Monday, December 20, 2010

The biggie - how to read colour

We know the colour we want, there may be a swatch of another fabric, a magazine cutting, a flower or you-name-it, colour is everywhere. Achieving that colour in hand dyed fabric is a challenge; skills in 'reading' colour need to be developed. Just as a musician is able to recognise individual sound notes, or the way a mechanic tunes a vehicle, the visual artist needs to be able to analyse colour to reproduce it. One of my favourite pastimes on long drives is to concentrate on the colour of the car in front of me, and 'read' the colours to determine how I would reproduce this, it works!

We all know that there are warm and cool colours, we also know that there can be a warm red and a cool red, a warm green and a cool green. Being able to look at a colour and separate the many individual colours that come together to produce a colour is the next step.

There is also the intensity of the colour, is it at full intensity; or is there less intensity, a paleness or lightness of the colour?

I have a range of Procion MX dye colours which total 28 - they include 4 reds, 2 yellows, 2 blacks, 6 blues and 4 greens, plus a further range of individual colours. I know these colours intimately - I have been working with them for about three decades. If I was to be given a different set of dyes I would have to start all over again!

Everyone of these dye colours is made up of a complex selection of colours, and in various quantities to make that individual dye colour. When faced with a new colour ie it isn't in my range of colours already and this is in most cases, I need to determine what dyes to combine, and how much of each. Usually I start by selecting a main colour, then the others that will blend to make that colour. Recording quantities/proportions is paramount. And the intensity? Full strength for a strong colour, with less for paler colours.

My dye Record Chart which I use to record new colours. The colours used were Blue G, Soft Orange and Deep Purple. The swatches from the left are cotton, silk charmeuse, silk/rayon velvet and silk organza. Remember how I said it was so important to know that makeup of fabric? These four swatches all came from the same dye bath.

How does this all work?

3. I have determined the weight of the dry fabric (see previous blog), and for this example we will use 100gms (WOG). I have also decided that I want the colour to be quite intense, a good strong middle range is 5% DOS (depth of shape).

4. I have a pile of file cards each recording how much dye, and the chemicals that are required to achieve an outcome on fabric weighing in at various amounts from 25gms to 1000gms. It says that I need 5gms of dye in total for the 100gms dry weight of fabric. Referring back to my warm brown colour above, I therefore need 2.5gms of the Soft Orange, and 1.25gms each of the Blue G and Deep Purple. (Apologies to those who work in imperial quantities, but metrics are so much easier!) It is essential to weigh dye powders and not work with volume eg half a teaspoon etc, as all dye powders weigh in at different weights eg 5gms each of two colours may look, in volume, completely different.

My dye quantity record cards.

More next blog....

1 comment:

  1. this is going to be very helpful...and you are so timely in your post! how ever did you know???? LOL