Colour theory

by maggie

I hasten to add this is not my collection of pre-loved embroidery wools. No siree!

I hasten to add this is not my collection of pre-loved embroidery wools. No siree!

So I was asked to sort this collection so that it could be stored by colour rather in one big sack. But how do you divvy up colour. You could start with Richard of York gave battle in vain, but the “in” is only there because Isaac Newton had an unholy fascination with the number seven.

Three primary colours are red blue and yellow. Their complimentary’s are green, purple and orange. So that’s shade sorted out. A ring of equal tone colours where you can place green-blue, green-green-blue and blue-green like points of a compass.

Unfortunately colour isn’t as straight forward as that. Colour space is at least three dimensional: saturation and tone need to be considered too. Some times I think of colour space a a kind of misshapen globe. The North Pole is white, the South is black. The axis of rotation is a colourless gradation of grey. The ‘equator’ which is not a smooth circle, or necessarily half way down the axis is a rainbow: the brightest the colours can be.

As you travel towards the axis colour becomes less saturated. As you travel towards the poles their tone deepen or reduce. But was about tertiary colours I here you cry! If a secondary colour is two primary colours mixed to some degree, then a tertiary colour contains all three colours. Usually the three primary is only present in a small proportion, unless you are aiming for a spectrum of muddy browns. So sometimes I think of tertiary colours as the rainbow bending round to another part do the circumference and being ‘influenced’ by another colour. That’s why you need more than three dimensions. Or maybe not.

This means that it’s rather a challenge to map colour space on to two dimensions. As well as the ring of colour I also have paler colours in the centre and darker colours at the edge. But where to but the pale browns, puce and olives? And how imageto divvy up the skeins?

Where is the break between green and yellow here or purple and blue? Happy guessing?



edit: here are the skeins bagged up.

Once you get down to it the colour divisions are based on the bag size and that the selection is not uniform across  colour space. I’m sure someone else would have divided up the yellow, orange, red, red brown differently.