December 2023 Colour Explained

Wherever we go, festive decorations abound. Green and red, silver and gold – these colour combos are eternally linked to seasonal festivities, Christmas in particular.

Red and green were first linked to Celtic winter solstice celebrations. Celts decorated their homes with holly – deep, glossy green leaves and abundant red berries – believing that holly plants brought beauty to the bleak mid-winter, and that they might just bring prosperity and good fortune in the new year. 

This makes Christmas jewellery or ornaments easy to plan – buy opaque and bright red and dark and light green beads, some silver or gold, and voila! Seasonal gift giving defined, easy peasy.

But what about making beaded jewellery or décor, in general. How do we choose colours?

Now, full disclosure, I did not study art nor colour theory, but I have learned a few useful tips over the years, and I thought, maybe these are worth sharing. So, let’s dive into some non -theoretical, super practical colour selection ideas!

First, a Few Useful Questions

Asking yourself a few questions will help you make good choices.

  1. What colour constraints are you working with? Admitting that you don’t have the time to hunt down one particular, unpopular or super popular colour, or having been given a specific colour combo for a custom order, will steer your choices.
  2. What do I want people to feel, or my custom client to feel? Because colours, as we know, evoke feelings. Here’s a link to a short article on the psychology of colour, based on an interview with a Pantone expert. It also has a link to a short colour quiz that is fun and enlightening too!

 Contrast or Monochromatic?

High contrast, like bright red and deep green, can be jarring, and too many strong colours, chaotic! Whereas a monochromatic scheme, beige to soft white, for example, is calming. Keeping in mind the impact you want your beading to have on people can help you choose colours wisely!

Here’s a fabulous Youtube on “The Power of Monochromatic Fashion - Unlock the Secret to Effortless Elegance,” with Elena Hue (is that her real surname!? LOL). Monochromatic = sophistication!

For those of my readers who love to use proper terminology, I’ve added the next little section…but if this makes your head ache, skip down to “Easy to Follow Tips” for the core info on colour selection.

Colour Harmonies – The Blending of Hue, Saturation, Value, and Temperature

Hue  =   the colour family, i.e., blue, green, etc.

Saturation  =   the intensity of the colour. Think strong primary colours vs a soft watercolour painting.

Value how dark or light the colour is, and is further defined by:

Shade – adding black to a colour
Tone – adding grey to a colour
Tint – adding white to a colour

Temperature  =  warm colours vs cool colours. A warm red has more yellow added, and a cool red, more blue added. All hues (except orange) have a warm and cold version – brown, grey, blue, and so on. Only orange cannot be a cool colour, since it is a blend of two warm colours, yellow and red.

A Run-down of Colour Schemes

The Monochromatic colour scheme uses different shades, tones, or tints of a colour to create a harmonious palette.

The Complementary colour scheme takes two colours, from opposite sides of the colour wheel, such as red and green or blue and orange.

A Split Complementary colour scheme is similar, except one of the colours is split into two nearby colours. It keeps the contrast, but adds variety.

A Triadic colour scheme uses three colours, evenly spaced around the colour wheel. This is also a bold and vibrant choice.

The Tetradic scheme is four colours made up of two sets of complementary colours. Concentrate on one as the main colour choice and use the others as contrasting accents.

An Analogous scheme uses a few colours sitting next to one another on the colour wheel. It is harmonious and again, choose one dominant colour and the others as accents.

Google any of the terms above to get amazing visuals and links to more information.

Easy to Follow Tips for Appealing Colour Combos

  • Use only a few colours – keep it simple, the KISS rule applies (Keep It Short & Simple)!
  • Pick one dominant colour.
  • Following this simple formula may help: 60% is the dominant colour, 30% is the secondary, and 10% is that pop of the unexpected. In addition, I add one metal to most pieces and sometimes a dash of black or the darkest shade of my dominant colour, as appropriate.
  • Use colour palettes for inspiration! Pinterest has so many inspiring colour palettes that you’ll never need to recreate the colour wheel, so to speak! Let the experts create gorgeous combos.

Beading Swatches

It’s true that beads in a container do not necessarily look the same once they are woven into a piece or embroidered onto a substrate. To truly select the appropriate bead, you might consider creating beaded colour swatches. Little 1” x 1” beaded squares, attached to a white cardboard tab, with a portion of the swatch hanging below the tab, is the way to create, store, and display your swatches. (Think of nail polish swatch sticks.)

Use white thread to reduce changes to colour caused by coloured threads. And if you are ambitious, you might create two swatches per colour, one set for storing by colour and one set by manufacturer/number.


Colour selection is tricksy, no doubt. I have seen plenty of projects that use colours over-exuberantly. But you know what? The use of colours is also subjective. I may adore a complementary palette, but that does not make it the best choice for you. So relax, listen to the beads, and let them decide what else is needed.

Bead happy my darling beaders! And HaPpy Holidays to all, near and far. Peace.

Your biggest beading fan! Cathy

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