How to coax a palette out of your existing wardrobe;
Identifying your primary colors;
Ideas for using your palette to create new outfits;
Tips for using accent colors in unexpected ways;
Using your palette when you shop!
Once you’ve created your palette based on the clothes already in your closet, carry it with you when you shop! (Click the photo to go straight to my article. Photo is my own, also used in the published article.)
This post appeared originally at my A Musing blog, here.
This is the biggest newsflash item I’ve had the pleasure to post about so far: I’m actually creating my dream of a color-centric business, by combining several different areas of interest under a single name:Yes! Knittique (yarns, knitwear patterns, samples, & jewelry), Photo/Graphic Design (art on canvas, tutorials, & graphic files), and The Bratelier (lingerie sewing kits) are now all part of the Colormusing family— a reunion of sorts, where all the various relatives play together nicely because they all have one thing in common: color palettes. Continue reading →
Yes, folks, as promised, here’s a fun little color theory crash course, cleverly disguised as a book review of sorts. What book, you ask? Why, it’s “Color”, by Betty Edwards (the acclaimed author of “The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”). Okay, this seems like a pretty generic title for such a massive subject, so it’s subtitled “A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors”. Yes. That’s so much better.
“Color” by Betty Edwards. Yes, the subtitle suggests that this book is geared towards art students, but stay with me— it does connect to your clothes! Click on the picture to see this book on Amazon.com
To back up for just a minute, last month, I started hand-dyeing and painting yarns for the first time, which I started writing about in this recent post (lots more to come on that in future posts). And a funny thing happened almost immediately: I realized how little I actually know about color! Sure, I’ve been producing a line of color-sequencing yarns* based on my own color concepts for over 10 years, and focusing on color-palette creation more recently, but when it came to actually mixing dyes in an attempt to create unique colors, it took me maybe 5 minutes to figure out that I needed more information. That’s when I found this book.
“Color” is written primarily for artists, yes, so most of the exercises are relative to painting. However, there is so much information about color itself that I found the book not only incredibly helpful in terms of basic color theory, but that it also greatly increases my awareness of, and appreciation for, the use of color in actual artwork. But for purposes of this post, I’m focusing on the color theory. I hope you’ll find it as beneficial as I have!
I did promise this would be a crash course, not a treatise, so I’ll make this as brief as possible, starting with a classic color wheel:
Color wheel. Isn’t it pretty? Courtesy of Northlite.net. Click the wheel to see it on their website.
You’re most likely already familiar with the color concepts presented on the wheel: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary colors. Personally, I thought I had a handle on this, but some specific details gave me new insights. For example, I was aware that each secondary color (green, orange, violet) is a combination of 2 of the 3 primary colors (red, blue, yellow), but I didn’t know that the tertiary colors (the hyphenated ones) are each a combination of a primary and a secondary color. And for dye-mixing purposes, believe me, this is quite a revelation, as you’ll see.
Tip: When I was just looking around for a good color wheel image, I was startled (and somewhat confused) by the enormous range of wheel styles. My advice is to stick with the basic 12-color wheel; it’s really all you need.
Now that we’ve absorbed the color wheel concepts, let’s move on to the 3 main attributes of a given color: hue, value, and intensity.
Radiant Orchid. Can you name its hue, value, and intensity? (I couldn’t, before reading Betty’s book.) Click on the picture to find this fab flash drive at Pantone.
Hue refers to the color family your color belongs to; to determine this, find the color on the wheel that you think is closest to Radiant Orchid. I’m thinking Red-Violet.
Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color: white is at one end of this scale, black at the other. Radiant Orchid looks like it’s slightly on the medium-dark side.
Intensity (also known as saturation or brightness) refers to a scale that goes from bright to dull. A fluorescent color, for example, would definitely be at the bright end, while a smoky shade would be closer to the dull end. Our Radiant Orchid looks like it belongs on the brighter (but not brightest) end.
Tip: If you have worked in Photoshop or another photo-editing application, you’re probably familiar with the term “desaturation”; if an image is completely desaturated, there’s no color at all— it’s greyscale. So you can think of colors on the dull end of the intensity scale as having grey added to them, replacing color. In dyeing, as with mixing paints, adding a bit of the complementary color—the one exactly opposite on the color wheel—also dulls the intensity, but without changing the original hue.
So Radiant Orchid can also be described as medium-dark, medium-bright red-violet. Ta-dah!
Okay. I realize this is still just theory. How does it apply to my dyeing projects? Well, since I’m determined to mix my own colors from primary dye colors (as opposed to using pre-mixed “fashion” colors), this is of tremendous help to me in planning which primaries to mix together. For Radiant Orchid, I’ll no doubt have to experiment to get an exact match, but I’d say that starting with red and blue, with a higher proportion of red (to make the hue red-violet), in a solution that’s not very diluted (so the value stays medium-dark), and possibly with a touch of yellow-green (red-violet’s complement) to slightly dull the intensity.
