Color Theory for Fiber Artist & Crafters - Darn Good Yarn

Color Theory for Fiber Artist & Crafters

Written by Kate Curry

What Is Color Theory & Why Is It Important?

For hundreds of years, artists have been using color theory to create their masterpieces. They weren’t just randomly grabbing colors! Each color included in art is chosen specifically to send a message to the viewer. The color wheel that you’ve seen in every art classroom is based off of Sir Isaac Newton’s color wheel from 1704. Using color theory helps guide the artist to choosing eye-catching color combinations and designs. 

How To Use A Color Wheel

A color wheel helps you see the relationship between colors. Have you ever been working on an art piece, randomly choose two colors, only to realize 😳 ohhh….that’s kind of ugly. By using a color wheel, you can avoid those situations! 

A color wheel, displaying all the colors of the rainbow.

Using a color wheel will help you find: 

  • Complementary colors
  • Analogous colors
  • Triadic colors
  • Split complementary colors

Important Color Factors & Terms

While you’re looking for some inspiration, you might see other artists toss around terms like achromatic color combinations and tone when describing their color palette choices. We have a few color theory vocab terms and examples that can get you started! 


    • Primary Colors: These are the main three colors (red, yellow, and blue) that are used in different combinations to make every other color 
A closeup image of three yellow, blue, and red colored pencils
    • Secondary Colors: These colors (green, purple, and orange) are created by mixing together the primary colors 
Three strips of light purple, orange, and green, painted on a white wall
    • Complementary Colors: Colors that are on the opposite sides of the color wheel and can create contrast.
A color wheel, displaying all the colors of the rainbow. A black arrow is pointing to the yellow and purple triangles. Under the color wheel are two circles, one yellow and one purple.
    • Tertiary Colors: These colors are created when a primary color is mixed with the nearest secondary  color
A color wheel, displaying all the colors of the rainbow. Some of the colors have black text on them, discribing the colors. The colors are yellow-green, green-blue, blue-purple, red-purple, red-orange, and yellow-orange.
  • Analogous Colors: Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These colors create harmony in your art.
  • A color wheel, displaying all the colors of the rainbow. A large black 3-headed arrow is pointing at the yellow, yellow-green, and green triangles. Underneath the color wheel are three circles: one yellow, one yellow-green, and one green.
  • Triadic Colors: These are colors that are on equal sites of the color wheel. You can find these by drawing a triangle on your color wheel.
  • A color wheel, displaying all the colors of the rainbow. A black triangle is at the center of the cirlce. Three cirlcles are beneath the color wheel. One orange, one green, and the oher purple.
  • Warm Colors:  Red, orange, yellow and all their combinations.
  • A closeup of different skeins of warm colored yarn, such as red, yellow, pink, and orange.
  • Cool Colors:  Blue, green, purple and all their combinations.
  • A closeup of different skeins of cool colored yarn, such as blue, green, and teal.
  • Neutral/Achromatic Colors: Black, white, gray, tan, and all their combinations.
  • A closeup image of brown, white, gray, and black yarn all tangled up together.
  • Monochromatic Colors: One color, but used with different tints and shade to create value. 
  • Five skeins of ombre purple yarn, starting from a light lilac to deep violet are laid out on a light gray table.


    • Tint: A tint is any color mixed with white - think of pastels 
    • Value: How light or dark the color is. 
    • Shade: A color that is mixed with black to make it darker 
    • Tone: Refers to the darkness or lightness of a color 
    • Saturation: How “pure” a color is. You can change the saturation of a color by adding gray or a complementary color. 

    The Psychology Of Color Theory

    Colors have, and always will, have a psychological effect. There is no universal meaning for colors though, as the meaning behind color can depend on the culture, heritage, and emotional reaction of the viewer. What one person might see as their ‘sad color’ might be another person’s happy color. 

    When you’re creating, be mindful of what colors you’re working with and what emotions you want to convey in your art. If you want to convey a warm, sunny day at the beach, you’ll want to use shades and tones that remind you of warm tan sand, cool blue water, and bright and happy beach umbrellas. 

    Finding Inspiration And Making A Color Palette!

    You can find inspiration all around you! In music, art, nature, and your loved ones. Before you start creating, think about what your inspiration is and how you want people to feel when they look at your art. Do you want them to look at your scarf and think - wow, that reminds me of cold winter nights when I had to snuggle up in a blanket? Art can make a viewer recall and reminisce on the past - and you’ll need to do a little bit of color planning before you get to creating! 

