Colour Value Theory for Quilters – What you need to know!


Colour value theory for quilters cover image

Understanding colour values for quilters – the good, the bad and the very pretty!

So far, we have have talked about how contrast is the key to producing an eye-catching quilt, and more specifically about ways that colour value contrast can be used in a good quilt design. But, what if you have never really thought about art basics before and are a bit sketchy on what colour value is and how to determine it? No problem! Today we are going to look at what colour value is, and how it applies to quilters.

Let’s explore the concept of colour value from a quilter’s perspective…… because paint mixing theory isn’t that helpful to us textile-sewing-person types……

Colour value definition

Colour Value is defined most simply as the relative lightness or darkness of a colour (read here, “fabric”!). The extremes of this continuum are black and white. All other colours lie somewhere in between the maximum darkness of black and the minimum lightness of white. Colour value is very easy to see in a grey scale or in a monochrome colour series. Here are some easy to spot colour value graduations:

Colour value graduations in black, red and blue.
Three colour value graduations in black, red and blue. The middle colours in the red and blue scales are pure colours, without black or white added. These are known as hues, The colours on the left of the  hues are shades (hue + black) and the colours on the right are tints (hue + white)

Colour value is relative

The colour value of your fabric is relative to other fabrics or items around it. This is a really important fact! This means that whether a colour (fabric) appears to be dark or light can depend on the colours (fabrics) surrounding it. While white will always appear light and black will always be dark, colours closer to the middle of a colour range can appear light next to really dark colours or dark next to really light colours.

This is both great and not-so-great news for quilters. It is great, because it means that it is not necessary to use the extreme values of a colour to achieve good contrast in a quilt. A pastel quilt with a few well-placed mid-tones can look just as awesome as a vibrant quilt with saturated colours and a few dark highlights. Look at the image below. Both of the panels contain good contrast, even though they only cover a small subrange of colour values.

Teal fabrics showing a range of values.
Note: the light and medium fabrics in the lefthand picture are the exact same fabrics as the medium and dark fabrics in the righthand picture.

Colour Value can be complicated……

This relativeness of colour values is also “not-so-great” because you need to understand the relationship of colours with each other to understand how they will look together. This is tricky, but remembering that colours will appear lighter next to a dark colour and darker next to  a light colour will help avoid nasty surprises. Apart from this, the best method of working out “what works where” in a quilt is often trial and error, even for seasoned quilters. For this, I find a design wall is extraordinarily helpful. If two fabrics or blocks affect the appearance of one another, it’s nice to know before you sew! Experience and practice are also the best antidotes if you suffer a lack of confidence in this area. 

Repeated blocks on a quilt
Quilts made up of simple repeated blocks can take time to lay out until you are satisfied.

When I am making a quilt with lots of repeated blocks in varied fabrics, I always do a trial layout of my quilt blocks on the floor or a wall. Some layouts will always be more visually appealing than others, partly due to colour value distribution. There are usually lots of nice layouts, so it is silly to choose a jarring one that will disappoint you just because you didn’t experiment a little with block placement. And don’t stress about getting the “right” layout. There will be lots of great combinations. Just choose one you like.

So, remember: the Colour Value of a fabric (or even a whole block) is simply how light or dark that sucker is. But this is always assessed in the context of surrounding fabrics.

That’s pretty simple right? Right!

Where it gets trickier now, is to start thinking about how to determine the relative colour values of fabrics of unrelated colours. That is, between tints and shades of different colours (hues) rather than of the same hue. And then there are tones…… OK, I am thinking we should quickly define hues, tints, shades and tones before we go any further.

Hues, Tints, Shades and Tones (only the stuff that is helpful to quilters)!

Hues, Tints and Shades

portion of a colour wheel
Colour wheels have far more than the 6 colours you learned at school!

