When you are in the process of selecting fabrics for a quilting project, one of the most important concepts to consider is contrast. Not having adequate contrast in your quilt fabrics can lead to a quilt that lacks clarity and depth.

Knowing how to contrast fabrics well, before you make your next trip to the fabric store, will make it easier to select the right fabrics. Choosing fabrics that contrast well will result in a quilt that is rich in color and detail.

Why contrast is so important

Contrast is vital for making depth clear and well-defined in a quilt block. Lack of contrast causes the quilt pieces to blend together. Rather than standing out, the design will appear flat and lifeless. When working with intricate quilt patterns, lack of contrast can cause the entire design to be lost or distorted.

Choose light, medium, and dark fabrics

A good tip to remember when choosing quilt fabrics is to think in terms of light, medium, and dark shades of fabric. When you visit the fabric store, place your fabrics in three piles according to their shades. This will ensure you have adequate shades for good contrast.

Don’t be afraid to try color combinations that are not in the same color family. The goal is to achieve the desired depth and clarity necessary to make your design stand out.

Tips for visualizing contrast

You should learn to view the contrast value of a fabric by looking beyond just the color. Once you have your fabrics for your quilt selected, there are several tips to help you see if your fabric group has enough contrast. Before trying the tips below, stack your fabrics together with the dark colors on the bottom, medium colors in the middle, and light colors on the top.

Purchase a reducing glass to view your fabrics. You can also use an old door peephole to get the same result. Looking through a reducing glass will make the colors less obvious and the contrast more apparent when viewing the fabrics in a group.

You can also place a sheet of red cellophane paper over the fabrics. This technique will obliterate the color of the fabrics while allowing you to see the continuum of color values from light to dark.

Another good way to see contrast is to take a picture of your fabrics stacked together. Change the color of the image to black and white. This completely masks the colors but will let you see if you have a good contrast combination of light, dark, and medium fabrics.

It can be time consuming to choose the right contrast for your quilting fabrics. However, the extra time you invest in selecting fabrics that contrast well will pay off in a great finished project. Your quilt will have the proper depth necessary to showcase the design, and the proper balance of color will make your quilt stand out and make a colorful impact.