Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Color Play with Marsala: The Pantone 2015 Color of the Year

Marsala: Pantone's Color of the Year for 2015

I decided to try to make some beaded pendants using the color marsala, a brownish light red wine color that's also Pantone's Color of the Year for 2015. You can click over to Pantone's official site to see some of their examples of this color in action. I also colored a few of my beading illustrations using this hue:

(I should note that my illustrations tint marsala to the lighter side; the dark parts of these illustrations are closer to the official Pantone color).

First Color Experiment: Marsala Tints

I started with a monochromatic color palette made up of seed beads, Rizo beads, crystals, and freshwater pearls, that ironically enough had been sitting together on one of my bead trays since last August. Out of all the beads in my stash, a copper-lined seed bead that I found at Creative Castle most closely matched marsala, so I used this seed bead in each of the projects in these color experiments.

I decided to try to create the Tropical Dahlia Pendant with these beads, substituting drop-shaped freshwater pearls for the Czech drop beads called for in this pattern.

Unfortunately, these particular freshwater pearls are too thick at the base of the pearl, so they don't fit into this design when substituted one-to-one for the drop beads. I tried adjusting the seed bead count to compensate, but it still ended up too wonky.

So, for my next attempt, I found some reddish-brown iris Czech drop beads and also changed the color of the Rizo beads to a pink opal/sunset color, for a very monochromatic take on this design.

(Incidentally, while I was hunting for these drop beads, I learned that I have the same beads with the same color number from two different dye lots in my stash. In this case, the color difference is quite substantial!)

Second Color Experiment: Marsala with Purple

For my next experiment, I tried combining marsala with purple; I substituted shiny purple lentil beads for the outer ring of crystals, and I also used purple drop beads.

I like the look of this result, but in this particular pendant design I prefer a more even tint progression from the inner rivoli crystal to the outer edge of the pendant, so I tried again with a slightly different purple lentil bead for the outer edge, and one of those new patina rivoli crystals for the center.

I was drawn to this result color-wise, as I love purple and I like the tint progression in this beaded pendant. However the patina of the crystal competes with the complexity of the overall design, and this version has the least marsala out of all the experiments.

Still, I had to create a pair of matching Sakura earrings before continuing :)

Third Color Experiment: Marsala with Magic Wine

For my third experiment, I wanted to get back to the red wine flavor of marsala that Pantone shows off on their website, so I switched back to a mahogany rivoli crystal and added magic wine Rizo beads, cranberry drop beads, and a light magic green shade of lentil bead:

While it's on the darker side, I think this Tropical Dahlia pendant most closely matches the red wine richness that's most appealing about the marsala color.

Fourth Color Experiment: Marsala with Matte Sunset/Tan

For my final experiment, I switched to the Rivoli Kaleidoscope design, and used lighter, browner shades of lentils, crystals, and drop beads for this pendant.

The result is more monochromatic and, with the addition of the matte sunset drop beads, a little more on the Desert Sand side of the marsala spectrum. It's probably not the best representation of this color, but I think this palette could benefit from more light peach Duracoat/PF seed beads.

I also couldn't resist making another pair of matching Sakura earrings :)

Marsala Color Experiments: Results and Conclusions

My takeaway from these experiments? I think the marsala color has a lot of potential, particularly when paired with darker, richer wine-like reds. It also blends with purple, so it could be used as a secondary or tertiary color to warm up a purple-heavy color palette. At least in my hands, marsala is less effective in a monochromatic color palette, particularly with related colors of similar value.

I was also glad to learn a couple of design lessons from these experiments. Namely: freshwater pearls don't work very well in the Tropical Dahlia design, but lentil beads substitute for the outer crystals quite well.

What do you think of Pantone's choice of marsala for 2015? Love it? No? Drop me a line in the comments :)


  1. I like it. But I could not go so far as love. It has great earthiness, and I too am trying to work with it. I find the complexity of it beneficial because, like you, I find that because of that complexity, it works with many different additional colors. Great post! Thanks.:)

    1. Thanks Marsha. I'm not sure if I could go so far as love either, but I'm interested in working with it more to see where it will take me :)


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