I took my little boys to the local library yesterday. It's a solid way to burn an hour or so, because (seriously) we're just trying to survive until the baby needs a nap. I do enjoy seeing the lovely, colorful yarn-bombs on all the poles in the kids' section, though, so I took a few shots on my phone. When flipping through Instagram filters, the black-and-white options reminded me of an important factor when choosing colors in your color work project. Color value.
What is color value? Essentially, it's the relative darkness and lightness of a color. The same color can look like a rich, brick red or closer to pink, depending on how light or dark it is.
Why does color value matter? Let's say you're trying to choose colors for a fair isle project. This usually means that the colors are heavily intertwined with each other and contrast is key for your eye's ability to pick out the pattern. Sure, the colors may be as different as, say, red and green, but if the values of the colors themselves are too similar, they don't produce the same "pop" as colors with different values. All of your hard work suffers from this essential unreadability.
See the photos above from my trip to the library. The pole in the background has a vivid red and green stripe but, in the black-and-white shot, the stripes have almost completely disappeared. The values of the stripes are too similar. The same effect happens with the blue/purple combination on the pole in the foreground. In black-and-white, they look almost the same. This may be a minor nuisance to some of us, but color blind people may not see any pattern at all!
(Interweave.com shares a swatch photo, demonstrating how too-similar color values can adversely effect your finished product here. It makes me sad to look at, LOL.)
How can I tell if my color values are incompatible? Fortunately, this is a pretty easy fix! It's all about the black-and-white photo. Put your prospective colors next to each other, photograph them, view them in black-and-white, and see if you can tell the difference between the two! This is simple for those of us who have smart phones, but you can also test this by simply photocopying a color photograph. Or, heck, put the yarn on a photocopier (probably best to avoid put entire hanks on the glass...maybe just some butterflies) and see what prints. Photocopying a fair isle swatch is really effective, as well.
Follow this tip and you will be happy, in the end, that your colorwork is clear, crisp and ready to be admired. Have fun and, above all, be colorful!