Tips and Tricks: Tricking the Eye Through Colors

On a recent Rug of the Month post, Ania discussed her “Desert Wanderer” rug, where she faced the challenge of creating hooked sections that mimicked the color of natural wool, without using un-dyed wool. This technique, of tricking the eye through color, is surprisingly common in rug hooking, and in art in general.

Why would an artist need to use one color to mimic another color? Why can’t the artist just use the color they want?

The human eye sees individual colors in relation to those surrounding it. You see this technique quite a bit with artists who used pointillism, for example, where dots of varied colors are used to create the impression of another color.

In rug hooking it’s the same, where all the colors used in a rug influence each other. That means sometimes you need to trick the eye into seeing the color you want instead of simply using the color you want. It’s often a matter of exaggerating a value difference.

Desert Wanderer 2 Watermarked
A series of pastels are used in the border of ‘Desert Wanderer’ to create the impression of natural undyed wool.

In the “Desert Wanderer” rug, using off the bolt, un-dyed wool, would have been too jarring to the human eye. It would have looked stark and unnatural, when the idea behind that specific project was that it need to look like a natural, hand-made rug.

To create that effect, I needed to use dyed wool in a variety of colors that would provide the perceived effect of natural wool. If you look at each strip of wool I used to replicate un-dyed wool in isolation, they contain the same yellows, blues, greens, and reds used elsewhere in the rug, but at much lighter values. I leveraged pastels of the colors used elsewhere, to create an effect of natural wool.

Desert Wanderer 1 Watermarked
Ania’s completed “Desert Wanderer” rug.

I used this technique in another project I completed, my “Frank Lloyd Wright Stained Glass” wall hanging. In this project I again used pastels of various shades to create the effect of milk glass.

Have you ever used similar techniques in your rugs? Where have you found this technique most useful?

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