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Nov 3, 2014

Color Combining with Confidence -- Your Favorite Resources!



Readers, if there's one area where I would like to improve in my sewing, it's actually one that has nothing to do with sewing itself, but rather with color.

I want to get better at combining colors.



For me, the difference between someone who looks good in their clothes and someone who looks great is nearly always how they use color.  Their age doesn't matter, nor the quality of the garments themselves really.



Color communicates so much, and knowing how to create a palette that both flatters the wearer and looks beautiful by itself seems like the ultimate achievement.

To that end, I just picked up a cheap used copy of the Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color.  It had mostly good reviews on Amazon and seemed like something I'd enjoy.  We'll see how well it serves me.



There are countless books out there about color and color theory.  Do you own any or use any on a regular basis?

I generally find my inspiration from old fashion photography and Hollywood studio portraits, as well as Hollywood costumes (Costumer Dorothy Jeakins -- The Sound of Music, The Music Man -- is a favorite of mine.).



I'm proud of some of my more colorful creations, particularly a number of Cathy's get-ups.  Most of my color combining for her tends to be somewhat safe (red, white and blue; red, white, and black).  I'm OK with that but I'd like to get better.







In closing, readers, what do you recommend as far as resources related to color combining?

Where do you usually find your color inspiration?  (Book, historic period, artist?)

Are you color confident?

Have a great day, everybody!

44 comments:

  1. I've never had any worries about colour mixing. Being a rather typical Goth I prefer to wear mostly black with a bit of one other colour. Black & white, black & grey, black & red, black & purple, black & blue, etc.
    I usually feel a bit cluttered if I have more than one or two colours on me, though different shades of the same colour are fine.

    As far as recommendations for learning about colour combining, my best advice is to push a bunch of watercolour paints around on a big white sheet of paper and see which bits you like best.

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    1. I'm a goth, too, but I find black harsh. Really few people can wear that color to flattering effect, I feel. Usually wear blood red (goes with most everything) or purple. If you have to go to work, just pair it with grey. Instant corporate-goth!

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  2. My color choices come directly from the fabrics. I find a print I like and pull the accompanying colors from within the print. The proportions are important to achieve a nice balance. This is hard to explain without pictures.

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  3. I agree that use of colour is key. I was discussing this just yesterday with my (non-identical) cousin. She has impeccable taste and an enviable understanding of colour, how it works and how to use it. Apparently I didn't inherit that gene. In answer to your question, I would rate my colour confidence as "low". While I would very much like to improve in this area, I don't see it happening so will probably continue to use books, film and fashion blogs for inspiration (read: copying).

    Fashion journalist Maggie Alderson has devoted her weekly column to the subject a few times:
    http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/the-rules-make-colour-your-friend-20130126-2dd33.html

    She has another on colour combining but I can't find it on the web. If you'd like it I can email you a scanned copy.

    Spud.

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  4. I have no idea what colors look good on me by the various rules. I know a few I like on me. I use a web program called Color Scheme Designer to match colors. I find it very helpful for seeing contrast and complementary colors.

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  5. Back in the 80's it was popular to get your colors done. I'm sure folks out there remember if you are a summer, fall or winter.

    I happen to find out that I am a winter, which means white, ice blue, pinks, strong reds blues etc no pumpkin, olive and fall colors. This is related more to the kind of fabrics that you put up against your skin.

    As far as color for clothing go, a few things come together, the fashion industry sets out color groups for each season that alot of design, rtw clothing use .. fabric stores often carry groups, ie plaids and other fabrics that group together .. prints solids so that you can pick and choose groups and fabrics that go together.

    You can also take your cues for matching fabrics based on the way home dec comes together, depending on paint colors, a rug, fabric you choose on your sofa etc. Normal you pick up on colors related and bring it together. A common color grouping that works together .. then its up to you how you choose your solids, prints, patterns .. fun fur etc come together.

    Anyone else have experience with this?