A hue is a pure colour that has not been diluted with white or black. Hues are what we generally think of as colours, and are usually found on simple colour wheels. Blue. Red. Green. Yellow etc. For this exercise, let’s pick one. Let’s say this Purple.  Now, a tint is the same purple, but with some white mixed in – or in terms of fabric, most likely with less dye applied to the white background fabric. One example tint of the the original purple is this purple. On the other hand, a shade is also the same purple, but with some black mixed in. An example is this purple. This colour may be created on fabric by mixing the original purple dye with black dye.

You need to remember that adding white or black doesn’t change the colour (hue), just its relative colour value (lighter or darker). It also decreases the colourfulness (because the colour is diluted by the black or the white).


As for tones, I’ll let Google explain…..

“A tone is produced either by the mixture of a color with gray, or by both tinting and shading. Mixing a color with any neutral color (including black, gray and white) reduces the chroma, or colorfulness, while the hue remains unchanged.”

colour wheel explaining colour value theory
GIMP software colour wheel, showing you all the tints, shades and tones of a particular red hue.

The best illustration I can think of is the colour wheel in GIMP software. The triangle in the middle of the colour wheel points to the selected colour hue. The colour graduation along the edge between the hue and white (the lower edge of the triangle) covers all the tints of the hue. The colour graduation along the edge between the hue and black (the uppermost edge of the triangle) covers all the shades of the hue. Every other point within the triangle is a tone of the red hue (ie has some red, some white and some black in it). Except, of course, the leftmost edge of the triangle. This edge is actually a pure grey scale and has no red in it at all.

Comparing colour values between your fabrics

Comparing colour hues

Let’s now go back to talking about comparing value between completely different hues. For example – a shade of yellow vs a tint of green. As I mentioned before, this is where things get a lot more tricky – where a lot of books stop helping you, and a lot of quilters lose their confidence. 

Hues have colour values relative to each other, just as the tints and shades of one hue can be compared. Pure yellow is not as dark as pure blue. Unfortunately, it is harder to judge value relationships between hues than it is within a hue family. And of all the colours, colour value relationships between bright hues are the hardest to judge.

Bright hues for comparison
Seven bright hues chosen from the pure colour wheel. The lightest is the yellow. But what order should we put the rest in?

Comparing colour tints, shades and tones

It is a bit easier to compare tints, shades and tones of different colours. This is probably partly to do with two facts: they are easier to look at, and they are closer to grey. If they were all grey, it would actually be relatively simple to order them.

Tints, tones and shades - colour value
Here are the same seven hues from the above picture, but they are softened. Top row: shades (hue + black), middle row: tones (hue + grey), bottom row: tints (hue + white).

To illustrate this, chose one of the tone/tint/shade families above and think of each colour as a grey. Now can you order them? Maybe, maybe not, but you will probably get further than if you try the same exercise with the pure hues.

Now try squinting at them (or decreasing the brightness on your device’s screen). This cuts down the amount of light entering the eye, and allows the rod-shaped light-sensing organs in your eye to predominate over the cone-shaped light-sensing organs. This is a useful trick because rod sensors don’t detect colour, only the cone sensors do. (This is also why at night everything appears to be various shades of black and white and grey).

You are now using grey as a comparison point; a visual anchor. The closer these colours appear to grey, the more monochrome the series becomes and the easier it is to deal with.

Fabrics in the real world are usually multicoloured! HELP!

Fabrics showing a decrease in the scale of the flower print from left to right.
Flower print fabrics (and one batik) in order of scale. The fabrics on the left have large scale motifs. As you move right the flower motifs get progressively smaller in scale.

On top of all this, we need to know how to compare fabrics that aren’t all one colour!! Very few quilters exclusively use solid single-colour fabrics all the time in every quilt. Perhaps a few hardcore modern quilters do; but most of us use a variety of fabrics over time, including prints and batiks. So, we will have additional challenges in determining the value of these fabrics.  There some extra things to keep in mind when thinking about the value of these fabrics.

