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Developing Color Confidence

A while back, I asked in a survey about your biggest knitting challenges. And one of you wrote: "Maybe color choice is an intuitive skill, I have a color wheel have taken color theory classes, making a faded sweater from my leftovers has not produced results I am happy with, buying and matching colors on line is not working for me."

First, if you wrote this or could have written this yourself, I feel you. Picking colors can be challenging, and perhaps some people do have more of an intuitive sense of color. But, let's go back to what I wrote in the previous newsletter: if you have a growth mindset, you'll know that color selection is a skill you can develop, not something that you're either born with or not. So with that being said, what can you do to develop the skill?

First, get familiar with color theory. I've written a few previous articles about the basics of color theory, and you can find those on my blog:
Color Theory Terminology
Using the Color Wheel
Value in Color Theory

Figuring out how to use the color wheel can help you get started in thinking about at least the families of colors to look at. But if you've done that and understand it but still have a hard time with choosing colors, I have more ideas for you.

The biggest one is practice. Practice looking at colors and color combinations and figure out which combinations appeal to you. Don't look at yarn for this practice. Instead, start by looking at the world around you: nature, your home, magazines, online images. Find some images that make you happy, that you find beautiful. Then look at the colors in those images. What colors are together? How does that pink play against that teal? Is that something you would have picked out for yourself? Possibly not, but in this picture, you can see how much those colors work together.

Just look and look and look and figure out what you like. Take pictures and save them to your computer or device in a folder called Color Inspiration or something of that sort. Then use a website or app that pulls a color palette from a photo so you can see which colors are present in that image that appeals to you.  (Search for "color palette from image" to find lots of options.)

For example,  I went to a website called Color Palette FX and uploaded the following image:

After that, it gave me swatches of quite a few colors which are found in the image. (Some sites/apps give you 4-5 colors only, which can be helpful in narrowing things down to just a few colors that work well together.)

What's really neat about this website is that you can click on any of the colors to the right of your image and it will give you the complement color (which is the one on the opposite side of the color wheel) and the two colors that work with your chosen color for a triad.

So you could pull together colors specifically in the lineup of colors from the photo or you can pick one color from the photo and then work with the color wheel (work already done for you) to pick color options.

Another option (which I think you should do in addition to finding images/sights on your own that are appealing) is to follow social media accounts that post inspiration photos with a color palette. For example,  one of my favorites is Design Seeds, which has a blog and Instagram account (though IG seems to not be updated as much lately, there are tons of previous posts to look through). I've saved quite a few screen shots of posts from accounts like this to my Color Inspiration folder. It really has helped me look at color in some new ways and combinations. 

Once you have some ideas of color combinations you'd like to try, you can then start looking at yarn and trying to make some similar color palettes with yarn colors for projects. And sometimes that is best done in person. Take your color inspiration images/palettes with you to the yarn shop or fiber festival. (Don't rely on your memory.) Mix and match, actually pulling colors from the shelves to really see how things go together. Don't be afraid to grab colors that you might initially think wouldn't work in a million years. Once you see those two colors side by side, you might be surprised at how well they work together. And if they don't, just quietly put them back on the shelf and try something else.

Shopping for yarn online when you're trying to pick out colors can be a challenge because even when pictures closely resemble the color on the dyer's monitor, that doesn't mean it will match with what you're seeing on your monitor. So if you want to know if Colors A, B, and C might work together, ask. Ask the dyer what he/she thinks about that color combination. Ask if it's possible to get a picture of those three colors together. (I'm totally happy to do that for you with my yarn!)

So just practice practice practice with color. Pay attention to the color combinations you see around you. Seek out color palette inspiration and save those images that you gravitate toward so you can look back at them the next time you need to pick out colors for a project. The more you work with color (and not just in yarn!) the more comfortable you'll be with color and the more you will feel like you can trust your color choices.

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