Colour books

Assignment 2 starts with colour. Over a period I’ve collected quite a few books on colour or with chapters about it, so thought I’d begin by sorting out what I have and deciding which would be useful currently. It’s another all-text post I’m afraid – I thought of photographing all the covers, but the effort-to-benefit doesn’t really stack up.

Birren, F. (1987) Creative color: a dynamic approach for artists and designers, Schiffer
I find it hard to categorise this. Some of the material is copyright 1961 and it has an old-fashioned feel in text and illustrations. It has an almost recipe approach to some specific effects, showcasing particular palette selections. Still, it has some good information that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Brito, K. (2002) Shibori: creating color & texture on silk, Watson-Guptil Publications.
This book has been hugely influential in developing my understanding of colour and colour mixing in dyeing. It took me a long while to appreciate the methodical, process-driven approach of the book which at first seemed rather repetitive and illogical. It introduced me to the Munsell system, which is a really clear way to precisely characterise a colour using hue, value and chroma (saturation).

Bryant, L., (2011) DVD. A fiber artist’s guid to color, Interweave
This DVD shows a great way to approach dealing with colours in yarns (for knitting, weaving, whatever), including the extra challenge where a yarn is not a simple, single colour. The examples of Laura’s own work are remarkable. The format and style make this a good choice for those working in fibres who are not comfortable with colour.

Chevreul, M.E. (revised edition 1987) The principles of harmony and contrast of colors and their applications to the arts, Schiffer
This is based on the first english edition of 1854. I’ve dipped into this and looked at the pretty pictures, but found it too heavy-going.

Delamare, F. and Guineau, B. (english translation 2000) Colors: the story of dyes and pigments, Harry N. Abrams Inc
A small volume going from pre-history through colour in the middles ages and on to the discovery of synthetic dyes. Lots of interesting tidbits.

Edwards, B. (2005) Color: a course in mastering the art of mixing colors, Hodder
Clear explanations and illustrations of colour theory, with exercises in mixing and use for painters.

Finlay, V. (2002) Colour: travels through the paintbox, Hodder and Stoughton.
A travel journal, exploring the history of colour, the places it comes from and some of the stories behind its manufacture and use.

Gage, J. (2006) Colour in art, Thames & Hudson
Another good book that I haven’t managed to read carefully. Chapters include psychology, shape, and language of colour, with copious illustrations from art.

Hornung, D. (2005) Colour: a workshop for artists and designers, Laurence King
This book is on the reading list for the course. I started doing the exercises here in 2009/10 but only got a short way. In hindsight, my method of little paper weavings didn’t really work or at least needed more flexibility after the first few exercises. Still, an excellent book.

Jerstorp, K. and Köhlmark, E. (1988) The fabric design book: understanding and creating patterns using texture, shape, and color, Lark
This is one of my favourite books – flipping through now I think it may have influenced my desire to learn weaving. There’s something about the overall approach and aesthetic that really appeals to me. The colour section has a lot of information in relatively few pages, using the swedish colour system which uses six clear or primary colours – yellow, red, blue, green, white and black. This is definitely on my re-read list.

Lambert, P., Staepelaere, B. and Fry, M.G. (1986) Color and fibre, Schiffer
I had looked through this a few times in the Guild library and was happy when I saw it available on line. Another that I’ve only dipped into – partly for the foolish reason that the cover was put on or printed upside down. This makes no difference to the content or readability other than irritating me.

Lancaster, D. (2010) Color and inspiration, self published http://www.daryllancaster.com
This booklet gives a brief overview of basic colour language. Its main focus is layouts showing an inspiration photo, the palette selected from it, a woven swatch and finished piece. Basically it’s a set of practical examples.

Long, J. and Luke, J. T. (2nd edition 2001) The new Munsell student color set, Fairchild.
This has lots of information (rather dry), but the really good part is a set of little colour chips that you sort and use to create colour charts laid out using the Munsell system. Fun, and a good way to start training the eye and understanding what the language means in practice.

Menz, D. (2005) Color in spinning, Interweave Press.
This starts with information on colour principles and quickly goes on to illustrate them with some great photos showing small pieces of roving, the spun yarn, and a knitted swatch. The book goes through a number of options to dye and process roving to achieve different effects and includes self-study exercises. I highly recommend it.

Menz, D. (2004) Color works: the crafter’s guide to color, Interweave Press.
This book has two major points of difference. Color concepts are illustrated with photos of spinning, knitting, weaving, hand embroidery, bead embroidery, surface design, machine embroidery, pieced quilting and paper collage. There is also a set of colour tools –  a colour wheel, shade charts, cards to help pick out various standard colour schemes etc.

Paterson, I. (2003) A dictionary of colour: a lexicon on the language of colour, Thorogood
Interesting to dip into. For example Roman Brown is “A copper colour also called Hatchett’s Brown“. Look up that and find “A copper colour. See Florentine brown“. Which I did and the circle closed. Well, it was a random pick. How about Helminthosporin – “A maroon-coloured pigment from fungus” – and hemeralopia – “day as opposed to night blindness where objects are seen more clearly when it becomes darker”.

Varichon, A. (2006) Colors: what they mean and how to make them, Abrams
This book is organised around colour groups – white, yellow, red, etc. – and for each describes their significance and use in various cultures. Each chapter also has brief notes and instructions on natural sources of the colour, for example ochers and yellow earth pigments, weld, and turmeric in yellow. A good read.

Wilcox, M. (revised edition 2004) Blue and yellow don’t make green: or how to mix the colour your really want – every time, The School of Colour
A practical approach to mixing colour in paint, with lots of illustrations showing mixes of different proportions.

I think that’s all, though I won’t be surprised if something else is unearthed later. Lots of other books have a few pages on colour before they go on to their major focus – beading or silkpainting or whatever. I’ll only mention one in particular – Phillips, J. (2008) Designing woven fabrics, Natural Time Out Publications. This has a section specifically on colour, but every piece presented has a “design brief” and notes including colour and the reasons and impact of particular choices. This is another in the Most Favourite Books section.

On the one hand, I’m rather surprised and pleased at how many of the books I have actually read (I thought my habits were more on the purchasing than the reading side). On the other hand, it’s as I expected but disappointing how little has stuck in my brain. Still, each time round a little more shifts into long term memory (there’s always hope!).

Not having enough choice, I borrowed another book from the Guild library yesterday – Itten, J. (1973 english edition) The art of color: the subjective experience and objective rationale of color, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. I thought this was on the OCA course reading list, but have discovered that is a different book. Still, it looks very relevant to the course so I think I will start reading here. It’s too big for carrying around to read on the bus, so I get to choose something else too…

3 Responses to “Colour books”


  1. 1 Meg in Nelson November 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Such a dangerous list for book-lovers. I’ll just make a mental list for now and not read item by item, I think.


  1. 1 Mixing yellow « Fibres of Being Trackback on November 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm
  2. 2 Preparation for stamping and printing « Fibres of Being Trackback on March 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

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