What to remember when considering the colour value of fabric prints

  • Mottled solid fabrics (also known as textured solids) are nearly as easy to categorise as plain solid colours. The colour value of these fabrics is the average of the colour across the surface. Stand back from these fabrics and the colour variations will blend together. The overall colour you see tells you the overall value of the fabric.
  • Small scale prints/batiks behave similarly to mottled solids. A small red print on white fabric will look pink from a distance. A small black motif on white fabric will look grey. Unless you are fussy-cutting these into tiny hexies, treat them like mottled solid fabrics and visually “average” the colour value.
  • Large scale prints need to considered much more in light of how you are going to use them. If you cut a large scale print into smallish pieces, some of the pieces will be completely different colours and values to other pieces. Determine the colour value of each piece individually. If you are using medium size pieces, be aware that one edge/corner of a piece may have a completely different colour value to another edge. This can play havoc with your placement of surrounding fabrics. The easiest solution is to use large scale prints in large areas – then the colour value differences that the fabric designer chose will work for you instead of against you. If you still desire large scale prints in a complicated quilt design where colour value is important, then it is best to fussy cut them or choose a fabric print with limited colour variation.
  • Depending on the print, medium scale print fabrics are treated either as large scale or small scale print fabrics. Now you have the skills, you will be able to decide!

I still need help determining the colour value of my fabrics!!

Thankfully there are a few simple tricks you can use to determine the colour value of a fabric, whether it is a solid colour fabric, a batik or a print. In a post coming soon I will go through all the methods I know, and what I think you need to know about each one. You might be surprised….. I personally think the techniques most commonly marketed to quilters are the most flawed. You can do it better yourself without buying a thing! Subscribe to my blog to be the first to know when I publish this post soon!


Clever Chameleon logoRemember: using colour value contrast in your quilt can make your design stunning, whether it is a landscape or other pictorial quilt, scrappy, appliqué, modern geometric or anything in between, And stunning is what we’re aiming for! But also remember, stunning is objective…. first and foremost your quilts should be appealing to you…. if you like your design then you will enjoy the creative process. Always be learning, but also make sure you are Quilting your Own Story!


Colour Inspiration Tuesday: Blue Fox

Blue Fox color palette from Clever ChameleonColour Inspiration Tuesday: a free resource of colour combinations to try on your quilts.

It’s Tuesday again already! This week we have a classic colour combination that I think I’ll never tire of. Calming blues with warm browns.  Inspired by a stunning photo of a fox curled up in snow reflecting blue light….. I’m calling this palette “Blue Fox”.

Colour Inspiration Tuesday blue fox palette. light steel blue, cadet blue, grey, dark olive, brown, slate

Colour Inspiration Tuesday: Blue Fox

The “Blue Fox” colour palette is light steel blue, cadet blue, grey, dark olive, brown, mid brown, light slate and dark olive. Use these different colours in different proportions to get the effect you want. If you use a high proportion of blues, you will produce a very calming palette. Alternatively, focusing on the browns with blue highlights will give a very masculine look – maybe just the thing for a quilt for your favourite bloke? Using the two colour families in equal proportions will give a very lovely. mature palette that would look great on the wall or couch. Like always, there are no right or wrong combinations, just the ones you prefer and those you don’t.

Blue and Brown not your thing? That’s ok!

If you like warmer, much redder colours than “Blue Fox”, you may like “Butterfly Loves Red” instead!

Don’t miss your weekly dose of colour inspiration! Follow along by subscribing to this blog. Or you can find lots of colour schemes anytime you like: follow this board from Clever Chameleon on Pinterest

Today’s stock photo is from Unsplash is a collection of free, high resolution, “do what you want with” photos. While there is no obligation for me to tell you where I got this photo, I love to give credit where credit is due. So; this lovely photo was provided by Ray Hennessy via Unsplash.

