Colorblind Is The New Super-Power

Colorblindness can actually be a useful characteristic when it comes to…wait for it…designing color palettes. So, how does the colorblind super power work?

How Colorblind Super-Power Works

If you do a lot of colorwork in knitting (or in crochet, quilting, dyeing, painting, etc.), you’re often called upon to make special differentiations in color. Often, a multi-color design requires you to be able to discern a foreground color and a background color.

Color dominance can be based on combinations of color, strength of hue, sharpness, contrast and your own perception of color.

Years ago, I did a sweater design which was really an experiment in color balancing.

I wanted to use seemingly random colored blocks to create an overall balanced aesthetic.  While I wasn’t overly successful, I did go on to refine the theory in a more successful way.

FiestaWear Done 2

Creating this design required that I understood dominant and recessive colors and also the idea of a “kicker” color. Can you pick out the two kicker colors in the pullover above?

When I balanced those brighter blocks on a more subtle background, it created a pleasant and balanced look. No?

Back to Colorblindness

So, here’s where colorblindness comes in.  The pullover above was inspired by a sweater a knitter-friend had made.  His was similar to the pullover above, except it didn’t have any bright colors.  Just a beautifully balanced background of blocks of color.  I asked him how he chose such a beautifully balanced selection of colors.  He told me he was colorblind and didn’t have to care about color.  Just the strength of hues in the colors. He saw a bunch of similar strength grays/browns, etc.

Around the same time, my local yarn store gave me this handy device.

Red Plexiglass Filter

It’s a 3″x6″ piece of dark red plexiglass.  When you use it as a filter, it helps take away the distraction of color. And shows only strength of hue.

So, for instance, let’s say you want to choose yarn colors for an old Alice Starmore design, and it’s just a simple Fair Isle star.

Fair Isle Star Color

Clearly there is foreground (star) and background colors required.

Fair Isle Star BW

You pull out your stash of Shetland yarns (or shop for more at your store) and here are your options.

Shetland Yarn Various Colors Random

You could try to put them in dominance order by eye.

Shetland Yarn Various Colors Sorted by Eye

Or you could give yourself the super power of colorblindness by looking through a dark red plexiglass.

Shetland Yarn Various Colors Sorted by Red Glass

While it doesn’t photograph as well as what you see in real life, the plexiglass does eliminate the distraction of color to show you what you’re looking for.

Or you could just convert a photo of your yarn choices to black and white to get a similar effect.

Shetland Yarn Various Colors to Black and White

Either way, hopefully you now have a new super power in your knitting toolkit!

Current Knitting

This garment just seems to get slower as I near the end. It’s like approaching a black hole where it gets infinitely slower the closer you get!

Fox Paws 03-18-20 01

There are 3 more fox-paw repeats to go!

4 comments on “Colorblind Is The New Super-Power

  1. I can see all the numbers I should now, though a few are a struggle. (a bit red/green colourblind). What is interesting to me is that I used to test a lot worse. And I can’t remember which one it was, but I’d see a number that isn’t even there. A little over 20 years ago, I had artificial lenses implanted in my eyes…before that I was legally blind without glasses. (although corrective lenses worked well for me). At that time I could always pick out a real diamond, because they were the dull kind of muddy looking hunks of glass. And it was easier to pick out colours that would stand out against each other.

  2. I like your phrase “super power of colorblindness”. I search for all things “colorblind”. I’ll have to check out that filter.
    I had an artist create a colorblind superhero where certain colors are blocked allowing our favorite colors to make it through. Check it out at

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