The Science of Colour: A Quilter's Guide to Colour Theory

The Science of Colour: A Quilter's Guide to Colour Theory

As quilters, we are truly fortunate to play with a glorious array of colours that spark our imagination and breathe life into our projects. To navigate this world with ease, let's get to know the colourful lingo that's part of the quilting journey. In this blog post, we'll dive into the language of colour, exploring essential terms and ideas that every quilter should be familiar with. From the delightful hues and values to the vivid saturation and subtle undertones, we're going to unravel this colourful language and help you make confident choices in your quilting endeavors.


Think of hue as the very essence of colour itself, the purest form. It's the soul of a colour, representing the specific wavelength of light that gives it its identity. When we talk about hues, we're talking about the building blocks of the colour wheel, like red, blue, and yellow.


Value is like the light and dark side of colour. It tells us how bright or intense a hue is. For quilters, understanding value is like having a secret weapon to create contrast and add visual interest. Values range from soft and light (tints) to the pure hue (mid-tones) to rich and dark (shades).


Saturation, also known as intensity or chroma, is the spice of colour life. It's what makes colours pop and shine or appear more subdued and muted. Adjusting saturation lets us work magic in our quilting projects, setting different atmospheres and moods.


When you add a dash of gray to a pure hue, you get a more subtle version of that colour. It's like the grown-up sibling of the hue family, creating a sophisticated and understated look. Mixing the hue with its complementary colour or adding gray can give you lovely tones.


A shade is like the color's mysterious twin. Add some black to a pure hue, and you'll get a deeper, more intense version of that colour. Shades are your ticket to adding depth, drama, and a touch of contrast to your quilts.


Tints are the gentle souls of the colour world. They're created by adding white to a pure hue, resulting in a lighter, pastel-like version. Tints are like the whispers of colour, often linked to softness and delicacy. They're your go-to for gentle transitions and highlights in your quilting projects.


Think of undertone as colour's little secret. It's the subtle nuance that sneaks out when you take a close look at a hue. It's often a secondary or tertiary colour hiding within the primary hue. Mastering undertones is crucial when you're picking fabrics and color combinations, ensuring your quilts turn out harmonious.

Colour Wheel

The colour wheel is like a storyteller of colours. It's a visual representation of the bonds and connections between different shades. Within its circular format, you'll find primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, all there to help you understand colour harmonies, contrasts, and how to blend like a pro.

Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are like the dynamic duos of the colour world. They're the pairs of colours that sit directly across from each other on the color wheel, like red and green or blue and orange. When you put them together, they create a striking and harmonious effect that's sure to dazzle.

Analogous Colours

Analogous colours are like best friends that always get along. They're the colours that cozy up next to each other on the colour wheel, like blue and green or red and orange. These pals share similar vibes, creating a harmonious and seamless look when you use them together.

Colour Temperature

Colour temperature is like the emotional thermometer of colours. Warm colours, like red, orange, and yellow, bring warmth, energy, and vibrancy. Cool colours, such as blue, green, and violet, deliver calmness, serenity, and tranquility. Knowing colour temperature is your secret ingredient for creating the mood you desire in your quilts.

Getting cozy with the language of colour opens a world of possibilities for quilters. From hues to undertones and beyond, understanding these concepts encourages us to choose the right colours, blend them harmoniously, and make our quilts pop with visual appeal. So, let this colourful lexicon be your trusted guide on your quilting adventures. It's time to dive in and elevate your projects with the vibrant language of colour!

Happy Quilting with Colour!


Gingerberry Quilts

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