How to become an embroidery digitizer

By on September 24th, 2019
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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 a 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.

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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.

Software specific courses that teach you how to digitize

There are several software specific training programs available for purchase online. The following resources are listed in order of the digitizing software they pertain to. Being able to get training on a specific software package could influence the software you buy.


Check out my course on SewArt, SewWhat-Pro and SewWrite! With over 50+ hands-on video lessons, it will get you up and running quickly!

Sewart, SewWhat-Pro, SewWrite Master Course

PE Design

Sue at Memories in Thread Offers Tutorials for PE design full version software up to and including V.7

Oleen Embroidery has tons of PE Design tutorials.


Lindee Miller Goodall’s offers a huge training course in Generations.

You Can Digitize offers a course and apprenticeship to teach you how to become an embroidery digitizer using Generations software.


Video series called Simply Teach Me by Diana & Kothy


Jack N Mack Embroidery and Custom Digitizing Services offers a web-based course.

Almost any embroidery digitizing program

John Deer offers a course in just about every embroidery digitizing program available.  They are also fairly reasonable.

Once you have purchased embroidery digitizing software

Unfortunately owning digitizing software does not automatically make you an embroidery digitizer.  You have to learn how to use your software.

  • Attend 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.
  • Read your manual. Call me crazy, but reading the manual does actually help. When I started digitizing, 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.
  • 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. Every gift-giving occasion is an opportunity to digitize something new and build your skills.

Good luck and happy stitching! And if you know of any great resources I’ve left off, please comment below!  I would love to hear about them.


Recommended Resources for Learning to Digitize Machine Embroidery Designs

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how to become an embroidery digitizer

One 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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