Seeing color, let alone talking about it, can be a challenge. When you think about it, you never really see a color on its own; it’s always affected by its surroundings.
Therefore, it’s incredibly important for quilters to understand how colors fit within the greater context of a quilt composition. While on the hunt for a harmonious group of fabrics, it’s helpful to audition a variety of fabrics to see how they work together.
When looking at a stack of fabrics or an assembled quilt, most of us can tell which fabric sticks out like a sore thumb. But, sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint why.
Luckily, graphic designer and quilter Kari Vojtechovsky is here to explain color perception and give you color confidence! Here is an excerpt of her article from the latest issue of Modern Patchwork magazine:
What you see is what you get–or is it?
by Kari Vojtechovsky
Just how many colors can one fabric be? You can make one fabric look like a different color depending on what other colors it is near. The technical term for this effect is “simultaneous contrast.” The surrounding color(s) will have an effect on the viewer’s perception of the color itself. A color will tend to emphasize its opposite in hue, value, and saturation in an adjacent color. This means your eyes will exaggerate the differences. This is more noticeable when the fabrics are close together.
We can also exploit the principles of simultaneous contrast to make two different fabrics appear as though they are the same. With careful comparison, we can choose fabrics that seem like the same color when in fact they are different colors.
Our visual system wants to recognize a familiar object under varying light conditions. We will recognize a red apple at dusk and at midday even though the lighting of that apple has changed dramatically. Our eyes are trained to recognize which dark objects appear dark because they are in shadow and which are truly dark-colored.
We aren’t conscious of our interpretations of our environments–it happens automatically. Our ability to assign a constant color to an object despite different lighting conditions is called “color constancy.” Our eyes adapt the colors in our quilts as well. Depending on where we place a particular fabric, we may perceive it differently based on how it fits into the design.
P.S. How do you choose fabrics for your quilts? Do you use a color wheel or color theory to help you make decisions? Leave a comment below with your hints.