Balancing Color in Your Quilt Design

Now that you've learned a little bit about what color is and that color harmonies exist, it's time to discuss more generally how to balance color in your quilt with intentionality. Everyone has an innate understanding of color, but that consciousness and intentionality is what makes someone “good with colors.” Let’s go over a few design considerations, but remember that these are just tools so use what is applicable and save the rest for later.

  • Select Dominant and Accent Colors:

    One way you can think about the colors in your quilt is to group them by dominants, accents, and neutrals. As mentioned in the previous blog, it can be very helpful to choose one color or color group as the dominant and then use the rest as accents or neutrals in your quilt design. The dominant color group is whatever sets the overall tone and mood of the quilt, while accent colors provide visual interest and contrast. Use a smaller amount of accent colors in relation to the dominant color to keep the design dynamic and balanced. Keep in mind that accents typically relate directly to the dominant color in some way, typically by way of color harmonies.

    We currently have a very lovely quilt on display themed around leaves and white flowers that would rightly be described as “green” – that is how you know its the dominant color. However, it has accents of yellow and blue which keep it from feeling too stagnant or plain, and by area the majority of the quilt is actually neutrals (creams and blacks). Dominant colors CAN form the majority of the quilt, but it doesn’t have to! Typically, that would be the job of the neutrals. By the way, did you catch that? The dominant greens and yellow/blue accents come together to form an analogous color harmony.

    Used correctly the three color groupings will make a quilt feel balanced and lively and is generally a good rule of thumb, but not every quilt will (or should) use all three. For example, using little to no neutrals can make for a very bold quilt.

    • Using Neutrals and Background Colors:

      Neutrals and background colors play a vital role in creating balance within your quilt design. They allow the eye to rest and provide a backdrop for more vibrant colors to shine. When selecting background colors, consider the overall mood you want to convey and the color harmony you're using. For example, a warm neutral like cream may work well to enliven an analogous color scheme of greens and blues, while a cool grey could complement a warm dominant complementary color scheme.

      Generally the more neutrals you use in your quilt the more restful or relaxed it will feel, but even energetic quilts should have somewhere for your eyes to rest. The trick here is that neutral is a relative term, a pumpkin yellow wouldn’t typically be considered as such but if you surround it with electric blue and fiery orange and it may well become neutral by way of contrast!

      • Creating Movement with Lightness and Saturation:

        We've been primarily discussing hue but let’s not forget that lightness and saturation can greatly impact the perceived weight and energy of a color. By strategically placing lighter and darker colors within your quilt, you can create a sense of movement and depth. For example, lighter colors can recede into the background, while darker colors come forward, creating a sense of depth. Similarly, using a mix of saturated and desaturated colors can add a sense of movement and rhythm to your quilt design.

        • Balancing Warm and Cool Colors:

          Colors can be categorized as warm (reds, oranges, and yellows) or cool (blues, greens, and purples). Balancing warm and cool colors in your quilt design can create a sense of cohesion and prevent it from feeling lifeless. Some people swear by a specific ratio of warm to cool, but as with anything it really comes down to how you want it to feel. Be sure to experiment and find were you land. Oh, and neutrals count too! Creams, tans, browns, greys, all give you subtle ways to balance your colors!

          • Trust Your Gut Instinct:

            Lastly as you become more experienced with using color in your quilts, don't forget to trust your gut instinct. If a color combination feels off or unbalanced, experiment with different hues, saturations, or lightness levels until you achieve a look that feels satisfying to you. Remember, you have a natural understanding of color, so trust your instincts and allow your creativity to guide you.

            I hope this has been of some help to you! Feel free to email us at if you have any questions, I would be glad to help. See you again next week with a few more miscellaneous pointers.


            Written by Staff Member/Artist Chris

            Happy Colorful Stitching from Bluebird Janet’s blog!