Monday, 24 June 2013

Colour Theory 101: Colour Context

Welcome the the third part in the Colour Theory for Quilters Series. Today's guest post is all about Colour Context - basically how different colours play together. A huge thank you to Jennifer of Secondhand Dinosaur for putting together this most excellent post.  

The physics of color theory and interpretation as applied to color context, part one.

Just kidding, ha!

I'm was excited about the invitation to contribute to the Color Theory series. Thanks for having me over! Now I do have a degree in the Fine Arts and Photography and it seems like I’ve been paying attention to color since I could first walk. As children we would get carted from museum to museum, at times falling asleep in front of almost every painting when we paused for a moment. We kind of believe in enforced cultural enlightenment in this family.

We’ve learned about color from the two great posts so far: The Color Wheel and Understanding Colour Terminology and then Color Harmony, that there are basic colors and hue/saturation/tints/shades of color. Let’s take this to the next step. Purpose. Knowing about what colors do, when they are cozying up to each other, allows your color and design to be exactly what you envision. In order to sew color with purpose, you need to know why colors act like they do. 

Basics of Color

All things reflect light. What does light have to do with color? Everything. Light waves reflect off of objects making what we see as color. You too are reflective but not enough for a walk on a dark road at night, k? 

White - reflects all colors of light. White can help designs look clean, light or lend contrast. 

Black - absorbs all colors of light. Black can aid in contrast and sets off colors and can seem to sink in or retreat. Black holes and all that. 

We can’t see the actual waves of light but we can see the effects. Here’s picture of what I’m talking about in my interpretation of color wavelengths. 



Red has the longest wavelength. It is a strong color in that it has big visual impact. Fabric that is red will pop or seem to be closer to the viewer. Blue colors have a shorter wavelength, they get scattered more easily. Blues can look like they are receding or are farther away. There is so much more blue than red in the picture below but your eye gets stuck looking at the red. Go ahead, take your eye off the red and try just to look at the blue. I bed your eyes will want to jump back to look at the red. 


This is what it looks like with yellow that has a shorter wave length, meaning it seems less intense than red.


And one in white. This one has less visual tension or may feel more restful because of the white.



There is a theory by Michel Chevreul about simultaneous contrast which is basicly states that complementary colors look the brightest and most vibrant next to each other and the same color can look very different depending on what it’s next to. Which takes us to one of my all time favorite books on color in the whole universe. Joseph Albers’ Interaction of Color and it’s available in the latest edition from Amazon. It’s a small book that is full of pictures or graphics that will show you how to look at color. This is my interpretation of one of Joseph Albers examples 
The X’s are the same color but each X color looks different because the orange and grey that are around it. Does it seem like a color you pick is vibrant until you mix it with other fabrics? Try a different shade or tint of the same color (lighter or darker) and it might look great again. Here are two cushion covers that use blue and red but different shades. See that red and green looking all complementary :) . What effect are you looking to have with your creation?




Contrast, or light near dark, is also important to consider with colors. There’s high contrast like black and white next to each other, and low contrast like a super light grey and white. Low contrast is sometimes called low volume and the next color theory post is all about that! One is not better than the other, just use contrast with purpose. This is one design with variations on high and low contrast. I think on this your eye will still try to jump to look at the one with bright colors. 


I hope this all helps you look at color relationships and be able to create exactly what you want! If you have questions feel free to stop by my blog and drop me a line. 

9 comments:

Kelly said...

Another great post in this series, my eyes were jumping all over the shop to get to the red ;-)

Janine said...

This is another fascinating post! It's so interesting to find out why colours change like they do when you put them next to other colours.

Rosa said...

Thanks.Another fantastic post.

Leanne said...

This was helpful, thank you for sharing it.

Susan Owenby said...

Thanks for the info. I'll surely bookmark it for reference!

Rebecca Lynne said...

Love love loving this! And totally segs into my post...thank you!!

Jessica said...

I love those brain teasers with the same colour looking completely different depending on the context, but hadn't thought of it in terms of choosing colours that play on that trait.

Katy Cameron said...

Another great colour post, although that last pic made my eyes go funny o.O

Tracy Grilli said...
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