One of the most important things in understanding color is value. Quite simply, value is light, medium, dark colors. Value, of course, is dependent upon what else is going on in a quilt. Light in one quilt, could be dark in another. Notice on the chart above the lightness/darkness of the colors. If you only stayed in the medium/dark range, the bottom medium color would be considered the light color. Conversely, if you stayed in the medium/light area...the same medium color would be considered dark. Value is dependent on the other colors.
Understand light/medium/dark isn't a hard concept. However, understanding how light/medium/dark all play together can be tricky at times. It also determines how your quilt is viewed. Many times people enjoy using the medium color palate. I find myself to be in this category. However, sometimes my tastes go towards light and dark, depending on the new Moda lines at the time. When I pieced together my first quilt I used 3 colors, but 2 of my colors were medium, and 1 was white. I also only used 3 fabrics, I don't know if it could get more boring. But, I didn't know any better, and isn't that what life is about, learning?
see how boring? What if my middle red, was a super dark red? What if it was super light? What if the middle white, was more cream? There are many possibilities missed here by playing it safe (and boring).
This quilt is hanging in my game room. There are tons of different colors and values. Sometimes there is little value difference (as in the blue square above), and sometimes there is a huge value difference (as in the orange and purple square). I chose to have a little of each to give the quilt more interest, to be less predictable, to move the eye along. As you can see, there is no rule about value, just the more you understand it, the more you can use it to advance your own purpose.
These are all great examples of value at work. The flower and CD art are both one color...just varying values. The the Trix box shows complementary colors as well as using light and dark to highlight their cereal.
Moving on...... You have to decide before you make your quilt, what parts you want to stick out, what parts you want to recede, what parts you want to be the background, what parts you want to be a surprise for viewers when the finally get up close, etc... What everyone must understand: there is no Right answer. Each quilt is different, each wants to accomplish a different task. Some are soothing, some are stark,.... it is the understanding of color and value and how they work together that will help us all make the quilts/art we dream of.
This quilt by Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle, shows perfectly how value can create visions in a quilt. It seems as if there is a square of vellum placed in the middle of the quilt, or the sun is shining on that part. That is the joy of value, by using lighter variations of the same color, they are able to make even the black parts seem lighter.
Your challenge now, is to notice the value all around you. Imagine what things would look like if you made something darker, lighter, etc. If you quilt, scrapbook, paint, craft, whatever....., understanding value will help you achieve what you hope to accomplish. Good luck, and please feel free to share any insights, successes, failures in your quest to understand value/color better.