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Color Clinic – Design Court

Time for another week of Color Clinic! Today we will be looking at a Courthouse Step quilt.

I’m working on a quilt with courthouse square blocks in red, brown, yellow, orange, and green. I used a turquoise-ish blue for the center of each square instead of the (apparently) traditional red. Would something else have been a better choice?

— Chris

Chris was kind enough to share photos of the quilt in question which you can see below.


First off, I just have to point out that the combination and placement of light and dark values does a great job of adding movement to this design. I particularly like that the diamond shapes are more subtle due to the change in color in neighboring courthouse step blocks. Also, is the piecing as absolutely tiny as it looks??


Your question is about the aqua in the heart of the courthouse step squares. You’ll find that I’m not really about saying if something is right or wrong, because color is very subjective. However, I can say that aqua is a great choice if you are looking for contrast! Most of the colors you’ve used are earthy (desaturated) and warm, and the aqua is a cool, saturated tone so it does a great job of adding contrast.


If you wanted something that didn’t quite pop as much, you could choose a slightly greener/earthier blue which would settle in to the other colors a bit more but still retain some contrast with the hue. On the left is a mock-up using the aqua color currently in your quilt, while on the right is a slightly greener/earthier blue –  notice how the blues on the right don’t pop forward as much. One is not necessarily better than the other, but I wanted to illustrate how even a small change in color can change the overall feel of the quilt.


You mention that the centers are normally red, but using red would have blended in much more with the other colors around it. Above you can see that with the red, the darker blocks blend together into a bigger overlaying shape now that the “touching points” are a similar color. Given your choice, I’m guessing you wanted contrast, so red would not have been a good choice for the design you were interested in. It’s impressive how such a small element of the design can so significantly impact the overall feel of the quilt!


And finally, since I drew this up in Illustrator, I couldn’t help but play around with some other color schemes. You went with the earth tones, so I went with water and the night sky.

My question to the readers, what color would you choose for the courthouse centers?



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