How to become an embroidery digitizer

By on May 24th, 2022
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How to become an embroidery digitizer
free machine embroidery designs

So you’re wondering how to become an embroidery digitizer? I get it. I remember the feeling. As soon as I started using my embroidery machine I immediately wanted to learn how to create the files that my machine could stitch out.  In fact, the goal of becoming an embroidery digitizer was the whole reason I initially started this blog.

Becoming an embroidery digitizer didn’t seem like it would be that much of a reach being that I work with digital graphics on a daily basis.

How different could an embroidery file be from a vector graphic? Couldn’t I just drag and drop it into the digitizing software and have it my graphic be magically digitized?

Turns out, not so much. (Despite the fact that many digitizing programs market and promote their auto digitize tool). But, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

Embroidery files contain a lot more information than a simple digital graphic. For example, the embroidery file must specify the stitch order of the elements. It also needs to know start and end points, stitch density, stitch length, stitch style, stitch color, etc.

So, while a digital graphic can be a helpful inspiration for an embroidery file, being an embroidery digitizer involves more than using the auto digitize tool.

Once I understood this, I very quickly realized that if I was going to become an embroidery digitizer, I would actually have to learn a new skill. So how does one become an embroidery digitizer? And is it actually worth it? 

Why become an embroidery digitizer?

Embroidery digitizing is a skill that allows you to take any image and turn it into an embroidery design. This means that you can create custom designs for your embroidery machine to stitch out. If you like to illustrate your own brand of art and would like to stitch it out on your embroidery machine, becoming a digitizer is a must.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to become an embroidery digitzer.

You don’t like the style and type of designs available for sale

When I started embroidering about 10+ years ago, the embroidery designs available for sale skewed a bit on the tacky side. I’m not saying that there weren’t cool and modern designs available for sale, but the selection was much more limited than it is today.

If you’re someone who likes to create your own designs or have specific taste, learning to digitize can give you a lot more control over the type of embroidery designs you have access to.

You want to embroider a design that’s not commercially available

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. If you can’t find the type of design you’re looking for, your only option is to either settle for something similar or learn how to digitize it yourself.

You want to be able to digitize customers’ logos

If you offer embroidery services, you will likely be asked to digitize  customers’ logos at some point.

Must customers will have no idea that in order for you to stitch out their logo on clothing or accessories, you will need the logo as an embroidery file. And, if they don’t have that, you will need to digitize the logo.

Of course, you can use a digitizing service to digitize the logo for you. But, if you can be your own embroidery digitizer, you have an additional source of revenue.

You want to create a collection of embroidery designs and start selling them

To be honest with you, this is what excited me most about learning to digitize.

I knew that if I wanted to start selling my designs, I would need to be able to get very comfortable with embroidery digitizing.

Keep in mind that there are tons of embroidery designs already created. Therefore, if you set out to create your own collection, make sure you offer something unique.

One of the best ways to create unique designs is to illustrate them yourself. This way, you can be sure that your designs are one of a kind. Another way is to focus your designs in a very specific niche.

For example, Sue Lough, is an embroidery digitizer who has become known for her feltie gingers. She has an enormous following of embroiderers who love to stitch out her ginger-person creations.

Maybe you’re interested in starting your own embroidery business, or perhaps you just want to be able to create custom designs for your own personal use. Either way, becoming an embroidery digitizer can be fun, rewarding and profitable.

Why you may NOT want to become an embroidery digitizer

Before you set out on a mission to become an embroidery digitizer, you should be aware of a few things.

There is a bit of a learning curve

First of all, embroidery digitizing is not an easy skill to learn. It takes quite a bit of time and practice to become proficient at it. If you’re expecting to be able to sit down and create amazing designs after just one lesson, you’re going to be disappointed.

Embroidery digitizing can be frustrating

In addition, even if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to create designs that you’re happy with. If you have a specific design in mind that you want to embroider, but can’t seem to get it right, it can be very frustrating.

I’ve spent hours (literally) trying to digitize a design, only to end up with something that looks nothing like what I had originally envisioned. If you’re someone who gets easily frustrated or doesn’t handle failure well, becoming an embroidery digitizer may not be for you.

