Solutions to "Design Color" Problems

Handling Offset Colors When downloading embroidery designs and trying to preview them in embroidery software (or on machine screen), often the colors don't look like the ones on original picture. Sometimes the difference is minor, and sometimes 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 close or similar colors to the original palette. But often this doesn't happen.

To solve this problem, decent design retailers sell each design together with thread change list, that shall be used as color guide. These lists usually include color swatches, color names, and color numbers of popular thread brands. So, if the original colors suggested by design manufacturer are OK for your project, all you need to do before stitching a design is open it's color sheet file (usually in GIF, JPG or PDF format), and match the thread exactly in the order of thread change list. You may even print these color sheets.

Yet, how to know whether the original colors fit your purpose? And if they don't - how to change them successfully?

Fitting new design colors from scratch Matching colors is very important in embroidery, because no matter how good the colors of an original designs are, often they must be changed, to better fit a specific project. Otherwise, the original color scheme may look ridiculous, or even ugly.

Checking whether The Original Color Scheme Fits 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 good together. Usually fabrics done from natural fibers go well with other natural fiber fabrics and trims, and synthetic ones go better with synthetic "partners".

When you're satisfied with your basic fabrics - open your embroidery software (Embird or other), which allows you to pick up your own "fabric color" (design background). Now, pick up background color that is close to your fabric. Then, adjust design colors to match the original color scheme (suggested in thread change list), and see how everything looks together. Here is a step-by-step guide showing the technical side of adjusting background & design colors in Embird software:

  • To open Embird, click "Start" => "All Programs" => "Embird".
  • Use the right menu to navigate to the desired embroidery design.
  • Open that design (double click on it's file name).

  • Now you should see the design. It's colors may already be OK, or not. The list of design colors is displayed at screen bottom, under the design:
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    To change design background, do the steps outlined on screenshot below:
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    After clicking on OK, we return to the design. Now, look at the screenshots below, and follow the outlined steps, to see background color change:
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    Here's what we see at the end:
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    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. But this isn't always the case. So, if you're happy with your result - great. Otherwise, move to next step of matching new design colors.

    Matching Custom Colors When The Original Ones Don't Fit Sometimes it's easier to change background fabric, than to update color scheme of an entire embroidery design. But if you insist to stick to your original fabric choice - try the following:

    Go to or and try to find color suggestions, using your fabric color as base color. These tools are nice, free, and can really help. Just avoid using too many different colors. Try to keep within 3-4 color families in one design. 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. Adjust colors of your design until you're happy with the result. Here is an example of two alternative color schemes of one design. To match the new color schemes, we've used a demo version of program called ColorImpact.

    We won't show how to use this software, because it's too easy even without any instructions. Plus, you may end up using an absolutely different tools for matching colors. So these screenshots are just to show the general idea. Notice - we didn't do any manual matching. Just picked up the background (fabric) color, and this lovely software suggested all the other colors, which matched quite well.

    This is the first color scheme:
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    And this is how our design now looks on green fabric:
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    Here's example of another color scheme:
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    And this is how the design looks:
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    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 preferred to use only part of the offered colors. So please, experiment! This is exciting and fun.

    Another foolproof way to match colors is to use the same color family like your fabric, 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 embroidery fonts, especially antique ones, look wonderful when embroidered like this.

    Naturally, all of our suggestions are very basic. If you're curious to find out more about the art of color matching - consider getting a couple of good books about this issue. And here are links to two awesome programs for matching colors: