DIY: Color Inspiration

color palette


Kaffe Fassett is a master at working with color. He’s known for his use of color within his knitwear, his fabric designs and in his patchwork. Color works as both a source of inspiration and as a tool to move the eye around the work whatever the medium.  With the release of Kaffe and Liza’s newest class, Dreamy Hexagons, color plays a key role in the overall look and feel of the quilt.

As an artist with a painting background I love working with color and playing with color pairings too. Often I glean color inspiration from combinations found in nature, in my environment or even in a striking painting or photo. For people who are new to working with color, I thought it would be fun to break down the process of how I determine a working palette of color from a inspiration photo.

I found a lovely imafe of Roses by Nick Knight that was full of dusty muted tones. If was going to make a quilt using this image as the color inspiration I would want to capture the subtlety and range in colors but also include some “pop” colors to liven the color palette. First I identified some of the basic colors in the print (shown on the left of the image). Then I went to one of my favorite online fabric shops, Pink Chalk, and screen shot fabrics that fit (generally) in my 5 color categories. You could easily do this in a brick and mortar fabric shop by browsing around the shelves pulling fabrics. I included some prints and solids, then added colors and pops that weren’t exact matches to my inspiration image. This is where my bright magenta, curry yellow and aqua come in.

photo 4

Sitting down with a new pack of colored pencils and a pad of graph paper, I started to plod out what a quilt made from this photo might look like. I could have just used the image as a source for color inspiration only then made an entirely different design, but instead I wanted to experiment with how I could translate the feel and composition of this photo into a quilt design. I thought about Monet and how he created an “impression” of what he saw with paint, and knew that I wanted to created something similar to this photo of roses using little scraps of fabric.

A trick artists use when painting or drawing is to stand back from their work and squint their eyes. This causes you to see color and shape and their relationships instead of just seeing an image, a picture of something recognizable. With this trick and Monet in mind, I just started coloring in squares, referring loosely to my inspiration image.

I drew this quilt using 5 large squares by 7 large squares on the graph paper. Each large square is made up of 4 x 4 small squares. I could translate this measurement into a 5′ x 7′ quilt, with each small square equaling 3″ square. To make this even easier, I could use a mini charm pack or a jellyroll of solids which is a standard 2.5″ wide. I could also take my sketch to the fabric store and select fabrics to represent each color category and proceed from there.

Playing with color has limitless possibilities. Using a photo for inspiration is a good way to introduce new color palettes and combinations into your work. Even if I never make this quilt, I love thinking about how the colors would work together in an overall quilt design.

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If you’re looking for even more inspiration on color palettes, check out Creature Comforts color inspiration daily posts, where Ez takes drawings and paintings and breaks them down into their essential colors or Panetone’s color 35 Inspirational Color Palettes book.