Among the hues on a hue wheel or color wheel, there are primary colors from which all other colors can be made, theoretically. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. The secondary colors are created by adding 2 primary colors together. Red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green and blue and red make purple. Lastly there are tertiary colors. These are made by adding a primary color to the secondary color. So add red to orange and you get red-orange. Or add yellow to orange and you get yellow-orange. I hear some of you saying, I know that…I learned it in grade school.
But wait, it isn’t black and white (pun intended). Secondary are not limited to simply orange, purple and green. There are many variations. The same is true of tertiary colors. . The variations depend on the amounts of each hue that is added to another. That’s where the fun begins for a dyer like me. In my dye pot, magic can take place. Did you know that teal and purple can make a navy blue? I wouldn’t have guessed it, but I get that hue time and again with one of the dye types I use. Try this experiment: Use your child’s watercolor set and play with the colors. Make the secondary colors with only red, blue and yellow. Can you make more than one orange hue? Or purple hue? Or green hue? Add a comment and share what you found out.
Most people can distinguish between colors, but very few have the vocabulary to describe the colors that they see. There is Red-Orange and Orange-Red…what is the difference? When you see a color in isolation, can you characterize it enough to describe it to another person?
I am studying color this summer in a new way. I’ve taken many color classes and last year my weaving study group spent the whole year on color. So this is what I’ve learned. Color is the overarching idea. When talking about Blue or Green or even Blue-Green, you need to use the word Hue. In fact in the Munsell system of color, he doesn’t called it the “Color Wheel”, no, he calls it the “Hue Wheel”. Within the Hue family, there are tints (white added) and shades (gray/black added) in varying degrees.
Try this experiment: Take a flower from your garden or a beautiful cherries at the farmer’s market and describe its hue. And try to use language that does not include the name of the object, so you can’t use the phrase rose red or cherry red. Add a comment below and share your experience.
“Can you teach me about color?” That’s what many people say to me. I love your colors. I just never know what to choose. A few years ago, when I taught dyeing, I just assumed that people would know what colors they liked and would be able to choose the dye to make yarn that color. It wasn’t so simple. The students would look at my yarn and copy it. I got smarter and more strategic and now I have my students look at magazines or at Pinterest and pick some images that they like. Then we can dissect those images and pick colors they can use to learn how to dye.
I am constantly trying to hone my knowledge about color and how it affects our lives. I have noticed that we all SEE colors differently. Art historians believe that the impressionists like Van Gogh and Monet saw colors much more vibrantly than others around them. So this summer, I am working on the Munsell Student Color Set.
The colors come in a small pad. They are not in any particular order that I can see. AND there isn’t an answer sheet. So it really is a good exercise. The way I approached this experience was to look for the clear hues that had little or no grey in them. Those go on the right side of the rows. Then I looked for the shades (greyed hues) that were the same value as the true hue in each row. I then made sure that the saturation (lightness/darkness) of the shades proceeded in order from lightest at the top to the darkest at the bottom. I did this early in the morning with the clearest, brightest light. Then throughout the day I walked past them to see if there was any color chip out of place. Every once in a while, something seemed wrong to me, so I would move the chips around to see if it made more sense. Finally, I glued them down. The book wants you to glue them with a “post-it” kind of glue, so that you can remove the chips and use them in further exercises. I hope to remember to pick up some of that glue….gotta put that on a list! The book is fantastic. It contains information about colors, hues, values and interactions. It also contains a lot of exercises to hone color knowledge. A caveat: many of the color books available are geared towards painters and while the principles are the same, the way that fiber artists work with color is different and has to be taken into account. So if you want to learn about color, get this book and complete the activities! You will work with color a whole lot differently after you do!
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