Great Quilts—-Using The Tone Scale (Playing with Color Series by Joen Wolfrom)Joen Wolfrom | November 28, 2012
Greetings to you today. In this post I have included a group of quilts from the 2012 IQA Show in Houston. You will notice that they differ in style, technique, subject matter, and coloring. Look at how each uses the tone color scale. Each quilt artist used this scale differently and the results are fascinating.
First, just in case your brain is overly stressed and you need a little review on color scales, especially tones, here’s a summary:
- Pure Color Scale Pure colors are primary colors and colors made from primary colors. They are the most brilliant colors in the world. They are pure—-they have not been diluted in any way. They have no white, black, or gray in their makeup. They are eye-catching, spirited, and very exciting (especially the warmest colors).
- Tint Scale Tints are colors made from the blending of a pure color and white. A tint is always lighter than the pure color. It is clear, refreshing, and has no gray or black in its makeup. Tints include colors like apricot, light blue, light green, mint green, pink, lavender, peach, soft yellow, and robin’s egg blue.
- Shade Scale Shades are colors made from the blending of a pure color with black. Shades are always darker than the pure color. No white or gray is in their makeup. Shades include deep purple, dark violet, ink navy, dark green, teal, emerald green, rust, brown, maroon, olive, and avocado.
- Tone Scale Tones are colors that have been grayed—-it doesn’t matter how it’s done or how much gray is in the color. A pure color, a tint, or a shade becomes a tone as soon as a drop of gray is in its makeup. Consequently, there are more tones in the world (and in our fabric stashes) than color in any other scale. Tones include beige, rose, heather, salmon, taupe, mauve, dusty teal, and tan.
Reflection Lake in early morning—-an example of all tones.
Playing with Tones
Just some thoughts about tones: You can create wonderful effects with tones in your designs. Tones are instrumental in creating dimensionality. A tone that appears almost as clear as a pure color is going to attract attention similarly to a pure color. A toned color that is so grayed that only a hint of a color can be seen will not attract our attention. It will recede. A quilt using fabrics that are fairly toned will exude a feeling of calmness or quietness.
These four quilts are made almost entirely with tones, but done very differently:
Guitar Blues by Julie Poirier-Mathur and the Beaconsfield Quilters’ Guild,
Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada.
Guitar Blues exudes tranquility in its toned coloring. The colors do not shout out, demanding our attention. Black appears to be the only color that is not toned. When using dark fabrics that have a lot of grayness in them, be sure you include good value contrast in the design. Guitar Blues has great value contrast. Without it, the design could get lost.
I really love Guitar Blues, which is a puzzle quilt. The design was divided into pieces (blocks). Each quilter constructed her quilt block independently, using blues. Once assembled, the design is created. The guitar strings were added after the quilt was assembled. Guitar Blues was created using hand and machine piecing, fusible appliqué, machine quilting, and couching.
Heidi’s Schlowers by Andrea Brokenshire, Round Rock, Texas
Andrea creates amazing quilts and this one is no exception. Years ago her baby sister Heidi was much enamored by the singing flowers at Disneyland. She called them schlowers. Years later Andrea saw this beautiful Cattleya Orchid in Mexico and it reminded her of Heidi’s singing flowers.
This quilt is so realistic that it seems as if you could reach out and touch it. Heidi’s Schlowers is made entirely from toned fabrics. At first glance, the light flower petals seem to be made from tints, but if you look closely you will find they are tones—very slightly toned. There is more grayness in the darker flower blooms. All of the stems and leaves are a variety of toned greens. The most obvious toned element in this quilt is the earthy background with its browns, rusts, and grays.
The most toned colors appear to recede into the distance while those with the least amount of grayness appear to advance. They are the colors our eyes first notice. Using colors with varying degrees of grayness helps to create dimensionality in this art quilt. The light pink flower petals have the least amount of gray in their coloring. Therefore, that is where our eyes are first attracted.
Andrea made this quilt with hand-painted silk appliqué fused on a pieced batik confetti background. It was machine quilted and thread painted. The materials Andrea used were silk charmeuse and cotton fabrics; cotton batting; Setacolor fabric paint; Misty Fuse fusible web; cotton, rayon, and polyester threads.
Color Play by Mi Ra Kim from Cary, North Carolina
Color Play by Mi Ra Kim is really dynamic with its many bright colors. It appears as if there are a couple of oranges that are clear of gray. One looks pure color; the other looks like a tint. All of the other foreground colors are in varying degrees of grayness. The warm, slightly grayed fabrics attract our attention first because they are the brightest. They visually advance. The darker and grayer fabrics fall back. Yet all of her foreground design components seem to float above the background. That’s because Mi Ra used fabrics that were perfect for her background. These dark, toned background fabrics recede, letting the light, spirited colors appear to float on top, which created wonderful dimensionality.
The Lovely Woods by Eileen Williams, Cedar Point, North Carolina
This beautiful quilt was inspired by the Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It is a tribute to a line in the poem that reads, The woods are lovely, dark and deep……” Eileen machine pieced and appliquéd, stenciled with clear deColourant, accented with fabric inks, free-motion machine quilting.
Every fabric in this quilt is toned, but notice how the subtly-toned light colors play differently from the dark toned colors. Also, the colors closest to yellow on the color wheel tend to advance if they are only slightly toned. The cooler colors tend to fall back. Eileen has done a great job creating this detailed landscape.
More Quilts to Observe
What do you think?
Which way of working with tones do you prefer? Do these quilts give you ideas for how you might work with tones and other color scales in your next project? Let me know what you think.
Just a Note
Sorry for my delay in getting this post out to you. I have been in the middle of three overwhelming deadlines these past 4-6 weeks, which have nothing to do with quilts or colors….just volunteer responsibilities in other parts of my life. I am hoping by January life will get back to some normalcy.
Text and photography copyright © Joen Wolfrom
The copyright of the quilts shown in this post remains with those artists who created these works of art.
Joen is a color enthusiast who teaches and lectures on color. She has written three color books: Color Play, Visual Coloring, and The Magical Effects of Color. Her Studio Color Wheel is used to illustrate color concepts in many of these blog posts. She is also the designer of the 3-in-1 Color Tool. Her new book Adventures in Designis now available. Joen’s newest design tool, the Magic Design-Ratio Tool has just been released. All books and products are published by C & T Publishing.