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

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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.

Color The­ory

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

COM­PLE­MEN­TARY DI­A­GRAM

ANAL­O­GOUS ANAL­O­GOUS COL­ORS DI­A­GRAM

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