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24. Color Theory

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Hi there. I’m Nicole Gilbert and you’ve joined the stop scrolling and start sewing podcast. Are you new to sewing and wants to start quilting, but have no idea where to begin each Wednesday? Join me as I share the ins and outs of that quote life. If you don’t have a sewing machine, I have no idea how much fabric you need, or you’re just trying to figure out where the heck to stick that Bob in this is the podcast for you.

Hey there, Nicole here and welcome to episode 24 of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast on todays episode. I am going over all things, color theory. And you guys, this is one of my absolute favorite topics on quilting. So I cannot wait to dive in with you guys, but first, a quick listener, shout out. So today’s listener, shout out is going to be a little twist on the listener. Shout out. I’m actually giving a student shout out because my cohort from June have completed the modern cultures Academy. And Oh my gosh, the feedback that I got from them was amazing. And I can’t help myself. I want to share it with you guys. So today’s student spotlight is Jennifer Sadler. And so Jennifer says, I have been wanting to learn how to quilt. For many years. I scoured the internet and library for how to books, videos, et cetera.

I tried to sign up for classes at Joanne’s only to be disappointed because they never seem to fit my schedule. Then one day when scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post for the modern quilters Academy. After a quick review of the information, I thought I’d take a chance. The price was very reasonable and it was set up in a way that allowed me to work at my own pace. As my schedule allowed, Nicole is a fantastic teacher. Her lesson plans are thoughtfully laid out in a way that is orderly and simplistic and her weekly live Q and A’s were very helpful. Even though our class has completed their first quilts. She always makes herself available for additional questions. Her new podcast, the stop scrolling start sewing podcast is also a gym. I would strongly recommend taking Nicole’s modern quilters Academy, class five stars all the way.

I mean, you guys come on. So as a business owner and a quilting instructor, um, I genuinely can say, I couldn’t ask for more. When that showed up in my email box, I seriously ran to my husband and was like, check out what Jennifer said. And he just like, he read it. And he looked at me and he was like, I think you’re onto something here, girl. It’s like, see, I told ya, but anyway, so excited. So happy to read that. And she, in that, in that bit of feedback that she provided hit on all of the points of why I put together the modern quilters Academy. I think that we should all learn. If we want to learn how to do something we should have access to do so in an affordable manner, in an easily accessible way that fits into our schedule. Um, and we still deserve by getting all of that to still have quality teachers.

And the fact that that checked all of those boxes for Jennifer. Oh my gosh. That means the world to me. And if you’re interested in joining the modern quilters Academy, or even just, if you want to see kind of down on paper, exactly what that entails head on over to the modern culture, Q a enroll, all one word, and, um, you will be able to kind of see what that is all about. Um, and I’ll also have the link to that over in the show notes for this episode. Uh, and that’s Monaco quilter four. Okay guys, onto the episode. So I am going to go deep on color theory today. And color theory is one of my favorite topics for quilting because we focus so much on the hard skills in learning how to quilt. You know, we’re talking about cutting and seam allowances and quilting methods.

I’m pressing very tactical hard skills. You can do it or you can’t, and you have to learn how uhm, and color theory lands more on the soft skill thing. And honestly, one of the reasons why I fell in love with quilting so much is that I have like an intense love for all things creative and I very much am a maker. Like from a very small age, I was painting my furniture with, or without permission from my mom. I was, um, you know, taking, I don’t know if you remember those plastic sheets of mesh that were like eight by 11 and you would take yarn and you would like cut out the pieces and then you would use yarn to hold them together. And you’d make like cubes and like plastic vases, like really. But I was that kid who always needed like a latch hook kit, and I wanted to refinish my furniture. And I w I mean, I just always did all the things.

