Pick colors that make your colorwork POP!
It’s a blast knitting with several colors, but it’s also quite much work. And you want your efforts to show, right? The secret to make your colorwork “pop” is to pick colors that have high contrast.
It’s common to pick neutrals like black, gray, or white as the main color and add more cheerfull ones in the colorwork. But, this isn’t the only way to go.
In this post, I will teach you everything I know about picking colors for your colorwork, and then some. This one took a bit of research!
Use the color wheel to pick colors that make your colorwork knitting pop!
Color theory for knitters!
I guess you recognize the color wheel? At least in my school, this picture was used to teach about colors.
Let me freshen up your memory on this a bit!
Complementary colors are that are placed opposite to each other on the color wheel. These colors have very high contrast and make each other pop! Sometimes maybe a little too much, they can be great or they can be a bit harsh together.
Complementary color pairs: Red & Green, Purple & Yellow, and Blue & Orange
Analogous colors are found next to each other. These more similar color often look great together.
Analogous color pairs: Green & Blue, Blue & Purple, Purple & Red, Red & Orange, Orange & Yellow, Yellow & Green
Hue, value, and saturation
Value is how much white or black that is added to a color. This is what’s changing red to pink or wine-red. Pink has more white in it and wine has more black in it. You can think of it as the lightness or darkness of a color.
Every color has a hue, a value, and a saturation.
Saturation is a way to talk about how intense the color is. Compare pale pink to hot pink for example.
Hue is what we normally call color. And what decides where the colors are found on the color wheel.
To make a colorwork pattern really pop, you need the colors to be high contrast. But how do you know that the colors you are choosing are high contrast? Besides using your knowledge from the color wheel about complementary and analogous colors, we need to take a look at value and saturation too.
You can choose colors with a different hue, and still end up with a colorwork that will barely show. Like a blue and a green that are clearly different colors. But if they have a similar value (lightness) and saturation (intensity) they will blend together rather than make each other pop.
Value can be hard to read to the eye but have a big impact on how the colors work alongside.
There are a few tips that you can try to avoid your colorwork to disappear in a blur.
Let your camera tell you which colors will make your colorwork pop
I learned a few years back that the camera on my phone can be a helpful tool. This tip works well for colors that are close to each other on the color wheel.
I pick some colors that I like, hold them together and take a picture of them. The magic happens when I change the settings on my phone to black and white. This gives me the opportunity to block out the hue and see only the value and saturation. What I see on the black and white version is the contrast between the colors. Are they making each other pop or do they melt together in a blur?
If they stand out from each other, it’s a good choice to combine these colors in colorwork. If not, I try another color combination so my colorwork won’t disappear in nuances that are too much alike.
Hold yarn strands together
When you are looking at some balls of yarn you see a lot of the color, but when knitted you will only see a strand or a few stitches at the time.
If you have the opportunity you can unwind a little yarn and hold the different strands together. To see just a few strands will give you a better hint of how the colors will work in your knitting.
Please don’t do this at your local yarn shop, at least not without asking first… maybe this tip works better when digging through your stash 🙂
Make a swatch
Make a swatch, it’s my one fits all answer to all the knitting questions. That’s how good swatching is for your knitting!
You can come along way with theory, but when you start knitting that swatch you’re leaving that theory stage and get into the knitting stage. And that’s where it’s all happening.
So grab your needles and your chosen color candidates and get to it. In a bit, you will know if you have made a good decision or if you have to rethink this.
If you’re not entirely happy with the result you can try to change which color you hold underneath. The color held underneath is the dominate color, which means that color will be the one that pops the most.
And when you’re at it you get to know what’s happening with your gauge while knitting colorwork too. There can be some nasty surprises sometimes as the colorwork makes your gauge change. If you’re having gauge issues when knitting colorwork, this post has a few tips for you!
- If you want your colorwork to really pop, go for high contrast colors.
- The complementary color pairs are the ones that pop the most, along with black and white. You find them opposite each other in the color wheel.
- If you want to show off your colorwork, but don’t like harsh combinations, go for the analogous color pairs instead. You find them next to each other in the color wheel.
- If you’re feeling unsure, do the black and white-photo test to see how much contrast the colors have.
- You can try to hold single strands of yarn together to get a better picture than if holding whole balls of yarn together.
- Swatching is the ultimate way to determine how the colors are going to work in your knitting. I know I go on and on about this but, knitting swatches is key to successful projects.