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    1. Hi corey, I too had "my colours done" years ago, I am a spring/autumn. I have found this so helpful. It has encouraged me to be so much more adventurous with colours I may not have thought of before, and also means I have a basic wardrobe that mixes and matches well. When I get compliments about looking well, it is usually that I am wearing one of my best colours, warm clear yellows or oranges. On the rare occasions I have worn a cold pink I often get asked if I am tired or feeling ok! Not sure if it would work for Cathy, but you never know, you can get quite cheap colour swatches for the seasons on amazon. Jane

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    2. I have made endless fun of this, but I admit it made me use colors I would have avoided, and avoided ones I might like but know I won't wear. Go through your laundry basket to see what you wear/reach for most often; those are the colors to think about.

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  6. Color is definitely what I notice first in a garment. The more vibrant the color, the more I like it.

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  7. I think the old "seasonal" color charts used for make-up selection still work best.
    Also learning to correctly use the art color wheel works for color combining.

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  8. Well, since I have a significant degree of red-green colorblindness (even though I am female) this is not an area I will ever excell in... I tend to stay very safe, use lots of blues, solids, etc. Boring, but after hearing comments as a girl of "wow, that clashes!" (referring to my outfit) I've learned to be cautious. All that being said.. I love looking at color wheels and trying to come up with things that look decent.

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  9. I second Denise suggestion about using an art color wheel. The bookstore across from FIT has them in various price points. It is a wonderful tool.

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  10. Studio Alexandra has done extensive research into colour as well as the best styles to wear with one's personality and build. Very brilliant stuff.
    Vancouver Barbara

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  11. My favorite spot for color combinations and inspiration is Design Seeds - http://design-seeds.com/. But I have been very drawn toward David Zyla's ideas about color, namely using colors you find on your body (eyes, hair, lip, veins, etc.) When I combine these two sources of inspiration, I get really excited!

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  12. This might be a useful tool? It's another take on the colour wheel suggestions made by others.
    http://www.academichic.com/2009/02/02/fashion-101-how-to-combine-colors/

    And I was just about to link to Design Seeds, but i see 'Unknown' has beaten me to it!

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  13. I don't really use any colour theory. Over the years, I've found that no theory ever really works for everyone. Many of them just split people into four colour groups (and that's often just white people... or puts all those with a tinted or darker skin in the same category. Not that that really affects me, the pale strawberry blonde, but it tells a lot about the time in which these theories were formed and about their original focus).
    I have to say I made a conscious effort, a few years ago, to start wearing more colour. I would look at pictures and save those on which I liked the colour scheme and I bought more coloured fabric. And whenever I bought fabric, I would take it home and drape it over myself in front of the mirror. As simple as it is, that really gives you an impression of how a colour looks on you. I also tend to combine colours by just laying pieces of fabric together. It works and you can come up with nice non-standard combinations that way. Although I guess I should confess I tend to go for plain fabrics and often feel a bit lost with prints

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  14. When it comes to colour combinations I always get excited with what Mother Nature comes up with. Consider the eggplant - on the outside a deep purple-black and on the inside an ever so light shade of yellow-green, two combinations that you wouldn't necessarily think of working yet they look surprisingly good together both in garments and interiors. Flower petals are often composed of two or more completely contrasting colours that seem to work in effortless harmony together. Sometimes the colours in leaves and flowers are totally independent of each other and sometimes one colour gradually merges into another. The colour gradient of the morning sky, the range of colours of the pebbles on the beach.... If you keep your eyes open to the natural world you will be amazed at the unique colour combinations both dramatic and subtle.

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  15. Apart from sewing, I have an interest in oil painting, and have found a book by Betty Edwards simply called "Color" really useful. It is mainly about mastering the art of mixing colours in painting, but I've found the chapters on hue, intensity and value of color, as well as harmony have given me plenty of food for thought in working with colour in my sewing.

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  16. What works well for me, personally, is to start with your favourite colour and find out which shade of it suits you (by holding different shades up against you and have someone you trust help you with deciding). In general, it helps to know whether cold or warm tones suit you, and go from there. I think it is quite difficult to do this without having samples right in front of you. Every fabric store has a mirror, I always go up and check the fabric against me for colour and print size.

    Plus, you should take note of the garment people compliment you on most. Usually people tend to take in the colour first, so that might be a lead on which colour(s) work best on you.

    Matching colours in a garment: only possible with different fabrics at hand, as well. Some people are just good at this, I personally think one can get better with practice. Good luck!

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  17. Peter, there is a great little series of Japanese books called Designer's Guide to Color. I believe there are 5 in the series. You'll find page after page of color combinations grouped according to mood. Book 5 is perhaps my favorite. They can all be had very reasonably on Amazon, or you might find them in an art supply store.

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  18. I have very similar coloring to Julianna Margulies who plays Alicia on The Good Wife. I think deep, rich colors (wine red, violet, emerald) look amazing on her and I've been know to take pics of the tv! Bravo to the show's costuming team for picking flattering colors for Julianna (and me!).

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  19. I'm seeing answers of 2 types here - combining colors that work for the person, or combining colors for the garments. For the first, yes, I had my colors done in the 80s. Turns out I'm a summer, which explains why I look ill whenever I wear oranges and most yellows. The book I'm most familiar with for this type of information is the Color for All Seasons one, there are other versions.

    If you are talking combining colors to ramp up the garments, I'd suggest a color for quilters or knitters type book since they are textile oriented. A book for painters can work, but keep in mind the possible transparency of the paints used. I think the final words on colors in outfits is "wear any colors you want, but keep a good colors near your face".

    And don't discount the effect various fabric textures can have to ramp up an outfit's impact.

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  20. 15 years ago I did a closet purge. I discovered that the things that I loved, look good in, and get compliments are classic styles in blue-undertoned jewel colors. Now I only purchase clothes and fabrics in those colors. They seem to be on a 3 year rotation with clothes designers so on those years I stock up.

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  21. I am color confident. One of my favorite "tricks" for choosing a color palette is to look to nature. I made a quilt with purple, green, and yellow as part of a quilt along. When I showed my fabrics there were some virtual gasps. But I knew it would work beautifully - I got the palette from a pansy that I had seen blooming. The quilt was gorgeous.

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    1. What a great idea! I have no color sense.

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  22. SeamsterEast at aol dot comNovember 4, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Is it worthy to note that of the six pictures of red heads, four had soft green in the background, and five had soft white in the background? I dunno.

    Me, I tend to wear darker, softer greens and some darker, softer blues because those colors seem to draw interesting looks. Yet, I have a old black knit shirt so worn it has a distinct red tinge to it that draws well indeed. I can't throw it away

    Ever try to buy a sage green sportcoat? I had one as a young man and I wore it until it was threadbare.

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  23. I think the best idea is to get a color wheel and explore some basic concepts like complementary colors (blue-orange, purple-yellow, red-green), triads, diads, etc. I did a year long quilting program where we had to make something each month (not a full quilt!) using a theme: neutrals, monochromatic, complementary, analogous, diads, and so on. Focusing on one theme and spending time choosing and working with fabrics make a huge difference. Then you can translate that experience into colors that work well for you. You'll find some surprises a long the way!
    -Ellie in Colorado

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  24. What a fun idea, Peter! I'm tempted to pick up a copy of that textbook myself.

    I also like Joan's zany pink floral couch and green walls with the Van Gogh print.

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Still_Life_-_Vase_with_Irises.jpg

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  25. Surprisingly, a good source for determining what colors go together is the paint store. Often there will be color charts in color stories for coordinating the colors in your house. This is the Behr (our favorite brand) online selection page that is great fun. You can work within color families or by decorate style. http://www.behr.com/consumer/colors/paint?gclid=CjwKEAiAj-KiBRC48YzhnLSg0D0SJAClOhK3a6N9baLqZW24_wJH6RBmgi3o_wUjyrIAKVe-Niu7YhoCi7fw_wcB#

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  26. I use Joen Wolfram's 'Ultimate 3 in 1 color tool' a lot when designing. It's also small enough to take it to the shops and use against actual fabrics. It was extremely helpful when designing the colour schemes for our new house.