And one thing that I kind of always back to is that I’m somebody who can follow directions really well. And I am somebody who can put a personal touch or a personal spin on something, but I don’t have this like, intense creativity, like when I see some modern quilters. So there’s like different stages and types of modern quilters. I consider myself a modern quilter because I use bright, vibrant, modern colors in traditional quilt patterns. That’s my jam. Um, you’re very, you’re just not going to see me use, you know, um, civil war reproduction prints or anything like that. They’re beautiful. They’re just not my thing. Um, some modern quilters are recyclers. Um, let’s see if you ever get a chance to follow the full English on Instagram, he uses all, um, upcycled fabrics for his quilts. So like he sources all of his fabric from Goodwill.

And so he uses denims and flannels and corteroids and all of these different things, and he just makes beautiful designs. Um, and he, improv’s all of his patterns. Like that’s not me beautiful, so cool. I can totally appreciate it and I love following his stuff. Um, but it’s just not necessarily my zone of genius. And so that’s kind of how I, I think I gravitated towards quilting because I could take something that somebody else designed like quilt pattern makers. There are some phenomenal pattern designers out there, get their pattern. And then I could put my own personal spin on it because I would use interesting color combinations or different color combinations. Then maybe what was originally intended or what the original vibe called for. And I would make something completely new and different. And I like that. I like a little bit of structure that I can put my own spin on and quilting is so that, I mean, quilting, you know, requires, um, at least traditional quilting at least requires precise measurements, um, and repetitive processes.

Um, it’s amazing. I love it. And then I get to add my own spin and I add my own spin through color and fabric selection. So that was a long, really long winded way of saying that I think color theory is what makes my quilts so awesome. Like my grasp and knowledge of color theory. So, um, if those of you who follow me on Instagram or follow the modern quilter circle, Facebook page will know that when I share whatever project I’m working on, it’s always really bright, vibrant colors. Like, and I use, you know, not that many, like I don’t use traditional Prince in, like, if you look at the print, it’s like a picture I use prints, but they’re like blenders or batiks or some kind of marbling things of that nature. I’m not using like a bunch of crazy, like true prints. Like you’re not going to see you like little rabbits going across my fabric at any point.

Um, but again, personal preference, I’m getting off on a tangent here because I just love this topic and I could talk on and on and on about it. But what I want you guys to realize is I think there are a lot of people out there who are like, I want a quilt, but I’m not that creative. Or I want to be, you know, um, you know, a maker or whatever, but I’m just not that creative. I feel to this day that I am just not that creative, but I do really well with quilting because I’m given parameters and then I get to kind of make it a little jazzy. And so I think that’s how a lot of you will work. And I think you will find great joy in the color choice portion of it quilting. So I guess, okay, let’s talk about like, what is color theory?

So color theory is the study of how colors work in relationship to one another. And at the very heart of color theory is the color wheel. Do you remember 10th grade art drawing class, at least for me, it was 10th grade. And you had those color wheels and it was a circle and it had, you know, the 12 colors around the edges. And if you had a fancy color wheel, it like faded to white towards the middle or faded to black towards the middle, depending on what side you were looking at, um, that is the heart of color theory is this color wheel. And when you you’ve mastered the different relationships, what, which we’ll get to in a little bit, talk to you about the main reason you can really make some really cool stuff. And what I think is really important is that once you’ve really understand color theory, like, you know, how you pin all of these awesome Pinterest quilts and you fall in love with them.

