How to Hack Color Confidence

Color sense may seem like something you’re either born with – or not. But the truth is color confidence (as with most things) comes with practice.

We forget how important it is to practice, don’t we?

Kids know about practice. When we’re small we’re taught to practice our handwriting, to practice piano, practice our times tables, practice our dance steps, practice kicking the ball, practice swinging the bat… practice, practice, practice.

But there comes a point in life when we may think we’ve graduated beyond the need for practice – especially for things that seem like they should be intuitive. If we’re not good at it,  we chalk it up to being one of those things that some people are good at and some people aren’t. You’ve either got it, or you don’t – and that’s all there is to it.

Nope.

I used to think I wasn’t great with color. I’m not great at visualizing things in my head, so when I would look at skeins of yarn or fabric and try to imagine them in my project, that old familiar doubt would creep in: Remember, you’re not great with color. That’s not your strength.

Statistically, shop owners and yarn dyers know that most customers who see a sample will want to knit theirs in the same colors. Why is that? Because I’m not the only one who doubts myself with color.

Over the last few years I’ve learned something about myself and color confidence – and it’s completely changed my perspective. 

If we’re not great at choosing color, it’s because we need more practice. Plain and simple. 

Sure, you can be born with an inherent skill for it; but for most of us, color confidence is just a muscle that needs a little more exercise. It helps to learn the basics so you have a foundation to build from, and then practice, practice, practice. If you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, you’ll get lucky sometimes – but the rest of the time you’ll wish you’d chosen something else. Rather than hoping to get lucky, or copying the shop sample so you don’t have to worry about getting it wrong, try practicing your color skills using this simple and accessible hack…

Hacking Color Confidence with Paint Swatches

One simple way to learn to match colors is to study the pros. Sure, you’ve seen a color wheel. You might even know how it works, except that it still feels a little foggy when it comes to translating that into choosing the right color combo for your next sweater. So head into your local home improvement store and plant yourself in the paint department – right in the spot where they offer color card inspiration for your home. It’s an easy, painless way to do a little study of color pairings for your next sweater. (If choosing colors was so easy, they wouldn’t have an entire section of the hardware store devoted to color booklets, paint chips and color cards to assist with choosing colors, now would they?)

  • Which colors are you drawn to first?
  • Are there particular colors that are often partnered with your favorites?
  • Are there any combinations that surprise you? 
  • Do you find yourself drawn to bold contrast, or not?

If you’re not there to choose actual paint colors for your home, it might be best to snap photos of the combinations you love most rather than take the color cards with you (even though they are free). But paint chip inspiration is a great way to practice choosing colors for your knitting projects. It gives you a chance to lean into new combinations with a little extra support. Compare the swatch ideas to your stash – are there any skeins in similar colorways that you can partner together for a new project?

Over time, tricks like this will help you get a feel for combinations that work well together. And the more you practice choosing colors with guidance (like color cards), the more confidence you’ll have to start choosing colors without them. Why? Because practice makes it easier to know which colors work best together. Pretty soon, you’ll be breezing through color selection without an inkling of doubt. 

It really IS that easy. It just takes practice, and the willingness to be bad at something for a little while (and use outside help) until you get the hang of it. 

There are many ways to build color confidence, but the most important thing is to give yourself permission to learn. Let yourself practice. Don’t decide you’re bad at it just because you weren’t a color prodigy from birth; color confidence is a skill that you can learn.

Need a project to practice your color confidence? Try the Little Biscuit Beanie or Mitts