Beginner Digitizing

I have almost decided that I need to write a book!


Well, honestly i would not know where to start, so i guess I will just keep blogging and hope that people are interested in learning.

People ask a lot of questions – and questions are great, questions are how we learn and questions make a big difference.  More often than not, I am getting the same question, roughly worded this way “I am an illustrator/graphic design/use AI etc and I now want to take my vector designs and turn them into embroidery to sell them”

OK, great idea!  If you have created some awesome vector illustrations, why not create some embroidery designs too?

I think some people think that embroidery digitizing is easy, they really think you can “turn” vector art into embroidery art.  You can of course, with a few clicks and use auto digitizing, but are those types of designs any good?  No.  No they are not.

Embroidery digitizing is a skill to learn, a trade, a craft and definitely art.  So when someone decides to be a graphic artist, they put the program on their computer, and BAM they are a graphic artist?  NO. It takes hours and hours of work, learning, reading, research, classes and experience to become even a low level graphic artist.  So why do you think digitizing embroidery is any different?  It isn’t.  You have to have the right software, a decent computer, and embroidery machine and lots of time and effort.

Ok, OK, i am ranting a bit, I don’t mean to, but embroidery digitizing is a skill and it is art. And I take my profession seriously.   An artist takes time to develop, it takes effort and a whole bunch of work!!  Dedication is another part of it too – you have to be dedicated to learn your art.

And you have to have an embroidery machine – or know someone who has an embroidery machine.  Before you can be a digitizer, you have to understand embroidery.  You need to know and recognize the different kids of stitches, where to use them and why you can or can’t use them – you can’t learn all of that from a computer screen, its just not the same.  You have to understand the machine, hoop sizes, different embroidery thread, different bobbin thread, different needles and why…and it goes on and on and on.   You need to understand different stabilizers to make your work stitch out perfectly, you need to understand hooping and placement and you need to understand stitch density.  You have to understand that if the density is not right, the whole design will be ruined!  You have to also understand push compensation and pull compensation.  There is no way that you can understand that concept without stitching something out and seeing the puckering on the fabric, or the out of registration objects, because you needed to add some pull compensation.  Whenever I am training someone to work with us, I usually make them spend a few days watching designs stitch out and asking questions – or more than a few hours if they are not picking up on it LOL – they will hoop designs, they will use different backings, etc.   I do that for as long as possible before they sit down to a computer.  Then they have at least a beginning understanding of embroidery, then they can build on that understanding with digitizing.  Once they stitch out their own designs, then they can see right from wrong and will be able to pick out their mistakes.  After all, if you have not seen the right way, how will you be able to know what a mistake even is?

When people ask me “where do I start” that is my answer:  KNOW EMBROIDERY BEFORE YOU START DIGITIZING.   That is a great place to start.  Once you are familiar with all the concepts of embroidery, you will become a better digitizer.

Don’t try and skip steps and wonder why you are having issues – you need to take each step, one at a time, and understand each step.

For everyone that is learning digitizing – CONGRATULATIONS and welcome to the world of embroidery digitizing!  Be proud of all of your accomplishments- even your first digitized-by-you design is a huge accomplishment – that means you have done hours of work,  research, learning, not to mention hours stitching out designs!  Congratulate yourself and feel good about it – it really is a milestone that you can build on to become a great digitizer.   Be dedicated, keep working hard and know your software, and you are well on your way to becoming a digitizer.


Stitch files vs. working file. Whats the big deal?

Trying to edit or change stitch files is the biggest mistake new digitizers make.  You can save yourself lots of frustration if you understand this embroidery rule clearly.

Some new people find this concept confusing:  stitch file vs. working file.  Here is one way that I explain it to people:


Definitions:  stitch file – the stitch file that your machine understands PES, JEF, XXX, DST, etc.

Working file:  depends on your program, but are NOT any of the above files – Hatch and Wilcom are .EMB files,  Embird is EOF,  DG15 is PXF etc.   And no, you cannot take an Embird EOF file into Hatch and work on it – each embroidery software program has its own working file, and these are not interchangeable either.

