A Mini-Lesson on Using Color Value in Your Quilts

Color value is a good thing to understand when you are designing your quilts. It can help you create and define shapes in the layout, and is an important thing to be aware of when choosing fabrics and deciding color placement. I just posted a little mini lesson on value in my Instagram Stories and thought I’d post it here too!

On its surface, determining color value differences between two fabrics is not a difficult. One is light and one is dark, right? In my lectures and workshops, I focus more on the concept of relative lightness or darkness of fabrics. This can be a bit harder to understand, especially in the context of a full quilt layout.

Relative lightness or darkness in color value


  1. Here’s a green floral vintage fabric from my stash-


2. Paired with the Rifle Paper Fabric on the right, the vintage green floral is definitely the lighter of the two fabrics.



3. Paired with this Bari J fabric, the vintage green floral is now the darker of the two fabrics.



Its value changes based on what other fabrics are around it. This is the concept of “relative lightness or darkness”. And being mindful of these value differences can really sharpen up a quilt design.


Below, is the quilt “Value” from Wise Craft Quilts. I think it visually shows this idea perfectly. None of the fabrics in this quilt are necessarily light or dark value, but when they placed beside other fabrics in the design, they take on a role of darker or lighter. Using the value information I see can help me create the diamond pattern I want you to see.


Willy Loman, above, also from my book, using LOTS of different values.

Starflake, above, uses only 3 different value differences


The Ruby Ruler™ helps the eye judge subtle value differences you don’t always consciously see at first glance. Looking at your fabrics through the Ruby Ruler™ can pick up on some interesting and subtle differences in your stash. Two fabrics that you’ve been holding on to can suddenly look interesting when placed side by side, and maybe mixed with a few other fabrics.

Tell me, are you aware of value in the quilts you create? Is it something you want to get better at? Let me know, I’d love to hear how you use value.

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