Tag Archives: Visual weight

Playing with Color and Value Placement

Recently I showed you a block that uses the economy block as the center. It’s called “Union Square,” or “Contrary Wife Variation.”

Union Square block

I showed you two different versions of it. Here is the straight set with sashing.

Union Square straight set

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, straight set with sashing.

What a difference it makes to remove the sashing. If you’re like me, your eye starts to focus on the dark shapes rather than on the blocks. In fact, you might start to see T blocks.

Union Square unsashed

Union Square unsashed

And one more change, putting some subtle color in the blocks’ corner patches. For me, this really blurs the block outlines.

Union Square unsashed 2

Union Square unsashed, with color/value variation

Now let’s try placing the values differently. Different colors, here, too.

Union Square unsashed 3

Union Square unsashed variation

Honest to Pete, it’s the same blocks. Putting the darkest value in the corners and their adjacent wedges takes the eye directly to them. In other words, the visual weight is where the dark values are. That is accentuated by using the pale yellow to create squares on point between the dark segments.

The lesson in this, if there is one, is that the way you see a pattern or design first is not the only way it can be done. Most of us are used to using our own preferred colors. But values can be placed differently, too. Experiment with designs to see how color and value placement changes the look.


If you’d like to see my other posts on economy blocks, the first post showed you how to make the economy block ANY SIZE with my tutorial and cheat sheet. The second showed you 17 different arrangements of the block with alternate blocks. They range from simple to fairly complex. The third is linked at the top of this post. It is on blocks that use the economy block as their center.


Proportion, Part 2

In my prior post about proportion, I talked about center block size. The size of the design within the block affects the sense of proportion, as does the size of the block as compared to the whole quilt.

There are other factors besides size that affect proportion. The visual “weight” of design components also influences our perception of size, and therefore proportion. Weight refers to the ability of a component to attract attention. We want the center block to attract attention; it is a natural focal point, and should be in a medallion. But we don’t want it to attract attention to the detriment of all the other parts. The song “All About That Bass” annoys me because it isn’t. It’s about how the parts all work together to create a pleasing whole.

I used these illustrations last time, to discuss the size of the center as compared to the whole. They also exhibit the characteristic of relative weight. The first center block is 25% of the width of the whole quilt. The second, including the on-point setting corners, is just shy of that. The star design in each is the same, including colors.

Proportion center 25 percent

Proportion center on point

To my eye, the top center block appears larger and “heavier” than the lower one. Why? First, the shapes within the star are 50% larger. Second, the pale setting triangles of the lower one give it less weight and presence.

Okay, there are two different things I mentioned. One is the size of the shapes within the block, and one is a color and/or value contrast issue. Let’s break them out separately.

First, the color and value: compare the first picture below with the middle. Then compare the bottom illustration with the middle.

Proportion darkest valueProportion center 25 percent Proportion hottest temperatureThe first center block appears larger than the second one, though they are actually the same size. Why? Because the value contrast is greater. With its greater visual weight, it will appear to have a somewhat different proportion with the whole. Similarly, the third block using bright red has more weight, or draws attention more, than the bright purple.

Factors that increase our perception of visual weight include:

  • Greater size
  • Greater value contrast
  • Greater color saturation (more vivid as compared to duller)
  • Warmer color temperature (red is weighty as compared to blue)
  • More pattern
  • More compact or dense

For the last two, examples might help. First, more pattern is visually heavier than less. Consider two blocks of the same size and design, and generally the same colors. One is made from printed fabrics and one is made from solids. For most people, the block from prints will hold attention longer; thus it is considered to have more weight. Second, a more compact design is heavier than one that is less compact. For this, consider two objects. One is the puffball of a dandelion gone to seed. The other is a golf ball. Both are about the same size; both have textured “surfaces,” both are white. But the dense and compact golf ball is visually weightier. If you return to the two images at the top of the post, there is another example of the denser component having more weight. The top block appears denser within a similar space.

Next time: discussion of border width proportions.