A guide to creating yarn color palettes for weaving

 Overview

A basic understanding of color theory can help you develop vibrant compositions of color in your weaving. The relationship of harmony and contrast between colors can dramatically affect the appearance of your piece.

Creating a yarn color palette is exciting and it can help you map out your project. On the other hand, the process can be confusing if you do not know how to combine colors. In this guide, I will give a brief overview of the color wheel and explain the relationship between colors, in order to help you create your own weaving color palette for your next project.

Color theory

1.Color

 Primary colors

All colors are created by 3 colors: red, yellow, and blue. They are called primary colors. When they are all mixed together, they create brown. These three colors cannot be created by mixing any combination of any other colors.

Secondary colors

When two primary colors are mixed together they create a secondary color: red /yellow = orange, blue/yellow= green, and red/blue= purple.

 Tertiary colors

Tertiary colors are combinations of primary and secondary colors. There are six tertiary colors: redviolet, blueviolet, bluegreen, redorangeyelloworange, and yellowgreen.

1.2 Color families

On the color wheel, colors are grouped into 3 families: warm, cool, and neutral colors.

Warm colors

Red, orange and yellow are warm color. These colors evoke emotion, energy and fire.

Cool colors

Blue, green and purple are cool colors. These colors embody nature and a calm, relaxing mood.

Neutral colors

Neutral colors include black, white, gray, brown, beige, and ivory.

1.3 Color schemes

There are colors that are far from each other and close to each other on the color wheel. The relationship of this distance between the colors impact the way we experience color.

Analogous Colors

Any three colors that are side by side on the color wheel are called analogous colors. Normally, they are a range of a lighter or less intense color, a dominant color, and one that falls in between.

Complimentary colors

On the color wheel the colors that are diagonal from each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors. Complementary colors complement the other because they do not contain the same primary colors.

For example, orange and blue are complementary colors. Blue is made with out yellow and red. Orange is not created with blue. Due to this, the colors make each other stand out.

 Left to right: Complementary colors - orange and blue; green and red; purple and yellow Left to right: Complementary colors – orange and blue; green and red; purple and yellow

Applying color theory to weaving

Color, Warp and Density

The warp runs vertically on the loom and the weft yarns are woven through them.

The density of the warp yarns influence the visibility and relationship of the warp and weft yarns. The more warp yarns per inch, the more dominant the warp is. The thickness of the weft yarns also affect the visibility of the warp yarns.

Things to consider when deciding the color of the warp:

1. Warp visibility

2. Color balance

3. Multiple warp colors

4. Weaving primary colors and secondary colors together

5. Weaving pattern

6. Using neutral colors


 1. Warp visibility

-the stronger you beat down the weft yarns, the less warp will be exposed

-the lighter you beat down the weft yarns, the more warp will be exposed

-using finer/ thinner weft yarns will expose the warp

 

2. Color balance

2.1 using darker yarns (black) as warp

– contrasts with lighter weft yarns

– darkens the color palette / dominate color palette

– can alter appearance of weft colors

2.2 using lighter yarns (white) as warp

– contrasts with darker weft yarns

– lightens/whitens the color palette / dominate color palette

– can alter appearance of weft colors

2.3 using colors in the same color family

-creates a cohesive mood

2.4 using analogous colors

-creates a cohesive mood

3. Multiple warp colors

3.1 using color blocks / sections

-weft yarn colors can change tint or shade crossing over each section

-dramatic color blocks are formed

3.2 alternating warp colors

-weft yarn colors can change tint or shade crossing over each section

-adds more color variations in every row

4. Weaving primary colors and secondary colors together

-can create a secondary color

-can create a tertiary color

 5. Weaving pattern

Some patterns expose more of the warp, while others show more of the warp.

– balance weft and warp yarn colors

– contrast weft and warp yarn colors

6. Using neutral colors

-some neutral colors dull the weft color

-some neutral colors darken/ lighten the weft color

Color, Weft, and Density

As mentioned above, the density of the warp yarns influence the visibility and relationship of the warp and weft yarns. The pressure used to beat the yarns down the warp and the thickness of the weft yarns influence its visibility and visual effect on the warp color.

Things to consider when deciding the color of the warp:

1.Creating balance

2. Creating contrast               

3. Using Analogous and Complementary Colors

4. Using Neutral Colors                      


1.Creating balance

Creating color balance in weaving is creating a sense of harmony.  This can be created in a few ways:

-choose a focus color

-use accents of secondary and tertiary colors

-use accents of a neutral colors

2. Creating contrast                                                 

When creating contrast, balance is still needed. Using colors that are far from each other on the color wheel created the largest contrast.  Therefore by using some of these combinations, will help balance the colors:

-balance the amounts of the colors used

            -create a focal color and smaller color choices

– use a set of complimentary colors (for stark contrast)

– use accents of secondary and tertiary colors

– use accents of  analogous colors

            – use accents of a neutral color to balance

            – limit the number of colors

3. Using Analogous and Complementary Colors

Although complementary colors compete with each other and analogous colors are happy neighbors, both color families strive to achieve balance.

1.choosing a focus color or set of colors (that are primary, analogous or complementary)

2. add 1 to 2 neutral colors

3. use color blocks / sections to divide and distribute the colors through out the piece

4. Using Neutral Colors

Neutral colors help build an equal playing field with colors.

 Using a neutral color with a bold or bright color can make colors stand out.

 On the other hand, neutral colors can also tone down a color or wash it out.

 Above: A bold red color and 3 neutral colors. The neutral colors are mixed in brightness. Above: A bold red color and 3 neutral colors. The neutral colors are mixed in brightness.  Both rows have the same complementary colors ( red and green) but different neutral colors. The second row also includes an red-orange color. Both rows have the same complementary colors ( red and green) but different neutral colors. The second row also includes an red-orange color.  Here are two neutral color with two light complementary colors. Here are two neutral color with two light complementary colors.

Yarn Color Palette Examples

 Simple neutral colors Simple neutral colors  Complementary colors, blue and orange. Complementary colors, blue and orange.  Mixing analogous and complementary colors Mixing analogous and complementary colors  A range of green- a deeper green to a yellow-green color A range of green- a deeper green to a yellow-green color  A range of blues- light blue to dark blue A range of blues- light blue to dark blue  Mixing analogous ( in the orange family) and complementary colors (green and orange) Mixing analogous ( in the orange family) and complementary colors (green and orange)

Conclusion

Understanding how to developing a color palette takes time, and a color wheel is a helpful tool to refer to during the initial stages of your project. I encourage you to practice mixing color combinations and let trial and error open your understanding of color theory.

I hope that this guide was able to help you understand color basics and introduce the mixing and matching of colors on and off of the loom.

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