Dyer Color Theory Part 1

As a dyer, it’s so important to know your color theory! Of course you’re familiar with the color wheel, and you know what colors work well next to each other and harmonize based on their positioning, but being a dyer is a lot more than having ‘basic’ color theory knowledge. It’s all about color layering, too. Today on the blog, we’re going to run through basic color theory, and in part 2, we’ll look at layering and how it works when planning colors of yarn to dye. 

Here’s the basic color wheel. As you know, if you divide the wheel in half, you get warm, and cool colors: 

You probably also know that colors directly across each other on the color wheel are complementary, meaning they enhance each other visually with high contrast: 

And colors that form a triad on the color wheel also have great impact together (these are called tertiary colors, and include the primary colors): 

Colors that sit next to each other on the wheel, like the yellows and oranges in the warm half of the wheel, are called ‘analogous’. If it touches on the wheel, it will get along pretty well. 

When planning a colorway, though, there are additional colors outside of the ‘pure’ colors we see in the wheel. Tints, the lightened version of color, and Shades, the darkened version of a color, play a big part in dyeing, too:

While tints in painting are created by adding white, in dyeing we would create them by lowering the opacity of the color (or the saturation of the color) by adding more water to dilute the dye. To add darkness to a color in both painting and dyeing, you would add a touch of black or a darker color (more on that next post, where we’ll get into semi-neutrals and color layering!)