How To Choose Beautiful, Complementary Colors For Your Quilt Projects

One of my favorite parts of a quilt project is the selection of fabrics.

This process can be a bit tricky and overwhelming since there are thousands of options, either in-store or online, to choose from. 

I’d like to make choosing fabric for a quilt easier for you by sharing some of my tips and ideas on selecting fabric colors.

This decision should be a fun step in the quilt-making process, and I’m excited to show you how to make it just that — a lot of fun!

How Do You Coordinate Quilt Fabric?

You may be thinking, “How do you choose a quilt color?” 

The quilt colors you choose are going to depend heavily on your personal style. If you enjoy light, airy colors, you will want to purchase soft pastels and light neutrals. 

On the other hand, if your style leans toward more vibrant, bright colors, they will be a better fit for your quilt.

If you’re creating a traditional-looking quilt, you’ll get inspiration from vintage quilt colors. Modern quilt lovers can find a variety of unique quilt colors and styles to choose from. 

  • Once you have chosen the general color “style” you want to use, you need to decide if you want to use patterned fabrics, solids, or a mixture of the two. I encourage you to decide on these before you start shopping. Looking at all the fabrics will be overwhelming if you don’t.
  • If you want to use something with a pattern, I recommend choosing that fabric first. Then you can select blenders and solids to go along with that fabric. More on that later.

Coordinating fabrics and fabric selection isn’t an exact science. Everyone’s “color eye” will be different, and with most other art forms, what one person may love, another may not see how it “goes together.”

For example, I LOVE tie-dye. Now, I’ve made many custom quilts for a wide variety of clients in the past several years. Looking back, I have a total of zero clients who wanted any kind of tie-dye fabric on their quilts. 

Are they wrong? Nope. Am I wrong? Absolutely not. Everyone has their personal preferences related to the colors and patterns that draw them in, and that’s okay.

How Many Different Fabrics Do I Need for a Quilt?

Just like fabric selection isn’t an exact science, there is no “right” answer to the number of different fabrics you need to create a quilt. I’ve seen gorgeous quilts made with one solid color. That’s it.

The number of fabrics you choose dependson the quilt pattern you select and the “look” you are going for with your quilt. 

In my opinion, the more fabrics there are, the better. I enjoy the challenge of hunting down the perfect fabrics that  complement each other to give you a feast for the eyes.

Many quilt patterns that you purchase give you the number of fabrics you should buy, which will help you, especially if you are new to picking out your own fabrics.

Choosing Quilt Colors: 6 Ways to Select Complementary Colors 

Here are my tips and ideas for choosing fabrics and colors for your beautiful quilt projects that reflect your sense of style. 

1. Choose a “foundation” fabric.

Earlier, I mentioned if you want to use patterned fabric, you should choose that fabric first. This choice is what I call the “foundation” fabric.

You can now use this as your main fabric. When selecting the rest of the fabrics for your project, pull colors from your foundation.

Choose colors that complement the foundation fabric. The colors and shades don’t need to be exact matches, just something that goes well together.

You could choose one to two foundation fabrics. I wouldn’t use more than two or your design might be too busy. Here is an example of a foundation fabric with some blenders and solids that match it perfectly.

choosing colors for quilt

2. Use quilt fabric collections as inspiration.

Many fabric designers curate their own fabric collections, which is an excellent option for you if you would rather not choose your own fabrics. If you do want to choose your fabric, try using these curated fabric collections as inspiration.

choosing colors for quilt

They’ve already put together colors and patterns that work great together, so why not use it for some inspiration, right?


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3. Find color palettes online.

There are endless possibilities on the internet for basically anything, so why not color palettes? You can try Pinterest, or there are several websites that have hundreds of different color palettes like the example below:

choosing colors for quilt

You could even use interior designer color palettes like the cards you can find in the paint section at different home improvement stores. 


4. Use a painting or photograph that you like as inspiration.

Do you have a favorite painting or photograph hanging in your living room or bedroom and want a quilt to complement it?  Use it as the inspiration for your colors. 

Take a picture of the painting, take it to your local fabric store, and find fabrics that perfectly match it.

Here is a vintage tile I picked up in an antique store that would be an excellent inspiration for a quilt top.

choosing colors for quilt

5. Get another set of eyes on your fabric selection.

This tip is for after you’ve chosen your fabrics. Something that can help you is having someone else check out your selection — preferably someone who doesn’t have the same “style” as you.

Choose someone who will be honest with you and can help pick something else if something seems a bit “off” in your selection.

I’ve done this several times, and it does help me out when I feel “stuck” when picking the perfect fabrics.


6. Choose a color family and pick different shades.

This is a really fun option if you want to stick to a specific color but want some variety in the shade. Here are a couple of examples of the pink family and the blue family:

choosing colors for quilt

This method is a great way to optimize “blenders.” Blenders are fabrics that have a subtle pattern that isn’t too loud or dramatic. 

For example polka dots or tiny stars are good blenders. I enjoy mixing blenders and solids for quilts, similar to the examples above.


Ready to choose your quilt colors?

There you have some tips and ideas for choosing your fabrics for your next quilt project. Just keep in mind, there are no proper “rules” in fabric selection, and if you like the fabrics you’ve chosen, that’s what matters.

Quilts are art and you should view them as a personal expression. If you like to mix chartreuse and periwinkle, then I say go for it. The most important advice I can give is to have fun with it and enjoy the process!

Deciding on what colors to use in a project is a hard decision for most quilters. Read on this post and know how to choose a color for your quilt project.


About the author: 
Miriam Ronne is a lover of all things quilting and sewing. She is a self-taught quilter and is constantly learning and broadening her skill set to create one-of-a-kind quilts! When she's not behind her sewing machine you can find her playing with her fur babies or trying her hand at other crafty things.

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