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Color Value and Contrast in Quilts

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Forget about Color, It's Color Value That's Critical
Color Value for Quilters

Start sorting fabrics on a design wall.

© Janet Wickell

Color Value Helps You Choose Quilting Fabrics

Color value is a term that refers to how light or dark a color is in relation to surrounding colors. Color value helps quilters decide how to arrange patches of fabric to make them either blend or contrast with each other.

If the term color value is confusing, just think contrast instead.

Experiment with Contrast

One of the best ways to get comfortable with color value is to experiment with quilting fabrics placed on a design wall. A piece of flannel works just fine, and so does a piece of Styrofoam -- use any material that will hold fabrics in place.

  1. Gather a group of fabric swatches of different colors.
  2. Place them side by side on the wall, starting with the lightest fabric and moving across the wall with darker pieces.
  3. Step back. Does the line of fabrics blend subtly from light to dark or are there fabrics that pop out to interrupt the flow? Re-sort the fabrics and check again.

You didn't do anything "wrong" if the organization still isn't quite right. It's easy to sort fabrics when they're all basically the same color, but throw in multiple colors and it becomes more of a challenge, in part because you're adding another characteristic that changes contrast -- color warmth.

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