And for those of you who actually are making quilts already and turning them out, you know, how every once in a while, one of your quilts did you just like I did it exactly to plan. And yet it looks kinda like a dud. It’s not as it’s not as jazzy or appealing as the, a lot of that comes from not your technique, but from your color choice. So one of the great things about color theory is that once you’ve mastered it, you can then apply the concepts to your color choice. So if you can study the original and what you loved about it, and then you could really look at it and say, okay, they’re using a triad color scheme or an analogous color scheme, or a split complimentary color scheme. You can then choose a different version of those color schemes with a different set of colors that follows that same rule pattern. And you will be able to mimic that wow factor that you saw in the original quilt pattern while choosing what you want to choose. That understanding is in valuable, Let’s go back to that color wheel. So The way that the color wheel is designed is so that virtually any colors you pick from it will look good together. Um, I know that’s a little bit vague, but the way that it’s set up is that every color is in the same Tint slash shade slash tone as its counterparts in the same rung of the wheel, so that they do look good together. They’re very harmonious. Now, traditionally, there are a number of color combinations. I apologize about this tickle in my throat that are considered kind of a specially pleasing, and those are color harmonies. And some people call them color cords. Um, and they usually consist of two or more colors with a fixed relationship in the color wheel. And so we’re going to go through kind of from kind of the more basic versions up through more technically advanced versions so that you can see how colors work together. Um, but first I will include a link to the color wheel that I use in the show notes to this episode. So if you head over to the modern culture, four, I’ll have a link to the color wheel that I use.

Also, if you are shopping for your fabric in say hobby lobby or Joanne’s, um, scoot over to the paint section, grab a color wheel, and then take it back to you with you to the fabric section, to select out your colors. Um, I did that for a while before I was just like, okay, let me invest in a color wheel. And then now I don’t even really use my color wheel so much, except when I am shopping my scraps in my closet, I’ll kind of pull it out again, but just so you know, like this, isn’t something you have to like memorize to heart. Like my color wheel still floats around in my craft room. So back to what I was talking about. So let’s start with some of the basics and the most basic color schemes, if you will, are going to be your primaries, your secondaries and your tertiary colors. And so in your primary color theory, it’s red, yellow, and blue. So they’re your primary colors. Your secondary colors are green, orange and purple. So those are the colors that you get when you mix your three primaries together. Okay. And then your third set is six tertiary colors. And those six colors come from mixing together, your primary colors with the secondary colors.


That’s, you will typically have a six section color wheel, a more advanced color wheel. There are advanced color wheels that have like 24 36 around the edges. I really don’t suggest them. It’s kind of overkill. It’s beyond the scope of really what you need. Um, but if you just turn into a color theory, officiant auto, those might be the way to go for you. But a standard 12 color color wheel is really all you’re going to need. Now, when we’re looking at our color wheel, you can also by sect the color wheel into two halves, usually you will end up crossing, uh, somewhere between Redden and violet and somewhere between a yellow and greenish yellow. Um, and that is going to be where you divide your warm colors from your cool colors. And so your warm colors are more vivid. They are more energetic and they tend to pop up off of the space that you’re creating on. So up off of a background of a quilt, if you will, your cool colors tend to give more of an impression of calm and they create a little bit more of a soothing feel to your color schemes. And now white, black, and gray are considered to be neutrals and neutrals to the point that they actually affect the colors. So there’s tints and there’s shades and there’s tones,

Hints, shades, and tones are how all of the colors react when they are mixed with white, black, or gray. Okay. So when a color or pure hue that is often what it will be referred to as in color theory, if your color or pure hue is mixed with a white, right, it’s considered a tint. So remember how I said it on a color wheel, oftentimes you’ll see the exterior colors and then they fades to the middle towards the white. And then if you flip it over, it fades in the middle towards a black, the w the side that’s facing to the white is showing the pure hue on the outer ring and all of the tents of that pier hue, the side that phase fades to the black is showing the pure around the edge and all of the shades of that pure hue. So tints are pure Hughes.

Plus a certain percentage of white shades are pure Hughes. Plus a certain percentage of blacks and tones are pure Hughes, plus a certain percentage of gray. And that is how you get tints, shades and tones. Oftentimes when we are discussing color theory, they will refer to colors simply by their pure hue name. And then you need to make the decision of whether or not it should actually be that pure hue, or it should be a tint, shade, or tone of that pure hue. So keep that in mind now, color harmonies, this is where it gets good. So color harmonies are basically color schemes. Um, they’re often referred to as color harmonies. It’s like really color theory is like its whole own little science that I am so here for. So there are a lot of terminologies and sometimes it’s just like I say the words because I know them, but I’m just like, Oh my gosh, that seems so pretentious, but it is a color harmony, technically not a color scheme.

