How to Use Color Tinting in Embroidery

What is color tinting?

Color tinting, also known as embroidery tinting or fabric coloring, is a fun way to add color to an embroidery project! Using crayons or colored pencils you can add light shading or big, bold colors to an embroidery piece prior to stitching. It's a great alternative option for filling in shapes! Color tinting is easy, fun, and uses minimal supplies.

Color tinting works by coloring on a piece of fabric then ironing the fabric to melt away the wax from the colored pencil, leaving behind just the color pigment. Check out the step by step tutorial below for more details, or follow along in real-time with the video!

B - Butterfly color tinted embroidery

Gather your supplies

First, let's gather some supplies. For color tinting all you need is colored pencils or crayons. They don't need to be any fancy brand. The important part is that it is some type of waxed coloring tool.

You'll also need fabric, your pattern, and a way to transfer your pattern - if applicable. To finish your embroidered piece, you'll need basic embroidery supplies (needle, floss, and a hoop). 

Real-Time Color Tinting Tutorial

If you'd like to follow along in real time while I transfer my pattern, color my fabric, press, and start stitching, check out this Live video replay from this project.

Step-by-Step Color Tinting Tutorial

Alright, let's jump in to color tinting!
***Click on any image below to jump to that part of the video tutorial on YouTube.***

Step 1

The first step is to transfer your pattern onto your fabric. You can do this by tracing the pattern with a pencil, or using an iron-on. 

Note: Color tinting will not work with Stick'n Stitch.

Trace your pattern onto the fabric

Step 2: Time to color!

Now it's time for the fun part - coloring! You don't need any fancy tools for color tinting. Simply use whatever colored pencils or crayons you have on hand. Yes, even those off-brand colored pencils will work.

Picking out colors

Always test your colors on the side or on a different piece of fabric first as the colors may look different than expected on fabric vs. paper. Then, start coloring your piece! My tip is to start with lighter colors and, pressing lightly, gently shade the area you want to color. You can then add darker colors on top and sort of blend these colors together.

Note: Using the colors of the pattern as a guide can help blend the color tinting and embroidery stitches better.

Coloring on fabric

Step 3: Press and Set

Color tinting becomes permanent when we iron the colored fabric. Heating up the colors actually melts the wax that's on the fabric. Once the wax is gone, just the color pigment remains!

To do this, first lay a paper towel and/or a piece of paper on your pressing surface. Then, with the colored side DOWN, press the back of your fabric with a hot iron for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  

Press the coloring with a hot iron

Your colors are now set on your fabric! Colors should remain pretty consistent even when washed. However, prolonged and repeated washing may dim the colors over time. 

Finished color tinting fabric

Step 4: Stitch!

Once the colors are set on the fabric, it's time to stitch! There isn't anything fancy to the stitching part for color tinting. Just sick back, follow your stitch guide, and watch the embroidery piece pop with your fun color tinting!

Finished B - Butterfly Color Tinted embroidery project


Join the ABC Stitch Along! 

Join the ABC Stitch Along

This color tinted Butterfly is part of the ABC Stitch Along we are doing here at Penguin & Fish where we'll be stitching through our classic ABC Animals.

Click here to learn more about the ABC Stitch Along and see the rest of the alphabet!

The stitch along started in February, 2022 and will end in March, 2023. In that time, we will be stitching 2 letters each month, during the first and second full week of the month, and then sewing each finished letter into a quilt-as-you-go quilt! A portion of all pattern and supplies bundle purchases, along with the proceeds from the finished quilt auction, will be donated to Minnapolis Crisis Nursery. 

Learn more about the ABC Stitch Along!

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