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How to Brighten up a Dull Color Palette

Have you ever been making a quilt, and while you're loving the fabrics you've chosen, the overall palette is looking a little dull? 
This happened to me while I was making this London Skyline quilt. I started with all of the fabrics below, except that bright aqua solid that's right in the middle, that I added later. As I was collaging the other fabrics, I felt the palette was looking dull, but I didn't want to just throw a bright fabric in there out of left field. 
I liked the mint-y palette, so I chose a fabric that is very close to the others on the color wheel, but it was a bit brighter, more vibrant. This instantly brightened up the entire palette while not standing out too much or looking abrupt. 
For me, that aqua solid makes such a big difference! The quilt would have been fine without it, but it adds that dash of freshness that I felt the palette was lacking. 
Now, throwing in a super bright fabric isn't always the answer. It worked well here since the fabrics I was originally using were relatively clear and saturated. If you are working with a very dull palette with "muddy" tones (think Civil War prints), throwing in a bright aqua or hot pink might look quite abrupt. 
For example, here is a palette I'd like to brighten up.
Oops! The fabrics I added below, to me, look awkwardly bright next to the muted fabrics on the left. 
Opt instead to add some fabrics that are softer and richer, but not too bright. The addition of the light, bright pink and the rich burgundy and olive, to me, make this dull tonal palette much more interesting. (I chose those three colors to add since dulled down versions of them appear in the floral.)
For more on this topic, check out my article on color Saturation.
I'd love to hear from you! Have you ever been quilting or choosing fabrics for a quilt and felt like your palette was looking too dull? Or do you have the opposite problem where you feel like the palette looks too bright and you want to soften it?
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1 comment

  • A sample was shown at the Villages Quilting Guild Fl. showing a what appeared to me a mirror image of a skyline done in various shades of gold, I loved its simplicity & taking your class because of it. But now I don’t see that pattern anywhere. Can you help

    Arlene King

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