For expert use of color in your machine embroidery projects read below for tips and tricks. Follow these simple guidelines to successfully change the thread colors of an embroidery design for a professional look to all of your projects.
- Hue refers to the actual color, such as blue, green, or red. There are many hues of every color, and colors can have similar hues. Value refers to a color’s lightness or darkness. Each hue can have myriad values. Two thread colors can also have the same value, but different hues. For example, a light green and a light orange might have the same value, though very different hues.
- The simplest way to change a design’s colors is to change the hue while retaining the value. If a design calls for a light pink, medium pink and dark pink, and you want to change it to blue, you will need a light blue, medium blue and dark blue. Maintaining the value of the colors in the design keeps the depth created by the shaded and highlighted areas (A).
- Thread colors look different depending on the fabric they’re stitched on. Contrast plays a key role in how a design looks. Contrast is the difference in value between two colors. Depending on the nature of the project, high or low contrast between the design and the fabric may be needed. If a design seems to disappear onto a fabric, the contrast is too low. If the design stands out too much, the contrast may be too high. Test-stitch a sample to help prevent contrast issues.
TONE IT DOWN OR KICK IT UP
- Color changes don’t need to be dramatic. Even slight changes to a design can make it look better on a certain fabric. When adjusting a design to make it stand out, start with the darkest color and go a shade deeper. Next, take the medium colors a shade darker, and finally make the lighter colors a shade darker. When making a design more subtle, start with the lightest color and work toward the darkest.
- Using the same concept, an embroidery design can be modified from a standard design to a juvenile design simply by changing the colors. Make each of the colors in the design a shade or two lighter to make it a soft baby pastel. Or, do the reverse by taking a pastel design and brightening the colors (B).
- When changing the hue or value of floral designs, take inspiration from nature. Use actual photographs to help choose and assign new thread colors. Photographs help a design look natural when multiple colors and values are incorporated.
- Get ideas for color combinations by referring to a favorite past embroidery design. Even if two designs have a different style, using the same thread colors to stitch them ties them together. Using colors from the flower design, featured at left, and incorporating them into the heart design gives the heart design a more muted look so the two designs can be used in the same project (C).
- Embroidery software is a great tool for changing thread colors. While thread colors can be changed without it, using software allows you to preview the changes on the screen before stitching. Thread colors in embroidery software are an approximation of the color, and may look different from one computer screen to another.
- Embroidery software also allows color changes to various design parts, and helps eliminate unwanted color changes. To change the colors of the bear’s suit, featured below, from red to blue by changing all red thread also changes the bear’s tongue blue (D). Embroidery software easily fixes the color changes.
- Consider keeping a notebook with color notes. Note thread color, type and number, and note what worked and what didn’t. Also, keep color inspiration, such as magazine clippings, paint sample cards, or favorite photographs. §
THREAD COLOR CHARTS
Each embroidery machine and design assumes a certain thread brand is being used. Substituting brands can cause differences in the final design. Use thread color charts from each company to compare color differences and choose a suitable alternative color.
This article originally appeared in the Creative Machine Embroidery magazine May/June 2013 issue and was written by Kay Hickman. You can purchase past and current issues at shopsewitall.com. Or, subscribe and never miss an article, fun project and plenty of freebies.