Complementary Color and Splits

This is the 3rd in the series about color theory and how to use this knowledge to pick colors and patterns for your knitting or crochet. If you want to watch the video, click here.

Last time we talked about the soothing color harmonies of monochromatic and analogous color harmony. Today we will be getting more “exciting”. Our eyes and brains are always looking for excitement. The 2 color harmonies we are talking about are complementary colors and split complementaries.

Complementary colors are those that are directly across from each other on the colorwheel. So red and green are complements as are orange/blue and purple/yellow. These are the most exciting to our eyes. When they are right next to each other they make our eyes almost vibrate. So these are almost “dangerous” together. When using this harmony, there are a few guidelines that I think will help you make a more harmonious interaction. First if you are going to make stripes, your stripes should be several rows wide. If you change your color every 1 or 2 rows, the colors will actually start to mix and your sock or shawl will take on a gray tone. This is because when we mix the two complementaries together they do make a neutral gray or brown color. So wider stripes will be better. You also need to pay attention to the values of the complementary yarns you are using.

Remember when we talked about Value? If you pick a very high value yellow and a very low level purple, you will be multiplying the excitement. If you pick a red and green that are really close in value, you will be multiplying the chances of getting a grayed out shawl or sweater.

I would also suggest that you swatch! I know this is a dirty word, but do it anyway. A few minutes of swatching the actual stitch and row pattern, will save you from spending time on a pair of socks or shawl that you absolutely hate.

Let’s move on to color harmony #2 for today. This is Split Complementary. This harmony moves away from the extreme of complementary and can be more pleasing and more soothing than a complementary color scheme. So what is it? To find the split complementary, you look at the color on either side of the complementary color.

Here are some examples: Yellow and purple are complements. So the split complementary would be purple and yellow-green or yellow-orange. Think of this as purple with chartreuse/lime green or purple and cheddar. These colors were wildly popular in quilting a few years back.

The other side of that would be yellow with red-violet or yellow with blue-violet. In nature you would see these colors in pansies and irises. We love those right?

For the red-green complement, you would have red and teal or red and charteuse. That sounds horrible right? But how about green with red-violet and green with red-orange.

And finally the orange-blue complement, you would have orange with teal or orange with blue-violet. Or Blue with red-orange and blue with red-violet.

Here are some patterns that work well with complementary or split complementary colorways. My new shawl is complete, but the pattern is not. As soon as it is available, I’ll let you all know.  The Olilia  shawl is really nice with complementary colors. You can find it on Ravelry.