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


So we’ve looked at the colour wheel and have a basic idea of colour schemes. But the colours on the colour wheel are pure saturated colours, not what quilters usually like to work with. We really don’t want all our quilts looking like rainbows. This is where value comes into play.

Colours that appear on the colour wheel are called hues. If we were painters and added white to these hues we would get colours known as tints. Quilters describing fabrics of these colours would use words like pale or pastel. A painter adding black to the colour wheel hues would get colours they call shades. In quilting terms we would perhaps describe these fabric colours as muted or muddy.


Quilt Design Basics - Value


Value and contrast are very much intertwined. Using colours with different values or different values of the same colour creates contrast. Contrast already exits between some hues on the colour wheel. For example the contrast between the hues of yellow and blue are high, but this is not the case for many other hue combinations. But if we take each hue separately and think of it in terms of shades of grey then we have many more options to create contrast.


Quilt Design Basics - Value


Theory into practice…

Quilt Design Basics - Value - Triadic coloursThis is the centre of a quilt I am currently working on. At first, you might be surprised if I described it as a triadic colour scheme using the three primary colours… red, yellow and blue, just like this colour wheel diagram. But that is essentially what it is.


Quilt Design Basics - Value



I wanted an antique look so I chose reproduction style fabrics which are slightly muted, remember that’s just like adding black. So, my reds are crimson, my yellows are ochre and the blues are more on the teal side.

I increased the level of contrast slightly by introducing pink, pale ochre and lighter blues, that’s like adding white. I’m still working with the same three colours, I’m just extending the palette by using different values of the same three colours.




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


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