Clever chameleon logo blueJoin me next Tuesday to explore another colour combination possibility for your quilt projects. In the meantime, look around you to find colours similar to Blue Fox in use, and notice whether there are other colours you’d like to add or substitute. Change it to make it truly your own. Remember: choose the colour combination that You like best…… always make sure you are quilting your own story by celebrating your own creativity!

P.S. If you would like to use this photo for your own projects, you can find all the unaltered Unsplash photos from Colour Inspiration Tuesday in one place in my Colour Inspiration Collection.

Six ways Talented Quilters use Colour Value

Talented quilt designers use colour value in a variety of ways. Choose one or two uses of colour value to spice up your next quilt!

Over the last few posts we have been thinking about improving our quilt designs by understanding the design concepts of contrast and colour value. Now let’s look at six key effects of using deliberate, creative use of colour value. These uses of colour value direct the eye and help the brain to interpret your quilt in a certain way. Most simply put; how you choose to contrast or blend each part of a quilt design can dramatically change how your quilt looks.

1. Use Colour Value Contrast to give a quilt design definition:

When it comes to making spectacular quilts, it is the colour value range that is more important than the actual colours. You can do a fabulous geometric quilt in all pinks. There is no reason at all why you can’t do an amazing flamingo all in blues. A beautiful lush landscape quilt could definitely be created all in purples. As long as you use colour value contrast to define your design.

Where you want a shape to be obvious, it must contrast in colour value with the surrounding fabrics. However, if you want an area of many pieces to be interpreted as a single shape, the opposite is true. To blend areas, the most important thing is to use colours of similar values (ie very little colour value contrast). The second thing to do is contrast them as a group with at least one colour that is quite different – the “us against them” principle.

Take a Jacob’s ladder block as an example (below).

Jacob's Ladder quilt examples showing differences in colour value contrast
Design A shows a high contrast choice of colour values, where the geometry of the Jacob’s Ladder is the main feature of the design. Design B shows the same design done in multiple colours. The design is still obvious because all the colours are closer in value to each other than  they are to the background (white). This makes the brain interpret them as one related entity that is seperate from the background. Design C shows what happens when colour value contrast is not considered in tandem with the block layout. The colour value contrast in this quilt is randomly distributed. The effect is still pretty, but the Jacob’s Ladder design is lost and a completely different (not wrong) quilt results.

Knowing which fabrics will blend or contrast is the secret to successful scrappy quilts, Irish Chains and log cabin designs, just to mention a few.

Remember, deliberately blending fabric squares with their neighbours is a valid design choice. An example of this is the Disappearing Nine-Patch quilt. Knowing how colour value works simply gives you the power to design your quilts to be how you want them.

2. Use Colour Value Contrast to create depth:

In pictorial quilts, light value fabrics create highlights and dark value fabrics create shadows. But there is far more to understand about creating depth in quilts than just shadows and highlights. Did you know that if the values of two fabrics are similar, their shapes will seem closely connected in space and none will stand out from the others? To cause shapes to appear to be seperate in space and stand out form each other, it is necessary to use fabrics with contrasting colour values.

Use colour value contrast to create depth: tree example
Look at the bottom panel in this figure,  This picture appears very very flat. In the top panel however, your brain wants to interpret depth, with the darker trees gradually receding, even though they are the same size as the lightest tree.
tree scene showing how to use colour value contrast
Have a look at the two simple scenes. The scene on the left is easier for the brain to interpret because the bigger trees are also lighter in value…. two agreeing cues that these trees are the closest.

Also you should keep in mind that shapes made of light colours visually “come forward”. This means they appear closer to the viewer than other areas of a quilt. Therefore, you can deliberately bring things into the foreground of a quilt by using light fabrics. Conversely, you can make features recede into the background when you add them in darker colours. 

All of these effects are independent of the colour hue (ie red, blue, yellow etc). It is only the values (relative lightness and darkness) of the colours that matter.

