Color Play, Second Edition Class Plan

 Color Play----Color Magic

This lesson plan is provided to help you plan a color class based on the color information in Chapters 1, 2, and 5 of the book Color Play Second Edition.

Teaching Goal:

To introduce students to several basic color concepts that should provide them with the knowledge to lead them into making good color choices based on color foundation. The basic concepts covered in class include (1) the Ives Color Wheel, its primary colors, and the pure colors made from the mixing of the primary color partners; (2) the four color scales (pure, tint, shade, and tone); (3) color families (the pure color and all hues made from it; (4) introduction of the color tool and how it is used to help make good color choices; (5) introduction of the five most beautiful color plans based on nature; and (6) providing students with experience in working with color scales, the color tool, and color plans in fabric during class.               


This class has been designed to be taught in one 3-4 hour session.  If a different number of sessions or a different class length seems a better choice, feel free to change this schedule.

Products, supplies, and tools for teaching this class

1.     Color Play Second Edition by Joen Wolfrom (C&T Publishing)

2.     3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom (C&T Publishing)  (current edition)

3.     Studio Color Wheel by Joen Wolfrom (C&T Publishing)

4.     A selection of fabrics that illustrate each of the four color scales:  pure color scale, tint scale, shade scale, and tone scale

5.     A strong, clear Kona black fabric to use to help determine a fabric’s color scale.

Visual aids to prepare for teaching this class:

 One of the best teaching aids you can make for this class is a group of 5-8 fabric block designs to illustrate the differences between the five color plans with the same selected featured color (color family). The Star Echoes block is included in this lesson plan for you to use for this exercise, but you can use another block if you so choose. These fabric blocks can be made using traditional piecing methods, paper piecing, fusing, or gluing. In my own teaching of a similar class, I use two different sets of blocks.  One set of blocks has been paper pieced while the other has been fused. As an example of color use, if you were to select aqua blue as your featured color, the various blocks would use the following color combinations:

 A.   Monochromatic: aqua blue fabrics in a variety of values and textures

 B.    Complementary: a combination of aqua blue and orange-red fabrics. If possible, include one or more fabrics that incorporate both colors. No additional colors should be present in the design. Aqua blue should be more pronounced or more dominant in the design as the featured color.

You can make a second complementary block which features orange-red as the featured color. This second example can use the same fabrics or different ones from the same two color families. However, orange-red will be the dominant color. By having blocks featuring each complementary color, you expand the visual knowledge and color options for your students.

C.    Analogous:  Use a wide range of seven colors in your analogous color plan with aqua blue being the middle color. The color range would be green, blue-green, aqua green, aqua blue, turquoise blue, cerulean blue, and blue.  If possible, include some fabrics that use 2 or more of the colors within the range. Do not include any colors that are outside of this analogous range.

The analogous color plan can be expanded beautifully by moving the selected color from the center of the range to one of the range’s end colors. To illustrate this concept, make two additional analogous blocks with aqua blue at either end of the color range. Analogous block 2 will include aqua blue, aqua green, blue-green, green, spring green, yellow-green, and chartreuse. Analogous block 3 includes aqua blue, turquoise blue, cerulean blue, blue, blue-violet, violet, and red-violet.

Students will see that by moving the featured color’s position in the range allows different color combinations. One will have a warmer appearance; another a cooler appearance; and one will appear more neutral. Each student will have her favorite of the three options. Although it takes more time to make these extra blocks, it’s great for students to see the analogous plan’s versatility.

D.   Split-complementary: This color plan combines the complimentary colors with a selection of analogous colors. For this block, choose 5 analogous colors to combine with your complementary color: blue-green, aqua green, aqua blue, turquoise blue, cerulean blue, and complementary orange-red. The beauty of this color plan is the color temperature change sparking excitement amidst the harmonious colors. 

You can make another version of this block with aqua blue as the complement to the analogous range of blue-red, red, orange-red, orange, and yellow-orange. This provides a warm block with aqua blue creating a cooling effect. 

