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How many colors are there in embroidery machine?

Embroidery machines can embroider designs using a wide range of thread colors. The number of colors an embroidery machine can use depends on several factors:

Number of Needles

The number of needles an embroidery machine has directly impacts the number of thread colors it can use. Most home embroidery machines have 1-10 needles. Smaller hobby machines often have just 1-6 needles, while larger machines may have up to 10 or 12 needles. More needles allow the machine to sew multiple colors without having to manually change the thread for each color change.

Number of Thread Spools

In addition to needles, the number of thread spools an embroidery machine can hold affects the color capacity. Small machines may only hold a few spools, while advanced models can accommodate hundreds of thread spools. For example:

  • Brother PE800 embroidery machine: 6 needles, 10 thread spools
  • Janome Memory Craft 400E: 1 needle, 10 thread spools
  • Tajima TFMX-C1501: 15 needles, up to 328 thread spools

The more spools, the more thread color options are readily available for multi-color designs.

Manual Color Changes

Even machines with only 1-6 needles can embroider designs with many colors by manually changing the thread. Each color change requires stopping the machine, clipping the thread, threading the new color, and restarting the embroidery. This process allows even small hobby machines to produce complex multi-color designs.

Number of Color Blocks

Digitizing software used to create embroidery designs defines each color section of a design as a color block. Most software limits the number of color blocks to reduce complexity. For example:

  • Embird: Maximum 127 color blocks per design
  • Wilcom EmbroideryStudio: Maximum 256 color blocks

The number of color blocks gives an idea of the potential number of colors a design can use, keeping in mind many blocks may use duplicate colors.

Color Sequence

Even if a design contains 100+ color blocks, the actual number of unique colors used is usually much less. Software optimizes the color sequence to combine duplicate colors and minimize thread changes. For example, a design with 100 color blocks may actually stitch out using only 10-20 different threaded colors.

Thread Brand’s Color Palette

The available thread colors can also constrain the potential number of colors. Popular embroidery thread brands offer the following color selections:

  • Sulky: Over 1000 colors
  • Robison-Anton: 600+ colors
  • Madeira: 500+ colors
  • Coats & Clark: 400+ colors
  • Isacord: Over 200 colors

Matching a design’s specified colors to the available thread colors limits the maximum number of achievable colors.

Number of Bobbin Colors

In addition to the top thread colors, the number of bobbin thread colors can also impact color capacity. Most machines use a single neutral bobbin thread color, but some allow bobbin thread changes to achieve special effects and multi-color bobbin work. The maximum number of bobbin colors includes:

  • Baby Lock Zeal: 6 bobbin colors
  • Brother Dream Machine 2: Up to 10 bobbin colors
  • Husqvarna Viking Designer Epic 2: Unlimited bobbin colors

Specialty Threads

Beyond standard embroidery thread, some machines accommodate specialty threads like metallic, variegated, blending filament, and ribbon fibers. Specialty threads can significantly expand the machine’s effective color range. For example, Sulky alone offers over 100 varieties of specialty threads.

Monochrome Embroidery

Monochrome embroidery using a single thread color provides the most limited color palette. But even monochrome designs can utilize color variations by altering stitch density and direction. Dense, smooth fills will appear darker than loose, textured fills.

Factors That Don’t Affect Maximum Colors

Some factors that seem related to color capacity actually have no impact on the maximum achievable colors. These include:

  • Stitch resolution – Does not affect number of colors
  • Design size/dimensions – Does not affect thread colors used
  • Machine speed – Faster machines don’t provide access to more colors
  • User software/skill level – Color capacity depends on physical machine limits

Typical Range for Home Embroidery Machines

Given the various factors that affect achievable color counts, what is the typical range for most home embroidery machines? Here are some guidelines:

  • Entry-level: 1 to 6 colors
  • Intermediate: 6 to 10 colors
  • Advanced: 10 to 15 colors
  • Professional: 15+ colors

Keep in mind that changing threads manually allows pushing beyond the limit imposed by number of needles alone. Even 6-needle machines can produce designs with dozens of thread colors with enough patience.

Maximizing Color Capacity

To maximize the number of colors your embroidery machine can produce, consider the following tips:

  • Choose machine with most needles and spool capacity for your budget
  • Use optimized designs with minimal color changes
  • Plan ahead and minimize duplicate colors needed
  • Use software to resequence design for least color switches
  • Embrace manual color changes if you have time
  • Invest in storage options to hold a wide thread selection
  • Take advantage of specialty threads for more variety


While factors like the number of needles and spools limits color capacity, you shouldn’t let your machine’s specs alone determine the color possibilities. With smart design, planning, and a willingness to manually change threads, virtually any home embroidery machine can produce designs with dozens of unique, beautiful colors.

Focus more on choosing designs with color palettes you love rather than aimlessly maximizing the number of colors. Even monochrome embroidery can possess depth, dimension, and visual richness when stitched out with care. The number of colors is secondary to how skillfully and intentionally the colors are employed in a design.

Your creativity in combining colors, specialty threads, stitch techniques, and other elements will make your embroidered art shine. Don’t limit yourself to what the machine can do automatically. With some helpful effort and ingenuity, you can access a world of color possibilities to make your embroidered creations truly unique and memorable.