In Quilting 101*, we learn that designs are built on contrast. When it’s time to choose quilt colors, many quilters start out with a dark design on a light background. Gradually we learn to use a wider range in our color palette and medium fabrics creep in. Visit the Quilting Room with Mel for an informative discussion about finding medium values for your quilt colors. But, planning a quilt can be difficult, so let’s take a look at some modern quilts and learn how to choose quilt colors.
*While there may be class out there with this title, I use the title in jest!
Choose Quilt Colors for Contrast
The idea of contrast is built in to the color wheel, and it is one reason I love rainbow quilts that show off all the colors!
Mother Nature has done the theoretical work for us – Red and Green are complementary, and we can add a splash of interest with another color such as pink, orange or yellow.
The shades of each color must work harder when a quilter chooses a black background. Colors have to be much brighter to contrast and allow the design to POP.
What happens when you don’t have a single color background? The light, medium and dark values within a color family have to really work well together to make the design shine.
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Color Choices from a Quilting Rockstar
I was blown away when I saw Tula Pink‘s Radiance quilt, featuring her new Slow & Steady fabric line. Let me try to analyze this beauty and the lesson it can teach us for how to choose quilt colors.
At first glance, you see the solid diamonds as a rainbow. Look closer, though, and you see a variety of prints mixed in too. The diamonds are shades of red, green, pink, white, yellow and orange, set on a mix of backgrounds in blues, purples, turquoise, grey and black.
The result is mesmerizing as your eye follows the flow of colors as they rise and fall across the quilt.
Lesson – Whole color families, not just 2 colors, provide contrast in your quilt.
Color Blocking as a Quilt Palette
Another brilliant quilt featuring saturated colors is Star Light, Star Dark by Jessica at the Quilty Habit.
Rather than set colorful stars on a consistent background, Jessica shows us how to choose quilt colors with the color block style. Each section is monochromatic, featuring a dark star on a lighter background or vice versa. The color saturation and variety of block sizes make Star Light, Star Dark a gorgeous example of modern quilting.
Lesson – keep it all in one (color) family and try a color block quilt
Keep it simple with just one color
Another method to help choose quilt colors is to pick one color family and make a monochromatic quilt. The placement of light, medium and dark fabrics are critical to the design in a monochromatic quilt. Purple Angles by Mary McElvain features a paper pieced block.
By changing the position of fabrics within the block, you can highlight a cross or a ring.
Lesson: Monochromatic quilts have amazing variety!
Let’s continue to experiment with color selection in our quilts. Choose an unusual color or gradient for a background, or try color block and monochromatic palettes. Change the position of light, medium and dark fabrics in your block to discover alternate designs. Most of all, enjoy the creative process!
I loved your quilts and your pointers about working with colors. I’ve been trying to work with pastels and Kaffe Fassett bright color fabrics and just can’t get it right. Hopefully your tips will help.
My philosophy is that every quilt needs a little Kaffe! It can be tricky to combine pastels and brights in the same quilt. Feel free to email me some photos and I can make some specific suggestions. Can’t wait to see what you create!