You may have noticed that link on the right to the Artisan Beaders Blog. My teammates and I maintain that interesting informative blog. I've been organizing and posting many of the "Technique Tuesday" posts over there. This post was originally published there, but I thought my readers here might enjoy it too.
I own several books on color theory, but my favorite by far is Color Works by Deb Menz. It not only covers the basics, but it goes far beyond that. And, it is specifically written for crafters of all sorts including beaders, quilters, knitters, weavers and spinners.
One of the most important things I've learned from this book is the concept of value. Value is a comparison of a color to a gray scale. One of the many fun interactive tools in the book is aimed at helping determine the value of a color by providing a gray scale like this:
Deb Menz suggests squinting a bit when comparing a color to this gray scale because squinting restricts the part of your eye that sees color. Using this scale may take some practice.
Why is it important to understand the value of a color? Because value is the first characteristic of a piece of art that you will notice, especially when viewed from a distance. Think about how certain colors "pop" when used with certain other colors. Look at this elaborate bead embroidered piece by Deb of Rosevine Design:
The first thing that catches the eye is the yellow, which generally has the lowest value of all colors on the color wheel.
The same color "pop" happens with the orange-yellow flowers on the left side of this fused glass night light from Deronda Designs:
The way I use this information in my jewelry and other art works is to first determine what affect I'm trying to achieve. If I want a soft, muted piece, I limit my color choices to a small range of values. When I want to assure that a certain part of a piece gets noticed, I venture into a very different range of value for that part.