And what about dyeing your clothes? Well, assuming you’re starting with something other than a pure white garment, technically what you’ll be doing is over-dyeing, that is, adding color to an existing color, as I did with my jeans in one of my early dyeing projects on CYC. So if you’re starting with light-blue denim, which is already on the dull side of the intensity scale, you may want to dye it with a bright shade, which will take on some of the qualities of the original denim color (fiber dyes are essentially transparent); if you used, for instance, a bright shade of green dye, your results will most likely be an interesting blue-green hybrid, but your jeans will probably not be as bright as the dye color itself.
Honestly, now that I’ve learned about color hue, value, and intensity, I feel so much better prepared for my dyeing experiments; instead of just throwing colors together and waiting to see what happens, I have a solid basis with which to predict the results. This (I assume) will not only save me time (less experimenting), but also money, for the dyes and the undyed yarns I’m starting with.
I’ll leave you with this liberating thought: you don’t have to ever dye anything to apply these basic color theory principles to your wardrobe! Simply going into your closet and really looking at the colors that have collected there will give you new insights into the colors you prefer. Dark, light, bright, smoky, neutral, happy? Try to think of words that sum up your colors— then remember them when you’re shopping, dyeing, or otherwise changing your clothes.
*You can find my color-sequencing yarns in the Scraplet Skeins section of my Knittique Etsy shop. (Be sure to look at the color cards to see the entire color sequences in each skein.) And while you’re there, take a look my first hand-painted skeins, in the New! Hand-painted Yarns section.
I was working on a sewing project the other day, and was changing thread colors on my sewing machine. Without really looking at what I was doing, I set down the sage-green spools I’d been using (laying them behind the machine so they wouldn’t roll off the slightly sloping table). Something back there caught my eye, and I suddenly noticed that I had put the green spools down on top of a zip-top bag with a couple of spools inside it. This is exactly what I saw:
I just love the way these colors look together, but how do you translate that into an actual palette? Go to ColourLovers! (The link will take you to my page on ColourLovers, but feel free to browse the whole site. It’s worth the trip, I promise.) Using this photo as my starting point, I created this palette:
Threads palette created on ColourLovers; note the addition of the white (from the spools) and charcoal grey (from the background of the photo).
When you’re looking at a photo like the one with the threads, the subject matter of the photo can be distracting; it’s often easier to visualize using a color palette when you can see it in solid, flat colors as in the ColourLovers palette.
Why don’t you try creating your own custom palette with a photo? Even photos that are not that great (out of focus, etc.) can be rich sources of beautiful color palettes. You can do this online at ColourLovers, and/or use their palette-creation software, ColorSchemer Studio (they even have a smartphone app version of this!). Have fun! And be sure to post your palettes here for us all to enjoy!
All right, maybe I’m taking this color obsession a little too far… Yesterday, when I was visiting my sister up in Poulsbo, Washington, we were enjoying a wonderful home-cooked lunch at her house that included many young, delicious vegetables from her garden (and a chicken). This locovore’s delight included a dish of beautiful beets, regular (or whatever the red ones are called) and golden, together on a platter, thus:
Beets, part of a delicious lunch at my sister’s house. Little did she know… Continue reading →
Closet confession #1 (yes, there will be more): I reorganize my clothes regularly, partly to remove the things that no longer work for me, but mostly in an attempt to find the perfect system. Care to make a guess as to my success rate?
The way I’ve generally organized my closet in the past has been by type, i.e. skirts together, dresses together, etc. Here’s how my wardrobe (at least the parts that hang) looked using this plan:
My clothes (the hanging ones), grouped according to item type.
You know, when I was working on the original Santa Fe shopping wardrobe in Polyvore for yesterday’s post (Santa Fe Wardrobe: Shopping!), I must admit that I didn’t even look at the prices of any of the items, with the inevitable result that some things were crazy-pricey, while others were amazing bargains. While it is certainly a whole lot of fun to “shop” with no regard for budget, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to see what I could do if I only used items that cost $50.00 or less, including accessories, which can be difficult to find with that price restriction (at least if you want decent quality). I’m surprised at all the great options I found in a fairly quick search!
(By the way, for any of you who may not be familiar with Polyvore, it’s a super-fun place where you can shop, follow other users whose style you admire, get inspired, and create your own collections! There’s also a widget to put in your browser toolbar that lets you copy anything you run across online to your place on Polyvore, to add to your own sets and collections. Try it!) Continue reading →
As promised: Santa Fe Wardrobe, the shopping edition!
I like to start by “shopping my closet”. I know, I know, it’s much more fun to go out and get new stuff, but hey, it can also be rewarding to unearth something you haven’t worn in (she said with a blush) over 2 years, and find that it works perfectly with your travel wardrobe color palette! So into the closet I go, and find all these pieces that fit not only the color palette but my actual clothing needs for my trip to Santa Fe: