Finding Color

Selecting colors for a project - sometimes easy and exciting yet overwhelming and confusing at other times. You might feel comfortable following your instincts, perhaps even using a little color theory to guide you. Or you might find yourself totally lost and intimidated when considering a project with more than one color. Although I’d put myself in the first camp, I often favor certain colors and can always use fresh inspiration for my knits. This is especially true when considering a colorwork project, striped sweater, or shawl with multi color possibilities.

My new design Boundary Bay, is an example of a project utilizing three colors. It could very simply be knit in three shades or values of your favorite single color. But the possibilities of being adventurous with color are unlimited when you start looking for combinations of three for this design.

Of course, you could turn to the classic color wheel for guidance and select from the many triads that exist - three colors that are equally spaced around the wheel work together in a pleasing way. Or choose one color plus the two colors on either side of its complement to find another set of three.

However, if you’re up for taking a different approach to color inspiration, I suggest looking around you and noticing what I like to call “found color” combinations. These are color combinations that occur naturally in landscapes and scenic views. Often observable in cityscapes, manmade objects and their arrangement together, graphic design, and in the patterning of animals, fish and flowers, you don’t need to understand color theory or even use a color wheel to get informed about great color combination. Just start looking closely at scenes and objects around you.


To illustrate these “found color” possibilities, I glanced through the photos I’ve taken over the past few months and selected a few to share with you. Some photos show distinctly different colors, while others offer inspiration for more subtle color combinations. For example, the colors of land, water and sky in a photo could work well together. Alternatively, look closely and you might see two colors in the water or sky of a single photo that would pair nicely with another single color.


Check out this moment I captured at a U2 Chicago concert - the purple haze looks gorgeous with the pink and turquoise lights.

File Oct 03, 8 32 33 PM.jpeg

This photo has a couple of “found color” sets of three. The birds themselves have a great three color combo going on. You could use them as inspiration for an orange and two shades of grey combination. Their seascape surrounding shows some delicate combos of three as well.

File Oct 03, 11 04 45 AM.jpeg

My kids and I really enjoy looking at cars, particularly on the streets of Chicago and in fancy dealerships. I’m always admiring the graphic design and color combinations found in these machines. I’ve included a photo from a Cars & Coffee gathering in Grand Rapids of a beautiful Lamborghini. The different shades of blue in this photo offer a great group of colors.


If you like this approach to finding inspiration for color combinations, I suggest snapping photos of anything that catches your eye and looks pleasing to you while you’re out on a nature walk, strolling through the city or shopping at a market. Take a little time to look closely at your snapshots and you’ll begin to see fantastic color options that just might inspire your next knitting project. Then, go to the shelves of your local yarn shop or start browsing online for those colors. You might just surprise yourself with what you’re able to put together!

I'll continue to post photos inspiring my color choices on my Instagram feed. Check them out and post your own photos from your everyday environment that motivate your color choices using the hashtag #foundcolor. I'd love to see what's influencing your color combos!