Quilt Design Basics – Colour is the first topic in a series on Colour, Value, Contrast & Balance


Quilt Design Basics - Colour, Colour wheelColour is usually the first thing we start thinking about once we have a design in mind. If you are a novice in this area, being aware of a few basic colour principles will be helpful when choosing fabric. We all have different opinions when it comes to colour choice, it’s a very personal thing. However, some colour schemes just work better than others. Knowing a few basics will turn a good quilt into a great quilt.

I usually have my colour wheel tool on hand when I’m choosing colours. It’s a great visual aid and well worth the small investment.


Quilt Design Basics - Colour, Warm colour wheelQuilt Design Basics - Colour, Cool colour wheelWarm & Cool Colour Schemes

Colour effects our senses in so many ways. We get a feeling of warmth and energy from colours like red, orange and yellow. Blue, green and violet have a more cooling effect on us and create a sense of tranquillity. Warm colours tend to advance in space, while cool colours recede. This can be helpful in creating depth and perspective in a quilt design.


Quilt Design Basics - Colour, Analogous colour wheelAnalogous Colour Scheme

These colours are next to each other on the colour wheel, usually the two colours adjacent to a primary or tertiary colour. They usually work well together as they are closely related. An analogous colour scheme is harmonious and relaxing. It’s an easy and safe option but may lack impact. The colour value (light-dark) used is important, as contrast between these colours can be an issue.


Quilt Design Basics - Colour, Direct complimentary colour wheelDirect Complimentary Colour Scheme

Direct complimentary colours are two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel. They can give your quilt impact as they seem to vibrate when placed along side each other. This can be moderated depending on the value of the colour used.



Quilt Design Basics - Colour, Dual complimentary colour wheelDual Complimentary Colour Scheme

A dual complimentary colour scheme is two colours next to each other on the colour wheel paired up with the opposite two colours. Basically it’s a direct complimentary using two pairs of analogous colours. The complimentary colours give you the impact and the analogous colours moderate it a little.


Quilt Design Basics - Colour, Split complimentary colour wheelSplit Complimentary Colour Scheme

A split complimentary colour scheme is made up of three colours. A colour and the two colours that are adjacent to it’s direct complimentary colour. Like the direct complimentary colour scheme, it has impact but is moderated slightly by using the two adjacent colours.


Quilt Design Basics - Colour, Triadic colour wheelTriadic Colour Scheme

A triadic colour scheme uses three colours which are equidistant from each other on the colour wheel. Triadic colours can be a little challenging to use, value will play an important role.


Monochromatic Colour Scheme

This is a colour scheme using a single colour with values from light to dark.


Neutral Colour Scheme

White, black and grey are considered neutrals.


Theory into practice

Spend a bit of time playing with your fabric stash or at you local fabric store. Try putting a selection of fabrics together based on some of the above colour schemes. Sometimes you might think a colour scheme is starting to work well but there’s just something not quite right, it will often be that you just need to adjust the value of one or more colours to increase the contrast.

Value is the most important aspect of colour. It is best thought of in terms a grey-scale, from white through to black. Understanding value will give you so much more control over the design process.

Value will be the next topic in the ‘Quilt Design Basics’ series.


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