The only way you can BEND this rule is to simply add lettering to a stitch file.  But thats not what we are talking about here- thats adding lettering to a file, not editing the file.

So yes, we are talking about editing  – changing things, not adding things to the file.

We have that clear.  Stitch files and working files are completely different files.

Then people ask – so what if I take my stitch file (a PES for example) and CALL IT A WORKING FILE.  (example, open up a PES file and do save as EMB), now its a working file, right?  NO.  IT IS STILL A STITCH FILE – NOTHING CHANGES.  YOU CAN’T “CONVERT” A STITCH FILE TO A WORKING FILE, IT JUST DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT.   Thats one embroidery rule that you cannot change.  If you take an apple, and paint the outside an orange color, is it now an orange?  NO.  It is still an apple no matter what you do to it.  Its still an apple.   Thats exactly what people try to do with the stitch files- give it a nice name for a working file (similar to the orange paint) and think that everything changed.  It doesn’t…the stitch file is still a stitch file and the apple is still an apple.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  What you are working on is different from what your machine understands.  If you could take any embroidery file and “magically” turn it into a working file and change the size, edit nodes and have all the editing functions, no one would buy very many designs from digitizers, would they?  If you could change everything that they spend hours creating in a certain way, their embroidery art, if you will – then there would not be many digitizers in business.  The digitizers have the working file, they create it, and they put it out in a stitch format for you to stitch out on your machine.    It is the digitizer’s creation.  And if you create a working file, its YOUR creation.  After all, you really wouldn’t want anyone to change your work, would you?

The stitch files have one purpose:  they are meant to be sent to your machine, and stitch out.   You can resize the whole stitch file a tiny bit, but be aware, you will be introducing errors and problems (and sometimes a big huge mess that breaks machines) if you change the size of the stitch file, or try to do any editing, because stitch files are meant for stitching.  So stitch them out, and enjoy.  Thats it.

I was having this conversation with a friend of mine, and she came up with a great example of visually showing everyone the difference between a stitch file and a working file.

Here is the working file in Wilcom Janome MBX v5


Look over to the right those are the objects in the (funny) shapes that she did.  Each object has a place in the resequenced list – there are only 4 objects in this file:  and each object has a symbol beside it, telling you what kind of stitch was used.  You can easily make many many edits:  click on the object, make it bigger or smaller, change the stitch type, add nodes, remove nodes, add underlay – the list goes on and on.


Here is the same file but as a STITCH FILE:


The design on the screen looks exactly the same, right?  4 objects…but now look over to the right in the objects panel.  Wow, what a difference – there are way more than 4 objects!  Each little piece has a few parts to it…AND THAT IS WHAT THE MACHINE UNDERSTANDS – STEPS TO STITCH.  THATS IT.  So now, if you wanted to change the stitch type on the orange embossed square?  How would you do that?  you can click on the orange, but you have to pick all 10 of the orange parts…and then there are no options to change anything.  That is because it is a stitch file.

That is how you can easily tell the difference between stitch files and working files.

THE EXTENSION:  PES, JEF, XXX, HUS are all files for your machine.

EMB, PXF, EOF are working files, your machine will not understand any of these files.

Take the quote at the top and put it on a sticky note on your computer or desk.  Remember it.  It will save you so much frustration!  most newbie problems begin with trying to change a stitch file.

So if you want to change a stitch file, STOP.  You are not meant to change anything on a stitch file.  Add lettering if you want to – but that is adding not changing.

Thems tha rules.

Embroidery Questions and answers

One of the most frequent questions that we get is ” are you going to do any videos using the _________embroidery software?”

And the quick answer is No.  Not NO because I don’t want to, but no because I do not have the program!    If I had the program, i would most certainly do tutorials on each program!  I have skills that allow me to pick up very quickly on any software that you put in front of me – especially embroidery software.  I absolutely love embroidery software!  Especially new ones, that makes me very happy.  But, breaking the bank to provide tutorials, sadly does not.  If each embroidery program was the same cost as a video game, I would have them ALL.  Quite a few of the embroidery programs cost thousands to own, and clearly that is not an option!

BUT THERE IS A SOLUTION!   Every embroidery company wants to do guides and tutorials on their software – the more people use the software, the more they sell and the happier everyone is.  The issue is most of the time the videos are quite often just about how to use the tools, not how to use the software in a workflow.  The end result is that there are not many useful videos out there!  Lets face it, some of the embroider tutorials are terrible – hard to hear, can’t see the detail, lots of background noise and are simply hard to watch, let alone learn!

MY IDEA IS THIS:  if you want me to work on a different embroidery software – CONTACT THE CREATORS OF THE SOFTWARE and ask them to provide me with a copy!  If enough people ask, they will do it!  They love having popular tutorials out there!    If I can get my hands on different embroidery software, i would be happy to make some awesome tutorials!  So go ahead, get your group together and everyone send an email to the creators, and get them on board with this idea.   You can assure them that I will work hard on their software and provide regular useful (and awesome) tutorials on how to use their software and become Happy Digitizers, no matter what software you use!

Hopefully that will field a lot of the questions that I get.  Right now I have Embird full program (I love embird) and Tajima DG15 (i almost love tajima, lol) and I can only do videos on these programs!   So if you want tutorials on other programs, make your voice heard!  When I say no, I can’t do videos other than Embird or DG15, people don’t really understand – but once I explain this to them, it becomes clear – its really expensive!

In the meantime, you can look forward to more Embird videos, and hopefully in the future some new software videos!

Thanks everyone!


Density and “fixing” files

We often get questions about “fixing” density in files.  Although you can change the density when you are working on EOF files, most of the time the density remains constant, even if you are resizing your objects or moving them around, or both.

The first thing to always remember is that even though you are working on a file in Studio, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is an EOF file.  Sure, you can rename the file .EOF, but it may not have the editing properties of an .EOF file!  For example, if you take a a file in editor, Flower.PES file and bring it into Studio and rename it Flower. EOF, it is still not a native EOF file (it is still a PES stitch file) and all of the editing power of Studio will not work on a stitch file!

So, how can you tell if you can edit a file in Studio?  There are a few ways – if you have CREATED the file in Studio, you will have all of the editing power that Studio can offer to you – including controlling the density.  If you were in editor and brought the file, or parts of the file into Studio, then you do not have a .EOF file, you still have a stitch file and you can’t do much editing.

Going along with the question “how to I fix density” in a file in studio, after many back and forth questions, we come to realize that the person has bought the file from a designer, and wanted to change it in Studio.   They have usually re-sized the file quite a bit, and the density is terrible and makes a complete mess of the file.  The file may look fine in Studio, but stitching it out is a whole other story!

So here are some straight up embroidery rules to live by:

  1.  If you buy embroidery files, remember that you can’t edit those files.   You must contact the designer if you want help changing the size.  Keep in mind that most designers offer the file in different sizes – if you buy the file small one month, and then need it large another time, you have to go back and buy the larger file – there can be big differences from big to small.
  2. IF YOU DIDN’T CREATE IT, don’t mess with it!  You will create a density mess, among other things!
  3. DON’T BRING FILES INTO STUDIO…you can create files in studio, or re-open previously created files in studio and you will not have any density issues.
  4. DON’T STITCH OUT FILES BEFORE CHECKING DENSITY!   When I create a file, i check density, view in 3D and then do the stitch simulator to make sure things are in the right place.

IN CONCLUSION:  Do not change or edit the stitch files that you have bought!  DO NOT BRING THEM INTO STUDIO AND EXPECT THEM TO BE EDITABLE IN STUDIO.  After all, the designer has designed the stitch files, and probably does not want you to make any changes anyways!   Save yourself the frustration and hassle of changing someone else’s files.    Instead of wasting time, effort, thread materials and possibly damaging your machine, do the digitizing yourself and learn the program, or use the design as you have bought it.  Your machine will thank you!

