Beth Markel

VALUE, or shades of gray…

Posted on September 7, 2018 by Beth Markel

I am not a traditional quilt designer.  Shocking, I know.  I am, however, an obsessed and relentless designer of artistic textiles. If you are new to sewing, designing, making patterns of any sort, or just like to make art, there are a number of design elements to consider.  These ‘Principles of Design’ vary only slightly from art to architecture to clothing, depending on whether you view it, walk through it, or wear it.

Today I want to talk about “Value” of color, which is an element used to create “drama” in art.  Value is the saturation of color, for me, in fabric.  A black fabric can be as light as shades of gray, or as dark as the midnight sky.  A blue fabric can be anywhere from the palest blue or the ocean as it meets the horizon in the distance, or as dark as the blue velvet night sky in winter.  It’s important to use dynamic, changing values in your quilts, whether traditional or art quilts, or the lovely modern quilts.

Not knowing to whom I should give credit, I use the phrase, “Color gets all the credit, but Value does all the work.”  If you are making art that is OK, but you don’t think it’s spectacular, change up the values you are using.  Instead of another medium yellow, use a vibrant or glowing yellow that has a much greater value – more YELLOW color.  The best way to determine value is often using a camera with a Black/White feature. Even my new Samsung camera has a feature where I can take a photo, then alter the colors, including B/W.

So here is what is on my design wall today:  first in B/W to determine if I have a variety of values, then in color to see it how our eye sees it:

B/W values

B/W values

and now in color:

Same photo in color

Same photo in color


There is just something happy about color, and these fall colors really sing, right up to the clear, blue skies over Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley.

Make something today!







Leave a Comment