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Exploring the Fascinating World of Colour Theory

by Laura Eccleston

03 Apr 2023


Exploring the Fascinating World of Colour Theory
Thinking about colour
When it comes to crocheting a project we can often just jump over to our yarn stash and pick some random colours we like or what we think the person we are making the project for will like. We sometimes put very little thought into the colours we choose. A lot of our yarn decision making can be based simply on what we like and what we have available in our stash, but in reality our colour choices can be a very important part of the creative process.

We all have our favourite colours, colours that evoke a feeling or memory for us. Maybe yellow makes you feel happy and reminds you of summer picnics or perhaps it's purple because it makes you feel relaxed. Maybe you're a nature lover and it's all about the greens and the browns. Whatever colour inspires you or you think will inspire the same feeling in others, this thought process is called Colour Theory.

As a graphic and web designer by trade before I started HappyBerry, this was something that I learnt such a long time ago in art college back in the 90s because it was important to use colour theory as a way to evoke a feeling in a design or to promote a particular brand. How colour interacts with other colours is also very important when it comes to creating a pleasing and effective design and understanding this process is essential for anyone working as an artist or designer, within marketing or even when crocheting.

So what are the basics of color theory?
As I'm sure you know from your school days, there are three main primary colours; red, blue and yellow. We call them primary because they cannot be made from mixing any other colours. This is essential knowledge for any artist out there because you can make all the colours you can think of from just these three primary colours - perhaps with some mixing from black and white - so you can save quite a lot on paint costs if you get good at this!

Random Fact: White and black are not actually colours, even though we call them colours because black is the absence of all visible light, whilst white is the presence of all visible light, hence a rainbow when light is refracted. They are really only just shades of grey, with white being the lightest shade and black being the darkest. So in art and design, black and white are often used as design elements to create contrast, tone, and texture, but, technically, they are not considered colours in their own right in the same way as red, blue, or yellow are.

Secondary colours come next and they are created by mixing two of the primary colours together. So for example, to make orange you would mix red and yellow, to make green you would mix blue and yellow and for purple you would mix red and blue. Then you would move on to tertiary colours, which are created by mixing a primary and a secondary colour together. 

The colour wheel
A colour wheel is a visual representation of this relationship between colours. The three primary colours are evenly spaced around the wheel, and the secondary colours are located between them. The tertiary colours are located between the primary and secondary colours, but sadly I didn't have enough yarn colours to add them to this picture, but if they were there you would see mixes of red and purple, purple and blue and so on.

Complementary colours
Complementary colours are colours that are opposite to each other on the colour wheel. These colours create the most contrast when used together, making them a popular choice for designs that need to be eye-catching or attention-grabbing. Examples of complementary colours would include red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple. So if you want to design something bold and beautiful in your next crochet project then adopt complementary colours in your next design.

Analogous colours

We also have analogous colours. These are colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel. These colours are harmonious and often create a soothing effect when used together. Examples of analogous colours would be blue, blue-green, and green. Analogous colours are probably used the most when designing a pretty Instagram worthy image so if you've ever seen a photo online that immeditaley felt asthetically pleasing to you, then you were probably looking at an image of analogous colours brought together.

Triadic colours
Lastly we have triadic colours, which are three colours evenly space around the colour wheel. These colours create a vibrant and energetic look when used together and an example of these would be red, yellow and blue!

Warm & cool colours
Colours are also thought to be either warm or cool and so different coloured yarns can be used to evoke different feelings. For example, using reds, oranges and yellows would evoke feelings of warmth, passion and energy because they are associated with fire, sunsets, autumn and love, whereas colours like blue, green or purple would be used to evoke a sense of calm and relaxation and are often associated with things like water, the ocean and nature.

There are also neutral palettes. This is where our soft creams, browns and greys come in, even black and white. Neutral colours are often associated with sophistication, minimalism and cleanliness, and this is especially relevant when we look at modern kitchen design or home-ware accessories, but the most important aspect within a neutral palette is the stronger colour used around them. For example, a dash of dark woody brown used against a light grey and soft cream can be quite dramatic and really evoke a feeling of depth and warmth, or a dash of purple used alongside a grey and an off-white can evoke feelings of gentle coolness, maybe rainy days so, how we use these small colour additions around a neutral palette is very important. If we use too much purple or too much brown the feeling of minimalism can be lost and we enter into a cooler or warmer palette and a different feeling altogether.

Understanding colour theory is essential for creating effective designs. The right colour choice can really help communicate your intended message and evoke the desired emotions from the viewer. For example, perhaps the item you are making is for someone who loves the outdoors, so using earthy tones like greens and browns can convey a sense of nature and adventure. On the other hand, if you were creating something for a spa or well-being retreat, you might choose to use cool, calming colours like blue and purple to evoke a sense of relaxation and tranquility.

Colour theory can get quite deep and can seem a little complicated. Even cultural differences can play a part in our colour perceptions and something as simple as changing the exact hue or saturation of a colour can evoke a completely different feeling, but over-all, understanding these colour theory basics listed here can really up-lift your creative projects. So next time you muse over your yarn stash, take a few moments to look at colour combinations and think about the feeling you want to evoke in your next crochet project. It may just surprise you!

Each quarterly issue of our new digital magazine "Naturally HappyBerry: Crochet, Nature & Mindfulness" we will be showcasing a colour palettes based on the current season. If you'd like to know more about our new digital magazine coming soon to HappyBerry+ then click here

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