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What are colour value, tonals, etc.?

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Brigit-Carol posted on Wed, Nov 7 2012 8:14 AM

I'm involved (or trying to be) in two mystery quilts and having problems picking fabrics that match.  I keep hearing terms about making sure color tonals are not too close or matching colour values.  Realising I'm a newbie, could someone please explain these terms?  Also, someone mentioned using a red/green gizmo (sorry can't remember the actual term) to test whether the colours were right.  When I make a quilt, I make sure that there are colours in common between the various fabrics.  But I gather that is not the way to go?  Many thanks.

Brigit-Carol

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Patti replied on Wed, Nov 7 2012 9:13 AM

I have learned from the mystery quilts, and Nana, so much about what works in this regard.  If you go back and look at the quilts from previous MQs it will be easy to see that the best were those that paid attention to light, dark and medium.  I have had a couple MQs where I thought just having contrast between the colors, was enough, and they all had medium value.  It came out too busy and the pattern was lost.  I couldn't see the stars.   A table runner I did had fabrics that looked great together.  But sewn together, the pattern was lost. 

Patti

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Patti replied on Wed, Nov 7 2012 9:15 AM

One beautiful fabric next to another beautiful fabric makes both look common.   The less bright next to a bright makes the bright stand out.  Or a light, among darks, makes the light glow. 

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Nana replied on Wed, Nov 7 2012 9:18 AM

If you can take a pic of your fabrics and then adjust the camera settings so that the pic shows up as black and white you will be able to see the "value" of the fabrics.    They will show as shades of grey or black.   If they all show up as about the same color grey then you need to switch some of your fabrics to have lighter ones and darker ones.   By doing this you add contrast to your quilt and the pattern becomes more noticeable and pleasing to the eye.

I hope that this made sense because I feel like I am rambling....don't think the brain is functioning yet...LOL

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Agnes replied on Wed, Nov 7 2012 9:19 AM

There are specific definitions for tone, value, etc which always remain muddled in my brain. OH, I have been a very active quilter for 20 years. The bottom line is you want contrast. Easiest way for me was to throw away the green/red windows and either take a photo or scan the fabrics in question, placing them beside the ones that would be together in the design. Then I either view or print it in black and white or gray scale. If too similar in depth they will show up the same in gray.Hope my explanation has shed some light and not just muddied the water even more.

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Kris replied on Wed, Nov 7 2012 11:42 AM

Tonals are fabrics that appear solid but if you look closely are variegated (light and dark of the same colour).

 "Tone on tone" (background and print are the same colour).

Value refers to how light or dark a fabric is when compared with another. Value is always relative except when dealing with black (dark) or white (light). As Nana stated, it is easy to determine value if you have a black and white image of your fabrics.

Neutrals are any colours not found on the colour wheel.

If you have good colour contrast you can get away with using the same value fabrics although, I think, you can use whatever is pleasing to you regardless of colour, value etc.

Colours opposite each other on the colour wheel will give you high contrast while those closer together will give lower contrast.

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These are all great answers, you guys - clearly explained and easy to understand!  You should get together and write a quilting book!  :-)


On the banks of the Mississippi River in north central Minnesota (Brainerd lakes area)

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I am taking a year long class at my LQS on Color and Design. The name of the book we are using is A Fiber Artist's Guide to Color and Design by Heather Thomas. She explains very clearly about color and the different terms used to discribe color. A very worthwhile book in my opinion. In the book there are different workshops that we will be doing every month to learn about color and hopefully to teach me something! So far it has been a fun class.

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