Tag Archives: color

Color Temperature

Fabric Fever: When Color Temperature is Cause for Concern

In these winter days, especially now, having a fever is cause for concern. Staying home and

Does you fabric have a temperature?

away from others gives me more time with my fabric, where temperature has also been on my mind.  Last year, I started teaching a monthly Zoom class on Color & Composition through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and our color focus last month was about temperature.  Here is a bit of what we discussed…

What is Warm? What is Cool?

The exact dividing line between warm & cool colors has been an open topic for centuries.

various versions of color temperature

What is your preference?

Your preference likely depends on your medium: a digital graphic artist lives in a different color world than a fiber art quilter.  Here is what I work with…

my take on color temperature

Here are my play groups for warm and cool colors.

I also think of red and green as temperature neutral.  They can function with either play group, but will be the coolest kids in the warm group, and the hottest kids in the cool group.

color temperature - warm

What’s cool in the warm group?

color temperature - cool

What is warm in this cool group?

How is Temperature a Tool?

It’s a fact that warm colors advance and cool colors recede!  In a composition, we can create a sense of depth using temperature.  Warm colors will seem closer to us and cool colors will fall to the background.  Or do they?  Do we know this because someone told us, or because we have experienced it?  I say, “You don’t really own that knowledge until you test it out.”  

So, I created a series of simple compositions of a box on a background.  These are only  8 x10 inches, easy to make, and keep on hand for future reference.

Warm vs Cool – Round 1

First, here is a box in a warm color sitting on a cool color background. 

Does the box visually pop off the surface?

Now, here is the reverse: a cool color box on a warm color background.

What about this box?

If the concept holds true, the first version should appear to have more depth, and the background should fight for dominance in the second.  What do you think?

Warm vs Cool – Round 2

In my next experiment, I pitted warm and cool colors against each other in the same composition.  Using a temperature neutral color green for the back ground, I put a large and small box together in the composition.  Size will indicate to the viewer that the larger box is closer, but, how does color temperature amplify, or mute that message?  


Warm vs Cool in Pictorial Quilts

These examples are very dramatic, but the concept can be used in more subtle ways.  Color temperature is relative.  Even within the “Warm” or “Cool” color play groups, each color will appear warmer, or cooler depending on what color plays next to it.  For example, orange is cooler than yellow, but warmer than red.  Also, blue is cooler than green, but warmer than violet. 

I use this concept in all of my work.  Look through my genre and portrait galleries to see how warm tones advance from the cooler backgrounds.  When more than one person is included in a composition, I employ subtle temperature changes in flesh tones to make one figure more prominent, or appear closer than another. 

Which figure has the warmer complexion?

How does temperature amplify depth in this piece?

Experience is the best teacher

Now, if you really want to own knowledge of this concept, you need to conduct your own experiences.  It can be a simple as cutting out some circles of various sizes and colors, and then experiment with placing those circles on different backgrounds.  You don’t even need to fix them permanently.  Try one version, take a photo, rearrange, and take another photo.

If you try this, share a photo of your experiment with me:  Lea@leamccomas.com

Learn More About Color Concepts

Every month, I teach an online Color & Composition class through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.  We meet via Zoom on the 4th Saturday of every month from 1:00-3:00 (Mountain Time zone).  Each meeting is a chance to explore a color concept, a color scheme, and a composition concept.  Come every month, or participate when you can.  The cost is $20/ session. Click this link to join us.

Here is what we’ll be exploring at our next meeting on January 23:

Color Concept: Creating Depth

Color Scheme: Analogous

Composition Concept: Variety & Unity

Sign up for the next Color & Composition class with Lea McComas


Blanket Statement

These last couple of weeks, I’ve frantically been working to complete the fusing portion of the center horseman panel before other, looming responsibilities interrupt me.  The body of the rider has taken a lot of energy.  There were many tiny pieces and a lot of confusion in sorting out what was what in the photo, but I finally put him together.

The big design decision here was the color scheme for the blanket.  The overall scheme for the piece is a double compliment: red-green, blue-orange.  Currently, a very dark orange is brought into the composition through the horse. I really wanted to work in some lighter warm orange in the blanket, but couldn’t visualize it.  Several photocopies of the pattern were made and filled in with colored pencils.  In the end, it was a red, white, blue, and gray scheme that worked with the rest of the composition. See the progress below.

