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A practical lesson in choosing colors for your beadwork - part one

I love working with focal pieces that allow for many different possible color choices. My friend Jeanne Kent, of New Terra Artifacts also loves to mix colors, so I find myself drawn to many of her gorgeous fused glass pendants and beads. But I’ve learned that not everyone enjoys the uncertainty and the ambiguity quite as much as Jeanne and I do! In fact, whenever I make a piece using one of Jeanne’s glass masterpieces, I always get lots of questions from other beaders on how I chose the bead colors to go with it.

Do you wish that you could be braver with color? Try picking a multicolored focal piece like one of Jeanne’s pendants, and I’ll show you how I go through the process of making those color decisions.

Many times, I just haul out my tubes of beads and lay them out to look at color combinations, but sometimes I use paint strips instead. To illustrate the process for this article, I decided to use paint strips because they photograph better than tubes of beads. And paint strips are free…can’t beat that! If you don’t have a fully stocked bead cabinet, I would highly recommend stocking up on paint strips, lots of them, and then take the appropriate ones with you when you go to buy beads.

Of all the different color schemes that exist, I find that there are several that are the most useful in beadwork, appearing over and over in different artists’ work. The ones I see and use most frequently are neutral, monochromatic, complementary, analogous, analogous-complementary, and triadic. There are many others, but I believe that these are a really good start.  We'll look at the first three today, and the last three next week.

A neutral scheme (above) involves allowing a hue to be surrounded by black, white, and grays. In jewelry making, we often add the metallic colors to the list of neutrals. In addition, some designers consider browns to be neutral as well.

Personally, I don’t often place a colorful focal piece into a black and white setting, but it is an option worth considering. More frequently, you may decide to use only a metallic color with your focal piece, such as when you hang a colorful pendant from a gold chain. As you examine how your piece looks with neutrals, you can also take that time to decide which metal color, if any you will be using.

Although this focal piece has both silver and gold dichroic glass in it, I far prefer the look of the gold beads with it. And I definitely do not like the look of the neutral black, gray, and white!

There are two very strong candidates for monochromatic schemes to go with this centerpiece: green and blue. By laying out the paint strips, I find that I prefer the blues, and I still like the gold metal color much better than the silver. If you feel differently, don’t worry! This is preference, not pure science.

A monochromatic color scheme can include as many different tints, tones, and shades of the basic hue as you desire, so be sure to consider all the possibilities before narrowing down too much.

A third color scheme to consider is called complementary. The opposite color on the color wheel is added to your dominant color and causes that color to pop more. Often, a tint or tone of the complement is chosen rather than another pure hue. I set up paint strips to see what each of my monochromatic choices above would look like if I added their complement.

Once more, I like the look of the blue set better. The pale orange (the complement of blue) seems to pick up the golden tones of the dichroic glass. The pink (red is the complement of green) just doesn’t seem to go with the colors of the focal piece as well. It’s possible that we could find a different pink, or could try burgundy instead, but I still think that I would like the blue and orange better. 

Next week in part two, we'll look at analogous, analogous-complementary, and triadic schemes, and I'll make my final choice.  Finally, there will be a tutorial for the finished necklace in two weeks.
Copyright 2017 Cyndi Lavin. All rights reserved. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.


Mia said…
Love it!!! Congratulations from Greece!
Cyndi L said…
Thank you, Mia...and thank you for visiting!