April 23rd, 2013

Tuesday’s Tip – Selecting Colors Using Black and White

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One of the most challenging aspects of a project is selecting the colors. It can be difficult to tell which colors “go” well together. Frequently, I spend hours knitting only to discover I don’t really like how those colors I chose came together in the end. In today’s post, J shows us how we can select colors easily by using black and white photographs. He recently knit the Color Affection Shawl, so we asked him to share what he learned.

“Affection for Contrasting Colors or What Do You See in Shades of Gray?”

Every now and again as fiber artists we are tasked with choosing colors. The Kangaroo Dyer’s Color Grid is a great tool for picking colors and we make use of it regularly. For the purpose of this color exercise, we’re going to focus on the properties of color in relation to one another, specifically contrast and we’ll use the broad color palette of  Cascade 220 as an example. (And not just because it’s less than $6 a skein for the rest of April and May, but it is!)

Step One – Grab a skein of each of the colors you are considering (2 or more)
Step Two – Take a picture
Step Three – Make it black and white.
That’s it, three steps! Repeat as necessary with different color choices to your heart’s content.

When viewing your skeins in black and white, if two colors are close in their representation of gray, there will be little, to no, contrast. If the skeins can be distinguished in their representation of gray – TA-DA contrast! Below are some examples that will help illustrate this concept.

Group A: White #8505, Cotton Candy #9478, and Magenta #7803. Notice that the black and white photo shows white, gray, and black. We can see strong contrast between the skeins in both images. This means the colors won’t get lost when used together, and each will stand out in its own way.

Group B: Black #8555, Peacock #2447, and Purple Jewel Heather #7811. See what happens in the black and white version? These skeins show as three similar shades of gray -not good for showing off any of these colors. They don’t look terrible together, but they have similar tone so each gets lost in the other.

To compare these first two groups, with Group A you could stand far away and easily tell the differences in color – great contrast. In Group B the difference is so minimal that none of them take a prominent place – great if you want colors to blend, not so great if you want contrast.

Group C: Christmas Red #8895, Silver Grey #8401, and Blue Hawaii #9421. When viewed as black and white, two of these are similar, but the third stands out –  great for when you want a single color to pop. The light gray and aqua are similar in tone to each other leaving the red to take a more prominent place in your project.

Group D: Christmas Red #8895, Charcoal Grey #8400, and Blue Hawaii #9421. See how just changing the shade of gray makes a difference? It now stands in stronger contrast to the other two, helping to highlight the aqua, while still having more brightness than the red.

It should be noted that “true color” is difficult to represent on a computer screen, so this is just a guideline as color will  vary relative to your settings, the manufacturer of your screen, and the effects of the light that surrounds your screen. This is why sometimes the “color you thought you saw”, looks different when the skein is in front of you. (I love Franklin Habit’s yarn-shaming tumblr because it helps us to laugh at just this sort of thing.)

Do you like making multi-colored projects? How do you pick your colors?

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