Color Breakdown

When it comes to choosing fabric, we all know where our own individual tastes and preferences lie. Whether you tend towards a modern or traditional aesthetic, or like a little bit of everything, the one thing that can challenge a lot of people is finding a way to combine colors in a pleasing and functional way. Throughout the month of July, we are going to be providing some insight into the world of color and how it can help take your quilts to the next level.

Understanding color on its own can be difficult enough, but as a quilter you’re combining color, pattern, texture and so much more. So we’re going to walk you through the basics of color theory in hopes that it will give you a better understanding of the world of color and make you a pro at choosing your own fabric combinations.

The “hue” of a color is a way to identify the purest form of a color–that is, a color without tint (adding white) or shade (adding black).

The “temperature” of a color refers to how “hot” or “cold” a color is. For the most part, colors are broken into two categories—warm or cool (although some may say neutrals are a category of their own). Warm colors are perceived as stimulating, vivid, and energetic. Cool colors are calming and give off a soothing impression. Reds, yellows, and oranges make up the warm side of the color wheel while the blues, purples and some greens make up the cool side. Although some give neutrals their own category, for the most part, they can be lumped into either side of the warm and cool spectrum.

Warm Colors:

Cool Colors:

Creating color harmony refers to the “agreement” between colors. The harmony, or lack thereof, of your color scheme can either help or hinder your quilt plans. There are some basic color schemes that can help you to get going in the right direction (i.e. analogous, complementary, monochromatic, etc.). We’ll talk about these color schemes more in-depth next week.



The intensity of a color, sometimes referred to as saturation, or how bright a color is, is determined by how “pure” it is. When you lower the intensity of a color, you are desaturating (or neutralizing) it; removing all of the intensity of a color will make it grayscale.
When you hear mention of the “value” of color, it is referring to the lightness or darkness of a color. If the value of the color were to lighten or darken, its intensity would decrease. Utilizing a wide array of color value within a design can add interest and depth.

One of the most helpful ways to understand color theory is to actually test it out. Play around with your stash experimenting with organizing like values, intensities, or breaking it down into similar color families. When you’re comfortable with your new-found knowledge, start designing! Try out new color combinations and use tools like the design wall to help you visualize your combinations. Don’t quite feel confident enough yet? Check out the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool to give you that extra assistance with finding the perfect combination.


  1. Ceil - July 3, 2013

    Thank you! This was very informative.

  2. Alisha - July 3, 2013

    So helpful! Great job, Katrina!

  3. Barbara Bell - July 3, 2013

    Color selection has always been one of my weaker confidences when designing aa quilt. This was very informative. I look forward to the next lessons. Thanks for providing this valuabke servce!

  4. Dianne - July 4, 2013

    Lots of helpful information regarding color. Most of the time, I can do ok with choosing colors. But, there are times when I really get stuck. This will be of much use at that time. Thanks for this assistance!

  5. Linda Christianson - July 6, 2013

    My problem is that I have two CT fabric that need other fabric to go with them. One being Bed and Breakfast 2009 blue- grey with brown and the other Twilight Frost 2009 Grey with white. I would love to make something out of them but it is hard to match over the internet. I found this out when I wanted to make them into the March sew along. Do you have a way to have color match for your old fabric?

  6. Katrina - July 8, 2013

    Hi Linda –
    Since those collections were before my time here, I deferred your question to the rest of our team. Their suggestions are to rely on existing fabrics. Bed & Breakfast uses Bark, Cream, Denim, Moss, Brick, and Brown. Some coordinates that might also match are Pine, Indigo, Avocado, Steel Blue, and Pumpkin. For Twilight Frost, you could try to find a match within the remaining Shimmering Frost. Some coordinates that might also match are Indigo, Silver Lining, Bluebird, French Blue, and Sapling. The coordinate suggestions might not be a 100% match, but should at least coordinate.
    Hope that helps!