Choosing colors for quilts: advice from an expert

Choosing colors for quiltsWhen you consider all the gorgeous quilts in the world, it’s surprising to learn that many quilters say choosing colors for quilts is one of their biggest challenges. You’d never guess it from the beautiful results.

But I understand; I’m one who readily admits to a lack of confidence when it comes to color. That’s why I’m happy to find a book that can help me learn to pull fabrics together without always having to ask for a second opinion from my nearest fellow quilter. All About Strips by Susan Guzman is that sort of book.

From All About Strips
All About Strips

How to create a mood boardCan a book about quilting with strips teach you about color? Why, yes it can. Susan shares quilting tips she’s learned in her years of experience as a designer—plus her expertise as the Content Director of McCall’s Quilting magazine—from how to find quilt colors that work for you to how to discover your unique style. In the section titled “A Lesson in Color,” you’ll learn about colors and mood, where to look for color inspiration, and practical pointers for coloring a design.

But that’s just the beginning. There’s also great advice on working with pattern and scale and on combining new fabric collections with your existing stash. And then there’s that clever exercise for creating a mood board to help you define your style (right). And we haven’t even gotten to the patterns yet!

Here are a few examples of Susan’s color principles at work:

Flair quilt
Susan used a Jelly Roll for “Flair.” To make it your own, choose a Jelly Roll, then choose a solid color that appears consistently throughout the Jelly Roll collection. The solid will blend with all the prints.
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Candy Bar Lane quilt
“Candy Bar Lane” is feminine and pretty, offering subtle blends from one fabric to the next. For a high-impact version, add contrast by choosing an equal number of light, medium, and dark fabrics.
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Drawers quilt
Susan found the color cues for “Drawers” in a mural on the side of a building, demonstrating that inspiration can come from anywhere!

See all 15 colorful quilts in All About Strips >
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All About StripsBoost your color confidence and discover your unique style! Pick up your copy of All About Strips at your local quilt shop or at

Print book: $24.99 (with FREE eBook!)
eBook only: $16.99

How do you rate your color confidence: I don’t know where to begin, I’m okay but I might ask your opinion, or I know just what I want? Tell us in the comments!
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50 eBooks for $8.99 each!

32 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Choosing color is my strong suit! Matching points, accurate seams…not so much. But color — I do have an eye for color, and that part comes easy to me.

    The Reader on July 24, 2015
  • I’m okay, but like a second opinion.

    —Diana O. on July 24, 2015
  • I might ask a friend her opinion. I pull my colors from nature around us as well as photos I’ve taken, magazine photos, and focus fabrics.

    —Eileen on July 24, 2015
  • Color confidence for me is choose what I like. But fabric patterns need to be noticeable but not over whelming.

    —Sue Dague on July 24, 2015
  • Fair to " middlin" But I do know what I like. I am fortunate to have friends who can advise me.

    —Patricia D. Roberts on July 24, 2015
  • I know the basic color scheme for a quilt as soon as I find the pattern that I like. The challenge then becomes in finding the right fabrics to bring it to life. Usually try to find a print that I love that incorporates the main color or colors that I want to use and then work from there.

    —Kate on July 24, 2015
  • Choosing colors is one of the best parts..this looks like great book..picking a solid (not the background) to go with a jelly roll sounds like fun..thanks for the daily inspiration!

    —Linda P in IL on July 24, 2015
  • Oh, I always ask for opinions…I’m color challenged! This looks like a great book!

    —snoodles on July 24, 2015
  • I’m learning. I’ve made some mistakes in my early quilts that have taught me some lessons. I tend to be a monochromatic person, so need to learn to add some contrast.

    —Collette Morton on July 24, 2015
  • I usually start with a piece of fabric with 3-4 different colors and pull the least obvious ones and then use solids of those colors to bring them "into the forefront". I’m also prone to use black as a "pop" color with pastels.

    —debra lee on July 24, 2015
  • I have a very difficult time choosing colors no matter how many articles I read. I usually ask for help in quilt stores or pick the colors in the quilt pattern. I also buy quilt kits from reputable quilt stores and those always turn out beautiful. I need a confidence builder and this just might be the book for me.

    Mary W. on July 24, 2015
  • I know what I want and am confident in selecting colors that work well together. My mother passed on her great eye for color to me and I can even match a fabric with its colorful companion when I forget to bring a sample with me.

