Discussing machine embroidery

A re-blog: The Problem of colour!

There are several real challenges for machine embroidery digitisers but one of particular frustration is choosing the shades of embroidery thread and how they are best portrayed! I am constantly aware that the shades and tones used in my designs are a very important part of their quality and finished appearance. The combination of colours used for a design collection can be the difference between being irresistible or being dismissed as like many others on the market. Selecting the correct scheme of colours is as crucial as the actual digitising but there is a problem. I do my work on a laptop when I am being sociable and on a PC when I shut myself away in my studio.

It is amazing how different the colours of my designs look on these two devices. A computer displays colours differently depending on the screen and the many settings! However that is only part of the problem as my embroidery software does not display the colours of my embroidery threads realistically either.

As I experiment with various threads in the colour panel I am aware that the lovely colour I have just chosen for my leaves may look good on the screen, but that it will actually be very different in real life and vice versa. Those of you who have been fans of my designs will know that I have my favourite shades within the huge spectrum that Sulky Rayon offers, but when I select 1209 for example for leaf work, the colour is not at all accurate on the screen! Take my recent Floribunda’s Serenade photographed here.


My digitising process begins in my Wilcom Embroidery Studio e4, a commercial software that is outstanding. Colours in that software may look great but when I open the design in my Husqvarna Premier Plus 2 software to convert to VP4 for my machines, the difference can be quite dramatic. So it is only when I begin testing  my designs on my machine I start to finalise the best combination of colours. Preparing images of the designs that are near completion can be quite a challenge as the resulting picture for putting up on my website often looks very different from how the design has stitched out for me in my chosen colours. These 2 roses are exactly the same, but one is taken from my Wilcom software and the other from my Husqvarna software. You can see how very different the colours are portrayed from the actual stitch out above.


When you are browsing for designs on my website, you need to be aware that the combination of colours that you see are not an exact representation of the colours I have allotted to the designs and used in my stitch outs. After much deliberation I have chosen to portray each design as an image which has been taken off my embroidery software. There are some photographs of stitch outs on the website and also in the categories for the collections. Searching through each collection you will see a photograph of a stitch out from the collection where I have tried to capture its beauty and show you the intricate details of the embroidery. However even a photograph cannot be an exact representation of the colours as I discussed earlier.

As viewing colours is so haphazard in the digital world I want to encourage you to know your own threads and which ones work together well. Your preference may not be Sulky Rayon but one of the other excellent manufacturers available. There are charts available on the Internet that will help you to convert Sulky threads to your preferred thread manufacturer. I encourage you to get to know your threads and take them outside so you can see them in natural light. You will be surprised at how different they appear and how much easier it is to make a good selection of shades that work together well. While you are out there take them to some leaves or flowers and try to match them. I love green and have to admit it is my favourite colour providing it has a yellow hue to it and not a blue one, but I think I have more greens than any other colour but there never seems to be enough to choose from. Many a time I look through all my shades of green and cannot find the perfect match.

I have to admit that I prefer to use only one manufacturer but that is only my personal preference. I use Sulky Gutermann threads because they are excellent quality and I can secure the thread ends to the spool to prevent them unraveling. They sit nicely on the spool holder of my machine and are available as cones. Mostly available here in the UK, the full range is only available in the USA, so occasionally I need to top up from Sulky America.

When you go on your next trip to the shops look at the colours that have been used in clothes and linens etc. I admit that sometimes the colour combinations that really impress me are captured on my iPhone to consider for an embroidery project. Just because I have chosen specific colours for an embroidery collection doesn’t mean you have to stick with them. Experiment with colour and remember that it is only when you make that choice of threads and line them up for your embroidery project that the final look of the embroidery is decided. I advise that you open the design in your embroidery software and make the necessary thread conversions, and you will see how different they look on the screen! Then you will know what I am talking about. If you do make these adjustments and save the file give it a new name so the original embroidery file is kept for safe keeping.

Happy embroidering!

6 thoughts on “A re-blog: The Problem of colour!

  1. Being a free motion embroiderer before home machines had the capability and were affordable, I have a large collection of threads from a lot of different brands. I never go by the suggested colors. If there are 4 pinks I go to my stash and and select 4 pinks that go together. They may not be the same company but I know pretty much that my machine will not “fuss” with them. Thank you Husqvarna for that capabiity.

  2. You give so much help to me in your blog regarding colour selection it makes
    It easy when one is sewing a design that needs good decision
    Thank you

  3. Epics like RA and Sulky in my expierence. Totally agree that Sulky has the best array of shades of greens! Often find myself using RA for starter green, then build shades in Sulky to complete the embroidery. Local Viking dealers use a minimum of RA threads so fill ins are on line and a crapshoot. Sometimes I find a great color range and then cant reorder as a discontinued color. Then, head to JoAnns for Sulky fill ins.

    Always, always stitch out samples before final stitch out. You’ll never reqret it as you also finalize colors. Sometimes 2 or 3 pre stitch. I just completed a tree. The colors suggested were flat and one dimension. When completed, and moving to yellow based greens, it made you want to touch it, much like your Rose’s.
    Thanks Grace for your details. Next week, start on your 12 days of Christmas.

  4. Being a painter, I have a pretty good color sense. I can’t rely on the thread numbers to find the best colors. I don’t really try to match colors by numbers. Besides, I rarely have the number thread that is used in the designs. So what I do is color match as best as I can to the picture or video with what I have. I line up the threads in a multi thread stand, a miniature wooden one like the one on your studio wall. Like quilting, I look over the selection and see if any color jumps out as not playing nicely with the others. I want a harmonious blend of colors. Then I line them up in order of stitch out. I study the stitching order in my design player preview in my software several times. So I know what will be stitching when before I go to the embroidery machine. The colors may not be exact, but they are pleasing to me.

Leave a Reply