E.    Triadic:  Use aqua blue and the other two colors that lie equal distance from each other on the color wheel. Aqua blue’s triadic partners are fuchsia and golden yellow. Use fabrics from these 3 color families, also try to include a fabric that incorporates 2 or 3 of these triadic partners.

Student Supply List

Bring to class:

1.  pencil and paper for note-taking

2.  A group of fabrics from your two most favorite colors. Bring fabrics in a range of

     values (from lights to darks). Also bring fabrics in a range of intensities from very

     bright to very subtle.

3.  Color Play Second Edition  (Note: original Color Play book can be used, although it

     does not coordinate in page numbers or placement of concepts with the new book.)

Optional (but highly recommended):  3-in-1 Color Tool 



1.     Introduce yourself.

2.     Have students introduce themselves (name; where they are from; a sentence or two about themselves; a sentence or two about why they are taking this class.

3.     Introduce your class goals and provide an overview of what the students will learn.

Introduction of the Ives Color Wheel, its Primary Colors, & its Pure Colors

Chapter 1, pages 12 – 15

Place studio color wheel either on a wall or on a table where everyone can see it clearly. Give a bit of history about the color wheel. Then use it to help you illustrate, introduce, explain, and discuss the following concepts:

1. This is the scientifically accurate color wheel for those using paints, pigments, dyes, printing, fabric dying, film, etc.

2. The primary colors are yellow, cyan/turquoise blue, magenta. We are most familiar with this color wheel and its primaries with our printer (CMYK color system: cyan [turquoise blue], magenta, yellow, black).

3. The mixing of one primary color into another creates numerous pure colors lying between the two primary colors:

A.    Mixing cyan/turquoise blue into yellow creates a variety of chartreuses, greens, aquas.

B.    Mixing cyan/turquoise blue with magenta creates blues, violets, purples, fuchsias.

C.   Mixing magenta into yellow creates a variety of yellows, oranges, and reds.

4.     Introduce the concept of pure colorsall colors created by the mixing of two primary colors. These are the most brilliant, intense colors to be created. They have not been diluted in any way. They are pure.

5.     Show examples of pure colors in fabric, if possible.

Introduction of the Color Scales

Chapter 1, pages 15 – 22

1. Reiterate that pure colors are created by the mixing of two primary colors. Pure colors are the mostbrilliant of all colors. The pure color scale includes all of the pure colors within the color wheel---there can be hundreds of them, each one flowing into another.  Pure colors most represents the season of summer. Pure colors include yellow, green, blue, red, orange, and purple. Show samples of pure color fabrics.

2. Using the Ives Color Wheel as a reference, explain that each pure color created by the mixing of two primary colors is the head of its own color family. New hues are created when black, white, and/or gray is introduced into the pure color. Each variation, no matter how slight, represents a new hue that comes from that pure color. A pure color can have hundreds or thousands of hues within its family.

3. When white is added to a pure color, the new hue becomes a tint. All tints made from a particular pure color are part of that family, but they are also considered a member of the tint color scale.  This color scale most represents the season of spring. Tints include colors such as mint green, apricot, pink, peach, light blue, robin’s egg blue, and lavender. Show samples of tinted fabrics. (Make sure that these fabrics are true tints. There should be no grayness in these colors.)

 4. When black is added to a pure color, the new hues are shades. The warm shade colors most represent autumn while the rich dark cool colors represent nighttime, deep forests and other cool, dark imagery. A shade is always darker than its pure color.  Warm shades include rust, brown, olive green, and avocado while cool shades include dark purple, deep violet, emerald green, teal, ink navy, and maroon. Show samples of shaded fabrics. (Make certain these samples are true shades. They should look clear and rich. There should be no amount of graying in these samples.)

5.     The tone scale includes all pure colors, tints, and shades that have had gray added to its makeup. This graying can be done in a variety of ways. How it is done, is not essential to know for our purposes. This is the largest color scale of all because every pure color can be grayed in numerous steps, as can every tint, and shade. A color can be slightly toned, moderately toned, or so toned as to look drab. It depends on how much graying has been added to the color. Tones can be very calming. They best represent the season of winter. Tones include such colors as plum, rose, salmon, dusty teal, heather, beige, tan, mauve, and taupe.

