• Lisa

What Color is It?

Did you know we all see colors differently? My tomato red is not your tomato red. They could be close or very different. There is the physiology of our eyes but our perception (understanding) of a color also plays a part. Well, I can hear you yawning so here is an interesting example.

Very Eclectic Silk Cowl in the Color-Way Thunder
Silk Cowl in the Color-Way Thunder

There is a popular Very Eclectic color-way called Thunder. It is dark, medium, and light gray. It always looks gray to me because I mixed the dye and know (understand) it is gray. Some people see it as gray, some as green, and some as blue, or a combination of the three. All black dye has a cast of green, blue, or purple. I used to explain this to customers, but it didn't matter. I can tell you it's gray with a slight blue cast, but you just see blue. Our eyes and our perception of color is different. What happens if your friends get involved?

Several years ago a regular customer, I'll call Mary, asked me to make her a blouse to match a black and white print skirt. We both decided the color-way Thunder matched it best. She wore the outfit to an event, and called to tell me how many complements she got. About a month later Mary called me, very upset, and told me the blouse had changed color! It was no longer gray, now it was green! She wore the outfit to brunch and a friend asked her why she was wearing a green blouse with the black and white skirt. They didn't match anymore. What happened!!! I showed Mary that a scrap (left over from making her blouse) was the same color as the blouse. To her, all the fabric and her blouse had somehow changed color. The friend had just changed Mary's perception of the color. Of course, I didn't tell her that. That wouldn't be diplomatic.

Swatch book of Colors
Swatch Book of Colors

After that fiasco, I bought color swatch books. I used to have fabric color swatches, but there were too many variations, and it got confusing. If a customer has questions about color I just show them the swatch book. I mix the dye to match the swatch. It doesn't matter what each of us sees. Problem solved. But that only works in person. What about online shopping?

Every monitor on every cell phone, computer, and television shows color differently. There's a comment on each product page on my website that states that. I also have color descriptions for each color-way, and I try to keep them as simple as possible. Sometimes I have to photograph an item (a scarf, for example) three or four times to get the color just right on my computer. Then I look at the image on my husband's laptop and our two cell phones to make sure it matches the original. Occasionally images can be too light or dark and the color may vary. So I start over to get the best picture I can for the website. It can be tedious, but quite important so you see the most “true” likeness of that scarf.

Let's say you bought that scarf, and now you want a blouse to match. It's best to take the scarf on your shopping trip, not a picture of it. But if you must, take the picture outside in natural light. If your shopping online, better order a few choices. Clothing is easy. What if your renovating you house? Home improvement stores also have swatches...sometimes.

A few years ago we rebuilt our front porch and patio. The contractor sent to me to Home Depot to pick out the flooring for the porch. This flooring company didn't provide swatches to bring home. I was supposed to pick the color from a brochure. I was not at all happy, but in the end it worked out ok. The patio was dyed concrete. The contractor texted me a picture of the concrete colors from his cell phone. Well, you can imagine what I thought of that. The concrete color swatches only existed at the wholesale masonry place. It was out of my way, but I went there, and was happy I did. His texted picture was completely different from the actual swatches. I told the contractor. He thought I was crazy.

Wall of different colored yarn skeins.
What colors do you see?

In the end it doesn't matter what a color label says, or anyone else for that matter. It's what you see. That's the color it is to you. And remember, every monitor will show colors slightly differently than they will look to you in person. It's not a thing to be concerned about. A little knowledge is a tremendous thing! As a professor of mine was always fond of saying, “Now you can bore people at cocktail parties with all you know.” That is, if we ever have cocktail parties again.

Enjoy the fall colors, Lisa

October 1, 2020

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