Research Point 1: Colour Palettes and Proportion

The aim of this research is to look at the colour work of some textile artists and designers starting with the names listed below.

Voyage Decoration

Voyage Decoration create elegant prints based on themes, many of which have a beautiful watercolour or sketched aesthetic. For example their “Alchemy” prints are based in “[s]hades of blue, green and heather are blended with lustrous metallic hues to create a look that emulates the beauty and movement of the natural world.” Their prints are created digitally

By contrast the “Edenmuir” prints is based on “blooming botanicals and verdant foliage” and uses “lush watercolour hues and joyous linear detailing”. Although it is also digitally printed and gives the impression of watercolour, the brighter tones create a completely different atmosphere. The piece inspired by autumn leaves is predominantly red tones and many of their works have colour schemes that are intrinsic to the design.

Increasing the vibrancy of the colours further has resulted in the “Studio Line” . The bolder colours create a much more vivid and less restful mood.

Despite the tones creating different moods and collections, the consistent use of watercolour painting as a basis of the print design creates a signature use of colour.


Marimekko “fabrics are printed using either a flatbed or rotary printing method” and utilise a completely different, more graphic style. The colours of Marimekko fabrics are flatter and single tones rather than blended shades. Marimekko also uses a distinct black outline in many of the prints. Marimekko uses a restricted colour palette (often around 4 colours in addition to black) which adds to the impact of the designs.

Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou’s print designs are predominantly collaged photographs. The colours are vibrant and many of the collages are repeated layers of the same photograph as shown in the example of the plate below.

Wallace Sewell

Wallace & Sewell are most famous for designing moquette fabric for the London Underground. They website says “Wallace Sewell are known for their use of colour, structure and yarn in surprising geometric formats. Inspired by paintings, they create individual contemporary fabrics with strikingly bold, asymmetric blocks and stripes of varying scales, which bring together a plethora of elements within one piece.” They are often influenced by the Bauhaus movement as well as other artists. The colours they employ are generally natural tones and the more bold and striking colours are not vivid like the Mary Katrantzou designs.

Cole & Sons

According to their website “the Cole & Son archive consists of approximately 1,800 block print designs, 350 screen print designs”

Cole & Sons group their “Icons” fabrics into 12 groups:
Petrol & Yellow
Classic Neutral
Magenta & Charcoal
Black & White
Black, White &Gold
Yellow & Gray
Ginger & Black

Their range of wallpapers are more extensive and are grouped by theme. For instance their range “Botanical Botanica” is inspired by the English landscape with “[c]olour palettes… inspired by the ever-changing landscape with the pastel promise of early spring and dazzling vibrancy of summer hues, through to the autumnal tones of turning leaves and crisp, cool colours of frosted winter”.

Cole & Sons have an illustrative style and the colours are applied individually in layers so that there is a greater sense of realism and depth than a Marimekko print. The designs are selected from the archive and adapted and colours chosen to be sympathetic to the heritage of the design but give a “contemporary feel”. To me the colours seem reminiscent of those from William Morris designs and there are papers in their collection that have similar motifs

The large image at the bottom is a Cole & Son print whereas the three above are William Morris prints as taken from the Style Library website. There are some similarities with the colours in the top left and the trailing plant trellis ideas of the other samples. The Cole & Son print does seem more refined and sophisticated and this may have been made possible with modern printing techniques.

Norma Starszakowna

Starszakowna’s work Hinterland (2004) currently hangs in the Scottish Parliament building. Created using “digital and hand processes printed on silk organza substrate”, the colours were chosen to represent Scottish heritage and culture. “[T]here are dark tones of Celtic standing stones and local mining industries, greens and blues of agricultural land and seascapes, bright colours of philosophy, education, science and medicine through to the gold and silver that the artist uses to convey her feelings about the Scottish Enlightenment period.”

Paul Smith

As the examples above show (image credit: all taken from Paul Smith website) Paul Smith’s prints are primarily modified photographs digitally printed or some of his signature stripes. The colour saturation is either turned up or the colours are altered to make them unnatural. They sometimes appear to have filters applied that make them look as though they have colour reversals or the colour contrast has been turned up. By contrast the stripes are more muted but with a common theme of using complementary colours. Compared to Mary Katrantzou’s print designs, Paul Smith uses only a couple of colours. For instance the image on the right is predominantly orange and red with complementary stripes in blue.


Vlisco fabrics are wax printed (the full method is outlined here) and they state on their website that indigo is their most utilised colour as it was “the most common and popular source of colour in West Africa for centuries”. Super-wax fabric is made from a maximum of three blocking colours and they create variation from using different combinations of colours as shown below.

Ptolemy Mann

Ptolemy Mann combines bold shades of primary or secondary colours such as royal blue with more neutral tones like yellow ochre, beige or tones of white. The juxtaposition almost makes the bold shades more vivid and the designs give the appearance of shading or blending of the two shades. This blending is created by dip dyeing the weft before weaving.

[All links accessed on 27/01/2019]

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