Quilt Colour Value – Choosing Fabrics

So, you’ve looked at your colour wheel, decided what fabrics go together and what colour scheme you will use so now yo’re set to go, right?  Sorry, there’s a little more to colour that is worth take a look at.

You may have heard colour value mentioned and wondered what it is.  Quite simply, it is the lightness or darkness of the colour.




Quilt colour value

Quilt colour value

Fabric shades

Some fabrics include light, medium and dark colours in the same fabric but these are quite unusual.  I’ve not used this fabric myself but I would imagine that it could be quite wasteful if your pattern included different amounts of light, medium and dark.

 

Light medium and dark fabrics

Light medium and dark fabrics

Light medium and dark fabrics

Light medium and dark fabrics

It would be more usual to have three different fabrics and often it is quite easy to grade them for colour value as in these fabrics.  However, you must remember that these fabrics are light, medium and dark only against each other.

The medium fabric on the right becomes the light fabric on the right when set against different fabrics.

If you are unsure of the colour value of two different fabrics relative to each other, try greyscaling them on your printer.  I would have put the dark blue in the photo above as being medium to the dark of the pink, but the greyscale picture shows that the pink is in fact the medium of the three shown.

So why does quilt colour value matter?

In the first instance it is to provide variation for the eye.  If your quilt is made up of only light fabrics, they can become blurred into one when you look at the whole quilt.  Variation in colour value keeps the eye interested.

Quilted table runner

Quilted table runner

When I chose the fabric for this table runner I thought that the orange triangles would contrast with the brown squares.  In fact they are too close in colour value and tend to blend with the brown squares.

The other major reason that colour value matters is to provide depth to your quilt.  This log cabin block looks three dimensional because of the light/dark contrast.  Tumbling blocks and attic windows also rely on careful placement of light, medim and dark.

That gives you another aspect to keep in mind when choosing your fabric!

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