A portion of the original photo

A portion of the original photo

Audition colors on paper. Orange isn't working

Audition colors on paper. Orange isn’t working

Blanket in progress in red, white, blue--and grey.

Blanket in progress in red, white, blue–and grey.

Finished rider.

Finished rider.

I’ll tell you about the background in a future blog.


Adam and the Paperectomy

Finally, it’s time to begin work on the people in this composition.  I’m going back to the beginning, the first image that I fused with

The vest in cool reds

fabric, the man in the background on far right.  Since he is first, I’m calling him Adam.  Because he is a less significant figure, I’m using him as a warm-up to the big buys on the bike.  I started with the vest, using cooler reds than in the bike frame so as to push it into the background,

I move next to the face, again selecting a group of cool grays that will fall back from the warmer tones I will use on the actual bike boys.

The face emerges

Finally, I work on the coat.  This is where I find that the dimensions on the arm are messed up.  I will try to redefine them with thread by making the upper arm wider, and shaving off some of the lower edge of the fore sleeve with darker thread that will put it into shadow sooner.  Check back later to see how this works out.

Got to fix that sleeve

Stitching people is a bit intense. when I have only a short period of time to work and don’t want to dive into the details, I move to the background and begin filling it in.  I discover that this too, presents problems.  While stitching, I begin to hear a clicking noise.  Investigation reveals that I didn’t remove a piece of backing paper before assembling this portion of the work.  I need to go in and get it. I declare the need for a “paperectomy” and prepare for surgery.  See this delicate operation below.  The important thing is to make incisions through the layers at various places.  Once done, I can stitch over the area and seal up the cuts that I’ve made.  The patient will survive with no permanent scars.

Horizontal cut through tulle

Scissors under tulle make vertical cut through fabric.

Loosen and remove paper.


Front Man

This week I’ve been able to add the front rider on the bicycle built for 6.  When I stepped back to view my progress, I was not as thrilled as I had hoped to be.  It doesn’t pop according to plan.  As I evaluate it, I realize that the colors are warmer than the background, but the chroma, or intensity, is not as rich as it should be, and I don’t have the value contrast that I need.  I may try to infuse and add, or over-fuse with bits of very dark and light fabrics to make some changes, but that is risky.  I run the chance of pulling the piece out of shape or fraying the raw edges.  I’ll have to give it some thoughtful consideration before I make that kind of move. 

I think a better plan, for now, is to move forward with the next 2 riders and create a bigger context for this front man.  Maybe I can compensate with those characters.  I also have the option of waiting until I’m in the thread-painting stage to try to make the needed adjustments.  That, however, is a long way off.  If I wait till that stage and it doesn’t work, I may be hard pressed to  find another option.

Another minor setback: I’ve lost a pattern piece for the toe of his shoe, and have spent a good amount of time sifting through all the little bits of paper in my trash to no avail.

On the up side: I do like the red bike.

You might have guessed that this is the time when the nay-saying voices are singing in my head. Stumbling and struggling in front of others is very humbling.


New Progress on the Bike Boys

Building the background

This week I’ve managed to add more background.  You can see some buildings taking shape, along with another onlooker.  Even though

this piece is done in neutrals, I still want each element to be unique.  For me, that means giving each it’s own set of fabrics.  Thechallenge is to find a wide variety of fabrics from which to choose.  Although I just started cutting and fusing fabrics, I’ve been thinking about this project for over a year and have been collecting fabrics for at least that long. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I actually have all of what I think I will need to do this piece.

72 fabrics from the stash

As I choose fabrics for the background, I’m thinking about how to give it life and make it interesting.  Some of my previous backgrounds have been just solid pieces of fabric; a kind of blank canvas from which characters pop forward.  I think that has been a weakness of my previous work and I want this to be so much more.  At the same time, I want it to stay in the background and play a supporting role, not compete for the viewer’s first attention.  To this end, I have chosen to narrow the value scale.  I won’t work from white to black, but, rather, from a very light to a very dark gray.  In this way, the contrast in my values will not be as dramatic as in the foreground.  Also, I’ve chosen cooler colors.  The grays that I have picked are on the bluish side.  They will take a back seat to the warmer neutrals that I will use in the foreground.