    —Ken on July 24, 2015
  • I am confident in my color choices. The difficulty is in finding the fabrics that work well with the others I’ve chosen. I am still collecting fabrics for a patriotic quilt because the focus fabric has a very dark barn red paired with an almost black navy blue. This quilt may have to become scrappy in order to work

    —Linda Towers on July 24, 2015
  • I can tell when I have colors together that I like but am just now learning why they work together. Give me a pile of fabric and a pattern and I will play with the colors until I have exhausted all of the possibilities that I think look good.

    —Lori S on July 24, 2015
  • I don’t know where to begin. I have not quilted much since I learned so don’t have a lot of experience. Colors for knitting or crochet come easily but not yet in quilting.

    —Debrielle Welch on July 24, 2015
  • I know the perfect focus fabric when I seee it. My problem is choosing coordinatng solids and related prints. I always take a friend with me for color advice – great way to build friendships.

    —Lynne on July 24, 2015
  • I’m so-so. I won’t put anything together that will "wow" you, but then I won’t gross anyone out either.

    —Sandy W. on July 24, 2015
  • I always ask my daughter if I can’t decide. She’s an artist and has a good eye for color, as well as scale and design.

    —Susan on July 24, 2015
  • I was told by another quilter that I am good at picking colors. I still havea lot to learn about colors in fabric.

    —beth daniels on July 24, 2015
  • I have a degree in fine arts and have done lots of color theory classes, so choosing tertiary, complimentary or analagous colors I like isn’t hard. What is hard is determining what color I want to be dominant color(s) since I like them all(!!) My preference runs to saturated colors too, so it’s important for me to create places for the eye to rest in my designs. One of my favorite designers is Tula Pink. She always seems to get the "balance" right in her quilts.

    —Gayle Mitchel on July 24, 2015
  • I seem to always struggle with co-ordinating fabrics for a quilt. I often think it might be something you are born with or not.

    —Karen L. on July 24, 2015
  • I always seem to ask an opinion of someone else, and sometimes I get my colors right on myself…but is always nice to have a second opinion!

    —Jeanette S on July 24, 2015
  • Picking colors for my quilts is the hardest part for me. It can take me hours to decide on what fabrics and colors go together. I think that is why I mainly make scrappy quilts because I don’t have to think about it. I do love quilt kits because the hard part is done for me.

    —Renea on July 24, 2015
  • I love to play with color.But if I not sure, since I am going blind, I ask my husband or daughter to help.

    —Linda Christianson on July 24, 2015
  • When starting a quilt I go into my stash, that is the hard part, as while I have my fabric stacked by colour there are days when a blue is too turquoise or have a greenish tint I sometimes forget to look in other colour paths for prints that might pick up the matching colour.

    —ELIZAJANE on July 24, 2015
  • I always carry my color cards with me. It helps a lot. I thought I was doing OK, then I had a cataract removed from one eye. Now I can really see white in one eye, the other eye is dull grey. I still need lessons. I count on the strip of color on the side of the fabric to help me along.

    —Chris on July 24, 2015
  • I seem to be getting better, but often get an annoyed sigh from my sister at least once during my fabric-choosing processes

    —Jess Webeck on July 25, 2015
  • The gals in St Louis knew i would find fabric that matched. Doesn’t mean they like it, but they knew it went with ttheir stars

    —Andrew Kosmowski on July 25, 2015
  • I seem to know what I want, but it’s always the same SAFE thing. I wish I could branch out and try out different color combinations….but that’s where I would say, I don’t know where to begin.

    —Patty on July 25, 2015
  • I can buy a stack of fabric that I LOVE together, and then fret for weeks over what pattern will best suit it.
    Maybe that process is backwards, but I’ve chosen patterns first and then had trouble finding just the "right" fabrics for it. Still learning.

    SuzyQ on July 26, 2015
  • I understand color and how to use it. Unfortunately some of the current fabric line designers need a refresher course. Many lines today is a monotone of medium hues and a busy background. You need a combination of values hues to make an outstanding quilt.

    Susie Rose on July 30, 2015
  • I do pretty well with color and get complements all the time. However, that doesn’t mean I am a great quilter.

    —Marsha Nelson on March 20, 2016

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