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5 YR Munsell Color Exercise

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Here are all the color chips. This photo does not do justice to the colors. It is a dark dreary day and it’s hard to get a good photo.
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Here are the chips all in their proper place. As you can see I’m missing one piece. But the kit only says there will be 24 chips and that’s what I have….

The red-yellow cards have so many brown or so called “neutrals” in them. The darker shades of red-yellow go immediately into the brown territory. Mahagony, tan, beige, leathers, tobacco. Also most skin tones are in the red-yellow family.

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Color–Part 3 VALUE

No doubt! Value is the hardest color dimension to talk about. I have found that seeing the value of color is a learned skill. It is hard to differentiate and so it is very frustrating.  Value is the lightness or darkness of the color, it is also is a measure of color purity and saturation.  Here is the gray scale that is used to help determine the value of a hue. While it is relatively easy to see the differences in value between white, gray and black, it is not so easy to see the value of colors. The color itself skews our perception of the value. Some hues like yellow are more likely to be at the top end of the scale, while purple is more likely to be at the darker end of the scale.



The human eye can see about 5 steps of this scale. The “pure” white, “pure” black, neutral gray and a step between those 3 values. In the real world, there are many more nuances of value. When I was learning about value, one strategy that helped was to squint or partially closed your eyes and look at the yarn, fabric, or photo and the value would be easier to see. The squinting reduces the number of color sensitive cells (cones) that are activated, while the cells that perceive light (rods) are still activated. Try this with a favorite photograph and see if you can differentiate among the values in that photograph.

There are a couple of “tricks” that we can use today.  One is the computer.  You can take a photo and change it to a black and white photo.  Also you can use red or green plastic ……to see the value differences.



If you are intrigued and would like to learn more, register for my color class on September 6th at 1pm.  Go to the fiber class page to register.  We will be doing lots of experiments to train our eyes to be better color detectors.

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Color Exercise–Red


Here are all the color chips in the exercise
I start the exercise by finding all the chips that are “shades”. That means that they have varying amounts of grey mixed with the color. I line these up from lightest to darkest
Then I begin to match the value of the chips on the left and put those in order from least amount of red to most amount of red. Do you see my mistake? I couldn’t figure out where that one chip went….until….
I checked the pure hue from the first color wheel exercise. I was able to see that I had the wrong chip in the 5R space and I could move the one pesky chip into the correct spot. I am getting better at seeing the differences in the chips. In order to get better at seeing color, you have to train your eyes.

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Color Part 2

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.

naturally dyed mohair

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Color Part 1

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.

PicMonkey Collagered

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Studying Color

“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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