Changing Colors On a Cross Stitch Pattern

I’m sure I’m not the only one to have a whole pile of cross stitch patterns that I’ve never started. In fact, some of them are over a decade old. The thing is, whilst these patterns are great, there’s something slightly off with all of them.
Now, I don’t mean they’ve got something wrong on them, I mean they have something that doesn’t work for ME. I won’t name and shame any patterns here, but taking one of the tops, I have an issue with the color of the boat. It’s a green boat, with loads of greenery around it. It looks like it could do with a splash of color. And that’s what I’m going to talk about today. How to change colors on a cross stitch pattern.
Changing details on cross stitch patterns can make sure that what you’re stitching is suited to you, it can make it truly unique, and it can make it something you suddenly REALLY want to stitch.

So how do you start?

We’ll start with a word of warning; don’t go over the top. When you start out, its best to pick one element and change the color, rather than the whole thing. You might be called upon to do a few colors to make your new one match (we’ll get to that) but try to keep it manageable to start.
First off, you’re going to need a pattern, with the above advice, we should pick a small element to start. You then need to work out which colors are in that element based on the pattern. I’ve picked a bonsai tree with red leaves, and we’ll change them to green.
NOTE: The colors you are looking at might be used elsewhere in the pattern, so you may stitch need them to finish your cross stitch.

Red Bonsai Tree Pixel Art by Pixel Art Maker (Source:
Red Bonsai Tree Pixel Art by Pixel Art Maker (Source:

The Color Card

The next step is to pull up your color card. Ideally, you should have one of thread example color cards, however, you can use printed ones if you must. We have both the new DMC color card and the Anchor color card as a free download to look at. If you plan to do this a lot, we would STRONGLY suggest you get a thread example one, and we’ll be going over why why you need a color card in a few weeks.

DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan
DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan

Identify your shades

The next step is to pick your specific shades. In our red bonsai tree, we’ve picked out the 5 shades of red, and we’ve arranged the up in order. This means we can see they are a simple run of dark red to light red.

Red Bonsai Tree with shades broken out
Red Bonsai Tree with shades broken out

Pick the new shades

This is where we finally get to pick the shades we’ll be using, but the hard work has already been done. As we know its a run of 5 reds, we’ll need a run of 5 greens. On the DMC color card, the best options are on lines 10 and 11. Honestly, you could pick any 5 greens, however, each run looks slightly different. Those on line 10 look darker, so it might be best for oily leaves. We picked the first run of greens on like 11 as we have those in our collection.

Red Bonsai Tree with shades broken out and replacement greens picked
Red Bonsai Tree with shades broken out and replacement greens picked

We’ve helped you out with some great free charts for replacement skin tones and replacement hair colors in cross stitch if you’re doing those in your pattern, so you might be able make this step easier.

Swap the colors

Swap them. Its that simple. You could color in the pattern with pens or pencils, you could just change the number on the list, or just stitching with your new colors.

Green Bonsai Tree Pixel Art by Lord Libidan
Green Bonsai Tree Pixel Art by Lord Libidan

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carrie

    Thank you for another great tutorial. I often find most patterns to be either in pastel, neutral or more conservative color choices than I would want. I want my cross stitch to express the beautiful & vibrant colors of the world in which we live in.

    Thank you for helping me to be more confident in changing out colors.

  2. Robin P Stalcup

    Thank you for this article. I change colors frequently to something more vibrant or life-like because I hate how often design colors are washed out looking or pastels. For example, I look up how flowers look in a photo rather than the pattern and choose my colors accordingly. Baby blue is not a color that occurs in nature! It does make more complicated designs more challenging, especially when I lose my notes on changes and want to do the design again. The most difficult changes I made was to Spirit of Nature Series- Whale by Mike Vickery (Pegasus Publication, Book 353, 1994). I redid all the organisms within the whale outline using photos of actual reef life and dolphins. A couple fish I had to copy and re-design the lines for color patterning and I made one of the fish into a moon grouper (bright orange with bright lilac/orchid spots). Took a while to stitch as 14 count, but turned out very nice with a bit more vibrant colors. I had it custom framed for a gift for a friend.