Evaluating Fabric Contrast {Photo Tutorial}

I received a great question in the Quilting Jetgirl Facebook group regarding the Wayward Transparency Quilt Along fabric selection: How much contrast is enough? Let’s look at some real life requested examples and discuss!

Above are are two potential Kona color palettes, photographed and evaluated as close to true color as possible.

Above are the same two images in grayscale. Note that grayscale implies Black and White but with no additional filters or alterations; it is only the removal of color.

Examining both the color and the Black and White images, the color value between Wisteria and Amethyst (images on the left in both sets) is very subtle, and in this case would probably create a less effective transparency effect than the color value separation achieved by the Orchid, Amethyst, and Navy combination (on the right).

Above are two additional potential Kona color palettes, photographed and evaluated as close to true color as possible.

Above are the second two images in grayscale.

Examining both the color and the Black and White images, the color value between Berry and Eggplant (the images on the right) is very subtle, and in this case would probably create a less effective transparency effect than the color value separation achieved by the Wisteria, Plum, and Purple combination (on the left).

Adding one more layer of refinement to the second example, I also urge consideration of fabric color tone. I would suggest swapping out Plum for something like Kona Crocus, which still reads as an effective mid value but blends in between the color tones of Wisteria and Purple.

Here is a very interesting example using prints. The light and medium value fabric have very similar background tones, but the medium value print has darker elements that are very consistent and at a small enough scale that it should make an effective and interesting combination.

I have purposefully shied away from trying to write a tutorial on how to create a grayscale image in software because there are so many different kinds of software and they are constantly updating. If you are really stuck, I suggest searching Google for:

<software name> convert image grayscale

Linking up with Tips and Tutorials Tuesday.

26 thoughts on “Evaluating Fabric Contrast {Photo Tutorial}

  1. These really show how much or little the colour changes are. My first fabric has too many areas that are paler in with the darker parts, so discarded. Off to the fabric shop on Friday!! Thanks for putting all these details for us, a HUGE help.

  2. Cindy says:

    I use greyscaling a lot, it is quick and easy to do using my tablet.

  3. Good information here, Yvonne. It’s tough for most of us to remove the impact of color from our thoughts as we evaluate the level of contrast. I think it takes time and repetitiveness to develop an “eye” for seeing these values. Using grayscale imagery helps a lot!

  4. Lisa says:

    So far I’m leaning towards going with one of your options to learn from the the gradations that you used to give me a real life example of gradations that work . But I may venture into this with my slightly dated Kona colour card.

  5. patty says:

    Great post. I’m narrowing down the fabrics I want to use but plan a trip to my LQS – any excuse! – to find one more!

  6. Libby in TN says:

    It may not be as accurate as a software conversion, but I find a photocopy in black and white works pretty well.

  7. Joanne H says:

    This was a very interesting and informative post. I have to admit that I got pretty worried as I was reading and then saw my fabric choices (the last one with prints). When you said “Here is a very interesting example using prints.” I thought, “Oh no!” and then questioned the definition of the word “interesting.” :-) As soon as I received this fabric from P&B Textiles, I knew I wanted to create something really fun and different with it and the transparency quilt fit the bill. Before making the decision, I created my own grayscale image and decided that I thought there was enough contrast and decided to go for it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the contrast works and the overall effect is pleasing. If I don’t like it, it can always be used as an example of what NOT to do. Thanks again and have a great day!

    1. My comment about interesting is just that – I really think it will be a cool effect! My first transparency quilt transitioned between blue and yellow using a blue and yellow batik much like you are doing, and it’s the quilt on my bed. :)

  8. shoshana says:

    i’m ordering my fabric on line as i don’t live near a fabric store so i can’t really take a black and white picture to determine the contrast. so far i’ve picke about 5 different trios but i can’t tell if it’s enough contrast or not. any suggestions? thanks so much for all your effort.

    1. That is a great question, and something I have to do myself sometimes. I recommend downloading the images that represent the fabrics online and converting each image into grayscale. Then you can put those images side by side and see if there is a value difference.

  9. Wow, transparency quilt along or not, this is a helpful post. I use grayscale at times but your explanation is great. Color and value are such a challenge for me. I keep reading these posts and feel intimidated. I just need to jump in. Off to the store to take a look at some solids. Thank you for these ‘lessons’ Yvonne. :-)

  10. Great examples and demo. Thanks!

  11. Nancy R says:

    I have an app on my cell phone that takes black and white photos so can check value really quickly. I just checked and I can use the same app on the image on my monitor and the effect is the same.

  12. Kim M says:

    I took your advice and ordered Wisteria, Crocus, and Purple! Thanks for the feedback on my color combos. :)

  13. Tish says:

    I am so glad you posted this. I was on the fence about two of my fabrics, so I snapped a quick picture and switched it to black/white and sure enough they read the same. Glad to be fixing it now instead of crying later :)

  14. This post is so usefull!! Thanks! I need these fabric cards!!

  15. dmearls2015 says:

    I took the advice you gave yesterday and converted the fabrics I ordered from to grayscale. I even converted the 2 fabrics I didn’t choose. I was pleased to see that my choices were spot on. I love how my knowledge and skills are improving before we even start the sewing!! Thanks, you do a great joby explaining.

  16. caroline says:

    Very clear! very sharp and with purples just perfect!! thank-you for the refresher course….off to buy my fabric now!!

  17. Great post! Your photos really illustrated how the colors looked in black and white and really showed the contrast levels.

  18. Diane M says:

    Thanks for this post and all your help with selections!

  19. sue7oaks says:

    This is a great post Yvonne. Putting things in grayscale really shows up any problems. Off to double check now, I have a shot of my fabric pull – now where is it?

  20. Wow, you really do have to apple the grayscale to see the dfference in come cases. Thanks Yvonne!

  21. Lara B. says:

    Very cool Yvonne! Your examples perfectly illustrate what to look for. Converting photos to grayscale is a valuable tool.

  22. nan says:

    Thank you for the suggestions and suggestions. This is very helpful.

  23. Greyscale is one of those tricks I know, but don’t always think to use. Thanks for the reminder :) And from reading through the comments…I don’t know that I would have thought to download shop pictures and turn them greyscale, but that’s a great idea.

  24. Kate says:

    Thank you for the tips. Selecting the fabrics is probably the most agonizing part of any project. Getting them right when the color matters is tough.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)