Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Color Wheel - Complements and Split Complements

Several years ago, I took a six day course on the use of color in painting. The local instructor was very knowledgeable; her text was a self-published book “Color is Exciting”. Velma Bartlemay brought the subject alive, and all of us students ended up with a thorough background on techniques of paint mixing and hue and tint color composition.

There is a terrific website entirely devoted to color. Check it out at Colour. Hundreds of essays are submitted daily about lots of different ways that color affects us, and great tips and techniques when working with color in any type application. One piece of writing is featured on a daily basis.

Back to the Color Wheel: As you probably know, complementary colors are those colors directly across from one another on the color wheel. Littletownmart gives this example of a color wheel and further explains...

Split Complementary Colors are "one off" from the opposite color. Pick a color, find it's complementary color, then select the two colors on either side of the complementary color. Split Complementary color schemes can use two or three colors.
Note :
Click here for an excellent and in-depth discussion and teaching on colors and the color wheel.

New super washed wool sock yarn arrived in the mailbox yesterday, and the blue and pinkish colors are outstanding. The use of split complementary colors in the skein will make the colors pop out.

Example 1:
In the smaller ball of yarn, to be used for baby booties, the manufacturer (Cascade) made good use of split complementary colors in that yarn lot. The color red is directly across from blue on the chart. Split complementary colors of pinks and oranges in the yarns (grayed down reds which are split complementary colors to the blue) are married with the grey (a grayed down blue).

Example 2:
The larger skein of predominantly blue yarn is paired with its complementary color of orange and its’ split complementary colors of yellow and orangish-reddish hues: another use of split complementary colors that the yarn manufacturer skillfully applied to this yarn lot.

However, in knitting, when various colors of yarn are put together, the eye often play tricks. Another knitting blogger, Kristin, at KnittingKninja says:

colors are changed by the presence of another color. Two objects I’ve knit really demonstrated this truth to me. My daughter’s … jacket is knit in bright purple wool, and I added stripes of two different blues, both blues that have a lot of yellow in them. Next to the purple, the lighter of the two appears to be a pale sage green, but on its own, the ball of yarn is a blue-grey.
So remember, even when we carefully select our colors, sometimes the juxtaposition of the colors can make the end product a different color mix in the perception of the eye.

That is the art of putting colors together: even when we use color wheel matching techniques, the eye pleasing arrangement is not always what is anticipated. Sometimes, it comes out even better! In this case, the little jacket swatch shows a very effective and elegant use of complementary colors.

It is a good thing to keep that old color wheel in mind when selecting colors in room d├ęcor, knitting articles of clothing, etc. And check out the fun site Colorspeak, where you can make up your own color palettes. Lots of web designers have input on commercial use of color and address the issues in a low-key, conversant manner.

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