3. Use Colour Value Contrast to convey feelings and action:

Colour values can convey concepts such as mood or change. For example, a dark region in a quilted sky will probably make you think of an impending storm. Conversely, a light patch will convey sunshine. This works even if the quilt is completely abstract and you use colours that are not true-to-life. Yet these effects are mostly lost if the whole sky is evenly coloured in the darker or lighter colours. It is the change in colour value that causes the brain to interpret the meaning. 

4. Use Colour Value blending to create illusions of luminosity and light-sinks:

Graduating colour value can be used in quilts to enormous effect. One of my favourite effects created by graduating colour value is luminosity. When you start in the centre of a quilt design with a light colour and add rings or layers of increasingly darker colours around the original shape you create the illusion of luminosity. Luminous quilts tend to convey happiness and hope. Conversely, starting in the centre with dark value fabrics and graduating to lighter fabrics gives the illusion of a dark hole. Both effects are stunning when done right.

Luminous quilt block with four luminous corners.
Quilt block with four “luminous” log cabin corners.

This effect is often seen used in concentric quilt designs. Concentric just means “sharing a centre”. So concentric quilt designs are those that have a small shape in the centre that is surrounded by echoes of that shape gradually increasing in size. “Around the World” and “Blooming Nine-Patch” quilts are good examples of whole-quilt concentric designs. You can also incorporate luminosity into individual blocks of a quilt, to create lots of smaller focal points. An example is “Light in the Valley” quilts.

Luminosity is not confined to concentric quilts – it can easily be incorporated into non-symmetric designs and landscapes as well. Sunset quilts are one common example of this. 

5. Use Colour Value Contrast to make colours more vibrant:

If you place contrasting value fabrics side by side they will make each other look more brilliant. Think of a dark silhouette in front of a sunset…. the sunset is magnified in beauty by the dark contrast. Black makes colours look brighter. White makes colours look darker. These are the extreme examples of this principle. Colours closer in value to each other will have the same effect on each other, but more subtly.

If you only use colours of the same value together, they can end up looking “washed out”. So, the takeaway message? Add a few lighter or darker colours to your quilt to maintain the beauty of your fabulous main fabrics.

6. Colour Value is critical for creating the illusion of three dimensions:

Use colour value to make illusion of three dimensional 3D block
You can represent three dimensions with colour values. Here is a square-based prism in three values of one colour.

Blending colour values gives the illusion of 3-dimensional shape and form to flat objects. This is the same principle as shading in a pencil drawing and is colour independent. Again it is the colour value of the fabrics that matter. You can make round features look three dimensional by gradually graduating from light to dark fabrics in any colour.  You can create the look of flat edged 3D shapes using sharp changes in colour value. Tumbling block quilts use this second principle, as do other three dimensional illusions.

Realistic pictorial quilts generally use gradual changes in colour value to convey shape and substance.

So, what’s next?

If you’ve got this far, you’re probably wanting to better use colour value contrast to create better quilts. In this case, there are three things I recommend for you to do next. Firstly, get a really good handle on the theory of what colour value is and how it applies to quilts! Secondly, have a critical look at lots of quilts and decide what you like or dislike about their use of colour value contrast. This will help you decide what suits you and your quilt story. And thirdly, find a reliable method that you like to help you determine the colour values of your fabrics – so that there are no nasty surprises after your quilt top is finished and it doesn’t look right. Then start applying what you know to your quilt design process and grow as you go!

  • If you want to know more about colour value theory and how it applies to quilts, my next post will cover it nicely. Colour Value Theory for Quilters – What you need to know! is scheduled for the 4 June 2017. Subscribe to read it as soon as it is published.
  • If you want to see a variety of quilts that illustrate the principles of colour value contrast and blending that I have covered in this post, visit my especially curated Pinterest board: Colour Value Contrast discussion quilts. I have labelled each pin on this board with relevant features to take notice of. Have a critical look at them. What can you notice about the way the artist has used colour value?
  • If you want to know which tools I recommend to determine the colour value of your fabrics, subscribe to my blog to receive notification or come back in a week or two. I am halfway through writing a post on exactly that!