    The best way to create your color palette is to take pictures of the yarn you have in your stash and upload them to a site like canva. We love canva for making art here at DGY and they have a ton of fun templates that you can use to help you create your color palette. 

    For example, I’ll be using a picture of our artisans for inspiration for a color palette 

    Three Indian artisans who create Darn Good Yarn's yarn. They're outsideholding the yarn that they have made that day. At the bottom of the image is a color pallette, showing some of the colors taken from the picture.

    How To Pick Your Yarn

    Once you have your palette, it’s time to finally pick your yarn. You may have the yarn color you want in your stash, or you may have to go hunting for that perfect color that you’ll need. Thankfully, there are millions of different colorways of yarn - so very rarely will you be unable to find a specific color of yarn. 

    A color wheel made up of all the colors of the rainbow. Around the edge of the color wheel are nests of yarn that match the color they are resting on.

    Texture, material, and weight is very important, too! I’m not saying you can’t mix and match different yarns, but do some experimenting with different mixes before you sit down and start the hard work of creating! 

    You’ll also have to plan out your pattern and how you want to mix your colors. Do you want one color to be the main focus and the other color(s) more for accent? Which color do you want to pop, or do you want the colors to blend? Do you want to have your colors mixed together? Or striped? Or maybe in a specific pattern that makes a shape? 

    Three Indian artisans who create Darn Good Yarn's yarn. They're outsideholding the yarn that they have made that day. At the bottom of the image is a color pallette, showing some of the colors taken from the picture. Underneath the color pallette is another pallette, this one made of yarn that are the same colors as the color pallette.

    Mixing Your Yarn Colors

    When you’re putting together colors, there are a few options! 

      • Blending / Mixing Yarn 
    A blue and purple pastel yarn is still attached to the wooden crochet hook. The work in progress is resting on a wooden table. At the top of the image is a wooden yarn bowl filled with blue yarn and sparkle blue-pink-yellow lace weight yarn. To the right of the yarn bowl are two crystals, one clear and one amethyst.
    A blend of Caribbean Current and Pastel Dreams
      • Horizontal Stripes
    A woman with brown hair and a straw hat is leaning against a gray house. She's wearing dark jeans and am ombre crochet top that is pink, tan, and blues.
    Easy Breezy Top Crochet Kit
      • Vertical Stripes
    A Latinex woman with long dark hair is smiling at the camera as she leans up against a wooden bar. She's wearing a mustard yellow top and bottom set underneath a vertically striped vest.
    Heather Bolero Vest
      • Diagonal Stripes
    A woman with curly dark hair and glasses is sitting outside in the sun. Around her shoulders is a multicolored diagonal-striped shawl.
    Moment of Zen Shawl Kit
      • Squares
    A closeup picture of a white, pink, yellow, and blue granny square blanket.
    Learn How To Make Your Own Granny Squares!
      • Chevron
    A pair of hands wearing blue, purple, and pink chevron fingerless gloves is holding a cup of coffee on a black wire table.
    My Favorite Chevron Kit
      • Waves
    A blue and yellow ombre wave crochet project is laid out on a white sheet. The blue crochet hook is still attached to the end of the project.
    Wonderful Waves Wrap Crochet Kit
      • Ombre
    A woman wearing a light blue and white short dress is walking through the forest. Around her arms is an ombre blue shawl.
    Ombre Stitch Sampler Shawl Kit
      • Spiral
    A spiraled doily made out of blue, green, and pink yarn is resting on a wooden table. Atop the doily is a mason jar filled with bamboo and three small succulents.
    Spiral Fan Doily Crochet Kit
      • Dots
    A close up picture of a polka dot and striped yarn project. The project is made up of light pink, purple, navy, and blue yarn.
    Stripe-A-Dots Hat and Gloves Knitting Kit
      • Scaled
    A model showing off a scaled shawl made of white, red, green, and pink yarn is facing away from the camera.

    That's just to name a few! 


    I hope this guide helps you the next time you get crafting! We'd love to see what you make! Use #darngoodyarn or tag us on Facebook or Instagram so we can see your creations !

    Meet the Author

    Profile picture of the author, Kate Curry, wearing a dark red Nanda Poncho sitting on concrete stairs in front of brick wall.

    Kate has been on the Darn Good Yarn team since 2018.

    They have their degree in Creative Art Therapy & Psychology - and like crafting and animals a little too much.