My Thoughts about Color Wheels

screenshot.02-04-2013 15.43.36A color wheel that was introduced to us in our guild program on Optical Mixing is the first one shown here. It is called the Magenta, Yellow, Cyan (turquoise) color system or color wheel and the one more suited for weavers. Our speaker told us it was better to use this one than the one we all learned and are familiar with which is the Red, Yellow, Blue system or color wheel (which is for mixing light). This is the second one shown here.

 If you look at my previous post screenshot.02-04-2013 15.44.02showing my own stash of colors, you won’t see anything like on either wheel. That’s because the color wheels show us intense colors. In real life, most of us don’t stick to only those intense colors—we darken, or lighten, or dull them, or mix them optically with other colors.

 So, how do you use a color wheel if the colors aren’t what you like? The colors on the wheels are NAMED. That is what is important. You need to name the colors or read them first. For example, red and red-orange and red-purple are names of three colors (officially called hues). Then you can use the wheel for relationships of the hues to one another or to put together color harmonies. For example, harmonies might be hues that are opposite one another or beside each other on the wheel. THEN when you know the names of the hues you are looking for, you can “doctor” them us (so-to-speak) so they aren’t so intense and to my mind, more beautiful or interesting.

 You can change a hue these ways:
Change the value,
Change the intensity
Change the temperature

 That’s how you get nice interesting colors that don’t look like kindergarten colors.screenshot.02-04-2013 15.48.20

 One of my teachers, Cameron Taylor Brown, had us make different color wheels. We named the colors from the regular color wheel we were used to. Then made these: one color wheel with all the hues being light in value (pastels), one with all dark hues, one with duller hues, etc. You see, we named the hues but then made up color wheels (like pallets) with the same hues but changed in the ways I listed above: value, intensity and temperature. There were some I liked screenshot.02-04-2013 15.49.00better than others. Using the yarns from one wheel makes your work look coordinated: to add punch, she suggested adding something from a completely different pallet (color wheel).

 For our talk on Saturday about Optical Mixing, we will be talking about value. Threads that are of the same value will blend or mix.

 One important thought: You don’t need to have all the colors in the wheel—just work with the ones you like or have.

 Use what you like and used the color theory color when you are stuck.

 My mentor, Helen Pope, always used to choose what ribbon for her pony tale by using a color that was one step from the opposite of the color of her outfit. In other words she used the harmony “split complementory”

4 thoughts on “My Thoughts about Color Wheels”

  1. Putting on my “In broad strokes” cap :

    CMYK color wheels are used for mixing things that are translucent. Dyes, Inks, Watercolors, etc.
    RGB color wheels are used for mixing light (on your monitor).
    RYB color wheels are used for things that are opaque, like for acrylic paints and oils.

    Definitely trust your gut when choosing colors; there are color combinations that we put together that don’t fit into one of the rigidly defined categories that just ‘feel right’, but I agree, using one of the named categories ‘monochromatic’, ‘adjacent’, ‘complimentary’, ‘split complementary’ as a jumping off point is great if you’re stuck!

  2. I need to Swedish weave an afghan with one color being bright blue. What should I put with it to look great? I can’t seem to find a variegated yarn with bright blue with other colors that look good.

    • This is one area I can’t help with. I wouldn’t trust myself. Look at magazine ads. I think you can look up color schemes on the web! Try there! Or try putting together an outfit of blues and see what scarf would look good. Or try putting different colors you’ve cut out of magazines next to the yarn you have. Something you really like might catch your eye


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