Designing to your expectations
SINCE 2004
Free Embroidery Designs Archive

Designs Sale: Over $30.00, save 15% (DES15OFF). Over $50.00, save 20% (code DES20OFF). Over $90.00, save 30% (code DES30OFF).


Solutions to Most Burning Problems With Colors

Matching Colors is one of the most important issues in embroidery. We feel it's so important because no matter how good the colors selection of original designs is - you often just have to change the colors, to make them fit your specific project. Otherwise, the original color scheme may look ridiculous, or even ugly.
In this issue, we'll try to cover "safe" ways to match colors, and show how to predict if a certain combination of colors will look nice on your project.
You've probably noticed that when you download embroidery designs, and try to view them via your embroidery software (or embroidery machine), the colors don't look like the original picture.
Sometimes the difference between original colors and what you see in "design preview" is minor. And sometimes it is huge. This happens because each machine and software loads it's own color palette.
If you're lucky enough to purchase designs digitized in similar software to yours - you will see very close or similar colors to the original ones. Yet, most often this doesn't happen, and you drive crazy trying to recognize the design.

What to do?
Most decent companies that sell embroidery designs offer thread change lists that you can use as color guides. These lists usually include color swatches, color names, and often matching numbers of thread for popular thread brands.
In this case, all you need to do when stitching a design is open its color sheet file (usually in graphical GIF, JPG or PDF format), and match the thread exactly in the order of thread change list. You may even print these color sheets if you want.
Yet, how do you know whether the original colors fit your project? And if not - how to change them to get a winning combination? There is a more or less easy and inexpensive way to do this.

Checking If The Original Color Scheme Fits Your Project
Often the original colors, suggested by digitizer, will look on your project perfectly well. So they're worth checking, before you dive into creating your own color scheme.
To check whether the original colors fit you, take out the fabrics that you're planning to use for your project. If it's more than one fabric - put them one near another, to see if they match. Everything should match, not only thread colors. Also, make sure that the materials look well together. Usually fabrics done from natural fibers go well with other natural fiber fabrics and trims, and synthetic ones go better with synthetic "partners". But of course there are exceptions.
When you're satisfied with your basic fabrics - open Embird software, or any other embroidery editing program that allows you to pick up your own color as design's background.
Open the embroidery design you want to use, and pick up background color that is as close as possible to your future background fabric. Then fix design colors to match the original color scheme, using thread change list, and see how this all looks together.

Changing Colors with Embird Software

This instruction is for Embird software. But most other programs work alike. So if you're using different software, it doesn't matter. See the steps, then go to your program, take a look at its help section to see the exact instruction for changing colors, and practice. It is simple. Some programs will even allow you to use a scan of your real fabric as background, to see if it matches your design. So if you're using one of those more advanced programs - you may want to check the manual, to see how to insert a scan of your fabric to default backgrounds database of your program. This way you won't need to eye-match background colors.
If you're using Embird - even better. Open it now, and try to do everything just as described below.
(To open Embird, click "Start" --> "All Programs" --> "Embird").
Use the right menu to navigate to one of the embroidery designs that you have saved on your PC. Open the design (double click on its file name).
You will see the design in front of you. It may already bee with good colors, or you may need to adjust its colors together with color of your background fabric (using thread change list, that comes with each of our designs). You will see the list of colors at the bottom, under the design itself. Here's how the screen should look:
Changing Colors with Embird Software

To change design background to the color of your fabric, and see how whether designs' default colors match, do the following steps, as shown on screenshot below:
Changing Colors with Embird Software

After we click on OK, we return to the design. Now, look at the following screenshots and follow the steps below, to actually see background color change:
Changing Colors with Embird Software

Here's what we see at the end:
Changing Colors with Embird Software

Because the background color we've picked up for this example relates to the same color family as large part of the design, it looks nice. If you want to embroider this design on dark jeans, close to this blue color, it look great with the default colors. Another foolproof background is white.
Since we're talking about changing design colors - the only way to change one gradient color family is to replace it with another gradient color family.
For example, if you have a natural looking design of pink rose and you want the rose to be blue, you need to have enough blue thread cones of same shade, in different color depth. Light blue, medium blue, dark blue etc.
Most thread brands lack a good selection of gradient colors within at least a few important color families. To solve this problem, we offer 26 small thread kits by color families. Each of these kits includes 10 colors from light to dark. So if you'd like to expand your selection of gradient thread colors - check them out.

Matching Your Own Colors, If The Original Ones Don't Fit

Sometimes it's easier to change the fabric, than to update color scheme of entire embroidery design. If you still prefer to stick to your original fabric choice - try to do the following:
Go to or and try to find color suggestions, using your fabric color as base color. These tools are very nice, and absolutely free. So unless you're blessed with natural talent for matching colors, they can help you a lot.
Avoid using too many different colors. Usually, a more than 3-4 color family in single design is too much. If you need more colors – add lighter or darker shades within one color family.
Once you've selected 3-4 possible color schemes, try them again in your embroidery software, by updating colors of your design until you're satisfied with how it looks.
Here is an example of alternative color schemes for this same design, just on different background fabrics (This really isn't an instruction - just an example.) We wanted to stitch the Rose design on dark green background fabric. When selecting it on PC screen, it's quite clear that original color of the design just don't fit. To match new color scheme, we've used a program called ColorImpact (fully functional demo can be downloaded here: ).
We won't explain how to use this software, because first of all it's too easy to use for any instructions, and second - you may eventually use an absolutely different tools for matching colors. So these screenshots are just to show the general idea. Remember - we didn't do any manual matching. Just picked up the background color, and this lovely ColorImpact software suggested all the other colors, which matched well!
This is the first color scheme:
Matching Your Own Colors, If The Original Ones Don't Fit

And this is how our design now looks on green fabric:
Matching Your Own Colors, If The Original Ones Don't Fit

Here's example of another successful color scheme:
Matching Your Own Colors, If The Original Ones Don't Fit

And this is how the design looks:
Matching Your Own Colors, If The Original Ones Don't Fit

Of course there are more options and color variations for this design. The leaves could be all blue, for example, like the software suggested. We just chose to use only part of the offered colors. So please, experiment! This is exciting and fun.
Another, really foolproof way to match colors, is to use the same color of your basic fabrics, and play only with color intensity of thread. This method doesn't fit all designs, some designs will look dull and boring this way, but some will look great. For example, most of our fonts, especially antique style initials, will look wonderful if embroidered like this.
Of course everything we've suggested for matching colors doesn't even touch the top of the iceberg of color matching art. If you're curious to find out more - you may want to get a good book, or two, about colors.
We don't have a perfect book ourselves so won't recommend the ones we bought. Perhaps you'll find something better. We did find two awesome programs for matching colors though. They aren't free, but seem to be a few heads above the free tools mentioned earlier. They both have 15 days fully functioning demos, so try them out. Both are Great, each offering different sweet extras. Really hard to choose between them, so check by yourself which one you like better.
The first one is ColorSchemer ( ).
And the second is ColorImpact ( ).
To choose the colors you need, just visit our Polyester Embroidery Thread category. It offers a large selection of mini-thread-kits, sorted by color families - 10 thread cones per kit. You may also purchase the entire palette of 260 thread colors.
You may also want to get the free ThreaDelighT polyester conversion chart (in PDF format). This color chart includes RGB number of each thread color, so you may enter this data into your embroidery software and use for matching thread colors.