How to Choose Thread Colors For Embroidery

Thread colors are one of the most important aspects of embroidery, whether it’s hand or machine embroidery. Alongside thread color, thread type, size, and which type of fabric used are also important.

Embroidery art is all about color combinations and color blending, which is quite difficult. And if you want to know how to choose better thread colors for embroidery, then keep reading.

This blog will provide technical aspects of colors and tactics you should keep in mind before starting your embroidery project.

How to choose a contrasting color

Colors are an important component of embroidery, either its fabric or thread color. The embroidery projects are defined by their thread’s color combination, color blending, and color contrast. Here are a few tips that’ll help you choose the right thread color for embroidery.

Eye Selection

In traditional embroidery thread, color choices are made by “eye selection.” In this method, the basic color combinations selected for threads are the ones that attract the eyes. A common reason behind this process of choosing thread colors is that each color influences our mood differently. Both bright and dark colors have pros and cons and pop up differently on various fabrics.

  • Bright colored threads: Bright colors are symbols of joy, happiness, playfulness, and cheerfulness. Bright and light-coloured threads should be used on dark fabrics.
  • Dark coloured threads: Dark shades often represent complexity, sophistry, and elaboration. The dark-colored threads look fabulous on light-color fabrics. The eye selection of the thread colors is considered simple, relevant, and vast because it has been used for centuries.

Use the Color Wheel

To unleash the true power of thread color, start by understanding the color theory or the color wheel. The use of complementary thread colors will create an impactful color scheme, and the psychological effects of these colors will add more beauty to the artwork.

The heart of the color theory is the color wheel, which can help artists and designers find harmonious color combinations based on the geometric relationships represented on the color wheel. It helps the designers and embroidery artists figure out the result of different color combinations of thread and fabric.

Color temperature

The color wheel is divided into 2 basic color sections, i.e., warm colors and cool colors. This makes it easy to select appropriate thread colors on fabrics. These two sections are known as the color temperature.

  • Warm colors symbolize energy and passion, like red and orange
  • Cool colors symbolize calmness and serenity, such as blue and green

Using threads of all colors, warm or cool, can help embroidery designs look fantastic and also make a significant difference. In Color wheels, pure colors with no white, gray, or black added to them, also called hues and every color represented on the color wheel is a hue of one of 12 colors.

The colors that are in the wheel include:

  • Primary Colors are red, blue, and yellow.
  • Secondary Colors are orange, green, and violet.
  • Tertiary Colors are green-yellow, yellow-orange, orange-red, red-violet/purple, and purple/violet-blue.

Tint, shade, and tone are the colors that have white, black, or gray added to them to create variations.

  • Tints – Hue with white color
  • Shade – Hue with black color
  • Tone – Hue with gray color

Monochromatic Thread colors

Monochromatic color schemes represent modern and peaceful colors having the same base hue. Selecting a monochromatic color thread for the project means it has been blended with the tints, hues, tones, and shades of just 1 color in the same project.

Complementary Colors

Selecting Complementary colors thread is the safest color scheme since they are 2 colors that are the exact opposite of one another on the color wheel. Such as

  • Red and Green
  • Blue and Orange

They are the tertiary colors that are opposite to one another on the wheel, standing out and balancing the best color combination.

Split Complementary

Split complementary colors are based on 3 colors in which 2 are adjacent to the third color’s complement. The easiest way to select the thread colors is by finding out with 1 base color and then finding its complimentary color, which should be opposite to the wheel color. Like

  • Purple, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green
  • Red, Purple, Yellow-Green

Triad colors

These colors are separated by 3 colors between them. You have to select from a combination of the tints, hues, tones, and shades of these 3 colors.


These colors are called neighbors as they use a combination of tints, hues, tones, and shades, which are related colors. Choosing two color threads that are directly across from each other on the color wheel because of the high contrast between the 2 colors will result in a vibrant embroidery design.

DMC (Dollfus-Mieg & Compagnie)

DMC, which stands for “Dollfus-Mieg & Compagnie ” is the world’s largest-known brand of embroidery thread used for hand embroidery and cross stitch embroidery. There are at least 500 different colors of DMC 117 Mouliné Spécial available. Each skein has 6 easily separated strands to customize its embroidery design thickness.

DMC labeled numbers are two different colors, which also distinguish between similar shades of the same color, making it easier to select specific shades of thread.

In commercial embroidery, selecting the appropriate embroidery thread color for design is important. Good color combinations make or break a design. Thread color will be the biggest influence in a design, so select them carefully. Besides, the complex color designs can be difficult to digitize. Therefore, a lot of complex colorful design embroidery fails because of bad digitization. So, always hire a good digitizer so that your design turns out to be perfect.

Use of experience and memories

After understanding the color wheel theory, one can easily create desirable thread Color combinations from surroundings. One can easily get ideas and references from his memory, dress, or an object.

The use of experience and memories offers a chance to bring unique thoughts and imagination to life and tell stories through your stitching.

Use of surroundings

Look around you and observe colors. Does any combination catch your fancy or your liking?

Pick colors from the surroundings that attract the eyes. Use threads of different hues, tones, and shades and combine them in the best possible ways.


Fascinating thread colors can easily be chosen to create beautiful embroidery. However, for embroidery, you must have an idea about color matching and contrasting colors. Remember that a bad color contrast can destroy your whole design. Besides, perfect digitizing is always important to keep all colors distinctly visible in your design. So don’t forget to get a well-digitized design before embroidery.

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