The Value of Color

Choosing colors for a multicolored crochet project can be both difficult and enjoyable. This is especially true if you are substituting colors. After seeing the top 10 pantone fashion colors for women this spring I will be doing my share of substitution. I love these elegant and classic shades.


So what do you need to look for when selecting yarn colors? One useful tool in color selection is value, or degree of lightness or darkness. A pastel blue has a lighter value than a navy blue, for instance. If you crocheted a project with both the pastel and navy blue, the difference in values would create a pleasing contrast. However most multi-color projects also include colors in the middle of the spectrum. A great example of a project that uses colors in a variety of values is the Santa Fe Shawl (at left). And here are a few tips on how to determine the value of your yarn colors.

Santa Fe Shawl, Summer 2008  
  • Make sure you are viewing the colors in daylight. Artificial lighting can alter the way your eyes see color, giving the yarn a green or yellow cast. Standing next to a window with all of your yarn colors works great.
  • Values are much easier to see in black and white. Lay your colors together and take a quick picture. Either take the picture in black and white or download the picture and use your computer’s photo software to convert the image to grayscale.
  • If taking a picture is not an option, try to ignore the actual colors and concentrate on the values of the yarn. (I find that the easiest way to do this is to first choose the light and the dark value colors, then choose a medium value yarn that is somewhere between those two colors.)

To help illustrate this concept of color value, I’ve made two swatches, shown here in color and black and white:

The first swatch, above, is worked in three different colors that all have about the same value. You can see that even in a color photograph the colors tend to blend together. When you convert the photograph to grayscale the values are almost identical. This color combination would be too subtle for most projects.

The second swatch uses a light, medium, and dark value yarn. When viewed in color, this swatch creates more visual interest, and when the photograph is converted to grayscale, you can easily see the difference in values of the bottom two colors. The top two colors may be a little too close on the value scale. A slightly darker green might be a better choice.


Before you begin your next colorwork project, look up the top 10 pantone colors; then pull out some of your favorite yarn colors and play with color combinations, keeping color values in mind. Check out our fantastic crochet patterns for colorwork projects you can start today. The perfect combination of color choice and pattern will create a stunning project sure to garner attention.

Best wishes,

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