How To Use A DMC Color Card

A month ago we gave reasons why you need a DMC color card and since then we’ve received a lot of emails and comments about how to use one properly. There can be quite a knack to it, but once you get it, it’s super simple!

Understanding color runs

The biggest thing to get your head around on a color card is the color runs (sometimes called color families). In the example below, you can see 20 rows of colors; these are the basic color runs, split from red to grey, and everything in between.

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

However, in addition to these rows are smaller runs. Below we’ve broken out the smaller color runs within row 1 of the DMC color card; red. In it, we can see each color run goes from light to dark, however each smaller run changes in color slightly too. The first run is more pinky, the second more Christmas red, the third blood red, and the last dark red. Now; here’s the biggest tip I can give you; never choose colors from more than one run. If you pick colors, you need to choose colors from the same run. And that’s it!
DMC Threads on row 1 of the color card
DMC Threads on row 1 of the color card

How to find a color by its number

Let’s say you want to look up a thread. Due to the way the color card is set up, in color runs, the numbers are all out of order. So you have to look at the table in the back to check the row. In the image below er can see thread 3840 is on row 6.

Finding colors by number on a DMC color card (Source:
Finding colors by number on a DMC color card (Source:

Other information on a thread card

There’s actually a whole wealth of other information on color cards too, which can be super helpful if you want to know it; however, it’s only on a need to know basis. If you don’t care; you can easily ignore it!

Thread Types

The first of these is the types the threads are sold in. For example, on the image below we can see that the new DMC threads 14, 15 & 16 come in ‘117’ only. This is the basic 6 strand floss you stitch with normally, however, 704 and 703 come in a whole range of other types, like pearl cotton.

Row 11 close up of DMC shade card
Row 11 close up of DMC shade card

Speciality threads

Then you have specialty threads. Unlike the standard threads, these aren’t arranged in color runs but are instead just shown in number order. It allows you to see what makes up a variegated thread, or what the metallics look like.

Dots on DMC labels

We’ve written about the purpose of those dots on DMC labels and the dots are also in the shade book, meaning you know which threads are which.

Care information

Finally, on the back page are care instructions. These are pretty standard for most threads at the moment, but these are a great tool to refer to if you have a stubborn cross stitch stain you can’t get out and need to know how to give them a good wash.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Sheila Whitehead

    Are all DMC #’s the same I’m in need of more thread for my cross stitch I had a bag full of embroidery floss but not that color in it. I have the DMC #347 ,#815 but can’t find those numbers at all I do see that I have a match for the 815 the DMC does not match at all. Is this normal with DMC? Do they not ever match up DMC #’s and if not how do we get more thread when ordering and can’t see the color? I’m sure the chart comes in handy then haha!

    1. LordLibidan

      I’m afraid for some reason the DMC color card is in color order, not number order, so finding specific numbers is hard!
      However, we have a free DMC inventory sheet that allows you to search by number. That should help you out!

  2. Rivka

    I believe you have a color out of order on your color runs. #523 is Fern Green – Light, and probably needs to move down one color family to the other fern greens : 524, 522, and 520. It’s currently with the Grey Green family, 3053, 3052, and 3051. Where it looks off.

    Thanks, Rivka

    1. LordLibidan

      Hey Rivka,
      We actually use the ones officially supplied by the DMC company. Although we must admit, some of their choices are a little weird sometimes!

  3. Kimberly Kerlin

    How do I know where one color run ends and another begins within the same column? You gave the example for the first column, but is there an indicator or a place where this is written out for us as to where the smaller runs are? Thank you.

    1. LordLibidan

      Sadly there isn’t an easy way.
      Eac column has full color runs, none of them move from one column to another. In addition, all runs are from lightest to darkest. So look down the column and were a dark color suddenly changes to a light color; this is the start of a run.

  4. Maria

    Thank you for this guide. I have always struggled with colour selection for my own designs and this DMC colour card with the threads has become invaluable. Your explanation of the smaller colour runs in each of the columns is great. I knew there were groupings of colours but this is very helpful to find the right colours for a new design.

  5. Fiona G.

    Hi, I got one of these shade cards recently and it’s been very useful. But do you know why not all the Color Variations are on there? #4000 and #4017 for example.

    1. LordLibidan

      Actually, that whole range (4000 to 4265) was discontinued. They are no longer part of the standard DMC range (although I hear you can still pick them up in a few countries).