Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

5 Tips to Choosing Colors

People often comment the colors on my work. No wonder as my design process is very color driven! Here are some guidelines that I have developed for choosing colors.

1) Start with the color

Whether I am about to dye, paint, knit or make a new design, I often start with the feeling that I want to express. I see the feeling in color; there’s often the exact hue that comes to my mind. Sometimes it’s a combination of two or three colors.

I have learned to interpret abstract things to colors by observing color in everything I see. Try to omit the functions, shapes, and patterns of the objects and concentrate on colors. Do not worry about what you are going to make, choose the materials by their hue and start creating!

My paper designs often start with color. This lime yellow represents the warmth of summer for me!

2) Mix the colors you hate with the colors you love

The one mistake you can make is that you only give attention to the colors that cause positive reactions. I often go deep into hues that I hate. I have noticed that by combining them with the colors I love creating great impressions that are more real than if I use only my positive colors. And within the time I learn to see the beauty in every color.

Like I used to hate pink. Nowadays one of my favorite color combinations is muted orange red and pink. I get emotional when I see these colors together. They represent something about my childhood that I cannot put into words.

Alku yarn in Eleanor colorway, the hated pink and the loved orange-red!

3) Control the quantity of each color

I like to control the quantity of each color. I often have a few colors that cover the most of the surface and then some that I use in small amounts. When making a color palette for your design, keep in mind that you don’t need large quantities of the color you want to turn the attention to. Small colored areas that locate in the main focal points can create great impact. The colors interact with the composition of your work.

You can practice this by taking photos and analyzing them. Analyze why the certain colors in a photo draw your attention.

This photo looks black and white to me. The focal point is the place where the light hits the road. It emphasizes the darkness of the shadow.

4) Make your own colors

I try to avoid colors that come straight from the jar. Even if they look beautiful. At the end of the creative process, they look artificial anyway. Probably because it’s so easy to use them in too large quantities!

If you mix your own colors, you will get exciting variations of the same color. This makes your work look more natural. You can also use the same components in many different colors. This makes them go better together. When you start with the blues, yellows, and reds, you can create a huge amount of colors and hues with less cost and with better controllability. And if you end up creating ugly colors, see step two!

I often add a hint of black to create a muted tone, but you might prefer pastels and use white instead.

Mixing black with yellow to achieve the right hue for the hall (the result is shown in the first photo of this post). / Using white to create soft pastels in knitted fabric.

5) Put the color theory into practice

With this blog post, I do not want to underestimate the value of color theory. I have learned Josef Albers color theory during the designer studies. For Josef Albers, the color was everything, see this inspiring video of him and his works! Whether you learn the basic color theory or dwell deeper into Josef Albers experiments, it’s always good to experiment too. Get your safe color combos and then move to the more dangerous ones! You can never know too much about colors!

Here’s a snapshot of the library room where I like to create most of the color combinations. I am surrounded here by colors, textures, and patterns, and I find it so inspiring! One of my newest fabrics is on the chair, and I think it suits the room perfectly!

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9 thoughts on “5 Tips to Choosing Colors

  1. Loved this post, so informative! I especially like your idea of adding a color that you don’t like. Also, I love love love the self portrait photo of your shadow – beautiful!

  2. Tuulia, that is one of my best selling design (the yellow summer themed paper). I have been planning to make it to fabric too! (Tuulia’s wish).

    Lori, thanks so much! I am so happy to hear you liked the post!

  3. I LOVE your stuff. I am new to the world of Art Journaling,, and I am inspired by your work. Thanks for sharing and I plan to visit your blog often. <3

  4. Great information. I’m always thinking about color and enjoying its impact. I tend to want to use too many colors (can it be?) and am working on paring down and simplifying so this info was right on time. Thanks!
    Debbie Baier

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