Why Don’t My Colors Match the Design Photo?

Have you ever opened an embroidery design on your machine or in editing software only to find that the colors did not look exactly like the photo? How can two of the same designs be so different?

Picture of machine appliqued rabbit with large eyes.

Let’s use Bonnie’s Bunny Buddies design number two as an example.

Picture of 10 machine embroidered rabbits in various formats showing how colors differ between formats.

Some formats are similar while others are a bit wild. There are several reasons why some machine embroidery design colors don’t look exactly like the ones provided in the digitizer’s stitching chart.

Why Embroidery Design Colors Vary

We’ve talked about embroidery design extensions and how they are recognized by their native embroidery machines. Any time you translate between languages, whether it is in machine embroidery or across continents, there will be inconsistencies.

There are dozens of brands of embroidery threads on the market and every digitizer has their favorite. If Brother thread is used with Brother software on a Brother machine, the colors will match. But most professional digitizers use design software other than those created by the machine’s manufacturer.

Different software interprets color codes differently and different embroidery machines do the same. Even if you choose the Brother thread library to stitch a design digitized with Brother software, on your non-Brother machine, the colors will not match exactly.

Thread libraries are nearly impossible to match perfectly. Let’s say that you want to convert to the thread library of your digitizer. Whether it is a chart or an actual conversion program, they both interpret equivalents across the board. When there is no exact match, a substitute is suggested.

Bonnie uses Floriani thread with between 350 and 400 colors. If another brand only has 70 colors, there is a lot of room for discrepancy.

Color information is a “best guess” when it comes to conversions. Some color palettes are fairly even. Others formats, like DST, make no attempt to match as these file formats view colors simply as stops without providing any color coding information at all.

Screen colors will also vary from computer monitor to computer monitor. Different monitors have different graphics cards that can display colors on the screen differently. No two printouts will be the same either as printers vary widely and frequently lack professional calibration which ensures accuracy. 

Picture of machine appliqued rabbit color chart at Sew Inspired by Bonnie

All of these variables are exactly why digitizers provide a color chart for each of their designs. Use it as a reference. If you don’t use the same thread brand, simply choose colors you have on hand. Remember, too,, you can always change a color scheme to one that matches your project better if needed. Our embroidery machines are color blind.

Debbie Henry
Sew Inspired by Bonnie

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  • Debbie Henry - January 30, 2024

    Me, too, Verla. I don’t have any one full thread collection so I substitute with what I have or sometimes change to the colors I like.

  • Debbie Henry - January 30, 2024

    Thanks for reading, Patti!

  • Patti SCHAFER - January 29, 2024

    Loved this post it is very informative. I have always wondered by…now I know

  • Verla - January 29, 2024

    I’m always changing my colors with the thread I have

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