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The Wonderful Wide World of Color – Design Tips from Satin Stitches!

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Wed, Mar 19, 2008 @ 16:03 PM

© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

Color is an incredible thing. Color can create a mood for your dance performance. Colors have meanings. There is a psychology to color. Did you know that years ago, red was a much stronger color and was assigned to boys, while blue was considered a more feminine color? This has reversed in today’s color world. This is just one example of how colors take on meaning.

Back at art school, I wrote a paper on color, for my fashion design class. Unfortunately it was before computers were everywhere, yes, I am that OLD, and my paper was handwritten. I did not make a copy of it. I received a high grade, but my professor LOST it. It was the one paper I had written, for ANY high school or college classes, that I would have definitely wanted to preserve. But no. I really regret not making a copy, as it was lost forever. But I did learn a lot. I learned a tremendous amount about the history of our relationship to color, how color influenced our moods and how we feel, in the presence of various colors.

Of course there are fashionable colors every season. But where do these colors come from? In design class, we learn that there are Pantone colors, the official colors for everything. Pantone is a company that works with documenting colors. Graphic artists and printers want to know what Pantone color something is. Currently, there are 1925 color swatches in the Pantone Portable Passport! At the viewing of the fashion preview slide show from Fashion Group International, which I saw a few weeks ago, various colors were deemed to be the hot new colors of the upcoming retail season.

Big upcoming colors are citrus colors and lots of variations of purple and plum.

Do you know how these colors come about? Well, a couple of years prior to seeing current styles in your favorite boutique or department store, color analysts contemplate the trends for the yarn manufacturers. The yarns are then made into fabrics and threads and trims. Clothing manufacturers, with their designers pick which fabrics and colors they want to use for their lines, which are then created for buyers to decide which styles, with their silhouettes, colors, fabrics have the best chance of being big sellers. Right now, colors are being chosen, as the new colors for what we will be wearing in 2010!

Colors for performance. Colors evoke feelings. There are sad colors. There are happy colors. There are soothing colors. There are bright colors and subtle colors. How do you pick what colors you should use on a costume? If you are serious about learning more about colors, pick up an artists color wheel from an art supplies store. They can really come in handy with learning more about color.

Your colors should reflect the mood of your performance. The most important thing should be that the colors you choose should not fight your mood. An example would be if you are trying to evoke a happy, light and airy feel to your dance routine, heavy dark colors should not be used. If you are presenting an edgy, sharp performance, pastels such as pink and aqua would be your last choices.

After eliminating the definitely wrong colors, then consider other issues such as the coloring of the wearer, the background of your performance area, and consider what colors are available in the types of fabrics that you are considering for your costume. Now it is time to consider using only one, or several colors together.

What makes a flattering color? Here are some basic color concepts. Dark colors make you look smaller, light colors make you look bigger. Shiny colors make you look bigger, while matte colors make you look smaller. Bright colors, also referred to as jewel tones, are known as stage colors. The reason? They always look great on stage. Jewel colors include the colors of rubies, sapphires and emeralds! Pastel colors tend to wash out, while colors with some intensity to them, do not. BUT, a good rule to follow is to NOT ALWAYS FOLLOW THE RULES! The style and fit of a costume can counteract any perception that they may make you look bigger. So, do not rule out colors because you think they will make you look big.

Using different shades of the same color is referred to a monochromatic color scheme. If you are looking to coordinate two colors, remember to refer to the traditional painters or interior decorators color wheel. This is a 3-D piece of equipment that spins to show what works together. Then the trick is to find fabrics that match the color combinations that you see on your wheel.

A very important rule to follow is to keep all your colors that you are using, to the same INTENSITY. Hue is another name for color. A tint is a lighter shade of a color, or the color plus white. A color tone is the color plus gray. A shade is the color plus black. Be very careful in mixing a tint with a tone or a shade. Not to say that it cannot be done well, but many times they will not work well

The Primary Colors are red, yellow and blue. The Secondary Colors are those colors created by mixing the primary colors. They are orange, green, and purple. The cool colors are greens, blues and purples and the warm colors are yellows, oranges and reds. Complimentary color harmonies are created by turning your color wheel. A direct complementary color choice is directly across from the key color. The split and triadic complementary colors are also shown on your color wheel.

Besides color, texture is important in choosing your fabrics. Textures include the shiny and matte, along with prints and various finishes such as holograms, glitter finishes, velvets and so on. You also need to be careful in mixing your textures. No particular rules here, it has a lot to do with your artistic sensibilities. When it looks right, it probably is right.

Something more to think about would be what happens with your lighting. You can play with your lighting and intensify your color choices or bend them one way or another. If you have no control over your lighting, as when you are competing under someone else’s lighting, you need to plan for the worse case scenario. You need to be aware of what bad lighting can do to your costume colors.

Something else to think about: In my blog from February 19, 2008,where I was critiquing the costumes worn by the Minnesota high school dance teams, look at the accompanying photo. That team did not consider something. Sheer fabrics loose their intensity because they have light that shows through the fabrics. When you place these sheer fabrics over another fabric with intense color, the sheer fabric loses its color and takes on the color of the non-sheer fabric. Place these sheers over two different under-fabrics and they will look totally different. The costume with the most visual problems that I highlighted included this problem. The aqua sheer fabric was sewn over a royal and a navy or black under-fabric, resulting in the sheer looking like two different and un-coordinating colors.

Colors are incredible and never dull, pardon the pun. Experiment with unique combinations, but take a discerning look under stage lighting to see if you are really getting the look you are going for! Be aware of how different colors may look, from performance distance versus up close.

Tags: Costume Design Tips


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