Ink/Stitch: a free embroidery digitizing program

By on April 6th, 2021
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what is inkstitch
free machine embroidery designs

Just If you have been looking into different embroidery digitizing software, you may have experienced a big of sticker shock. Some of the higher-end, professional level embroidery digitizing programs are EXPENSIVE. While some are less expensive and suitable for beginners (such as SewArt), and many of them offer free trials, I’ve never encountered any tool that creates embroidery files for free.  That is, until I discovered Ink/Stitch.

What is Ink/Stitch?

Ink/Stitch is a plugin for a Inkscape, a free vector-based illustration program.

What is Inkscape?

Inkscape is most comparable to the professional level illustration program, Adobe Illustrator.  It’s pretty powerful and versatile, especially in light of the fact that it’s 100% free, open-source and runs natively on MACs, PCs and even Linux machines.

Interested in learning more about Inkscape? Check out my course on Inkscape: Inkscape Express!

Is Ink/Stitch free?

Yes. Just like Inkscape, Ink/Stitch is free and open source. Obviously you know what free means. But open source means that you can actually go in and edit the program’s code.  

So why would you care about vector-based graphics?

Vector-based graphics are different from images found on the web like JPGs, GIFs and PNG files. Web graphics are pixel-based (or bitmap or raster) graphics. 

Pixel-based graphics are comprised of pixels.  If you zoom in on one, you will eventually see individual pixels that, in combination, create an image.

Vector-based graphics are different because they are stored as a series of commands so they can be recreated at any size and will never look pixelated.

The advantages of converting vector based graphics into embroidery designs

Because vector-based graphics have precisely defined shapes (and are not just comprised of different colored pixels), they are A LOT easier to convert to embroidery designs than their pixel-based counterparts. 

For more details on exactly how vector-based graphics behave differently from pixel-based graphics, see my post on how to convert SVG files to embroidery designs three different ways. Or, please see my previous post on how I converted a vector-based logo into an embroidery design using SewArt.

Because vector-based graphics provide such a clean basis for an embroidery design, it makes sense that someone would invent a software that combines a vector-based drawing program with embroidery file format exporting capabilities.

How to use Ink/Stitch

Installing Inkscape

Before you can start using Ink/Stitch, you need to install Inkscape.  Remember – Ink/Stitch is just the plug-in for Inkscape, so you need to get that first.  Fortunately, Inkscape is easy to install – no different than installing any other program.

Installing Ink/Stitch

Ink/Stitch has a separate installer that you must download and install after you install Inkscape.  Be sure to quit Inkscape prior to installing Ink/Stitch.  Once you have installed both programs, start up Inkscape. Under the Extensions menu, you will see Ink/Stitch.

Keep in mind that this program will not run by itself.  You must have Inkscape in order to make it work. 

Creating a vector graphic in Inkscape

Because Ink/Stitch is a plugin for Inkscape (a vector-based drawing program), you must first create your art as a vector-based graphic.  This might be a bit daunting if you know nothing about creating vector-based graphics.  But, you can learn quickly if you play around with some of the drawing tools in the program. For example, if you drag and drop the rectangle tool, you can easily create a rectangular shape.  Then you can create more complex shapes by performing Boolean operations between these two shapes.

creating more complex shapes in Inkscape
An example of creating a more complex vector shape by subtracting one shape from another.

Before you can convert your vector graphic to an embroidery file, you must first convert it to a path. Select the graphic and then go to the Path menu and select “Object to Path.”

Converting the vector graphic to an embroidery file

Once you have created your desired vector shape saved as a Path, then you can convert it into an embroidery design.  All of the functionality you will need to create this embroidery file are located under the Extensions menu and then “Ink/Stitch.”

With the vector-based object selected, choose the Params option under Extensions then Ink/Stitch.  The menus that appear allow you to specify what type of stitching you would like to use to represent your object. In the example below, you can see that I chose a fill stitch with a 45 degree stitch angle with 1.5 mm long stitches.  I also added an underlay to ensure adequate coverage of the stitching on the fabric once you stitch it out.

