Color Theory for Quilters: 50 Shades of Grey Fabric


I am taking a color theory class. I think that most quilters are like me and choose our quilt colors intuitively, without really knowing why we like them or not. That’s why I’m starting a blog series — called “True Color Tuesday’s” — so that we can explore color theory together.

Grey fabric. Note that colors “change” depending on adjoining fabric.

At my color theory class, the first assignment was to bring in the greys from our stash. (This was not a huge deal as most of us didn’t exactly have a huge stash of grey fabric.)

The next step was to lay our grey fabrics on the table. It was very interesting to see that most of the greys changed color, depending on what shade was around them. Some of the greys began to look yellow, while others looked blue or green. After pulling out all the greys that were not a pure color, we were left with very few.

I admit that I’ve spent very little time studying grey fabric, so I was surprised. How can grey change color? Don’t you just mix grey from black and white? Nope. Grey can also be made from mixing a variety of colors. A warm grey will be composed with yellow, orange and red, while a cool grey will contain blues and greens. A true grey will be made from black and white.

So keep this in mind as you’re planning your quilt. If you’ve got a blue quilt, and you are adding grey, you probably want a grey that is made from a combination of cool colors. Ditto if you’re making a quilt with warm colors. Or maybe not. The trick is to realize that, just because you purchased a fabric labeled “grey,” doesn’t mean it will look grey on your quilt.

On this Youtube video, you can see grey being mixed from yellow, orange and blue.

Wikipedia has a great explanation of making grey, as well as examples of warm and cool greys.


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