Introduction of a Color Family

Chapter 5, pages 59-122

1. A color family is headed by a pure color. The family includes all of the hues created by mixing a pure color with white, black, and gray―all of tints, shades, and tones made from the pure color.   

2. To show examples of different color families, have everyone look at the color swatches shown on different color pages. Look at these color pages together: yellow, pages 59; chartreuse, page 62; yellow-green, page 65; spring green, page 67; green, page 70; blue-green, page 73; aqua green, page 76.

3. When looking at these color pages, note the differences in the colors between these columns. Column 1 show tints added to the pure color, moving from the pure color to a blush white; column 2 shows shade―moving from the pure color to blackened hues close to black; column 3 shows tones, moving from the pure colors to very toned hues; column 4 shows a tinted hue that has been grayed; column 5 shows a shade that has been grayed.

While browsing through these color pages with the class, have the class make note of how one color differs from its neighboring color. Have them notice the subtle differences between yellow and chartreuse; chartreuse and yellow-green; yellow-green and spring green, etc.

You may want to have the class look at other neighboring colors, such as violet, red-violet, purple, and fuchsia and blue-red, red, orange-red, and orange.    

4. Remind everyone that these swatches are just a small representation of all the colors within each of these familes.


Have students look at the fabrics they brought to class. Have them divide their fabrics  into the different color scales: pure colors, tints, shades, and tones. In all probability, the students will find that almost all of their fabrics are tones. Very few fabrics, if any, will be a pure color, a tint, or a shade.

Suggestion for checking a fabric’s color scale

A strong, clear Kona black fabric is a great barometer for determining if another color is a pure, tint, shade, or tone. To test, place a fabric on top of a clear Kona black fabric so that both colors can be seen. If the test color looks brilliant and clear on black, it’s probably a pure color. A tint will be clear and bright. It will stand strongly on its own even though it is light. A shade looks rich and strong on a black fabric. If the light color doesn’t feel clear and bright, it is a tone. If a pure color doesn’t ring strong and clear, it’s not pure; if a shade has any bit of softness to it, it’s a tone.


Using the Color Tool

Please read the instructions on pages i – xxii of the color tool to learn how to use the color tool the way it was meant to be used. Introduce the color tool to your students. Show them how to use it. Remind them that they are not trying to match their fabrics to the color swatches, as there are only a small amount of colors on the page compared to the hundreds of colors within a color family.  The fabric should feel as if it belongs to the color card when the card is placed on top of or next to the fabric. If the fabric appears warmer or cooler, redder or bluer, etc., than the color card, the fabric is not from that color card’s family. Usually, the fabric will belong to one of the neighboring color’s cards.

Individual Activity

1.  Using the color tool, have students determine what which color card their two groups of favorite colors belong to. It may be possible that there will be more than two different color families brought by a person. For instance, someone bring blues may find that they have some fabrics that belong to the cerulean blue family while other fabrics belong to the blue and blue-violet families.

2. Once a group of fabrics has been identified with a certain color card, have the student find fabrics throughout the store that also belong to that color color card. Have the students gather these fabrics to look at. They should notice that some are bright, some light, some slightly grayed while others may be very grayed. Make sure the colors in each group work within the color family.

3. Also, mention that just because a fabric belongs to a person’s selected color family doesn’t mean it needs to be invited into the quilt. If a color is too grayed down, too bright, too light, or too dark compared to the rest of the fabrics, it can be set aside. If it’s difference is too much an attention-grabber, then it should be uninvited to the gathering. As a class, have everyone view and assess each person’s collection.

4. While all of the color-family fabrics are on the tables in full view, introduce the idea that the different color scales have different responsibilities or tasks within a design:


  • Pure colors say “hey look at me!”  They are vibrant. Our eyes almost always go to a pure color within a design, since they are the boldest. So, these colors should be used for the “eye-catching” places within your design. If anyone selected a pure color, have students notice how strongly it looks within the group of fabrics.


