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Understanding Design Colors

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Design and software used in this article:
  • Embrilliance Essentials software by Briton Leap
  • Frog on Lily Stem embroidery design by Pinnacle Embroidery Patterns

    Designs have always been created with commands that stop the machine when it is time to change the thread color. Many of today's machines have sophisticated technology that also tells you exactly which color should be used by showing the color on the computer or machine monitor, but unless that color palette information has been included during the creation of the design, only the color separations will be obvious. So, when a design that doesn't include that information in its data file is seen on the machine or computer monitor, the design can appear quite shocking. Don't worry! This is not a sign of a corrupt file.
    Purple flesh, blue fur, a green sun or a pink frog actually indicates that the design was likely first created by a professional digitizer on commercial industry software and saved in a commercial format such as DST, which doesn't include a color palette. When these files are then converted to home formats, such as PES, there is no color information to include in the file with the exception of the color stop commands. Each format has a palette specific to its related software, such as a HUS format when read in Customizer or ART when read in Artista. If one format included all of the different palettes in one design file it would create an unnecessary large file size, so the palette information is omitted.

    (Click Image to Enlarge)

    The Solution
    (Click Image to Enlarge)
    The color information is available on your order download page. You will find a Color Chart link to the right of each design image and this link will open a small window that shows you a color image of the design and the intended colors listed in the appropriate sequence. At the top right of the window you can print the information that includes a color image of the design, such as seen in this frog design from Pinnacle.
    Or from that same Color Chart window you can download the text file of Design Details. Click on the Download Design Details link at the top left and save the text file to your computer that you can use for reference of the color sequence. This file does not include a color image, but it can be opened in Windows Notepad. Some vendors will include suggestions of thread color numbers in the Design Details and others only include the general color names.
    If the color numbers in the Design Details are included, the thread manufacturer’s name is usually listed below the colors listed in sequence. But remember, these manufacturer’s color numbers are only suggestions and you shouldn’t fear being a little creative. Match the color to whatever tone you feel looks best or to the closest color you already have in stock.

    Adjust and Save the Colors
    When the design is loaded on your software, adjust the colors by referring to the Design Details. Either use your printed copy of the Color Chart window or open the text file. Minimize both the text file and the design software windows so that they are sitting side by side and adjust the colors accordingly.

    (Click Image to Enlarge)

    Sometimes the vendor will list a color name but will not list the color number. In the case of this design, the vendor has listed only the color “Teal”. When matching it in the software the darker tone of teal that I've chosen does not match the image that is seen in the Color Chart print out.

    (Click Image to Enlarge)

    I decided to lighten the tone of teal from what was suggested in the Design Details and I changed a few others, as well, to look more like the vendor’s sew-out seen in the original image.

    (Click Image to Enlarge)

    After all of the colors are adjusted, save the file in your machine format. This is also a good time to change the file name to something that you will recognize later as the one you had adjusted to your liking. The next time that file is opened on your software or machine you will see the colors just as you had adjusted them in your software.

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    Meet The Author: Bonnie Landsberger
    Bonnie Landsberger has been a crafter and hand embroiderer since childhood and a machine embroiderer and digitizer since 1986. She was the in-house head digitizer for a 50-head embroidery shop for 11 years and later offered custom digitizing services and stock design sales through her web site for Moonlight Design since 1993. She currently also holds a position as a customer service representative at Bonnie has won several awards for digitizing, including a gold medal in the 2002 Digitizing Olympics and grand prize in all categories & first place for Winter Holidays category in the Stitches Magazine Great Greeting Card Contest 2003. Her embroidery and digitizing technical articles can be found in various trade magazines and she is currently a contributing writer and Editorial Advisory Board Member for Stitches Magazine. You can also find more of her articles online at and will continue to contribute articles to our Learning Center.

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    AMY C Mar 23, 2014
    Great information, it's nice to know that my downloaded designs aren't corrupted.
    Doris G Apr 11, 2015
    That was my thoughts too! I even contacted Embrilliance support thinking it was the software.

    Doris G Apr 11, 2015
    Wish I had read this sooner! Was seriously worried I had corrupted files or a bad embrillance program. This should be noted on the ordering page for those of us who are just starting embroidery. Thanks for the article, now I have to go fix colors!

    Rhonda G May 06, 2015
    Thank you for the information, very helpful.
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