Coming up with a cohesive and beautiful quilt design for machine quilting is probably the most challenging part of the quilt planning process.

Before you’re cutting out squares and shapes and stitching them together on your quilting machine, you’ve got to have the pattern and color scheme worked out.

It’s easy to choose a few colors that seem like they’ll look great together, stitch them together, and then realize that your color selection really wasn't compatible.

You can avoid this problem and take the stress out of choosing colors by understanding a few fundamentals about colors and color families.

Making Color Work

When developing a color scheme for a quilting project you plan to finish on your Grace frame and machine combo or another quilting machine, the goal is to choose colors that complement each other in terms of different color qualities so they look cohesive.

As complex as that sounds, it’s really not as hard to do as you might think it is.

Just start with a color wheel diagram and a little knowledge about color families and varieties so you know what to look for and can judge how well colors will combine.

Creating Color Families

Color families are the groups of colors you see on the color wheel pie, from the lightest variety of a color to the darkest and most intense hue.

As an example, all the greens are one color family while all the yellows are another.

Using your color wheel as a model, sort your swatches into families, making your own color wheel pie piece so you can see your options side-by-side.

After your swatches are arranged into families, select your color scheme by looking at the different color varieties within those families and search for the ones that match. 

Applying Color Varieties

Colors have different qualities that you should know about when choosing a cohesive palette for your machine quilting project.

This is where many people make mistakes in their choices, since they don’t take these differences into account.

Choose matching colors more effectively by understanding their many varieties and how the different varieties work together:

  • Color Value - A color’s value is how present that color is in the fabric; dark colors have high value while lighter colors have low value, with every variation of a color falling somewhere between the darkest and the lightest.
  • Color Intensity - A color’s intensity is how vibrant the color looks, with deep, bright varieties having high intensity and paler colors having low intensity.
  • Color Temperature - Every color has a temperature and corresponds with other temperature colors in specific ways; reds, oranges, and yellows are warm colors, greens and blues are cool colors, and violets and pinks are neutral colors.

Creating Successful Color Combinations

Once you’ve identified your color families as well as your different values, intensities, and temperatures, choosing swatches that match is easy.

You’ll get best results by choosing colors that are the same value, intensity, and temperature, and complement each other within either the same corner of the color wheel, across the color wheel, or in incremental jumps in the color wheel.

Using the color wheel as your model will make combining warm and cool colors easier also.

You can even look online for ideas on how to interpret the color wheel for creating more advanced color combinations that cross families, values, and intensity.

A Little Color Theory Goes A Long Way in Quilting

Don’t get flustered trying to choose the color scheme for the next project you want to make on your quilting machine.

Instead, a little study of color theory and how colors relate and combine is all you need.

When you understand what does and doesn't combine and can see your options laid out in an organized way, choosing the right scheme for your machine quilting project will be much easier!