Picking Colors: My Very Unscientific Process
Kay Gardiner, Ann Shayne, and I started talking about the first MDK Field Guide about a year ago. Once we settled on the theme of stripes, it was my job to create a color palette for the issue. That way, as we spoke to designers and chose projects and yarns and prepared for the photo shoot with the photographer and stylist, we could be sure that the result would be cohesive.
There are a lot of different ways to create color palettes. Back in the early 2000s, when I was the editor of Interweave Knits magazine, I would tack paint chips from the hardware store and pages ripped from magazines, especially the fashion-forecasting periodical Textile View, to a bulletin board, then pull out the color stories I liked best from there. Today I mostly use my computer.
To create the palette for Field Guide No. 1: Stripes, I began by looking through my Pinterest boards. I knew the issue would be published in October 2016, so I kept the fall season in mind. I copied whatever images grabbed me and placed them in an Adobe Illustrator document. It was a stream of consciousness sort of thing. I kept doing it until I felt like I had a good group of colors with which to work. Although I’ve read about color theory and even edited chapters of books about it, in my own work, I tend to let my instincts and gut reactions lead the way.
Next I used the Illustrator eyedropper tool to extract colors from my images and make my own color “chips” (that is, little rectangles of color that I placed next to each other in my document). I added, subtracted, and tweaked from there. I knew I was done when the document I created looked cohesive and whole to me, a totally subjective judgment.
Each time I make one of these palettes, I feel like I have created a small, idyllic world, often one I’d like to live in. Of course, once we move from the pretend world of the palette to the real world, certain adjustments have to be made. For example, we need to work with the colors available in the yarns we have chosen, and we need to fine-tune the colors used in the graphic design so the text and imagery hold together.
When I look at Field Guide No. 1 and my original palette today, I feel like my unscientific process works. My palette acted as a roadmap. We didn’t know exactly where we were headed; we just knew that we wanted our destination (that is, our finished book) to feel beautiful, thoughtful, and timely.
Although images fly around Pinterest often without being credited to their source, I have done my best to identify the ones I chose.
Top row: Josef Albers, Color sheets and layout of the Never Before series, 1976. Metropolitan Museum.
Bottom row, left to right:
Striped dress from Suno Pre-Fall 2015 Collection.
Table against gray wall: source unknown.
Alabama Chanin appliqued and beaded skirts.
Gold Anve bags on white chair.
Woman with orange bag: photo by Ari Seth Cohen.
A Segue from Autumn to Winter
I developed the palette for Field Guide No. 2: Fair Isle during the same period that I was working on the palette for Field Guide No. 1: Stripes. This time I was able to draw all my colors from just two images pulled from my Pinterest boards, one a photo of eggs and the other a painting of a kitchen scene. My goal was to create a new palette that gracefully segued us from Stripes, which would be published in the autumn, and Fair Isle, which would be released in the winter.
This time my palette included a larger number of colors so, in order to demonstrate to Kay and Ann how they might be paced throughout a book, I created a “sketch” of the cover and few pages. At this point in the process, the three of us were still debating about many details of the Field Guides and we hadn’t chosen a graphic designer or a photographer, but we had begun to narrow down the types of projects and other imagery we wanted to include.
When I look at this document now, I see a clear connection between our original ideas and the final outcome. I also see some dreams we still have for future editions. I love the creative process!
Notes about the images included here.