Feb 8, 2017

Ombres & Gradients: What's the Difference?

What's the difference between ombres and gradients?

Great question. It seems most people use the terms interchangeably, and I've not seen a good definition that distinguishes the two. For those of us who like to wallow in the details, however, there are subtle distinctions (at least in my mind).

Ombre schemes like the one shown above focus on one color family and incorporate varied shades that progress from saturated to pale or dark to light, whether the yarn has been dyed in graduated hues or features colors you've selected for a custom effect. With neutrals that fade from dark (black) to medium (grey) to light (cream), the Kintra mitt below illustrates a very basic custom DIY ombre.

Gradient schemes are slightly different. Unlike ombres, they can incorporate shades from any color family, related or radically different. Both simple and complex gradients typically feature a transitional section that flows or fades one color into the next. The center portion of the slip-stitch Plumberry scarf below illustrates the basic principle, where red and purple are blended to create plum.

Because the possibilities are endless, ombres and gradients have long been one of my favorite strategies for optimizing yarn from stash. Twegen Harvest is a good example. With warm shades ranging from lemon squash to heritage pumpkin, it effectively transformed eight related but different singletons into something that's both pretty and practical.

Ombres and gradients are a hot color story in the knitting world for obvious reasons. Whether you choose to build your own, buy pre-dyed gradient skeins or opt for a pre-packaged collection, it's difficult to beat their visual appeal and versatility.

So, tell me, how do you define ombres and gradients?

Seeking ideas and inspiration? Try Ombres & Gradients: 5 Ways to Create Your Own, or browse through all ombre and gradient posts.


  1. I think I now define gradients and ombres exactly as you do - you seem to know what you are talking about! Very helpful and clear, thank you.

  2. I had never actually thought about there being a difference between ombres and gradients. But now that you've pointed this out, it's actually quite fascinating to me. Thank you!

  3. I see "ombres" and "gradients" all the time because I have wildly colored hair and I'm constantly seeing those terms used. Never thought of it to refer to yarn before, haha. :) These definitions seem pretty solid to me.


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