Stitch Era - vector and thread color

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1 Introduction

Dealing with color is fairly easy if your design is simple. You always can decide just last minute, i.e. on your embroidery machine what colors you would like to stitch with. For more complex designs and/or designs with many colors, it's better to plan. This Stitch Era embroidery software tutorial attempts to formulate a few recommendations and tricks. However, we do admit that, so far, we do not have a satisfactory workflow to deal with colors.


  • You should have some sort of understanding of what vector objects, stitch objects (sections) and generated stitches are, e.g. have read Stitch Era - simple digitizing before.

Disclaimer: This is a first version made in a few hours and I am not sure that I didn't miss something that is important - Daniel K. Schneider 23:31, 23 June 2011 (CEST). Slightly updated in 2017.

2 Colors in vector art

Color support for vector graphics is in our opinion a bit weak in Stitch Era. While there is support for color selection and basic color palette management, it is very difficult to know what color you are using in a vector object.

In any case, if you import vector graphics from Corel or from Illustrator *.ai via Corel or from SVG via Corel/Illustrator, it's a good idea to get the two following operations done before you inport:

  • color coordination
  • Simplification of pathes
  • Translation of fonts to vector objects (in Illustrator, right-click and Create Outlines

2.1 Knowing what color you use

Knowing the color used for an object is relatively easy, but won't help a lot.

  • Select the color

Either select

  • More colors in the Fill Color or Border Color pull down menu in the main menu bar on top
  • or press the Fill Color or Border Color icon to the left near Images panel button (see the arrow in the picture below)

This will give you the color selection panel:

Select a color - vector colors

You can see we selected a kind of orange.

Stitch Era supports two color models:

  • RGB, defined as amounts of 0-255 Red, 0-255 Green and 0-255 Blue
  • HSL, defined as a color number in a color wheel that ranges from 0 to 360 plus saturation and luminosity.

Read the Computer colors tutorial if you need to know more about RGB and HSL colors.

Since the almost exact same color can come in dozens of different shades that your eye cannot distinguish, you must work with so-called color palettes. Else you will wind up with a stitch file that will ask you to change 10 different sorts of bright orange. Read on ...

2.2 Color palettes

Unfortunately, there are few standardized and universally used palettes:

  • In embroidery world, each thread maker has its own palettes (in the plural)
  • For the Internet: HTML 4 defines sixteen colors names. SVG and CSS 3 - based on X11 Color names (Wikipedia) - define a larger set of color names that you can find for example in the CSS 3 color specification. A good overview of both is available in Wikipedia's Web Colors article.

Computer colors are additive colors and follow a logic that can't necessarily be applied to physical colors. For example, some colors cannot be defined by computer color models like RGB or HSL, e.g. metallic colors. Also, in the popular RGB computer model, you will get yellow if you mix green with red. If you mix these green with red pain, you'd rather get some kind of ugly brownish color.

  • The only somewhat popular large palette for subtractive (physical) colors are the so-called Pantone colors, but these are not in the public domain and are difficult to get for free. However, not certified subsets of Pantone colors can be found, e.g. at Kamgear. E.g. such a website can tell that "orange" would be Pantone 1585.

Since Pantone colors is a system that was rather made for physical colors we prefer using the "Internet" X11/CSS/SVG color set. The following table was reproduced from Wikipedia and you can only "see" it with a modern web browser.

