What are color values in beading?
So, you’re a beader? And I’m guessing you’re here because you want to know more about choosing bead colors (successfully). Well, one of the biggest areas you need to be aware of is color values. So, what are color values and why are they so important in beading color schemes?
Those are the two questions I’m going to be looking at today. I’ll try and illustrate with some examples. But the best way you can learn is by experimenting and observing for yourself. So, where do you begin with that?
Well, happily, I have set up an online class that gives you the precise structure to guide you. So, you’ll be experimenting with your own bead stash, figuring out how to create color combinations that really work together. If that sounds good, then use this link to find out more and sign up today. (You can take the class in your own time, and work through at your own pace, whenever you’re ready).
What are color values?
Basically, every color will have a value. This is a measure of how dark or light a color appears. So, a lighter color will have a higher value and a darker color will have a lower value.
To put this in context, higher value colors are the ones that ‘pop’ out the most in a color palette. So, if you are looking across the full range of color, yellow has the highest value and purple/blue hues have the lowest.
However, a color’s value is not constant. It is relative.
So, when you place two colors next to one another, the value of one will be higher than the value of the other. For example, place yellow and blue together, and yellow will have the highest value.
But, if you place yellow next to white, then the yellow will have the lowest value. Or, if you placed the blue with a dark purple, the blue would have the lower value.
So, what does this mean when you’re creating a color scheme?
That is something you can experiment with. But I would suggest you consider this: if a color with a higher value will stand out more, then you can use it in a small quantity to create a great effect. So, the high value colors are best used as highlights in a design.
Although, what happens if you reverse that rule? What if you use the highest value colors for the background areas and then use the low value colors for highlights?
Working with color values to create great designs
One of the keys to great design is creating interest. So, the range of color values that you use in a design can make or break it. What do I mean by that?
Well, when your eyes look at a design, your brain unconsciously looks for patterns and something to keep it interested. So, you can use color value to draw the eye around a design. Highlight the main areas with high value colors (for example highlight a front focal). Then use the lowest values to create a background. Use the mid values to create ‘paths’ that draw the viewer’s eye around the design.
If you’re using a set of colors with very similar values, then this ‘journey’ can be very hard to create.
Now, that’s all very well, but how can you tell which of your colors have the highest and lowest values?
Sometimes this is very obvious to the naked eye, but not always. For example, a yellow and an orange can both have high values. It can be difficult to tell which is the highest. Your eye sees two ‘colors’, not two ‘values’.
But I have something that can help…
A trick to tell whether you have a good range of values in a design
If you’re not sure about the beads you’ve selected – or indeed your design – then remove the colors to focus on the values.
How on earth do you do that?
Take a photo of your work, then open the photo in your photo editing software. Somewhere within that, will be an option to add some ‘effects’ to the photo. One of the standard ‘effects’ is ‘gray-scale’ . In other words, your software will turn the colored image into a black and white. So, it becomes very easy to see how great a range of values you’ve used in your design.
What you are looking for is whether your work remains pleasing and interesting even without the visible ‘colors’. I’ll leave you to judge what you feel about the bracelet I chose to use as an example.
But this is certainly an interesting exercise to carry out on your own work.
If you feel like your coloring doesn’t create much impact in your designs, then it could be because you haven’t got enough variety in the values you’re using.
Or, possibly, you have variety in the values, but you haven’t thought about how you’re arranging them within your work.
So, this is something you can take away and think about for the future.
What can you do next?
Naturally, you can start applying these lessons to your own work. You might also want to join that online class and begin improving your bead color combinations right away. So, here is the link again.
And, if you find this kind of information about beading helpful, then why not join my mailing list? I write regular blogs exploring all aspects of beading, from colors, to techniques, to new beads, patterns, and more. My mailing list members receive an exclusive email at the end of each month with a round-up of all this beading advice. You also get a welcome gift when you join. So, if that sounds good, just follow this link and leave your details now.
Lastly, stay tuned for more help with beading colors!