Designing With Color

Now that we know what color work is, how do we know what colors will go well together?

Well, there are a LOT of ways really. For those of you who have a good feel for color already, head down to the yarn shop and see what strikes your fancy. Even those of you who may need some help in this area should go and take a look. Sometimes just seeing certain yarns in certain colors helps to decide what direction you want to go or help to provide you with some inspiration.

For those of you who are less confident in this area, head on down to your local design store, art supply store, or big box home improvement store. We’re going to need somethings.

Don’t feel like you have to design using just one tool either, you can you one, two, or all three of these together to help you find what works best for you.

Color Wheel

Some of you might remember color wheels from art class or grade school. They’re those turnable rounds of color that help you to match up primary, secondary, tertiary, and complimentary colors.  They usually look like this:


The color directly opposite is the complimentary color. For example, looking at this wheel, if you were to take yellow green and look for the opposing color, you would get red-violet. Knowing that simple trick is wonderful for all kinds of crafts because it is an at a glance way to find coordinating and contrasting colors. To learn more about color coordination and how to pick a color scheme, I suggest checking out this home design blog from They take you through more of the basics than I will be able to cover here.

A color wheel can be purchased at any art supply store, some home decor stores, during school supply season almost anywhere, and most online retailers. They aren’t terribly expensive and if you have kids not yet in school or just starting school, they’re a great way to teach the kids about colors too!

This tool is best for color beginners or those of you who may struggle identifying or separating colors. As you are designing your work, use this as a starting point to pick out which basic colors you want to work with. When you go looking for yarn, maybe take it with you to help match shades as you pick out what weight, material and amounts of yarn you’ll need.

Paint Sample Cards

Paint sample cards are the small cards found in the interior paint section of your local mega-mart or big box home improvement store. They can also, of course, be found at paint specialty stores–but those can be a little harder to find. They look like this:


And come in more colors that you will probably EVER need. The BEST part about these is you can usually take two or three with you for FREE.

I would recommend these for people who are a little more comfortable with color, but not yet wanting to “wing it.” They give you almost endless possibilities (which can be a bit overwhelming for beginners and those who are indecisive) and also give you something to match against when looking for yarn.

What these will NOT do is show you complimentary colors or explain the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. You’re on your own for that part. Luckily google can help you with most of that. If you DO need help with complimentary colors, I would have to direct you back to the color wheel.

Again, this is a good place to start before you buying yarn. Pick out a few and take them with you to match shades as you pick out your weight and material for your yarn.

Design Books


A design book is–much light the name–a book full of designs! Usually you’ll find them where wall paper or custom furniture is sold. If you are lucky enough to have a home design store nearby they have shelves of design books that contain coordinated pallets with fabrics, flooring, paint, and other things all matched together. Some libraries have these as well.

The idea behind using a book like this rather than using just the color wheel (which looks only at broad color categories) or paint samples (which look at specific solid colors) is that these will give you multicolored, coordinated patterns to draw inspiration from. You’ll be able to see how colors match up together and maybe even find some surprises that you wouldn’t have thought worked well.

I love to go through these to see what’s new in the world of color design as well as to find new and interesting geometric or abstract patterns to work with. They can be a little overwhelming for beginners, just make sure as you’re looking that you focus is on the COLORS, not on trying to incorporate the patterns into your work.

This is a good place for those of you who are already familiar with colors and just want some inspiration. The downside to these is that usually you won’t be able to take a sample with you. You will probably be able to take a picture with your phone or camera if you thought to bring it.

Online Resources

If you don’t have time to head out (I COMPLETELY understand), there are also some great resources online. As convenient as just looking online is, I am unable to recommend this as a first option.  The color resources that you view online will only be as good as your computer (or device) screen. For MOST things this isn’t an issue, and the screen quality has gone WAY up in recent days, but when you’re looking at the difference between colors called Lemon and Lemonade, in person is REALLY the way to go.

So, having finished with the disclaimer, here are a few online resources to help you out:

Here are a couple of color wheels for you. More can be found on this Google search.

Paint sample cards are a little harder to find online, but there are some REALLY cool color visualizers from paint manufacturers that let you look at colors together in a room. Here’s a list of those:


Behr ColorSmart

Sherwin Williams ColorSnap


Behr ColorSmart (pick a color to get started then click preview on the right)

Benjamin Moore Color a Room

Sherwin Williams ColorSnap

Color pallets and design boards like these can be found ALL over the internet. I find that Pintrest really is the “it” place (I just dated myself I think ^_^;;) to find a good variety of these. Just for you, I put together a design board so you guys would have a few of these to start from and some terms to look for.

You might notice in these boards that a lot of them have stencils, photos, and even plants! While you’re designing your own creations, it may help to put a board like this together to help you get all your ideas into one place. Then you can pare down any extras and you’ll have just what you need.


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