Monochromatic Is Not a Disease

By: Jill

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By Jill Davis, Founder of

In my youth I caught the infectious 'mononucleosis' virus. I knew at the time that 'mono' meant 'one' so I hoped the experience would be a one-time thing. Fortunately, my wish came true.

Years later I caught another bug, similar in name but much more difficult to shake: it was called Frustrated Monochromatic-itis. It came to a point where I wondered if there would ever be a cure…

Worried that you might be infected with Frustrated Monochromatic-itis (FM)? Read on!

What is Frustrated Monochromatic-itis...?
Have you ever bought a navy blue sweater thinking it would look great with your favorite pair of navy blue pants, only to find that the colors were "off" just enough to look terrible together? The reason they don't match is because the navy blues were made from different dye blends.

This problem exists in scrapbooking too when you try to find matching cardstock, especially lighter versions of the same color. If you've ever found yourself annoyed, disturbed, or irritated because you can't find a light colored cardstock to go with a darker colored piece, you have Frustrated Monochromaticitis.

While the light-to-dark contrast sometimes works well, the color-clash is frustrating! Most scrapbookers give up on the idea of trying to find pleasing color selections, and opt for working with two different colors.

Sufferers of FM usually have stacks of cardstock in a myriad of colors but few could be combined to form a decent monochromatic layout. Those afflicted usually know there's a problem but may feel like something's wrong with them for not being able to figure out what it is.

What does monochromatic mean?
"Mono" joined with "chroma" means one pure color or hue in multiple shades, tones or tints. Monochromatic color seems to make more sense when you can see a sample. See the Bazzill Basics Monochromatic Red Multi-Pack. [See Figure 1] The samples form a graded scale beginning with intense red color and ending with very, very light red.

Figure 1

How does one color become truly monochromatic?
To best describe how a monochromatic scale is formed, I'll use a monochromatic color triangle. [See Figure 2] Every monochromatic color triangle begins with one foundation color located at the top angle.

This color will vary from triangle to triangle, but every base will have one black angle, one white angle and a grey midpoint.

Shades, tones, and tints are created by adding calculated amounts of value (black, grey, and white) to the foundation color.

Figure 2

In other words...

  • foundation color + any % of a black value = a shade
  • foundation color + any % of a grey value = a tone
  • foundation color + any % of a white value = a tint

Grades (levels) of the shades, tones, and tints create the triangle lines that connect the top angle to the black, white or grey points on the base line.

How are the triangle lines completed? Looking at the monochromatic color triangle, you'll see that the samples from the Red Monochromatic Multi-Pack form the line from Maraschino to White:

  • 1st color = Foundation color = Maraschino
  • 2nd color = Foundation color + % of white value = Watermelon
  • 3rd color = Foundation color + 2 x (% of white value) = Flamingo
  • 4th color = Foundation color + 3 x (% of white value) = Blossom
  • 5th color = Foundation color + 4 x (% of white value) = Quartz
  • 6th color = White value

Therefore, monochromatic scales are created by adding various levels of value to your foundation color. And, monochromatic color triangles are created by displaying the monochromatic scales of shades, tones, and tints.

You no longer have to search high and low to find cardstock that has dark to light harmony. You can now successfully create a pleasing monochromatic layout [See Figure 3] or combine cardstock colors for a multi-colored masterpiece [See Figure 4]. This is the cure for Frustrated Monochromatic-itis.

Figure 4 - Eden's First Shoes

Who developed this miracle cure?
Bazzill Basics Paper (known for colorful, high-quality, acid-free cardstock) was founded four years ago by scrapbook industry front-runner, Doug Jones. He and his talented staff were the first to create and distribute a true monochromatic line of cardstock. The Bazzill texture was added to the original 45 colors and introduced at the Hobby International Association convention (HIA) in 2003. These textured cardstocks are comprised of nine harmonious monochromatic color groups (or hues). Traditional monochromatic packs offer a group with one true color and four tints totaling five different papers with intensities from light to dark.

At HIA 2004 the new Monochromatic Trio line was introduced. Different from the white tints in the Monochromatic Multi-Pack line, these colors are based on grey tones. Each color pack contains a foundation color and two tone colors. These new colors coordinate well with the original monochromatic colors (see Figure 4 - Eden's First Shoes - blues are from the Blue Monochromatic Multi-Pack and purples are from the Velvet Trio Pack).

Bazzill Mono Mini Albums, also introduced at HIA 2004, have a cardstock cover measuring 5"x7" or 6"x6". The cover is made from the next-to-deepest tint in each of the monochromatic packs . The inside pages and envelope are the lightest tint. So, if you purchase an album and a few monochromatic packs (I recommend the 5.5" x 8.5" size) you'll have a great selection of color to create a color coordinated treasure.

How are Bazzill Monochromatic and Trio Packs the cure?
Follow these simple steps to your own cure:

1. Get educated - study this article and others on color and monochromatic techniques.
2. Get immunized - surround yourself with pure monochromatic color.
3. Get boosters - purchase replacement colors when you run out.
4. Get supplemented - purchase coordinating Bazzill brads, buttons, fibers and eyelets.

As Frustrated Monochromatic-itis is quickly becoming a thing of the past, we have something wonderful to look forward to: monochromatic health. You'll know you have it when you exhibit symptoms of excitability, sleeplessness, and urgency. We hope you catch it and keep if for a lifetime!

© 2004 Jill Davis

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