The 3 Basic Steps To Proficient Digitizing

Each aspect you make while digitising embroidered designs appears to be shrouded in an arcane fog of phrases, numbers, and measurements the first time you try it. Every aspect of a design necessitates a slew of choices: which underlay should you use? I’m not sure how far between these stitches should be. What kind of stitch should I use for this? It might be intimidating, especially if you’re brand new to machine embroidery and haven’t spent any time stitching stock files before diving into the production of bespoke designs.

However, there is some good news. Educational resources, unlike when I first learned, are widely available, largely on-demand, and frequently free. The issue is that a novice digitizer has no idea what they need to know in the first place. They frequently seek tutorials on software tools, oblivious to the fact that their problems have less to do with which buttons to press and more to do with why and when one should press a button at all. They forget that the final output of their labours is the embroidery itself, not the digitised file, which may or may not be the product they want to sell or create.

You wouldn’t stop at your tools if you were learning hand embroidery; you’d assume you needed to know more than how to tighten a hoop and thread a needle. The abstraction of the digital step in machine embroidery causes some new digitizers to overlook the second half of the process; in their rush to learn the technology, they overlook the need to learn embroidery, never realising that the two are completely inseparable.

Simply put, three types of knowledge are required for competent digitising, and software is only one of them.

These are the three types of knowledge required by a good digitizer:

  • A Working Knowledge Of Materials And Equipment
  • You should have a basic understanding of how embroidery machines work and what functions they can perform.
  • You should understand how thread behaves while stitching and how specific threads, needles, and fabrics interact with one another.
  • You should understand how materials withstand embroidery stresses and how stabilisers keep material solid as it runs.
  • You must understand how thread tension affects a design and how to keep the bobbin and top thread tensions balanced.
  • You must understand how tight a garment should be hooped and why either too tight or too loose framing can be harmful.

In short, you should understand how the materials used and the methods used to combine them affect the appearance of an embroidered piece.

Technical Understanding of Embroidery and Digitizing

  • You should be aware of the different types of stitches that machine embroidery can produce, as well as the maximum and minimum sizes for which any given stitch type or element is suitable.
  • You must understand how close to place the stitches in order to completely cover the material without putting undue strain on the ground or making the decoration too stiff.
  • You should be able to express embroidery measurements.
  • You must understand the functions of underlay and how it combats garment show-through.
  • You should be aware of the various types of distortion that can occur during embroidery and how to avoid them in order to maintain registration.
  • To make designs that flow logically from one area to the next, you must learn the order in which elements should be run.
  • To avoid unravelling, you should understand the effect of changing stitch angles, how to use overlaps, proper cornering and joints, and when to use ‘tie’ stitches.

To summarise, you must understand the nature of embroidery and how it is used to create images, as well as how stitch placement, direction of travel, and the stitch types used can affect the final look and feel of the design.

A Knowledge of Software

Finally, we arrive at the knowledge that most people are interested in: learning how to manipulate software. Though we apply all other knowledge to create and correct our designs in the digitising software, no knowledge of the tools can replace knowledge of embroidery itself. Being well-versed in your software necessitates an understanding of the tools included in the package they’ve chosen.

  • You should be able to use them to create shapes and specify all stitch variables relevant to the shape, such as stitch type, density, start and end points, design sequence, and any automatic settings such as pull compensation or automatic underlay.
  • You should also learn how to import different art files from which to digitise, how to set up your digital work area with the proper measurements and guides needed to properly judge the finished size of the elements, and how to adjust the default stitch settings for a given design.
  • You should be able to create, edit, and resequence elements, as well as export files in the correct format for each machine.

You could be forgiven for thinking that after that description of what you need to know, we’re awash in an insurmountable deluge of shoulds and musts, but obtaining this knowledge is easier than it may appear if we know where to look. Building a holistic understanding of embroidery is very possible if we use the following six types of resources.

Experience with Embroidery

The act of embroidering teaches much of the necessary fundamental knowledge, particularly in terms of materials and equipment. It cannot be overstated that watching well-crafted designs run provides an almost visceral understanding of sequencing, distortion compensation, and construction. This direct demonstration of the interaction of materials, machinery, and digitization is priceless. Existing embroiderers who have converted to digitizers already follow this natural process, but some designers may be unaware of how beneficial this hands-on learning can be. Nothing on this list prepares you better for digitising than time spent diligently embroidering for so long that it is approached with curiosity.

Design Analysis

This analysis, which is performed by examining the digitised file in software, broadens your embroidery experience by allowing for more detailed observation. Watching designs run virtually in software, measuring and identifying stitch types and elements in the file, and observing and measuring physical samples of said file provides the inexperienced digitizer with firsthand knowledge of how much elements distort when stitched and how stitch settings influence embroidery outcomes.


This third type of knowledge will be aided by vendor-specific help files and tutorials attached to your software, as well as third-party educational books and videos geared toward its use. The documentation teaches the tools and settings of the software suite, as well as some general technical information. Whereas manuals were once the only source of information, today’s digitizers benefit from webinars, blog posts, podcasts, and videos about their software and the general operation of embroidery and digitising.

There are also a plethora of free magazines and websites; I recommend that home embroiderers look into commercial embroidery resources; magazines like Printwear, for whom I write a monthly column, are technical treasure troves.

Even if your goal is purely recreational or artistic exploration, you’ll find useful information on every aspect of controlling your stitches and maximising the use of your materials.


Experimentation is possible once experience has been gained, analysis has revealed its secrets, and documentation has shown you how to use your tools. Create test designs by replicating settings and elements seen in analysis and using cues from embroidery experience. By analysing and measuring your own embroidery files, you can refine designs, re-test, and document the settings that work for any combination of materials.


Another important source of information is the Internet’s communities, which range from social media groups to vendor- and user-supported forums. Embroiderers of all skill levels freely share their embroidery and digitising experiences. Though documentation isn’t always as relevant to one’s specific kit, there’s an abundance of torture-tested, real-life information floating around if you’re careful to sort out the skill level of the commenters.

Read More About : Digitizing for Brother Machine And Services

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