Color Theory for Yarn Crafts

Brittany from BHooked Crochet, a talented crochet teacher and designer, is totally head over heels in love with color! Her crochet patterns feature eye-popping color combinations for every style and taste. So, who better to introduce the concept of color theory and how you can use it to plan your next project than Brittany herself!

What is color theory (and how can it relate to crochet?)

Color theory blends two of my favorite things - science and art. It explains our conscious awareness of what’s around us; the colors we see, how they blend and how they make up our world. It’s a visual form of communication and we can use it to express a thought, feeling or emotion in our crochet projects.

What’s even better? You can create a memoir through your crochet projects with what you’ll learn here today about color theory and how it relates to crochet.  

The color wheel

Although "color theory" has several facets of meaning, when you hear the phrase, you’re likely to visualize a color wheel. Am I right?

The first color wheel was created by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666. It has gone through many changes and transformations along the way but designers and artists still use it today to develop color harmonies and create a palette that is visually appealing.

The color wheel is the most valuable tool in my designer’s toolkit. I use it and the principles we’ll discuss here to plan each of my designs.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors

The color wheel is based on the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. These three colors cannot be formed by mixing any combination of colors. They are the foundation for all colors.

Secondary colors are green, orange, and purple and are the result of blending primary colors. When you mix yellow and blue, the result is green; yellow and red, you get orange; red and blue, you guessed it, purple.

Have you ever looked at a crochet project with yellows, reds, and oranges and felt energized, excited or happy? That’s because warm colors instill these thoughts, feelings and emotions into our minds.

What about the feeling you had when you laid eyes on a project with blues, greens, or purples? I bet you felt calm, relaxed and maybe even peaceful. Cool colors are known to evoke these emotions when we look at them.

Using the color wheel to plan your crochet projects

Now the question we crocheters have - how do I pick colors for my projects? The answer is in the schemes. Color schemes, that is!

Using the color wheel, you can make this daunting task a little more fun. When browsing through the various shades of yarn available, have a color wheel image handy and remember the three main color schemes: complementary, analog, and triadic.

Complementary colors

Complementary colors are two colors that are opposite on the color wheel like purple and yellow, blue and orange, or red and green.

Choosing complementary yarn colors can really make a statement because there is a sharp contrast between the two, incorporating a warm and cool color.

Now let’s say you’d like to make a project with more than two colors. Can you still use complementary colors? Absolutely! Let’s say you want to use the complementary colors purple and yellow. Using the tertiary color wheel, you can pull out one or two variants of purple and yellow to pair in your project.

Analogous colors

Analogous sit beside one another on the color wheel. For example, purple, blue, and green.

I find that using analogue colors is one of the easiest ways to plan a crochet project with color! On my color wheel here, I picked four neighboring colors to jump start the project planning process.

Do you see the harmony here? These colors make me feel bright, cheery, and energized; the exact emotion I want to portray in a baby blanket!

To make these colors pop even more, I have paired them with white as the main color, clearly defining each color. That separation is great to have with color analogues because they are often very close to one another. More on choosing main colors in a bit!

Triadic colors

Another way to plan colors for your crochet projects is to use triadic color schemes. Triadic colors are three equally spaced colors on the color wheel and tend to be very bright and dynamic. For example, orange, yellow and blue.

Using a triadic color scheme is a great way to balance contrast and harmony in one fun crochet project.

Colors and the emotions they evoke

Our projects are more than a way to occupy our hands. Yarn isn’t just something we do, it’s who we are and through yarn and the projects we create with it, we can create a memoir.

As you’re planning your next project, tap into your current state of mind. What are you feeling or how are you trying to make the recipient of your gift feel? Use this as a guideline when planning the colors you would like to incorporate in your project.

Red: Red is a special color. It has the ability to make us feel opposing emotions ranging from passion and love to anger and aggression.

Orange: Orange is a bright and balanced color giving us feelings of energy and friendliness.

Yellow: Yellow is the brightest of all colors portraying energy, hope, laughter, and happiness.

Green: Green is a symbol of health, wealth, and new beginnings. It’s easy on the eyes and can instill feelings of calm and relaxation into your projects.

Blue: Ah blue. My favorite color! Blue portrays feelings of calmness and trust. Like green, blue is pleasing to the eye and can make you feel calm and relaxed.

Purple: Purple evokes creativity and soothes those who see it. It is also associated with royalty and luxury.

Picking a main color

Once you have chosen your color palette based on what we have seen so far, the final step in planning your project is to pick a main color.

Black, gray, tan, and white (and all the variants within) are defined as neutral colors and are a good choice for a main color in your project. Although you can pair any of these neutrals with your chosen color palette, think about the context when making your selections.

How colors “behave” with one another is the basis of color context. Do you want the colors to pop or blend?

Black and white are great choices when you are using bright colors and you want them to pop. Alternatively, gray and tan are great choices when using cool colors you want to blend and be a little more soothing and relaxing.

To learn more about the skills you need to plan and execute stunning projects, check out the Bhooked Crochet site.

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