X11/CSS/SVG Colors: Source Wikipedia. Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
HTML name RGB Hex
RGB dec
Red colors
IndianRed CD 5C 5C 205  92  92
LightCoral F0 80 80 240 128 128
Salmon FA 80 72 250 128 114
DarkSalmon E9 96 7A 233 150 122
LightSalmon FF A0 7A 255 160 122
Red FF 00 00 255   0   0
Crimson DC 14 3C 220  20  60
FireBrick B2 22 22 178  34  34
DarkRed 8B 00 00 139   0   0
Pink colors
Pink FF C0 CB 255 192 203
LightPink FF B6 C1 255 182 193
HotPink FF 69 B4 255 105 180
DeepPink FF 14 93 255  20 147
MediumVioletRed C7 15 85 199  21 133
PaleVioletRed DB 70 93 219 112 147
Orange colors
LightSalmon FF A0 7A 255 160 122
Coral FF 7F 50 255 127  80
Tomato FF 63 47 255  99  71
OrangeRed FF 45 00 255  69   0
DarkOrange FF 8C 00 255 140   0
Orange FF A5 00 255 165   0
Yellow colors
Gold FF D7 00 255 215   0
Yellow FF FF 00 255 255   0
LightYellow FF FF E0 255 255 224
LemonChiffon FF FA CD 255 250 205
LightGoldenrodYellow FA FA D2 250 250 210
PapayaWhip FF EF D5 255 239 213
Moccasin FF E4 B5 255 228 181
PeachPuff FF DA B9 255 218 185
PaleGoldenrod EE E8 AA 238 232 170
Khaki F0 E6 8C 240 230 140
DarkKhaki BD B7 6B 189 183 107
Purple colors
Lavender E6 E6 FA 230 230 250
Thistle D8 BF D8 216 191 216
Plum DD A0 DD 221 160 221
Violet EE 82 EE 238 130 238
Orchid DA 70 D6 218 112 214
Fuchsia FF 00 FF 255   0 255
Magenta FF 00 FF 255   0 255
MediumOrchid BA 55 D3 186  85 211
MediumPurple 93 70 DB 147 112 219
BlueViolet 8A 2B E2 138  43 226
DarkViolet 94 00 D3 148   0 211
DarkOrchid 99 32 CC 153  50 204
DarkMagenta 8B 00 8B 139   0 139
Purple 80 00 80 128   0 128
Indigo 4B 00 82  75   0 130
DarkSlateBlue 48 3D 8B  72  61 139
SlateBlue 6A 5A CD 106  90 205
MediumSlateBlue 7B 68 EE 123 104 238
HTML name RGB Hex
RGB dec
Green colors
GreenYellow AD FF 2F 173 255  47
Chartreuse 7F FF 00 127 255   0
LawnGreen 7C FC 00 124 252   0
Lime 00 FF 00   0 255   0
LimeGreen 32 CD 32  50 205  50
PaleGreen 98 FB 98 152 251 152
LightGreen 90 EE 90 144 238 144
MediumSpringGreen 00 FA 9A   0 250 154
SpringGreen 00 FF 7F   0 255 127
MediumSeaGreen 3C B3 71  60 179 113
SeaGreen 2E 8B 57  46 139  87
ForestGreen 22 8B 22  34 139  34
Green 00 80 00   0 128   0
DarkGreen 00 64 00   0 100   0
YellowGreen 9A CD 32 154 205  50
OliveDrab 6B 8E 23 107 142  35
Olive 80 80 00 128 128   0
DarkOliveGreen 55 6B 2F  85 107  47
MediumAquamarine 66 CD AA 102 205 170
DarkSeaGreen 8F BC 8F 143 188 143
LightSeaGreen 20 B2 AA  32 178 170
DarkCyan 00 8B 8B   0 139 139
Teal 00 80 80   0 128 128
Blue/Cyan colors
Aqua 00 FF FF   0 255 255
Cyan 00 FF FF   0 255 255
LightCyan E0 FF FF 224 255 255
PaleTurquoise AF EE EE 175 238 238
Aquamarine 7F FF D4 127 255 212
Turquoise 40 E0 D0  64 224 208
MediumTurquoise 48 D1 CC  72 209 204
DarkTurquoise 00 CE D1   0 206 209
CadetBlue 5F 9E A0  95 158 160
SteelBlue 46 82 B4  70 130 180
LightSteelBlue B0 C4 DE 176 196 222
PowderBlue B0 E0 E6 176 224 230
LightBlue AD D8 E6 173 216 230
SkyBlue 87 CE EB 135 206 235
LightSkyBlue 87 CE FA 135 206 250
DeepSkyBlue 00 BF FF   0 191 255
DodgerBlue 1E 90 FF  30 144 255
CornflowerBlue 64 95 ED 100 149 237
RoyalBlue 41 69 E1  65 105 225
Blue 00 00 FF   0   0 255
MediumBlue 00 00 CD   0   0 205
DarkBlue 00 00 8B   0   0 139
Navy 00 00 80   0   0 128
MidnightBlue 19 19 70  25  25 112
HTML name RGB Hex
RDB dec
Brown colors
Cornsilk FF F8 DC 255 248 220
BlanchedAlmond FF EB CD 255 235 205
Bisque FF E4 C4 255 228 196
NavajoWhite FF DE AD 255 222 173
Wheat F5 DE B3 245 222 179
BurlyWood DE B8 87 222 184 135
Tan D2 B4 8C 210 180 140
RosyBrown BC 8F 8F 188 143 143
SandyBrown F4 A4 60 244 164  96
Goldenrod DA A5 20 218 165  32
DarkGoldenrod B8 86 0B 184 134  11
Peru CD 85 3F 205 133  63
Chocolate D2 69 1E 210 105  30
SaddleBrown 8B 45 13 139  69  19
Sienna A0 52 2D 160  82  45
Brown A5 2A 2A 165  42  42
Maroon 80 00 00 128   0   0
White colors
White FF FF FF 255 255 255
Snow FF FA FA 255 250 250
Honeydew F0 FF F0 240 255 240
MintCream F5 FF FA 245 255 250
Azure F0 FF FF 240 255 255
AliceBlue F0 F8 FF 240 248 255
GhostWhite F8 F8 FF 248 248 255
WhiteSmoke F5 F5 F5 245 245 245
Seashell FF F5 EE 255 245 238
Beige F5 F5 DC 245 245 220
OldLace FD F5 E6 253 245 230
FloralWhite FF FA F0 255 250 240
Ivory FF FF F0 255 255 240
AntiqueWhite FA EB D7 250 235 215
Linen FA F0 E6 250 240 230
LavenderBlush FF F0 F5 255 240 245
MistyRose FF E4 E1 255 228 225
Gray colors
Gainsboro DC DC DC 220 220 220
LightGrey D3 D3 D3 211 211 211
Silver C0 C0 C0 192 192 192
DarkGray A9 A9 A9 169 169 169
Gray 80 80 80 128 128 128
DimGray 69 69 69 105 105 105
LightSlateGray 77 88 99 119 136 153
SlateGray 70 80 90 112 128 144
DarkSlateGray 2F 4F 4F  47  79  79
Black 00 00 00   0   0   0

2.3 Non computer colors on the computer

In embroidery, color effects also can be achieved in other ways

  • by over-stitching different colors and by stitching as in the photo-stitch model (see Stitch Era - digitizing complex bitmap images)
  • by playing with light effect, e.g. some kind of shading that can be achieved by inserting 3D objects underneath a stitch area or also by turning stitch directions.

These "tricks" can be drawn, but not seen in vector graphics

2.4 Physical colors

Colors made with pigments are so-called subtractive colors and don't work like computer colors if you mix colors. Read:

  • Mixing Colors Help For The New Artist and People Afraid of Color Mixing (2009)

I frankly don't know what kind of color model would apply when you mix threads, e.g. interweave two threads. Looking at the embroidery closely, you will see two colors, but at distance ?

2.5 Using and managing Stitch Era vector drawing color palettes

Stitch Era Universal, when you install it, comes with a single color palette that include too many pale colors for my taste. To see and change this palette:

  • Click on the palette icon to the left in the design panel (near the images button(.
  • You then can select an item - a so-called swatch - and redefine the color.
  • The replaced swatch now will show both in the pull-down menus on top and in the side bar.
Change a color definition in your palette

I didn't yet create my own carefully planned palette, but at some point I know I should since I really suffer from dealing with too many colors in a design and the resulting messy stitch sections.

Managing palettes

Through the pull-down menu of the palette button (instead of clicking on it) you then can manage your color palettes.

Manage a color palette

Just for your information, in a vector graphics program like Illustrator, you can add a color swatch by selecting the color you have got in your workspace. This is easier.

Change a color definition in your Illustrator palette

2.6 Knowing what palette color swatch is used

There are two situations:

1) The color you use is a swatch of the palette. In this case both the color of the drop down menus on top and the swatch inside will take the aspect of your color. E.g orange for a selected orange part as you can see in the picture below.

Unfortunately, you can't see a selected color in the easier to use palette ribbon to the left (one the features that Stitch Era should improve).

Selected color and matching orange swatch

2) The color you use is not part of the palette. In this case, only the color of the drop-down menu icon will change. You can see that we select a light blue shape, but in the palette we still see the prior selected orange color ...

Selected color and no matching light blue swatch

We strongly suggest to use only colors of your palette, else it will be very difficult to make sure that colors that look the same are really the same.


  • The only way to insure that colors are the same is - if we understood right - selecting all similar looking colors (good luck) and then to press a swatch that should represent this color, i.e. make sure that all same looking color match the same swatch, in other words: a precise RGB/HSL definition.

Stitch Era also should implement sorting of vectors by color as they do for stitch sections. Or maybe create some reporting tool.

3 Colors in the Art-to-Stitch process

If you digitize a whole vector drawing through "Art to Stich" (intelligent) which we recommend in this context, then there is way of assigning vector colors to needle colors.

In the popup window, select the Needle settings tab and tick "assign artwork colors to needdles ....". Then use the pull down menu. I suggest using option 2 "Do not use (skip) the lowers needles" or option. “Start using needle # and redefine needle colors according to the artwork colors. Using this strategy a new needle palette will show you at bottom of the box.” or use option 4 “ Assign artwork colors to needles and/or change needle colors manually. From Color Assignment box you can change manually the color needles by clicking on the selected one.” (p 9-5 of the manual).

