Easy Tips for Choosing Colors for your Quilts

Choosing colors for your quilt projects can be one of the most daunting aspects to confront. You walk into a fabric store and there is just so much choice.


Go back a few steps.

Don’t even thing of trying to select your fabrics if you have no idea of what colors you’re after. It is a minefield. You’ll go crazy. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll get angry and storm out of the store.

Ooops. I was talking about me.

You’d never do that, would you?

As you can see, I have learnt from past experience that it’s best to plan ahead. If you do some basic planning, and by this I just mean thinking clearly about your quilt project, things will be much easier.

Here’s a few questions to get you started:

Who are you making the quilt for?

If you aren’t making it for anyone in particular because you’ve already overloaded all your friends and family with numerous quilts, then decide on a theme or where you’d like to see it end up.

How will the quilt be used? Is it for a bed or a wall hanging or a placemat?

Just thinking about theses main points should give you a clearer idea about the quilt you’re going to make.

Now, what colors fit in with this idea?

Color Moods

Different colors have different moods and feels to them. Kids love bright colors like red, yellow and purple. Greens and blues are cool colors and create a calming effect. Orange, reds and yellows are generally warm colors. Black and gold and deep purple and blue are rich elegant colors. Rust, orange, red and brown are autumn colors.

All of these groups of colors feel different. What feel are you after? The design of the quilt might give you an idea of the feel required, but don’t get stuck with following a set idea. Be adventurous.

Color Schemes

Most quilt projects look good with a minimum of three colors. These could blend together and create a harmony or offer a lot of contrast to help a quilt pattern really stand out.

To get an idea of how to select these types of combinations look at the color wheel.

Easy Tips for Choosing Colors for your Quilts

Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are complimentary but offer great contrast at the same time, like purple and yellow.

Colors next to each other on the wheel are analogous and blend well.

Then again you might make a monochromatic quilt. Here you use one color, such as green, but have different shades of green. This can look stunning.

Split complimentary is where you choose two analogous colors ie: blue and purple and one contrasting color ie: yellow for dramatic effect.

I can hear your mind ticking away with all your new ideas.

Color Values

Now you have an idea of the colors you want to use there is one other important factor to take into account. You need to use different color values.

You need dark, medium and light colors. Without this all the colors will blend in and you lose your pattern.

Most of the time you’ll be able to tell the value easily, especially for the light and darks. The mediums can sometimes be a bit harder. This is where modern technology can come in handy. Collect a small sample of each of the fabrics you’re thinking of using. Most stores will cut off a small strip for you, if you ask nicely.

Stick them onto a piece of white paper and label them. Then photocopy the whole sheet. You’ll easily be able to tell the value now.

Fabric Patterns

Lots of fabrics you’ll use will be patterned. This can either make things easier or harder when it comes to color selection for your quilt.

A tip a quilting friend gave me on this was to select your “yummy, gorgeous, must have fabric” first. Use this to help you fine tune the selection of your other fabric colors by matching in smaller color areas present. But don’t forget the dark, medium and light principle. I know I’m harping on but you will see the difference in the end.

Another rule to follow is in regards to print size. If the print is too big and sparse it won’t work well. Each piece you cut out of it will be so different you won’t know they come from the same fabric.

Small and medium sized prints are best. But have variety. Mix them up. They’re much easier to work with for a good final effect.


Most quilts have a border around the outer edge and sometimes within to separate the blocks. Use the border color to help unify the block together by selecting a color that is used in all blocks in small amounts. Or choose a different bold color for contrast.

Keep thinking back to the questions at the beginning. What effect and mood are you trying to create?

All this can seem a bit overwhelming but take it step by step. Don’t jump in and make hasty decisions. You can pull it off sometimes but not often, in my experience.

Color is such an important element of your quilt. Take some time. Keep to your overall plan. But most of all choose colors you love. Be adventurous. Try different combinations. Be daring. And you’ll create masterpieces to love and treasure.

Happy Quilting