Yesterday I blogged about Terry Dryden’s lovely Bargello Arrows and how different stitchers made it their own by picking out different colors.
Let’s use that piece, as pictured on her site, to talk about making your own color palette (this is great for me since stitching it is on my to do list).
Take a look at it, what are the main colors you see? Probably the color which jumps out at you first is the coral oranges. Partially this is because Terry used one of these shades as her border. But no look beyond, what’s the second most prominent color — a soft blue.
This tells you something important about the color scheme – blue and orange are complementary colors. If I wanted the emphasize blue more than orange, I might use the same thread colors but put blue where orange is and vice versa. So if I wanted to change the color scheme completely, I would pick another pair of complements. Since I have a ton of soft violet thread, I think I’ll use violet for my main color and yellow (its complement) for the accent.
Having made my two possible changes (blue for orange and violet for orange), I realize I will need to make some other changes. I’ve already done the most important one. My main accent color will be orange in the case of my blue palette and yellow in the case of the violet.
Let’s go back to the project picture to see what else is there. In addition to orange and blue, there is an orangish-yellow and a couple of pale shades of green. They are right next to the two main colors on the color wheel and since they are less important in the design and are all light, they should be easy to pick.
If you think about a color wheel, both yellow and green are on the same side of the color wheel, so there is some harmony there. If I’m doing my blue pillow, I could use the yellow (2 shades) to substitute for the green) and one shade of greenish blue to substitute for the yellow in the original. It might also be possible to pick colors in the same position on the other side of my original colors, which would give me red and violet.
With the violet-yellow combination, I could do orange and red, or blue and green.
I think this is where finding colors becomes hard. These colors and their values can make or break a piece in very subtle ways. So what do you do to tell if you’ve picked right?
I pull the threads. If I’m thinking about two different choices, I pull them out and look at them. Do any stick out and look jarring? Find something else. When I squint, do they all look the same or does on of the final two color jump out in a way inappropriate for something which is the accent color and should be in the background? Change it.
Finally, I’ve settled on my colors, I like the yarns laid out and I think it will be pretty.
Am I done, can I relax? Not really.
Yarns in the skein or on the card and yarns on the canvas react differently. You can help minimize this by looking at the colors in the proportions in which they will be used. Take just a thread or two of those accent colors and put them against larger amounts of the two main colors. That helps.
But sometimes even this isn’t enough. You know the feeling, you start stitching and it just doesn’t seem right. It could be that one of the colors is off. The value might be wrong, so it is too close to the values of the other colors and there isn’t enough contrast. It could be that the undertones of the color fight the undertones of the other colors (think of someone who dyes her hair an inappropriate color for her skin tone — that’s the problem). Figure out which is the offending color, rip it out and try something else.
But you can do this, it isn’t hard.
- Think about the color scheme of the original piece and write it down
- Beginning with the main color, make your substitution
- Using the color scheme of the original as a basis, pick your secondary color or colors
- Using the color scheme of the original as your basis, pick the additional accent colors
- Check to be sure your colors match the original in value
- Put your colors together in proportions to match how they will be used and be sure nothing is jarring and that there is contrast in values.
- Start stitching and don’t be afraid to make changes as you go along