Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Surface Design - Week 3 (Colour)

"Life without colour is not merely cooking without seasoning, it's cooking without half the ingredients" - Orla Kiely

3.1. Living in Colour

I've been really excited about this week's topic on the Surface Pattern Design Course: colour.  It got me thinking about my own relationship with colour and the colours I am naturally drawn to. Back in the 90s, along with everyone else, I jumped on the beige/brown/neutrals bandwagon when decorating my first home. Over the years, I have got more confident with having splashes of colour around me and I now can't imagine a life without colour.

The colours I am drawn to have also changed over time. In my first home, I couldn't stand the inspid yellow walls, which presumably someone thought would make the London basement flat appear sunny and bright. It didn't. It did the opposite, making it look faded and pathetic. So I went through a process of de-yellowfying the whole flat, which put me off all shades of the colour yellow for years. Recently though I have discovered a whole new appreciation for yellow, in particular, bold confident bright shades and mustards. I even have a bright yellow sofa now (who would have thought?!).  I love how it adds warmth and an element of fun to my living room. There is something very positive about the colour.

Possibly my favourite colours to wear are the "jewel" tones of deep purples, jade greens, royal blues and deep bluey pinks reminiscent of saris.  These are to be found in some of my favourite clothes:

3.2. Colour Swatches

After considering how we view and use colour in our own lives, the next task was to look for colour palettes in our travel photography and out and about in the street. I created the following colour palettes from some of my travel photographs using Adobe's Kuler tool:

This tool is really cool! Particularly as my ultimate aim is to create designs combining colour photography and drawn images, so this tool will really help me tie the colour palette together.

3.3 Colour Meditation

On Wednesday, we were introduced to Louise Gale, artist and life coach, who gave her her thoughts on how different colours impart different energies and responses in us and talked about the importance of colour in our lives. She also gave us a 10 minute audio "colour mediation" to use to help stimulate creativity. After doing the colour meditation, I felt really calm and grounded and seemed to be much more aware of all of the colours around me. I've done meditation before, but I love this idea of just spending a few minutes focussing on each of the different colours of the rainbow and how they produce different emotions and energy in you as you go through each colour.

3.4. Making Colour Choices

The next creative exercise was to collect a few items from around the home to create some 3 dimensional colour palettes. Each time I started with a couple of things the same shades, then added in a splash of colour. Here are 4 "3D colour palettes" that I came up with from thing around my home:

This exercise really made me focus a lot more on some of the colourful things I have around the home and how those colours look when put next to other colours. I also love the idea of a 3D colour palette to have in front of me for inspiration when I am designing.

3.5. Photoshop Workshop - How to create a Colour Palette from a Photograph

For this week's technical workshop, Rachael gave us a step-by-step guide to how to create a colour palette from a photography in Photoshop. We learnt how to place an image on a background, pick colours from it to create colour swatches and use type and paint brush on the document to create a professional-looking colour palette.  Here's my first attempt, using one of the photographs from above.

It was fun to add a bit of my own personality with the hand-drawn flowers. I love the overall look of the hand-drawn elements and the type, alongside the photograph.

I then had a go at another one, but this time using the colour picker tool and then the Pantone library to get the closest Pantone shade, as these are what are used as industry standard colours. I also played with a different format, which was fun.

I think I would definitely create these kind of colour palettes before starting work on a design project. They provide a great reference for the feel of the palette and the concept. I like how you can make it individual by playing with the layout and adding doodles. I can see how these would be a great way to convey a colour palette to a client as well.

3.6. Making a Physical Colour Mood Board

The final task for the week was to make a colour mood board. Inspired by the two colour palettes I created in Photoshop, I went through  some old copies of Vogue and cut out images or parts of images that felt in keeping with each of these two colour palettes. I composed the images into a temporary mood board on the floor, photographed them and then stuck the images in my Pattern Love Book that I created for Week 2. Since pattern, design and colour go hand in hand, it makes sense to me to keep all this inspiration together.

Here are the two mood boards:

* Cool Vineyard:

* Tropical Seas


...and some other colour inspired pages I added to my Pattern Love Book:

Summing up

Colour week has been fantastic. It's really made me think more about the colours around me and the colours we see in nature and in every day life and how different colours work with each other. I loved making the colour palettes in Photoshop from my travel photos and going through magazines and pulling together different images to create other interesting colour palettes to add to my inspiration book. I'm looking forward to using these colour combinations in some designs soon!

Next week: Pattern!


  1. I really like those color palettes. I am going to try that this weekend! I also love the yellow couch. I used to own two yellow couches. It was so much fun.( I have also owned a red couch) My couch is black right now... may have to think about doing some color renovations this year.

  2. I love the purple/grey pillows on the yellow couch and was wondering if you could share the fabric used or the source? thank you so much!

    1. Hi there. The fabric on the cushions is by Marimekko - you should be able to find it anywhere that stocks Marikmekko. I just bought a metre and a half and made them myself.

    2. Sorry to trouble you again, but if you happen to know or come across the name of this fabric (preliminary online searching has been futile), it would be greatly appreciated! from the picture, the fabric appears to be yellow, purplish and grey?

    3. Here's the fabric - it's called "Noitarumpu" and the colours are a dark purple background with a lighter purple and olive green/mustardy yellow motif: http://www.marimekko.com/products/interior-decoration/fabrics/cotton-fabrics/noitarumpu-fabric-440

  3. thank you so much! must learn to sew... :)