Color theory

Whenever I photograph The Bag, I spend as much time correcting the digital images as I do taking them. Color balance, brightness and contrast, levels, sharpness: they all get their turn, all in an effort to distinguish the yellow and green stitches more clearly.

The reason for this: the yellow and green yarn colors mesh with each other incredibly well. In scientific terms, their values are very similar, making it impossible for one color to “pop” against the other (color specialists: correct me if I’m wrong). Compare the photo above with photos of individual Hempathy skeins (minimal post-processing applied):

Hempathy: Vivid Green (017)
Hempathy: Sunflower (014)

The Vivid Green is like a Granny Smith apple. The Sunflower is like a matte 24K gold ring. On their own: so vivid, so juicy, and so lively. But together, each one dampens the other.

Truth be told, this isn’t exactly the look I was going for – I wanted the color combination to be more dramatic than this. But this unexpected result is a wonderful learning experience as far as color theory is concerned.

The thick, textured Hempathy fabric completely trumps my ho-hum feelings about the color. I tell you, it’s 100% adoration for the Hempathy, aaahhh! Besides, I know I can pick things up with proper finishing. At the moment I plan to knit a rectangular seed stitch bottom (constructed just like Corded), line the bag with some happy cotton fabric, and add interesting handles. These twisted bamboo handles are very lovely. Or maybe simple straps sewn from the lining fabric and attached with these pretty tortoise O-rings… Yum! I have to finish the knitting before starting the sewing fun!


33 thoughts on “Color theory

  1. sara l

    the colors are the same chroma, thus they work well together. If you squint your eyes when looking at colors of the same chroma, you can see how they compliment each other.

    The bag is looking very nice.



  2. margene

    Color value is one of the most important aspects of color theory. The two colors look good together and will make a handsome bag. For more pop you could make one color darker (or lighter) for more contrast in value.

  3. Christie

    I didn’t know if you would ever use the word ‘fun’ to describe sewing. Or are you being sarcastic?

    The colors look great…and now I have yet another yarn to try!

  4. Luni

    One trick I use when trying to pick colors to combine is to photograph the colors together, then put the photo in the editing software and change it to black & white. (Or you can just photograph them in black and white to begin with.) If the colors are not the same value, you will see the difference clearly in the black and white photo. To blend, you want minimal difference. For high-contrast fair-isle, it should be like “black and white”.

  5. Marin

    As a knitter who likes the process, but needs very much the finished project (and doesn’t mind sweaters and is doing the same baby blanket pattern in the same yarn as once before), your constant quest for near-pure process is fascinating and kinda delightful.

    Rock on, Grump-one.

  6. Diane

    Your bag looks great and I like your ideas for finishing. I think I’ll end up with canvas webbing but I’ll definitely be lining it with some very thick interfacing along with fabric to give it some structure. Don’t know about yours, but my bag is VERY supple!

  7. Earin

    If you really want to get into color theory take a look at Josef Alber’s work, “Interaction of Color”. Color, as we know, is quite complex.

    As an avid sewer I always enjoy seeing what you’ve been working on (and it is a lot of fun – gasp! …as much fun as knitting!).

  8. Emily

    Green is actually “made” out of yellow and blue. Thus if you add yellow to green you’ll get a paler green, more yellowish (mustard?). Though you don’t really mix the colours you create this visually by putting them so close to eachother. To create a popping effect you need to use an opposite colour. With green that would be red. Now as for yellow, as it’s a basic colour (red, yellow, blue) you can use an of the other two for the effect.

    Oh my, you probably already know this and I am boring you. I try to put this into my therapy sessions with my kids every now and then and I’m getting carried away here!

    I do like your bag though! I like the way you see one colour from far but when you look up close it’s actually two!

    Greets from Belgium!

  9. Jen

    The two colors have pretty similar contrast levels, which means that against each other they kind of gray out. If they were brighter, they’d vibrate visually – which is not what you want! If they were pastelly, they’d disappear. You are on the right track with the trim – one color or the other as an accent will add some contrast and a little more difference between the two.

    This is also why women with pale skin and pale hair look wrong in dark red lipstick, but women with pale skin and dark hair look exactly right.