Clever Chameleon logo


P.S. If you found this article helpful, please feel free to pin and share, as long as you include attribution to Dione Gardner-Stephen and the correct Clever Chameleon URL. Thanks!

Colour Inspiration Tuesday is here!! Let’s start with Butterfly Loves Red

Butterfly loves Red color scheme from Clever ChameleonWould you like a free resource of colour combinations to try on your quilts?

Perhaps you have seen a fabulous quilt pattern but you don’t like the colours. Perhaps you do like the pattern’s colours, but the fabrics featured are already out of print (don’t you hate that!!). Or perhaps you just want to try something different to what everyone else is doing…… Colour Inspiration Tuesday is here to help. 

On occasional Tuesdays I will post a photo and a corresponding colour palette using the photo as inspiration. You can follow along by subscribing to my blog. Or you can find all the related posts whenever you like by using the Colour Inspiration Tuesday category tag. 

So let’s get started….. the very first Clever Chameleon Colour Inspiration Tuesday.

Colour Inspiration Tuesday: "Butterfly loves red". Crimson, dark green, tan, slate, brick red, olive.

Colour Inspiration Tuesday: Butterfly Loves Red

The “Butterfly Loves Red” colour palette is crimson, fire brick red, peach, tan, slate, dark slate and dark olive. Use these different colours in different proportions to get the effect you want. Using mostly reds with sparing use of the dark colours for contrast will give you a very vivid, warm looking quilt. Predominately using the more neutral colours with the reds as highlights will give you a modern elegant look. There are no right or wrong combinations, just the ones you prefer and those you don’t.

Today’s stock photo is from Unsplash is a collection of free, high resolution, “do what you want with” photos. While there is no obligation for me to tell you where I got this photo thanks to their open community-minded licensing, I love to give credit where credit is due. So; this lovely photo was provided by Tung Minh via Unsplash.

Clever Chameleon logo redI hope you will join me at Colour Inspiration Tuesday to explore new colour combinations you could try in your quilt projects. These suggestions are just the starting point…. have a look in your stash or in your local quilt store to see how you can translate these colours to fabrics. See what you can add or change to make it truly your own. Remember: choose the variation that you like the best…. it’s all about you or your recipient at this stage of the process……make sure you are quilting your own story!

P.S. If you would like to use this photo for your own projects, you can find all the Unsplash photos from Colour Inspiration Tuesday in one place in my Colour Inspiration Collection.

Colour Value Contrast for Spectacular Quilt Designs

Princess owl patchwork

Becoming an expert in colour value contrast will help make your quilts stand out from the crowd.

Fabrics lined up in a row showing colour value contrast.
When choosing colours for your next quilt, there is waaaaay more to think about than just the colour scheme. How are you going to make those colours sing!!?

Last time we talked about how contrast is the key to producing an eye-catching quilt. If you missed that post, you might like to read my comprehensive overview of the types of contrast to consider when thinking about your next brilliant quilt. Today however, I want to start to elaborate further on just one of these types of contrast – using colour value contrast to give your quilt designs a facelift!

Colour value contrast is a quilt design fundamental you should master EARLY. Possibly even before the perfect 1/4″ seam……..!!

What is the very first thing you think of when I say “Add some contrast to your quilt.”? I bet your first response is something about using “light, medium and dark coloured fabrics”. This is colour value contrast.

Why do I think you will likely choose this form of contrast first and foremost, even though there are dozens of other ways to introduce contrast into a quilt? (And even though you’ve read my last post, right?!) It is because colour value contrast is one of the most fundamental design concepts used in great quilts. If you like looking at other people’s quilts, it is a concept you have already seen in action, possibly hundreds of times. We’ve all heard about it…. but do we really understand it? Let’s investigate and make sure…..

What is colour value and colour value contrast?

Colour value is defined most simply as the relative lightness or darkness of a colour (read “fabric”!). So, there are two parts to colour value:

  1. the properties of a colour, and
  2. the colour’s context.

