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How to match fabric colours armonically

Una palette di colori ricavata da un paesaggio naturale (foto)

Colours can build narratives, they do modernise shapes and materials, and can convey value messages too.

Colours in a dress always represent a core element: from a fashion designer point of view they can be inspirational or, on the contrary, may result distracting.

We all have some favourite colours, but what if we have to match three or more?

Fabric designers have two possible solutions to this dilemma:

  • creating a palette starting by choosing a material source
  • using color theory principles

Come progettare i colori per disegnare un tessuto: fonti materiali

The easiest thing to do is to “scan” source materials to find the best colours for the project.

Source material can be anything:

  • natural sources (a flower or a landscape, for example) (ad esempio le sfumature di un fiore o la visione di un paesaggio)
  • whatever (photographs, artworks, products packaging, fabric or paint samples, etc..)

You can keep a colour journal where to gather and store clippings of colour and colour combinations.

Often, colours borrowed from nature are insufficient, so a basic understanding of colour theory can help expanding and (or) adjusting the original palette.

Colour theory

The colour wheel features twelve colours.

Cerchio cromatico di base (disegno)
A basic colour wheel

The primary colours (red, blue, yellow) are arranged equidistant from one another.

The spaces between them are filled with secondary colours (green, orange, violet) which are resulting from mixing equal proportions of two primary colours.

Six tertiary colours result from mixing equal proportions of a primary colour and a secondary colour (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, yellow-green).

In order to build the first colour schemes, ideal would be to use real paint: watercolors, acrylics or gouache (an opaque watercolor).

The twelve basic colours shown in the colour wheel are referred as hues.

We can easily alter these hues by adding white, black or gray producing tints, shades, and tones, respectively.

Tints are commonly referred to as pastels .

Disegno con le definizioni dal cerchio cromatico: tinta, tonalità, tono, ombra
Colour wheel basic definitions (drawing)

Value refers to the darkness or lightness of a hue. Adding white or black gives a hue a lighter or darker value, respectively.

Saturation refers to the intensity of a hue. Adding white, black, or gray decreases the saturation.

Temperature refers to warm and cool colours. Reds, oranges, and yellows are considered the warm side; greens, blues, and violets are the cool side.

Come progettare i colori per disegnare un tessuto
Complete color wheel showing tints, hues, tones, and shades

In truth you may encounter different types of colour wheels based on different primary colours (for example: cyan, magenta, yellow), or on fewer or more colours, but similar principles underlie them all.

Basic colour schemes

How to match colours armonically for your fabric?

Combining hues that lie in a logical relationship to one another on the colour wheel it is possibile to obtain harmonious colour schemes.

  • Monochromatic: tints, shadows, and tones of a single hue.
  • Complement: two hues that lie across from each other on the Colour Wheel.
  • Near complement: one hue in combination with the neighbor of its complement.
  • Split complement: one hue in combination with the hues on either side of its complement.
  • Triad: a combination of three hues spaced evenly on the Colour Wheel.
  • Tetrad: a combination of four hues spaced evenly on the Colour Wheel.
  • Rectangular tetrad: a pair of complements together with the hues two spots over.
  • Analogous: three or more hues that are adjacent on the Colour Wheel.
  • Analogous complement: three analogous hues together with the complement of the center hue.

These schemes should be used as foundations, the point is how proportions are used in order to mix scheme colours.

You can try choosing one color from the basic scheme as main colour, and add just a tiny speck to each of the other colours in the scheme.

You can further extend the scheme by adding tints, shades, and tones of the basic hues and the mixtures thereof.

Insights

https://worqx.com/color/index.htm

https://www.colourlovers.com/palettes

https://www.schemecolor.com

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