That is all 🙂






Classroom Tips

Hi Everyone! Here are some tips suggestions for everyone attending our weekly classes:
Sign up in advance for the classes to reserve your seat in the class.  We are still “testing” the new software for the classroom, and so far we think that its simple and easy for everyone to use – it gives more of a classroom type setting – you can join the OML school, and then join different classes!  You have a nice record of upcoming classes, too.   Thats another reason why we suggest below that you sign up for the Classroom as well as the classes.
When you are signing up, register on the e-lecta site for the OML classroom. Once you are signed up as a student, you will have access to an abundance of information – including the dates and times of your upcoming classes! If your attendance email gets lost or shows up too late for class, you can simply to to the classroom and sign into your account and get in that way! Super easy!
I would suggest that you show up for the class early : you can get into the classroom 15 minutes before class starts- that gives everyone time to check their audio and microphone to make sure everything works! We are there doing the same things, so stop in early and say HI!!  If you  are having any issues you can always put your hand up and type into the chat box and let us know how we can help!

Make sure that you have a good internet connection for streaming. If you have slow internet, your internet connection might be lost and you may have issues streaming the class! But everyone who signs up for the class will get a free copy of the video of the whole class, so you won’t miss a thing!
Most importantly, if you are having any issues at all about anything at all, you can email us or call us and we will help you out! Of course if you email or call during class time, we can’t answer because we are teaching a class 🙂
Hope that helps everyone, and we look forward to seeing you in the classroom for some great embroidery digitizing lessons!

Embird: Stitch files vs. EOF files

Hey everyone!  Hope your digitizing is going well and you are having lots of fun learning Embird and playing with the program!

I just wanted to post a quick reminder about the difference between stitch files and EOF files, so everyone can have nice stitch outs and avoid any digitizing hassles.

Stitch files:  OK, i could copy and paste a nice definition of what exactly a stitch file is, but I think putting it in normal words would be better.  A stitch file is the “final” stitch file that you can use to send to your machine.  Your machine will only understand one basic stitch file – for example .PES.   I called the stitch file “final” because it is basically in the format to send to your machine – the right size, the right colors etc.  You can make some small changes to the stitch file in Editor AND studio, but only small changes – for example, you can make a 10% size enlargement and have no issues with density or stitch coverage.

OK, so one of the major misconceptions is that if you take a stitch file and use the drop down list that says “edit stitch file in studio” and make some edits in studio and save over it as an EOF file, that makes it an EOF file, so you can edit it like you would a native EOF file.


The stitch file is ALWAYS A STITCH FILE, no matter where you edit it.  Just because you bring it into Studio, or even call it an EOF file, it is still a stitch file.   The only  fully editable files are native EOF files – the ones you created from scratch in Studio.  So even if you bring the PES file into studio, it is still a stitch file, and all Editor Stitch file rules still apply.

Hope that  helps everyone understand what you can and cannot do with a stitch file and the difference between a true EOF file and a stitch file in Studio.






What is Embroidery Digitizing???

Machine embroidery digitizing is an art form.

Using embroidery digitizing software, a skilled embroidery digitizer transforms an image or text to stitches, creating the image in a file format an embroidery machine can read.

That’s a fine definition but the reality is somewhat more involved. Just as typing words into a word processor does not make one an author, being able to open digitizing software on a computer does not make the operator an embroidery digitizer. Embroidery digitizing is not a click-the-button-and-sit-back process.
Digitizing an image for embroidery requires an artist’s ability to see the big picture and the smallest of details. Experienced embroidery digitizers mentally dissect each image, breaking it out into sections and layers, noting how each section relates to the others, how the colors blend and merge and how the shadows play with the light to create the mood or atmosphere the image evokes.
Then the digitizer utilizes the software’s tools to separate those sections for redrawing or resizing, stitching in underlay and overlay threads, assigning stitching sequences, using thread to apply shading, and colorizing. The design put back together to create that original impression, as much as is possible, in thread and it is ready for its first sew out.

Sometimes digitizing an image to thread is often not possible nor feasible. Thread is three-dimensional; it is not oil paint or digital pixels. An embroidery digitizer must have an artist’s creativity and problem-solving skills. A digitizer’s canvas is the computer monitor, the keyboard and mouse are the brushes and the embroidery digitizer’s pallet is the embroidery software.

