An artist friend first introduced me to the color wheel. I had been going by gut feeling to decide what colors to use on any given project, but the wheel gives you a way to organize your thinking about color.
These early color wheels, designed in 1874 by Bezold Farbentafel (looks like he was German), are a great example. Sir Isaac Newton is generally given credit for first arranging colors in a circle, but I like how these two wheels also show shade. The top wheel fades to white and the bottom to black, going through different shades of the color in between. You’ll notice that the order of the colors as you go clockwise around the wheel, is the order of the visible light spectra in nature (think the colors of the rainbow).
Anyway, what does all this mean for your next knitting project? Well, if you don’t have a natural eye for choosing colors, you can use the wheel for hints. In the wheel below, all the white dots are shades of one color, red. These shades will all look good together. The black dots are complementary colors, colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Theses colors also *ahem* complement each other.
For contrast, go for colors directly across from each other on the wheel. The black dots below are orange and blue, two colors that make each other pop. If you need more than two colors, you can also grab the complementary colors around one of your main color, in this case blue-green and purple-blue.
Tulip’s fiber has a distinct orange tint. I like to pair her fiber with greens, blues and blue greens, in a color scheme like the wheel above. See how the brown is a shade of Tulip’s color, and the greens and blue-greens are across from it on the wheel?
Aunt Geri likes shades of the same color, as in the scarf below. She tends not to do across-the-wheel contrast as often. I don’t know why, but contrast does usually read more formal.
Anyway, that’s my two cents on the color wheel. If you have stunted creativity, like me, it’s a great way to think about color.