  • Tints are very clear. If they are used together, the design can be subtle, soft, and/or refreshing. Because tints are clearer and brighter than tones and shades, they usually come forward in a toned or shaded design. If you see an example of this in anyone’s gathered fabrics, point this out.


  • Shades can be rich, luscious, and dark. Shades will come forward in a design ahead of tones. If someone has an example of this in their gathered fabrics, point this out.


  • The more a color is toned, the more it recedes within a design. Slightly toned colors will appear closer than greatly toned colors that recede in a design. You should see many examples of this concept in the gathered fabrics. Point it out.



It’s good to be able to show your class fabric examples of each of the color scales. Remind them that most fabrics in a fabric store are from the tone scale. Pure colors are most often seen in solid-color fabrics, fabrics with black backgrounds, and many children’s fabrics. Tints are rarely seen in fabrics, but can be found in some of the large floral fabrics. Shades can be as rare as tints, as most dark fabrics have some gray in their makeup. If you find a dark fabric that is clear and pulls out from the other toned fabrics, it’s probably a shade. The painted swatches in the tint and shade columns on each of the color’s introductory pages in Chapter 5 may be the best examples of seeing examples of a colors’ tints and shades.

The Five Most Beautiful Color  Plans

To help you introduce the five color plans, do the following:

1. Introduce your fabric block’s selected color. Pull out the card in your color tool and show students the color plans on the backside of the card. Have students follow along with their own color tools. Also, use the Studio Color Wheel as a reference to the colors that are used in each color plan.

2. For each block shown, first reference the color plan with the color wheel. Then pull out all of the color cards from the tool that are represented in the color plan. Then show your fabric block for that plan. If you used aqua blue, you will show the following:

a. Monochromatic color plan:  a variety of aqua blue fabrics in a value range from light to dark.

b. Complementary color plan: a combination of aqua blue and orange-red fabrics with the aqua blue hues being the most dominant; if you made a second block with orange-red being dominant, show it.

c. Analogous color plan:  green, blue-green, aqua green, aqua blue, turquoise blue, cerulean blue, and blue (some fabrics can include 2 or more colors, if possible); if you made the additional two analogous blocks with aqua blue at either end of the range, show these too. Discuss the differences.

d. Split-complementary color plan:  blue-green, aqua green, aqua blue, turquoise blue, cerulean blue and orange-red; you can make an additional block with aqua blue as the complement to a range of five analogous colors with orange-red in the center.

 e. Triadic color plan:  aqua blue, fuchsia, and golden yellow.


After showing students your color blocks, have each student select a featured color to work with (it can be the same color as one of the fabric groups she brought or a different color). Have students decide which color plan they want to work with. If they have a color tool, have them pull each color in the plan. If using the book, have them mark each page with the color swatch references. Then using these references, have students pull fabrics for an imaginary quilt in their chosen color plan. Have each person gather their color-plan fabrics at their table.

After fabrics have been gathered, together look at each person’s selection. Have everyone use their color tools or books to assess each collection. Discuss the strengths of what has been selected, what’s missing, and what’s needed to make it a complete and beautiful quilt. Help students fill in their color choices so that their fabric selection looks good.

 Class Closing Activities and Summary

1. Ask students if they have any questions about using the color wheel, the color tool, or selecting fabrics.

 2. Hand out copies of the Star Echoes block pattern for those students who would like to create fabric blocks using their favorite color.  A complete set would be 8 copies for each student.

3. Ask each student to think about how they would like to work with color in a future quilt. Summarize what you have introduced. Ask if anyone has ideas about what they would like to do next.

4. Encourage students to purchase fabric today that they think works within the color families they love. This is a way they can begin working at building a collection of fabrics in the colors that they love.

Note:  I most often purchase 1/3 – 1/2 yard fabric pieces or fat quarters when adding to my collection.

5. Entice students to think about expanding their color knowledge further by reading Chapters 3, 4, and 6, which deal with value, color personalities, and color illusions.



Thanks you for teaching this class. If you have questions, do contact me via email.