So I’m going to go over the six. Yeah. I would say six, um, most popular color harmonies. Um, just so that you get at a kind of idea of what we’re talking about. So when we’re looking at our color wheel, all of these harmonies are I’m going to break down in reference to how they land on the color wheel. That way you can really get an idea of what this looks like in practice. So first, um, and the most basic is a complimentary color scheme and a complimentary color scheme is two colors, perfectly opposite, one another on a color wheel. So an example of that would be red and green. Another one would be blue and orange or purple and yellow. These are all complimentary color schemes. Usually we will see this quite often in holidays, red and green Christmas. And we also see this in, um, sports teams. So the New York Knicks, blue and orange, the LA Lakers purple and yellow. I mean, it goes on and on and on. Um, this is like the easiest way to get two colors that contrast nicely and play beautifully next to each other. So to keep in mind though, complimentary color schemes can be a little tricky to use in large doses. Um,

Speaker 4: (21:29)

They, if you’re doing like a really big king-sized quilt and you are using a complementary color scheme, and maybe you’re not just using two colors, so it will be two pure Hughes, but then you use a, you know, three different tents of that first hew and three different shades of the other Hugh. So yes, it’s still complimentary. Yes. They still fall directly opposite each other in the color wheel, but you’ve actually got like six colors going on. Um, it can just get a little visually boring again. So this is why it’s great for like sports jerseys. I wouldn’t really do it on a, on a large scale quilt, unless you’ve got some like really awesome visually intense piecing going on. Um, it will just be a little bit much, okay, next one, an analogous color scheme now, and then now this color scheme uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

So they usually match really well, um, and create like a really serene kind of a design. You see this a ton with blues, cause I mean, let’s face it who doesn’t love blue. Um, and so you’ll see often like blue with violet and Aqua or, you know, Indigo blue and Aqua or Aqua green and turquoise. You know, these things happen all the time. Variations of blues and greens put together. I mean, you see reds and oranges and yellows done as well. Um, but people just tend to like blues a lot. Um, what is really great is that with an analogous color scheme, you can actually put a lot of colors together. Like, I mean, you could do it, it now cause color scheme, that’s pretty much all of the warm hues. And so then you end up with six different pure colors. So you can get a lot of depth from an analogous color scheme, have a riot of color and everything really beautifully meshed together. Um, also if you choose just three, which I also do often you can choose like a primary color, like this is the base color and that’s usually the color I would pick that’s in the middle of the three that you choose. And then your two other colors, the one on each side of it, how that lands on the color wheel will be your support colors. And you get really good pop and support if that makes sense. Um, but really, really pretty.

The next one

Color harmony I want to go over is the triadic color scheme. And so this is a scholarship color steam that uses three evenly spaced colors around the color wheel. So, um, Mardi Gras is a really great example of this purple green and orange. Um, they look great together. Your primary colors are also a triadic color scheme. Your secondary colors are also a triadic color scheme.

Um, and

They work really well together. What’s great about this is that you get a good contrast when you are using colors that are not directly next to each other, and you are three to four spaces apart. Like how a triadic color scheme works out. You end up getting some really great contrast, which is something that you definitely do not want to overlook because it’s pretty cool. Okay. Next let’s talk about split complimentary color schemes. And this is where we start to get a little bit fun. This is where we start to really think a little bit outside of the box. And I really like it because I tend to find that a lot of really beautiful quilts use a split complimentary color scheme. Um, and so then when I go to choose my own version of split complimentary, you kind of get a little bit surprised at the, at the colors that kind of come out when you’re choosing it.