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    1. I think I'm going to hunt down one of these -- thanks!

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    2. I have also found the 3 in 1 Color Tool very useful and fun, particularly after I had a professional color analysis by Ethel Harms, in Portland, OR. Ethel determined that I was a "contrasting autumn." (Was she ever right. This is the season when I'm in my glory!) I have found the 3 in 1 Color Tool informative, fun, and very entertaining. It has helped me recognize why certain shades appeal to me and look good on me (aha--they have a yellow or golden undertone). I have made much better fabric color choices and combinations since the color analysis and discovering the 3 in 1.

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    3. OK, I'm going to get one of these....

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    4. Thanks for this tip I will check it out.

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  27. I had to take color theory in college and I work with color in plants all the time but as for putting together an outfit I tend to be pretty conservative and to say the least, limited.Black, gray white silver is pretty much it. I do own a pair of red linen pants. But, at least almost everything goes together.

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  28. I just wish Joan and Cathy had been contemporaries.

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  29. Colour is the same as shape for me: partly I know what goes together and with me, partly it's just trial and error of gut feelings and bold ideas. I have one rule: if I think it matches well, it matches well.

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  30. @Gene Black - That's a great idea, too! Mother nature always picks the best colors, doesn't she?

    The Dreamstress even made an Edwardian-style dress based on the colors of a Luna moth's wings.

    http://thedreamstress.com/costume-portfolio/portfolio-1910-luna-moth-evening-gown/

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  31. Peter, just make things very simple,

    1. understand what colors look good on you and cathy .. you might need someone to help you with this
    2. make a list of those colors . assuming you are not making curtains and decorating your living space
    3. when you shop for fabrics .. go wild .. you will know all the colors that are good for you .. you can mix prints strips plaids anything goes .. for god`s sake .. look at the mix christain lacrox does .. you know abfab ... the colors will bring your look together .. no matter how wild .. you might think it looks .. i think cathy needs to inspire you ... <<
    WITH LA CROIX
    she will love the clothes, mix of bobbles bags .. and you can make a suit out of some of that brocade

    what do you thinK? .... psst LACROIX

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    1. I forgot to add

      joan crawford = the worst wicked witch in the world ... the witch is dead .. thank GOD .. the last pic you have of her .. grey roots, died hair .. her neck and skin .. dropping into hell .. she got what she deserved .. she got old ... she is the worst human being on the planet .. treated every one like shit .. and she was not Katherine Hepburn ..
      she was and alway will be .. the ugliest woman in the world .. who got what she deserved

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  32. I have recently started reading this blog:
    http://www.theviviennefiles.com/

    The author provides a lot of variations on how to select colors for specific articles of clothing. She doesn't appear to sew, but her ideas and starting points are always very interesting.

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  33. I feel color. I intuit its vibration like an emotion. I do this for myself and for others. Color is channeled through me. I see the color and feel the vibration, how it depletes or nourishes. As a designer, I prescribe, color to compensate for depletion, much like a chinese medicine practitioner works with the elements. This has served me well over the years from the age of 16 working in a fabric store, to my current professional expression as an interior designer, I use color to heal and to communicate. My color combinations are based on intuition, aesthetics and the science of color. Color combinations are successful when color is used proportionately,being mindful of placement, value and saturation. I have very high color confidence. It is probably the most confident expression I have and it is consistent. By nature, I am not very confident, except for what I know I know.. then I am unwavering, yet open to learn more.

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  34. I am in awe of people who know about colours. I have no memory for colour/shade; consequently, if I go into a shop to get a matching zip or so without bringing the fabric with me, I'll buy the wrong colour! I love seeing people wear colourful clothes but mine tend to be black, white, red and blue and I feel good in those colours.

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  35. I too wish I were better at color. My crutch is colourlovers.com, which is sort of a social network for people who get really into making color palettes. You can search the palettes by color (handy if you've got one color you know you want to use) and then rank them by how much the other users liked them, so the good stuff floats to the top.

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