The Best Color Combinations For Embroidery

You sketched out a design you want to stitch and now it’s time to figure out what colors you want to use. You pick a few that look nice, but once you’re almost done stitching you realize something doesn’t look right. The colors just don’t seem to go together like you thought they would, but you’ve already spent so much time on your project!!

If this has been you before and you struggle with choosing colors that go together and look great in your embroidery projects, you’re in the right place! This article will go over the basics of color theory, how to match embroidery colors, and some tips for choosing the best color combinations for embroidery that will really level up your artwork.

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Best Color Combinations For Embroidery

Color Theory Basics

The best color combinations for embroidery are also just good color combinations for any piece of art! I wanted to go over some basic color theory that will help you easily pick color palettes that are balanced.

The Color Wheel

color wheel

First, let’s go over the color wheel. Color wheels are made up of pure colors that have no white, grey, or black added to them, also known as hues. The colors that are included in the wheel are:

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

It’s good to keep the color wheel in mind when you are choosing colors because there are a few different color combinations / rules you can follow to pick harmonious color palettes.

Tints, Shades, and Tones

We’ve touched on pure colors, but there are also colors that aren’t pure. These are colors that have white, black, or grey added to them.

  • Tints – Hue with white added to it
  • Shade – Hue with black added to it
  • Tone – Hue with grey added to it

Color Schemes

These are some basic colors schemes that work well together. I have linked additional articles that go in depth about each one if you’d like to learn even more about each one.

Note: The examples for each scheme use pure colors as an example. You can incorporate colors that have grey, white or black added to them (tones, tints, and shades respectively) as well.

monochromatic color scheme


Monochromatic colors are colors that are all the same base hue, but they can be a combination of different tints, shades, and tones of that singular hue. This color scheme is more modern and peaceful.

complementary color scheme

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are colors that are on the exact opposite of one another on the color wheel. The most basic combinations of these are:

  • Red and Green
  • Blue and Orange
  • Yellow and Purple

These are not the only combinations, as you can also use tertiary colors that are opposite to one another on the wheel as well. The only thing that matters is that they are opposite to one another!

Using complimentary colors balance one another out and can make the colors really stand out and appear brighter.

split complementary color scheme

Split Complementary

This color scheme uses three colors. Two colors that are adjacent to the third color’s compliment.

The easiest way to choose these colors is by starting out with one base color and then finding it’s complimentary (opposite on the wheel) color. The colors directly beside the complimentary color are the second and third color.

  • Purple, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green
  • Red, Purple, Yellow-Green
analogous color scheme


Analogous colors are three colors that are directly beside one another on the color wheel. For example, a primary and secondary color, and a third color that is a mix of the two.

  • Blue, Blue-Green, and Green
  • Red, Red-Yellow, and Yellow
triadic color schemes


A triadic scheme is made up of three colors that are evenly spaced out on the color wheel. They can have a combination of primary, secondary, and tertiary base hues.

  • Red, Blue Yellow
  • Green, Violet, Orange
  • Yellow-Orange, Blue-Green, Red-Violet

Choosing Colors For Embroidery

Now that you know a little bit about color theory, you should now understand a little bit more around why certain color combinations look really good together.

While you can certainly create color schemes from scratch, there are plenty of helpful tools out there to help you pick out the best color combinations for embroidery.

Here are a few places that have color palettes to choose from that I find really helpful. has a page full of beautiful color palettes. is another website that is a color generator tool. You can upload a photo to pull colors from or use their random generator. is another phenomenal website that provides color palettes specifically for embroidery.

Best Tools For Choosing Embroidery Colors

colour confidence book

This book by Trish Burr has so much valuable information as well as color palettes for embroidery, geared mostly towards thread painting but would be overall super helpful for any style of embroidery!

Purchase on Amazon

DMC color card

Stranded Thread card with all of the DMC colors. Makes it super easy to color match!

Purchase on Amazon

How To Match Embroidery Colors

If you’re using a color palette generator, it will be easy to choose a color palette to work with. However, matching the colors to embroidery thread can sometimes be a challenge.

Color Matching From a Photo

If you’re working off of a reference photo and you need to match a color in it, the easiest thing to do is to upload the photo and use a color dropper tool in tablet or iPad apps such as Procreate. You can also upload a photo in to pull out some of the colors.

Use a Thread Color Chart For Embroidery

The easiest way I find to match colors is to have a thread color chart to reference. DMC makes a color chart that is printed or with real thread. The chart with real thread is a bit more accurate than the printed version to match with.

Embroidery Color Combinations

Color Schemes

Here are a few color schemes with corresponding DMC colors to get you started. Enjoy!

best color combinations for embroidery

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