Bungalow: why yellow plus blue does not have to equal green


As we were working on the quilts and text for Transparency Quilts, Bill kept saying, “I just want to make sure that they realize that blue plus yellow doesn’t have to equal green.” If you look at the colorwork in Bunglaow, you’ll notice that a pale yellow strip is overlaid on a blue rectangle. In theory, the resulting transparency should be green. However, we wanted to show readers that they needn’t be literal in constructing their transparencies. All that really matter is that the overlay is darker suggesting that the result of laying on fabric on another is that it becomes darker.

Note also that the pale, desaturated yellow becomes more vibrant when paired with the more saturated blue. Not only did the color in the overlay become darker in value but it also became more saturated, recognizing that a good transparency isn’t just about value but can also be about the relative saturation of two colors.

Some Craft Nectar readers have asked me to show more examples of transparencies that do and don’t work. So here are three; two that work and one that doesn’t. Bill kindly found the Kona equivalencies which might be useful for you if you have a Kona color card or if you order online and use virtual design walls.

The top example is about subtlety. Both the green and the yellow are muted. When they overlap, the resulting color is lighter and more clear, so the transparency is convincing.

The middle example shows a more saturated palette but the overlay fabric is halfway between the other two fabrics. This example demonstrates that it’s not about light or dark, muted or saturated. It’s about finding the midpoint between two colors, two saturations or two values.

The bottom example shows the intense yellow band combined with a muted green rectangle. The value and saturation difference between the overlay fabric and the green rectangle is too small. So from a distance, the two fabrics fade into one another, making the transparency too hard to see.

I’d love to hear if these examples are helpful.

11 thoughts on “Bungalow: why yellow plus blue does not have to equal green

  1. If you rearranged the colors on the third one, would it work? Move the dark yellow from the tabs to the inside rectangle and put the muted yellow from the tabs onto the tabs at the ends?

  2. @Cathy – I don’t think it would work, or at least work very well, because the saturation is just so different. However, it would improve the relationships. It would be a step in the right direction but you’d still want to beef up the other two fabrics.

  3. There is a world of information in your posts; sometimes it is not enough to just see the examples, a straightforward explanation of the why’s is great….thanks. I just keep re-reading your books and trying to absorb the great info you provide. It’s a class, all by itself….

  4. @Kathleen – What a kind comment! Thank you. I spend A LOT of time trying to make this blog and our books worth your time to read. It’s heartening to hear that many of our readers recognize the thought that goes into our work.

  5. I just got my book in the mail today and even though I have done a quick flip through the pictures, I can’t wait to read it. As Kathleen said, there is so much more to your books than pretty pictures.

  6. thanks for the examples, i found them very helpful. i especially like the first one because the green is so muted i feel like it has a transparency over the brown in addition to the yellow transparency.

  7. Just got my book yesterday. It is so beautiful, but I don’t know if I’ll “get it” enough on my own to do a good job. I wish there was a transparency fairy on my shoulder as I make my fabric choices. Don’t know if I have the confidence to attempt a quilt, even though I’d like to jump right in.

  8. Well Regina, stay tuned because we’ll be having some transparency lectures and workshops coming up in our new studio — some of which will be FREE! More to come in the next few months!

  9. Hi – just stopped by to read your blog after reading Quilts Made Modern again. Love the fact that your books, blog and everything else is so well written, educational AND inspiring! I’m utterly entranced by your transparency quilts and will be having a go at one next. Keep doing what your doing – you’re a breath of fresh air! Jen xxx

  10. So 1 & 2 work, but 3 doesn’t?

    It took me far too long to understand what you were saying about the blue & yellow don’t make green – because the background is green – so I kept seeing/saying, but they used green! Now I “See” what you were saying…

    Thanks for the kona equivalents. My supplier is ordering the last 2 blues – then I will have a pile of fabric waiting to become tartan in solid.

  11. Yes very interesting to see the direct parallel of what works with what doesn’t. The top one is my favourite. Also interesting to see how the perceived colours change depending on what is next to them.

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