A colour can be described as light, dark or medium. Really light and really dark value colours are fairly straight forward….. they tend to look light or dark in any context. However, medium value fabrics are more tricky. They have a habit of looking light next to dark fabrics and dark next to light fabrics. And these tricky fabrics are generally the ones that quilters buy in great lengths and hoard in stash. Because medium value colours are the most attractive.

However, as pretty as these fabrics are, if you only use medium colour value fabrics in a quilt it is very difficult to produce a “WOW” design. This is why you need colour value contrast. Effective colour value contrast is the art of using a range of colour values to create a design that is well-defined, pleasing to the eye and interesting to the brain.

Why is colour value contrast so important?

Colour value advice can be found in recent quilt books.
A selection of fabulous books from my personal library, all with advice on how to choose fabrics to get the best out of their patterns.

If you pick up a recently written quilt book , chances are that somewhere in the introduction there will be a short section about choosing fabrics. And in this section, you will be reminded to choose fabrics covering a range of colour values. If you’ve ever joined a class to sew a particular quilt pattern, I hope you’ve heard it there too. And you’re hearing it again here! This is because it is great advice and if you do not heed it, you will get a disappointing result. You will wonder why your quilt doesn’t capture you like the demonstrator’s/pattern’s example did.

Have you ever wondered why a quilt you’ve made looks flat, boring or dull; even though you used really really beautiful fabrics in colours that you love?

You might have wrongly assumed that it is because you can’t sew as well as “her”, or that you are just not talented enough at choosing fabrics. If you inner voice tries to tell you this, it is wrong, wrong, wrong! – You just need to get a better handle on using colour value contrast! If you are the victim of a boring quilt, the most likely culprit is that you have used too many fabrics of the same or similar colour value. Even if the actual colours are all different (ie red, blue, green etc) they can still be much the same value. The easiest way to see if this is the problem is to stand a good distance from your quilt. If the pattern disappears as you move away, you do not have enough colour value contrast.

Using different colour values properly in a quilt creates visual depth and adds definition to the design. Colour value contrast also changes the way the brain perceives colours – dark fabrics make mid colours appear brighter, while light fabrics make mid colours appear more intense. Colour value contrast causes people to notice those beautiful fabrics you’ve invested in and to see the fabulous layout of your pattern. It makes your quilt eye-catching. 

Ok, so I can see that mastering colour value contrast would help me grow as a quilter…… What can I do?!

Like anything else, becoming proficient at choosing good fabric combinations takes practise. Try some of these suggestions:

  • If you have a stash, play with your fabrics to make colour combinations you like (you could use scraps to do this too). First, choose a couple of medium value fabrics that you really like together. Now find several more fabrics that look good with these  Concentrate on making sure they are noticeably lighter or darker than your first choices. You may actually find that your stash is pretty short on light and/or dark fabrics….. you won’t be alone in this, it is quite common, and a good excuse for shopping!!
  • Find out more about how expert quilters use colour value contrast….. Attend a quilt show and deliberately look for the colour value contrast in your favourite quilts. Or read more about how colour value is used in quilting. You may like to read my article: Six ways talented quilt designers use colour value.
  • Find out more about colour value theory. Knowledge is power! My quilting perspective on this topic is collected here for you in: Colour Value Theory for Quilters: What you need to know!)

Practise, practise, practise!

In the meantime, look around you as you go about everyday life and notice colour value contrasts. Train your brain to see where colour values are used to create interest. Whether in the supermarket, reading a magazine, or relaxing at the park, be “contrast aware”. You might be surprised at what you see that you didn’t before!

P.S. If you found this article helpful, please feel free to pin and share as long as you include attribution to Dione Gardner-Stephen and the correct Clever Chameleon URL. Thanks!

P.P.S. I know some tricks you can use to rescue boring quilts suffering from lack of colour value contrast. Comment if you are interested in a post about this!