand these points without knowing it. However, others may require a little more direction, and that’s why we’re here. Let’s take a little dive into color theory for just a moment, and I can show you the steps to choosing yarn colors for a great end result.
There are basic terms that we can use to describe color and how light and dark that color is. With those terms we can choose our project colors for an outcome that is just what we expect.
The first term of color theory is hue. Hue is color; the words can be used interchangeably. Hue represents our basic color names such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These are your true, unadjusted colors on the color wheel.
Secondly we have saturation, which describes how much gray a color contains. The more saturated a color is, the stronger its hue. When colors are at their full saturation (no gray), they are bright and bold. As the saturation decreases (more gray) the color may be described as muted, soft or maybe even dusty. This is why a ball of gray may have a hint of pink or looks bluer compared to another skein of gray.
Finally we have brightness, and that is simply how much white or black is in a hue. Lighter values in brightness are often called tints while the darker versions are called shades. A tint of red is pink and conversely a shade of red may be called burgundy.
The Color Wheel
All of the colors can be viewed together on a tool called the color wheel. The color wheel helps us visualize how colors relate to one another.
When we look at the basic color wheel we see the truest hues at full saturation without any black or white added. The colors are all the same value, and we can visually
see how they interact. The interaction of colors has a specific terminology.
Colors next to each other on the color wheel are analogous. This would be a combination such as yellow, lime and green. Analogous colors create a harmonious visual.
Complementary colors are those directly across from one another such as red and green or blue and orange. They are opposites and create the highest contrast; for example, a red will appear redder when knitted with green.
Triadic or tertiary colors are at the points of an equilateral triangle that spans the color wheel. Triadic color combinations make a no-think color combination that works almost every time. Think of a flower like a purple pansy with orange accents and green leaves—beautiful! When choosing colors for a new knitting project, it’s a good idea to stick to one of these principles to have a pleasing outcome with your finished project. Try to keep to one rule of the color wheel and choose tints or shades sparingly to create or avoid visual contrast.
Choosing a Color
In the examples of the Zig Your Zag Mitts on page 60, designer Meaghan Schmaltz uses an analogous color combination by choosing the colors lemon chiffon and aquamarine from the Ewe So Sporty line. Yellows and blues are next to each other as we head around the color wheel. Meaghan then adds a high-contrast color with the charcoal yarn. The color combinations make the two versions of the mitts very different.
Visual balance is important during the decision-making process. When light colors are used next to each other they both appear lighter, as in the case of the mitt version where lemon chiffon and aquamarine are worked in stripes on the palm.
When a darker color is combined with a lighter color—as in the version of the mitts with charcoal and aquamarine stripes—the darker color will enhance the lighter color, helping its clarity and strength. The aquamarine really gets a chance to shine here!
These mitts were made with the same three colors of yarn but with very different results. Do you have a favorite combination? Maybe your eyes favor the lighter colors with just a hint of the darker shade at the ribbing. Or maybe you’re drawn to the bold stripes that help to enhance the hues. There is no right or wrong answer!
Choosing our yarn colors is one of the most fun parts of knitting. It gets us excited about the new possibilities and the project we are about to cast on. I hope you can take this reference on color to the yarn shop and choose colors with confidence! After you choose colors, take the time to swatch and see if you’re happy with your color placement. If not, change it! The results could be very different.
TRIADIC TRIADIC COLORS DIAGRAM
ANALOGOUS ANALOGOUS COLORS DIAGRAM