So a split complimentary color scheme. Now remember a complimentary color scheme is two colors opposite one another on the color wheel with a split complimentary color scheme, you’re going to pick your, your focal color. And then you’re going to find the color that’s directly opposite. But instead of choosing that one, you’re going to choose the color that is to the right and to the left of the complimentary color. So it will be a triad, but it will be, um, not a perfectly even spaced. And it is pretty cool. I love that. It’s you get, it’s kind of a hybrid between a complimentary color scheme and an analogous color scheme, and it’s just, I’m here for it. I like it. I really, really like it. So that’s one that I like to play around with a lot. Okay. Next up is the rectangle or Tetrad stick color harmony. And that uses a color scheme with four colors in rate arranged into two complimentary pairs.

I’ll repeat that. So it is four colors. You pick two complimentary pairs, so red and green, blue and orange. Well, no, cause that one’s a little bit more square, but they’re going to be kind of, you have to make sure they land in a rectangle. So red and green, and we could do turquoise and red orange and that’ll give you a nice rectangle. Um, and it looks really cool because the turquoise and the green are analogous the red orange and the red are analogous. Um, and yet you get nice high contrast because we are using complimentary colors. And because I already kind of let the cat out of the bag. Uh, also the last, um, color harmony I want to go over is square color scheme. And with this one, again, we are going to use two sets of complimentary colors, but this time we’re going to make sure that they are evenly spaced. So if we use red and green, we’re going to use blue and orange. If we use, Okay, Violet and yellow, we’re going to use turquoise and red orange. Um, and it’s just, it’s pretty awesome. They, uh, are really pretty, you end up getting these really nice, bright, Mmm,

Really nice and bright color sets, uh, that standard red, yellow, blue, orange, or red, yellow, blue, yellow, red, blue, green, yellow, that you see on like a lot of kids, um, items when you buy them, like, remember like LLB in catalogs and you always have like the red, yellow, blue, blue, green, you know, bean bag chair that you could buy or whatever that color scheme is a square color harmony. Okay. Guys, I know, I just kind of dumped a lot on you. Um, for my students in the modern quilters Academy, we actually do a color theory masterclass where we do all of this, but I’m showing you examples. I’m showing you kind of how to apply it to the, um, to the different quilt patterns that you’re, that you’re using. And then we also go a little bit deeper and we talk about pattern saturation on your print fabric and how that plays into color theory as well.

Um, and then one really cool thing is that I also show how to use a gray scale tool to make sure that we are choosing a color scheme that has the right saturation to mimic the depth that the original quote pattern kind of gave us. So there’s a lot of stuff going on there. Um, it is one of the things that my students have said is like their favorite part of the modern quilters Academy. So, um, I really, if you are thinking maybe you want to try out the Modern Quilters Academy. This is definitely the time to do it. Um, at the time, uh, this podcast episode goes live. The doors to the modern quilters Academy are actually going to be open and you can register and enroll at And the doors are open for a limited time. Uh, enrollment ends on the 20th and class starts on the 21st.

And this is the last time this year that we are going to open the doors to the modern quilters Academy. Uh, we are going to really dive in, have a lot of fun, and I cannot wait to see you on the inside. So thank you guys yet again for spending another bit of time with me here on the stop scrolling start sowing podcast. I am beyond excited for everything that’s coming up for myself and for all of you, and please, please, please, don’t miss an episode of the podcast you can do so by hitting subscribe, wherever you listen to now stop scrolling and start selling it.

Quilt Love

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and...

Noelani T.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and Nicole’s expertise was invaluable for this large project. Nicole is very patient and explained the different steps and their purposes clearly. She improved my original idea to better accomplish my overall goal. I highly recommend Nicole as an instructor and would personally have another session in a heartbeat!

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked...

Michelle L.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked me through everything step by step. And it was amazing. She taught me the ins and outs of my machine and how to add each basic concept together. It was invaluable, because now I can figure things out and get creative without fearing the dreaded unravel!
The Modern Quilters Circle