How to become an embroidery digitizer

Start by learning the (non-software specific) basics of digitizing

Before diving in too deep into one specific digitizing program, it’s a good idea to learn some of the basics of digitizing.  A good book that discusses the basic task of digitizing and offers some tips on how to approach a digitizing project but remains general enough that it doesn’t talk about specific tools and techniques within a software package is: Digitizing Made Easy: Create Custom Embroidery Designs Like a Pro. I read this book cover to cover before I even set out to start digitizing. It really helps shorten the learning curve when mastering the art of embroidery digitizing.

Denise Hendrick offers a very basic overview of embroidery digitizing.  It will help you wrap your head around the process and learn important terms and principles. In this course she will show you what software she uses to digitize, however the lessons apply to any digitizing program you decide to use.   

Another useful reference e-book to help you understand the why behind the digitizing process is Anatomy of a Design by LndeeGEmbroidery. Linda has been digitizing for years, so she knows what she’s talking about!

Anita Goodesign offers a course in embroidery digitizing that covers fundamentals all the way through advanced digitizing techniques.

And finally, another video course that’s fairly inexpensive and available on Amazon is Cookie Gaynor’s course: Digitizing Machine Embroidery Designs

Try out different embroidery digitizing software

There are a lot of different embroidery digitizing programs that range in price from less than $100 to a few thousand dollars.  And, they all have different features and benefits. Check out my previous post on the pros and cons of popular embroidery digitizing programs.

Fortunately you can try before you buy! Many of the most popular digitizing software programs offer free trials.  You can download them for 30 days, play with them a bit and see what you think.

Generally speaking, the most expensive software is going to have the most sophisticated options. However don’t discount the less experience expensive ones. Even some of the least expensive programs will allow you to create perfectly acceptable and interesting embroidery designs. Your creativity is the only limitation.

Choose and learn your embroidery digitizing software

You will never become an embroidery digitizer until you choose which embroidery digitizing software you want to use. So, this is a very important first step .

Then, once you choose your software, commit to learning it! Unfortunately, owning embroidery digitizing software does not automatically make you an embroidery digitizer. You must master your software.

There are many ways you can master your embroidery software.

Attend digitizing classes through your dealer

If you bought your software through a dealer, classes may come with it.  The classes might be the best incentive to purchase the software from the dealer.

Find software specific embroidery digitizing lessons

There are many web-based (self-paced and live) as well as in-person courses available that teach you how to digitize using a specific program. Check out my recent post on where to find embroidery digitizing lessons.

Read your software manual

Call me crazy, but reading the manual does actually help. When I started learning Embrilliance Stitch Artist, I printed out the 500-page PDF file and put it in a binder. I carried it with me to work and read a few pages over lunch every day. It’s pretty amazing what you can learn just by reading the manual!

Do experiments

When I was learning to digitize, I would stitch out samples with different settings to see the effect. After I saw the stitch out, I would have a clear picture in my head of how it would appear when using this setting on future designs.

Watch designs stitch out on screen

Open up embroidery files in your software. Then, zoom in, and have the software slowly stitch out the design one stitch at a time. This will give you a better sense of how the software works.

Join Facebook groups associated with your software

The members of these groups offer a treasure trove of knowledge that they love to share.

Check out YouTube

Even my kids know, you can learn anything on YouTube (which is actually a little scary…)

Practice, practice, practice

It’s like anything in life, the more you do it, the better you get.

Use every gift-giving occasion as an opportunity to digitize something new. Stitch it out and make a unique gift at the same time. I found this to be one of the best ways to build my embroidery digitizing skills.

So are you ready to become an embroidery digitizer?

Embroidery digitizing can be fun, rewarding and profitable. If you want to get better at it, the best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice! Try out different software programs until you find one that you like. Then, learn how to use it inside and out. Watch designs stitch out on screen and join Facebook groups for support. With a little bit of effort, you can become a proficient embroidery digitizer in no time!

Happy stitching (and digitizing)



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how to become an embroidery digitizer

1 thought on “How to become an embroidery digitizer

  1. Hi Im writing because you sound like me when I first started digitizing. I brought the 2″ thick software manual and yes I carried it with me if I thought I would have some spare time to read. It cost a heap and dispite it not giving the basic practical knowledge that I so desparately desired I still devoured it as it gave me the ability to know what was possible and could be used in various situations. I brought Wilcom and it was vast even years and years ago when I first started.

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