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Colour Blocks

22 June 2015 09:46

All things Vintage are very trendy at the moment.  But what constitutes Vintage?  When the trend started, Vintage usually meant fashions from the '40s.  Then it included the '50s.  Now the '60s have crept in.  (I've even seen '80s fashion described as Vintage - yikes!)

If your favourite period is the 1960s, then you may well be interested in the solid blocks of colour which adorned many a garment then.  Often it was black & white, but other colours were used too.  The trouble then is - which colours?

We all learnt at school about primary (red, blue and yellow) and secondary (purple, green and orange) colours.  But what about other colours, and how best to put them together?  Of course, if it's for your own design, then you can put together the colours you like, even if other people say those colours shouldn't go together.  But if you're hoping to appeal to a wider range of people, then it's good to know that your colour combinations are likely to 'work' - unless you're Vivienne Westwood, of course!

Most colour theories, which suggest ways of combining colours in ways which 'work', are based on the colour wheel.  At its most basic level, this contains the three primary colours:

followed by adding the secondary colours:

You can continue to add in colours in the same way.  Most colour theories settle on 12 colours as their basis:

Using colours which are next to each other on the colour wheel (analogous colours) gives a harmonious effect.  The colours will blend well together and 'work' very well.  But the style of the '60s wasn't this harmonious look, but one with a much bigger contrast.  The further apart colours are on the colour wheel, the more contrast there will be.  Colours which are directly opposite each other on the wheel will provide maximum contrast.

Another way of providing contrast is to use analogous colours, or muted shades, and add a pop of colour in a contrasting shade:

This is from a good post about using contrasting colours on She Can Quilt, if you want more information.

If you are designing a '60s-style colour-block pattern, first create a pattern of rectangles in different shapes and sizes.  Then add in your colours.  (If you're doing this by hand, I would check the colours in rough first!)

Happy designing!


Colour wheel images from; Mondrian painting from; 1960s dress from