3 Secret Formulas to Picking Fabric Colors that Work Together for Your Quilt

It’s no secret that I love making colorful quilts. Bright fabrics are fun!

When I show my quilts in a trunk show, one of the comments that I hear the most is “I love the color palette you used for this quilt!”

Here are my 3 simple secret formulas for picking the perfect palette of prints for a quilt, without using a color wheel or color theory.

1. Stick to One Collection

This color secret is so simple it almost feels like cheating.

When I’m making a quilt for the cover of a quilt pattern, I usually work with a fabric designer or brand to promote their upcoming fabric collection.

Glitch made in Redux by Giucy Giuce

Whether it’s a fat quarter bundle plus a neutral background, or an assortment of yardage from a particular collection, the designer and the color pros at the fabric company have done the hard work of making sure the colors of the prints all work well together.

2. Choose an Anchor Print

Whether it’s the backing, a border, or a focal fabric, you can use one amazing print to anchor your color palette for the entire quilt. You can use the markings on the selvedge to isolate the individual colors that make up the print. This can help you find matching prints or solids, again making excellent use of the color expertise that the designer and fabric company used to curate a palette for that print.

Blues, teals, and golden yellows, pulled from the octopus garden anchor print, in this UFO block

3. Use the Buddy System

What if you want to incorporate a lot of very different prints into a scrappier project? Think of the buddy system as a party where different social circles are getting together. You want to make sure each guest has enough buddies that they won’t be the loner who doesn’t know anyone else. And you want some social butterflies that have buddies in more than one group.

I tackled this challenge when I was choosing scraps to finish off my quilt coat. The back of the coat was my Coral Crash UFO, made up of test blocks from my Glitch pattern.

See that flamingo on the light blue background? It was the anchor print for Coral Crash. All the reds, pinks, peaches, corals, and blues are pulled directly from there.

This next picture shows a close-up of the coffee themed backing/lining fabric that I chose. It had the same peach and coral, with a darker version of the blue. It doesn’t have the reds or pinks from the flamingo. But since the peach and coral dominate this print, it’s a good buddy for the colors in the Coral Crash fabrics, and it brings golden yellow and that coffee brown to the party, too.

So now golden yellow and blue are at the party? That means the golden yellow floral print below with the blue octopus on it can come along, too, because it’s buddies with the coffee pot print.

Then there are hits of golden yellow, peach, pink, blue, and red on the rainbow/bird print. I don’t think I would have chosen it to go with the Coral Crash top or the coffee print on its own — too pink maybe — but it’s definitely buddies with the octopus print, so as a whole, the colors work well together. There are enough buddies to tie the fabric pull together, so nobody stands out as not fitting in.

What’s your favorite way to choose colors for a quilt? Do you ever use an anchor print or the buddy system? I’d love to know!

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