  10. Christina

    Try contrasting colours next time…green & red; blue & orange; yellow & purple. A colour’s contrast enhances its own vibrancy. See Seurat, pointillism, etc. etc. Cheers!

  11. Brenda

    You are right about the color value. You can test value of colors in a digital photo by changing the photo to grayscale (temporarily of course!). I think these two colors look really good together, and I wonder if a higher value contrast might create a rather dizzying optical illusion effect.

  12. Jennifer

    I’m using the Hempathy yarn for a sweater right now (although I’m not really a sweater knitter either shhhh). I’m almost finished the sweater, and I adored using the yarn!! I would use it again in a flash.

  13. marycatharine

    I’m finding your (and all the comments) on color very interesting. My tendency is to knit everything in one color and shy away from anything that requires more thought. Thanks for the info, maybe it will help me take more chances.

  14. Liz

    I’m kind of tempted to knit this pattern now, just to try it in stark black and white to see how much of a difference it makes as compared to two colors that might blend more.

  15. Romi

    Try color correcting by setting the background to a specified neutral gray color. The rgb values would be equal on a neutral. Might save you a little time. Or not. 🙂

    Love the bag!

  16. Kathy in KS

    Yeah, if you want “pop”, you have to go with the opposite. Think of the color wheel. The colors opposite of each other will make each other pop. Don’t just think green/red, orange/blue, and yellow/purple. You have to even think of the 3rd ones too, which I can’t spell, but it’s something like tertiary. Meaning that if your green is a bit on the blueish side, then your red should be slightly on the orangeish side. Did that make any sense? Thank you MIL who taught elementary art for many many many years!

  17. Loopykd

    Luni’s tip is amazing! I will remember that for later, but your bag is beautiful as well. I tend to shy away from color work as well but this is really making me want to give it a shot.

  18. Heidi

    It really is amazing how different colors look when they’re knitted together with other colors to form a fabric! This never seizes to amaze me. Your bag is beautiful! You’ll have to do some speed knitting now to get to the fun sewing part! 🙂

  19. Chali

    I learned so much from your review of Knit Picks Options metal needles, so I was wondering if you were planning to weigh in on Knit Picks new wooden needles. As with the metal versions, they are interchangable until the small size, at which point they are fixed crics.

    BTW, I think your bag looks fab!!

  20. Kathryn

    You could try photographing the bag against different coloured backgrounds. On this occasion your blue blanket may be taking something away from the colours of the bag, and not showing them to their full potential. What difference would a cream/off-white background make to the colours?

    I love your blog, by the way.

  21. Sil

    Ah, the joys of Photoshop! I love those colors together, it’s very French country to me somehow. Does this mean you’re going to make another one of these after this one is done as you’d like a more dramatic color combo? Pink and red? Orange and blue? Maybe your school’s colors?

  22. Steph

    Wow, I just wrote a post about color this morning, and then stumbled onto your post this evening. It was very interesting to read what everybody had to say. Can’t wait to see how your bag turns out! =)

  23. Annie

    I’ve learned a lot reading this post. Now I want to try the hempathy! I love both of the colors, though. I can’t wait to see it all finished.

  24. Cassandra

    Joining the party VERY late, but I just had to pipe up. I’m wondering if you dabble with a purple or red edging (which are complementary colors of your yellow and green) maybe it would give it a bit more pop?

    On an aside I started the famous Jaywalker pattern this weekend and I finally get the obsession. What wonderful fun! Thanks!

  25. Rita

    I first read tortoise o-rings as “turquoise” and though, “Oh, My! She is getting colorful!” Your bag is great! And I want to try that yarn now.

  26. Veronica

    It might make it a little easier if you took the photograph on a white background, that way when you do the color correcting, you have the white balance in the photo. Or you can take a photo with a white piece of cardboard as your reflecting card to add more light to your FO to help focus on the details.

  27. gretchen

    are you finding the gauge with the hempathy is giving you a big enough bag? I have some and was considering using it for the same (orange and purple), but for some reason it seems thinner than the allhemp6. am I misjudging it?

  28. Angie

    This project is going on my list. You have the smartest commenters.

    I think that the bamboo handles would complement the very natural theme of the hemp yarn.

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