But the embroider’s canvas is the fabric, her brushes are the machine, needles and thread and her pallet is the program produced by the digitizer. The machine is only a robot awaiting instructions and then doing precisely what it is told to do in the order it is told to do it. Ruling out mechanical problems or operator error, if a pattern does not sew out correctly it is not the machine or embroider’s fault.

The digitizer’s work is not confined to a computer screen. Knowledge of fabric types and the push-pull factor of each is also required. The embroidery digitizer also needs to know about needles, thread, and stabilizers and, perhaps most importantly, must creatively expand the ‘boundaries’ of machine embroidery.


Easy Digitizing Mistakes

In the embroidery industry there are thousands of digitizers that still make basic mistakes when making designs. Issues from a poorly digitized design could be unnecessary trims, unnecessary jumps, too many color changes and not enough compensation, to dense, and the list goes on.

  1. Lack of Planning

This is usually seen on new digitizers as they are able to draw the design and on-screen it looks okay, but when they so it out your machine your machine jumps unnecessary and there are too many trims. Making the sew out slower than it needs be. You will also likely to have simulated thread breaks caused by lack of lock stitches and or trimming on small letters.

  1. No Underlay or wrong style for application

This is one of the hardest things to learn is which underlay works best for the stitch types, the wrong underlay or no underlay can distort the design and cause issues while embroidering it, specially on different fabric types.

  1.  Improper Pull Compensation

You need to understand Pull Compensation and you need to know how much is enough vs too much or too little, a poorly digitized design may have underlay sticking out as the compensation was not right for the design, or there are too much underlay and the designs is distorting. Below is a chart to gauge one aspect of the compensation factor, elasticity.  The other factors include, type of backing, type of underlay and design characteristics.

  1.  Improper Density

This is another giveaway of a new digitizer, producing designs that are “ bullet proof “ meaning that the density is too high (often when using layers of thread you can reduce the density by 1/3 to compensate for the different layers), or too little density and the underlay or garment will show through. The other factor is the fabric , towels need underlay to hold the nap down and bit more density than the standard to prevent the gaps where strands can poke through.

  1. Stitch Direction

This is one issue that is up to the designer, but I don’t usually like plain, flat designs where the fill type is the same throughout the design. Using different stitch angles gives the design character, and often will make the design look more attractive than all the stitches going the same way.

  1. No Lock Stitches

Generally putting lock stitches is optional on some materials however some will require it to make sure it doesn’t unravel, I like it on jackets, knits and jersey material and especially on sports apparel or spandex. Having lock stitches will help prevent the stitches from unraveling.

  1. Fill Types

A problem with many digitizers they do not know how the fill types affect the design, years ago Pulse used to provide a book with a pattern of the different types of fills, this would give you a visual on what the end result would look like. Too many digitizers use the same old patterns for all their designs. I recommend choosing the fill type suited to the design.

8 Stitch Lengths

This can impact underlay when it sticks out from the sides of letters, or might be a cause to higher densities, and or coverage. Small letters you see this a lot, if a letter is 4 mm high and the stitch length is defaulted to .12″ (3 mm) than the default settings is not going to work.  .05″ will drop the stitch length to 1.2 mm this will allow the underlay to conform to the smaller text sizes, not compensating for this the underlay will not cover the design, stick out or cause other distortion issues.

  1. Wrong stitch type for width

This is something you should as a digitizer have an idea, you will see issue like a satin stitch being too large causing loopy stitches, needless trims, gaps in the design, or too dense for the area. We did cover some of these terms in the blog for Stitch types, but general    Fills  .04″ to Infinite,   Satin 03″ to 40″,  Steil 03″ to .20″   runs stitches don’t have limitations –  its one stitch after another except on program fills and they are used like a fill. But you can adjust them to reduce the size.

  1. Wrong application for design

This is one that people often get wrong, ie a left chest design doesn’t always work for caps as it pushes the design or distorts the design on the hat, hats generally require a design to sew out from the center to the left and center to the right to push in equal directions, other comparisons you would not want a design designed for knit fabrics used on nylon as you often see the design pucker.