Brown Paper Stitch

How I Use the DMC Thread Card in Picking Colors for Pet Portraits [Brown Paper Stitch Dispatch]

Pet portrait embroidery with DMC Thread Card

This article is brought to you by Brown Paper Stitch, my business that makes your wardrobe pawesome by embroidering your pets on clothing.

When work­ing on a pet por­trait com­mis­sion, sketch­ing is the first step of the process. (I wrote about it here.) Once the sketch is com­plete, the process moves on to one of the most chal­leng­ing parts of what I do: select­ing the per­fect thread colors.

It’s hard to over­state just how hard this can be. Because I’m try­ing to match the sketch as best as pos­si­ble, it’s not enough for the col­ors to be “close enough.” I want them to be exact­ly as they are in your sketch.
But, col­or is so tricky! Hues can change their appear­ance when placed next to oth­er col­ors (this is known as col­or rel­a­tiv­i­ty), so find­ing the per­fect gray for a pup doesn’t always mean it’s what I’m ulti­mate­ly going to pick.

This can be mad­den­ing and it often involves a lot of second-guessing—and some­times, ripped stitch­es. That’s where the DMC Thread Card has been an absolute life­saver in select­ing thread col­ors for pet por­traits. Here’s how I use it.

How I use the DMC Thread Card

DMC Thread Card

Using a recent embroi­dery as an exam­ple, I decid­ed that part of a dog’s fur was going to use DMC 3827. Done deal. But I need­ed an addi­tion­al hue in the same col­or fam­i­ly that was slight­ly dark­er. But, it could­n’t be too sim­i­lar in col­or, as I’ve learned that some hues will look prac­ti­cal­ly the same when stitched next to one anoth­er on fab­ric. Instead of scour­ing my cas­es of thread, I instead turned to my DMC Thread Card.

The beau­ty of the DMC Thread Card is how it is orga­nized. The (real thread) col­ors in each col­umn are arranged by sim­i­lar­i­ty. It’s not in numer­i­cal order; instead, you can find a sin­gle col­or and then look at what’s above it and below it to see what’s sim­i­lar to it—darker and lighter.

In the case of DMC 3827, I found that DMC 977—which was right below it in the col­or chart—was exact­ly what I need­ed. It was dark enough to stand out next to 3827 and not too sim­i­lar so that you couldn’t tell them apart.

This practice—of find­ing a col­or I want to use and then refer­ring to my thread card for a sim­i­lar hue—is one that I now often use. It has saved me a ton of ripped stitch­es and inspired me to con­tin­ue to expand my thread col­lec­tion so that I have the most accu­rate col­ors for your pets.