If you enter settings that you think you might want to use again, you can save them as a preset. This will make it easier to quickly apply these settings to another object.

previewing embroidery design in inkstitch

After you apply your desired settings to the object, then you can export your embroidery design. You do this by selecting the Embroider option from the Inkstitch menu underneath the Extensions menu.  In this dialog box you can select your desired embroidery file format.

saving a shape in inkstitch as an embroidery file

Load embroidery file format onto your embroidery machine

After you generate your embroidery file, you can load it onto an embroidery machine and stitch it out.  Never transferred an embroidery file onto an embroidery machine? Learn how.

Don’t despair if you can not save your embroidery file into a format that your embroidery machine reads.  You can easily convert your embroidery file from one format to another using free or very inexpensive software. 

Additional capabilities of Inkscape and Ink/Stitch

With Ink/Stitch, you can certainly convert more than one vector shape into different embroidery areas.  You can also generate different types of embroidery files other than fill stitch areas.

Appliqué files

Instead of generating simple fill areas, you can also create appliqué designs in Ink/Stitch.  As long as you can get the object into a vector based format, you can specify whether  you want the shape to be stitched as a fill or as an outline.  And, a series of outline files is all you need to create an appliqué design.


Inkstitch has the ability to create embroidery files from letters.  While the font choices in Ink/Stitch are quite limited, you can still generate  words and phrases very quickly and then save them as embroidery files.

lettering in inkstitch

Other file formats

If creating vector-based objects is not your jam, you can always import pre-existing vector-based graphics into Inkscape and build your design from there.  Inkscape will read common vector-based file formats such as EPS, PDF, SVG and even AI files.  You can even import pixel-based graphics and covert them to vector files in Inkscape.

Ink/Stitch tutorials

There are a few Youtube tutorials that you can access via the Ink/Stitch website.

Check out my other post where I convert a photograph into an embroidery design using Ink/Stitch.

Ready to give it a try?

There is certainly a lot to explore in Ink/Stitch, but you can only learn by downloading the program and giving it a try.  Check out the Inkscape website were you can download the Inkscape program.

Then, visit the Ink/Stitch site to download the embroidery extensions.

P.S. Curious about other free embroidery software? 

Believe it or not, Ink/Stitch is not the only free embroidery software available.  There are quite a few others with differing functionality.  

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7 thoughts on “Ink/Stitch: a free embroidery digitizing program

  1. Can I use InkStitch to print out a template or copy of an embroidery design? Not ready to do any digitizing or file manipulating. I’m looking for a free or inexpensive way to print out a template to aid in placing the design. Thank you!

    1. SewWhat-Pro has the capability to print out an outline of your appliqué designs. You can also print the design at actual size for placement.

      1. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for providing this “how-to”! It was extremely helpful for someone who has never worked with embroidery before. Two suggestions I have are:
    1. The process of finishing the Inkstitch export was a little vague. (I pressed apply and quit and Inkstitch closed. I wasn’t sure what to do next since my inkscape image looked exactly as it had before I exported.)
    2. Some recommendations or a link to find what kind of parameters you should select in the “Params” box would be really helpful too. It is really hard to tell if your choices will “look good”.
    Thanks again, I’m so thankful I found your site.

    1. Sarah – thanks so much for the feedback. If you look on the Ink/Stitch website, they discuss the Params in further detail. You may also want to check out a more recent post that I wrote about using Ink/Stitch to create an appliqué file. I just wrote it so it reflects more accurately the current iteration of Ink/Stitch. It seems like they have improved it a bit since I wrote this first post. I’m so happy that you found this to be helpful.

  3. I have a Viking Designer 1 sewing and embroidery machine. My husband converted my computer operating system from Microsoft to Linux Mint. He also installed Virtual Box. I have many purchased embroidery designs that must be converted to the format used by my machine, onto a diskette. For this I’ve been using SewWhatPro. All of my designs are stored in Embird. I access a file I want to stitch out using SewWhatPro, which then writes it onto the diskette for use in stitching out. I don’t do any digitizing. I find Virtual Box very cumbersome for accessing my Embird files and dl to SewWhatPro. I would like to use an open source program to bypass VB. Will Inkscape/Inkscape do this? If not, do you know of an open source program that can do what I need?
    Thank you,
    Reba Ahmad

    1. I am not familiar with Virtual Box. Inkscape is a vector-based drawing tool and the Ink/Stitch will covert the graphic to an embroidery file. I doesn’t sound like this is what you need. It sounds like you need to get your embroidery designs onto your embroidery machine – not create new embroidery designs from vector-based files.

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