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Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. It is generally referred to as the range of greys between white and black. White is considered the "highest" value and black is considered the "lowest" value. All the grays in between form the "gray scale" of value. Each color also has a range of values that mimic the shades of gray between white and black. This photo on the left shows the range of values of the color blue from it's lightest (highest value) to darkest (lowest value). The photo on the right shows two shades of grey along with two shades of teal green. The lefthand pairing of gray and teal shows a "higher" value teal and the gray it is most like and the right-hand pairing shows a "lower" value example of teal green and it's corresponding gray.

greyscale in blue value

Colors like yellow and yellow-green, yellow-orange are considered "high" value colors, because like white, they are light. Purple and navy, because they are dark like black, are considered "low" value colors. But there can be high value versions of the "low" value colors. Lavendar, for instance is a purple that has a lot of white in it and is therefore a high value color.

The reason value is important when deciding on colors to use together in a project, is that

1) your eye sees value before it sees color

2) higher value colors grab more attention than lower value colors

3) if you knit a project with extremes of high and low value colors, the eye will be drawn to the high value yarns.

You may want the eye drawn to certain aspects of a project or you may not, depening on your tastes and what you're knitting. Here are some things to modify or accentuate the value difference depending on what you want....

 

1) use much less proportion of the high value colors than the low value colors for a more even and harmonious look: since high value yarns appear more predominant, you can usually use much less of them - keep them to 1/3 or less of the total yarn used and they'll still "appear" to be used in equal proportions. You can see from the hat sample left, that I used much less of the high value colors (chartreuse and gold) than of the reds,oranges, rusts, and purples, so that the chartreuse & gold add nice highlights, but they don't overtake the fabric and it appears balanced & harmonious.

hat sample value2) throw in a medium value to "transition" between the low and high value yarns or to break up and distance two high value colors....this makes it easier on the eye and keeps it more balanced. In the crown of this hat, I did NOT DO THAT and knit several rows of the two "high" value colors right next to each other without blending them and they "stick" out in a way that draws the eye's attention away from the overall hat and to this one area in a distracting way.

alpaca earflap hat3) if your project has "motifs" or elements that you want to highlight, as in the earflap hat shown here, knit them in a high value color and place them in a low value background color to really show them off.

4) if you don't want to bother thinking about these things....choose all yarns that have the same value, so that not one of them "takes over" the rest.

shawl gray5) to tone down a really high value yarn you can carry a gray along with it in order to tone it down. This cantaloupe kid mohair was tamed way down by carrying it along with a novelty yarn that had some gray in it.