Color + Technology at QuiltCon!

We’re getting excited, are you?

QuiltCon 2019 is just weeks away, and the new 2019 edition of QuiltCon Magazine is soon to be released. We’ve been working on this publication for months, in close collaboration with the Modern Quilt Guild and our contributors, and boy, are we excited to share it with you!

One of the highlights is a fascinating article from Steph Skardal, last year’s Best of Show winner, about using technology to explore color theory and progress in her own work from creating mainly monochromatic to multi-hued quilts. Read on for a taste of this fascinating piece.

If you told me a year ago that I would be writing about color theory now I wouldn’t have believed you! But over the last year, my exploration of color has resulted in a quilty progression from monochromatic to colorful—while remaining graphic and linear. Today, I’m sharing the basics of color theory and how I blend it with technology.

Color wheel | Photos by Steph Skardal

Color wheel | Photos by Steph Skardal

The pigment color wheel

When we’re young, most of us learn about the red-yellow-blue color wheel, or what is also known as the pigment or painter’s color wheel. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is credited with defining the pigment color wheel in 1810, based on physiological studies of the perception of color. The basic principles of the pigment color wheel include:

  • Red, yellow, and blue are the three primary colors.
  • Red, yellow, and blue mixed together in pairs form secondary colors orange, green, and purple.
  • Tertiary colors result from mixing these secondary colors further.
  • Tints are colors mixed with white and shades are colors mixed with black.
  • Complementary colors are across from each other on the color wheel and, according to Goethe, appear the most vivid when paired. Mixing complementary colors produces gray.
A selection of fabric samples

A selection of fabric samples

And what about color harmonies?

Color harmonies are guidelines to reduce subjectivity in how you might perceive harmony in colors—or a guideline on what works together (given that we all perceive colors differently). In addition to complementary colors, color harmony guidelines include:

  • Analogous colors—those colors next to each other on the pigment color wheel.
  • Triadic colors—color schemes with three colors evenly spaced around the color wheel.
A selection of cool color fabric samples

A selection of cool color fabric samples

Different color spaces

Have you ever ordered fabric online only to find when it arrives it doesn’t look like you thought it would? Is it darker, lighter, or just different? Or do the colors printed in this magazine look slightly different than the quilts you see in real life?

Throughout our quilting journeys, we encounter representations of color in a few ways—let’s call them color spaces. It’s helpful to understand the different color spaces, and that the translation between color spaces can lead to small differences in how we perceive color.


Fabric is manufactured and represented in its physical form. Slight variations can come from dye lot variations or exposure (e.g., to sunlight).

Color printing (CMYK)

Cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black) is a common color printing space; so when we see printed swatches, we are most likely seeing the CMYK representation of a color.

Digital (RGB)

Color can be stored in digital form, as a hex code, which represents three numbers ranging from 0–255, indicating levels of red, green, and blue.

Armed with the basics of color theory, harmonies, and spaces—and with the help of web technology—Steph created visualizations of solids from major fabric manufacturers distributed around a pigment color wheel. Using the RGB swatches provided online by eight manufacturers of solid fabrics, she created color wheels in which saturation (intensity) decreases with distance from the center.

Steph shares her technology further in the article, and also access to her interactive color wheel on her website

This is one of several articles you won’t want to miss in QuiltCon Magazine! Download your copy today and be ready for the show!


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