The Basics of Color

Judy Hendrix

There is a power in color. We see the world in color, even dream in color. It can create happiness, sadness, be calm and cool or bright and bold. We are influenced in color choices by the clothes we wear and by decorating our homes. We tend to be conservative and match things, go neutral or buy in ''sets'' so that our choices are good ones. Step out of the box with your jewelry, using just a few basic color theories. Remember: your jewelry can be your personal statement.

The color wheel makes it easier to see the relationships in color. Here are 3 ways to describe color on the wheel:

  • HUE--single color with all of it's hues (Kelly green, forest green, mint green etc.)
  • VALUE--has nothing to do with COLOR itself--it is a comparison of the color in a scale of grays that range from black to white. It is the first aspect of a piece the viewer will perceive--the range of values will evoke an emotional response.
  • SATURATION--is the relative brightness or dullness of a color. At the most saturated, nothing has been added. This gets into tints, tones and shading.
Here is an easy way to choose a color scheme: take a piece of fabric you like and match the colors, tones and intensity of the colors.

The Wheels

Take them with you when choosing to identify cool and warm, related vs. complementary and opposites--it will help make predictable choices.

Traditional Color Wheel

  • black arrow--directly across (opposites)
  • red arrow--equal distance
  • orange arrow--split complementary
  • beads strung with colors next to each other--warm hues, 5 side by side in warm colors
  • show split down the middle for warm and cool--every warm has a cool color contrast

The Tonal Wheel

This is the same as the traditional color wheel, but with muted tones. Some people are more comfortable working here, especially in pastels.

We have talked mainly about color in a very simplistic manner. You literally could spend a lifetime studying color and all its possibilities. Here are a few other observations:
  • Understand the properties of the medium you are using. In beads, there is a shine or glossy look (opalescent) that you can't get in any other medium AND it will affect your piece. Silver, gold, copper, brass etc. can completely change the look of your piece.
  • When making a commercial design--match color for color, shine, shades, texture etc. to get the look that appealed to you. Put them in the same spot--don't just pick a new color and hope it will work. You don't need the same bead, just the same properties.
  • When working with color, follow your own instincts. Take the time to play and experiment; that's how we learn.

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