Stitch Era 17 - Assign vector colors to needles (probably using a bad option)

The little pull-down color-palette menu to the left of the workspace on top of the needle palette can be used to assign manufacturer's thread numbers to colors (see below for more details). Unfortunately not all thread makers are in there, e.g. Durak is missing.

4 Colors in stitch sections

Colors in stitch sections are defined by needle number which in turn does have an associated color. In principle, you should associate a thread color that you have got and we shall see how to do this. Information below will have to be updated to Stitch Era 17.

4.1 Assigning colors to needles

When you translate from vector graphics to needles, Stitch Era needs to know what needle number to assign to each color.

Assign real thread colors to needles

  • Select the Needle Settings tab in the Image to Sections popup window that you should see when you use an auto-digitizing procedure (art to stitch).
  • Tick "Assign artwork colors ...." (last item) and click on the palette item next to a needle
  • Use the the Line: pull-down menu to identify your brand of threads (e.g. I use Maderia Rayon)
Identify your thread make and type
  • Use to the pull-down menu to Associate All Colors
Tell Stitch era what you use
  • You then still could fine tune, i.e. change color shades to threads you really own. To do so, use the pull down menus next to each color (see the previous screen capture).

Warning: Do not click on OK before you are done defining the other settings, i.e. leave the Image to Sections popup window open after defining the colors to needles settings and move on to defining the Stitch Settings in the third tab. Typically you might want to lower the default density.

After digitizing:

  • If you glide your mouse over a needle item in the palette to the left (do not click!) you will see what Madeira thread you will be asked to use later (hopefully). As you will see the color names are Madeira's (i.e. no RGB code), but there is nothing we can do about this we believe.
  • Have a look at the tips. They should be self-explaining. I.e. you now can still make changes.
Needle info

4.2 Optimizing needles

Group needles together

If you did things right, you will see all the needles that you will use in on sequence. But maybe you didn't....

  • Click on the Optimize needles button as shown below
Optimize needles

As you can see, we got all colors nicely ordered, except that we have two dark greys and two dark red variants and we will deal with this without going back to vector art.

Order stitch sections by needles (optional!)

Not let us optimize needles, i.e. make sure that we don't have to change needles twice for the same color. Professionals would not do this. It can mess up carefully design stitch orders:

  • Sections that should be on top of another will be stitched the other way round
  • You may get inefficient jump stitches
  • Pull/push effects may be worse (in case you thought about stitching carefully a bit all over the place)

But since we create non-professional embroidery, minimizing our work is more important. However, we shall have to do some manual repair later.

You may use the By Color tool in the Embroidery tab as shown below

Stitch Era - Ordering stitch sections by needle color
  • You could just sort by needle number (and that's what I usually do)

4.3 Merging needles with similar colors

Since your machine only has 10 colors like our Brother PR1050X or since you don't want to change threads all the time, you may want to use a single thread for very similar colors.

There exist two situations: Either you just want to fix the color of a few stitch areas, or have to deal with a few dozen little areas that look the same but are assigned to different needles.

Small changes

As you can see in the following picture, we got a lonely running stitch (blame on me that uses Needle 18). It should have used needle 13 (same color as the fill). To fix that, just do the following.

  • Select the section (if it is not already)
  • Click on the needle in the palette, e.g. in our case 13.
Assign a needle to a stitch section

Then repeat as above:

  • Optimize needles
  • Order sections by color if you wish

Finally, I suggest to immediately repair the vector design and make sure that all similar looking colors do have the same color, i.e. a single one for dark grey. You never know whether you will digitize the vector design (or parts of it) again.

Assembling many stitch areas into one color

There are different ways to do this, e.g. if stitch order is not important, in short, do this:

  • Optimize needles (pull down palette menu in the left bar)
  • Sort the colors so that similar ones are next to each other (embroider tab > Sort objects), then move the similar color groups next to each other as explained above
  • Select a range of similar color sections in the object manager panel, then click on a needle...

4.4 Fixing final stitch order

Since we optimized stitch order before, we now should fix in which order sections shall be stitched. For some designs, this can be a lot of work, however, often it just means dragging items down in the object manager. Down means being stitched later.

You may consider moving around a whole set of colors first (still adopting the principle that changing threads is a pain...). In that case you can either use the object manager or the Order stitch sections by needles tool.

In the object manager:

  • Use either CTRL-click to select a series of sections to move or us SHIFT-click to select a range.
  • Then drag this up or down.
Moving two stitch sections down in the object manager

In order to make sure that your design is ok,

Checking the design with another viewer

Btw. the picture shows part of a project for conference embroidery. I.e. stitch ideas all over a shirt in order to attract people while wandering around in a conference hall.

5 Links

Thread color lists
Conversion charts and tools


6 Acknowlegments

For the color table