Fibre Crafts ZA                                                                                                                                                   March 2011 
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by Keri Steyn
The use of colour is integral to the craft of spinning and weaving. There are times one knows instinctively that one’s planned colour scheme is just right. At other times, particularly when slightly unsure of where you are going, in order to produce the special effect, feeling or accent needed, the colour wheel is a useful tool.  All the examples shown are painted or made by Keri and Pam Trabucco. Keri first introduces us to the colour wheel, which she had painted onto woven Mohair using fabric paint and then leads us into the wonderful world of Colour.
                                                                                                                                                                                                   Basic 12 Step Colour wheel
To understand colour & the effect it has, it is best to become acquainted with the basic 12 step colour wheel which consists of the following:
  • Primary Colours namely red, blue, yellow.
  • Secondary Colours which are achieved by mixing equal parts of 2 primary colours resulting in orange, green, purple.
  • Tertiary Colours which are achieved by mixing equal parts of primary and secondary colours, resulting in 6 tertiary colours namely, yellow-orange, orange-red, red-purple (or maroon), purple-blue, blue-green, green-yellow.
The colour wheel is said to comprise of 2 categories of colour namely, warm colours (yellow to maroon) and cool colours (green-yellow to blue-green). Once the basic colour wheel is understood, you can begin to experiment with colour schemes. There are some basic colour scheme “rules” that ensure your colours “match” or are suited to each other.
Colour schemes help to create a mood or feeling, the example on the left is of a Monochromatic Colour Scheme. This uses only one colour of different values. The different values are created by using tints and shades. A tint is a lighter version of a colour (add white) and a shade is a darker version of the colour (add black) Monochromatic colour schemes are very soothing. The example  uses yellow, yellow shades and yellow tints.
This example shows an Analogous Colour Scheme. This means using colours that are adjacent on the colour wheel. Some examples are green, yellow-green and yellow or red, orange and yellow. Analogous colour schemes give a bright and cheery effect and are able to accommodate changing moods.
Here is a Complimentary Colour Scheme or colours that are opposite on the colour wheel. The effect is vibrant and they create a more energetic mood. Complementary colours can be tricky if used in large doses as they might create a “busy” effect, it is therefore important to ensure that your piece has a focal point. Alternatively use complementary colours to create a focal point or accent in a monochromatic or neutral piece.

Neutral colour schemes contain colours not found on the colour wheel such as white, beige, brown, grey and black.

Accented neutral colour schemes will include neutral colours with highlights or accents by using colours and/or tints and shades of colours found on the colour wheel such as red, orange, green etc.
The two samples on the left show the effects of differing dominant colours. Both samples are red and yellow, but they create totally different effects and mood depending on the dominant colour or background colour.
Background colours make a difference to the effect and mood and even the feeling of size of your work. Here black and white create a very different sense of drama.
Below is a beautiful example of how colours influence the mood of the work.
 Notice the different mood or feeling evoked due to choice of colour rendering of the same image.
It is important to not be confined by colour scheme rules. Colour is a medium for expression, therefore remember that it is not necessary to stick to a colour scheme to produce an interesting, pleasing and vibrant work. The example below has used ALL the colours found on the colour wheel plus its many shades and tints to create the work below. In theory it might seem absurd but in reality the whole ‘hangs’ together wonderfully to produce a harmonious work.

Colour has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it.
I know that it has hold of me forever...
Color and I are one.
Paul Klee - Artists

           Keri Steyn is a member of the Johannesburg Weavers and Spinners guild