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Color Theory, the Series! Part III: Black & White


True or False? Black is all colors combined and white is the absence of color, so therefore there is only one black and one white - they're all the same.




Answer: FALSE. While it is true that black is all colors combined and white is the absence of color, it is not true that all blacks and all whites are same. Both colors are actually multi-tonal.

Have you ever put on a black shirt and a black pair of pants, walked outside and had someone point out your shirt and pants didn't match? "THANKS A LOT, GUY," you might've said to yourself....or to them...but, deep down you knew it was probably true. When it comes to fabrics, not every black is the same. 

Because. Different companies use different types of dye with different base colors to make their black dye. Go into any quilt store and grab a few different brands of solid black; I guarantee you one will look warmer (red base) and one will look cooler (blue base) and one will look slightly greenish (green base). They're all black, but they have different bases.  You can see this happen in real time before your eyes with the power of bleach.  Dab some bleach on a piece of black fabric and after a few minutes, you'll get a peek at the base color.  Not only that, but because of their different bases, blacks come in a variety of shades even without the addition of white: blue based blacks tend to be the darkest, and green based blacks tend to be lighter.

White functions a little differently. Think of it in terms of a white paint chip - there's bright white, soft white, eggshell white. They are all white and like black, unless you put two different whites together, its hard to tell the difference. In fabric, there is even something called "optic white," which is the white that is the brightest of them all. The softer whites work well in pastel quilts and in landscape quilts where white is necessary. While still creating high contrast with other colors, it's not as stark as an optic white. Optic whites work nicely in more contemporary quilts and in quilts using brights. It creates the crispest line and the highest contrast. Natural light aids in determining what kind of white you have, since artificial (incandescent, fluorescent, LED) light can give fabric a slight cast of color it may or may not have on its own.

So, no, they're not all the same.  A word to the wise!  If you find a bac or white solid you really love...make sure you ot down the brand, line name, and color number.  This way you'll ensure that you're always buying the same one every time.  Nothing sucks more than running out of a background when you have more blocks to go, assuming white is white is white, running out, buying a white solid, and getting home to see that your white solids. don't. match.  Not that I've ever done that. Ever. (learn from my mishaps!)

At The Cotton Patch, you can be assured that our black solid will always be the same.  We always, and only, buy Black Magic from Maywood.  It is a deep, yard-dyed black and just cannot be beat!  (For those that don't know - yard dyed means the thread used to weave the fabric is dyed, then once the fabric is woven, it is dyed again).  So if you get a black solid from'll always be Black Magic.

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