We talked a lot about yarn in Lesson 3 but we didn't really get into picking colors because I wanted to do a whole post about colors after the Granny Square lesson. I get e-mails all the time asking about how to pick colors for afghans and I thought this would be the perfect way to get it all out there. We'll talk a little about color theory and discuss resources for finding color inspiration and color palettes. There's also a quick video about changing colors reviewing what we've already learned and adding in a few other tips.
Color Theory can get really really detailed and we won't go into the color mixing part of it because you can't really mix two shades of yarn to make a new color and this isn't a lesson on dyeing your own yarn so I'll save that all for another lesson sometime. What we're going to discuss is color pairing and picking colors for a project. Also, I should say here, I'm not a designer and haven't had formal training in color theory, this is all stuff I've picked up over the years.
When looking into color pairings, there are a few color relationships you need to know about.
If you're not used to using a lot of color, monochromatic is a good place to start. You use all the same color, but varying shades of the color. It adds visual interest without getting crazy with color.
Triadic colors are very harmonious and pleasing to the eye. If you're just stepping into color, I recommend trying out triadic colors after you look at monochromatic and analogous color relationships.
Using this relationship to create a color scheme is often difficult to balance out because it uses two sets of complementary colors. It can be done though, you just have to use lighter shades of some of the colors so the effect is more subdued.
Now I'm not saying I look at the color wheel every time I pick colors, but this is a really good place to start if you don't naturally see color pairings. Once you start working with colors you'll eventually be able to match up great color palettes on your own.
Depending on the project you're working on, you won't need too many colors. For accessories and clothing you probably want to stick to no more than 2 - 4 colors. However, when you're working with color for afghans the sky is the limit. If you're just starting out with color though, you might want to stick with 6 - 8 different colors.
If you're still a little leary of picking out your own color palettes, there are many resources out there to inspire you. Many design blogs share color palettes where they take a photo and pull colors from it to create a working palette. The image below is an example from one of Katrina from Pugly Pixel's colour lover posts. This is a really lovely palette mixing some analous colors with split complementary colors.
Creature Comforts color Inspiration posts
Style me Pretty Color Palettes
Emma Lamb's Color Palettes
Pugly Pixel Colour Lover Posts
You can also browse pinterest for more color palettes.
Other cool resources:
Kuler - A web-based color palette generator developed by adobe. People also post the palettes they create so you can create your own or just browse the ones that people have posted.
COLOURlovers - Amazing color collections.
Random Stripe Generator - I have been using this tool for years! Take a boring pattern and give it pizazz by making it striped. You tell it how many rows you need pick colors close to what you're using and pick which stripe widths should be allowed . It will generate something like this (I used colors similar to the palette above):
Here is the text version of the above pattern:
4 of gold O O O O
1 of aquamarine O
2 of gold O O
4 of gainsboro O O O O
5 of hotpink O O O O O
4 of gold O O O O
1 of hotpink O
1 of gold O
1 of hotpink O
2 of gainsboro O O
If all else fails, just follow the pattern. Pattern designers spend a lot of time developing the color palettes used in their designs.