What is Embroidery Digitizing?

Nancy Zieman digitized embroidery designs

What is Embroidery Digitizing?

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By Roxanne Nickolie and Denise Abel, Nancy’s Notions’ Guest Bloggers

Nancy Zieman digitized embroidery designs

Digitizing, as it relates to machine embroidery, is the process of translating illustrations into digital embroidery files. This involves a talented group of individuals who account for color, contrast, shape, and design arrangement, plus stitch direction, density, and length. Understanding digitizing is super important for consumers as it helps them differentiate between quality and not-so-quality designs.

Believe it or not, most of our designs start with good ol’ pencil and paper. Our skilled illustrators sketch out each design idea, infusing different elements to capture a style—be it realistic or artistic. Here’s Laure working on Alluring Leaves. If you look carefully, in the background you can see her colored pencils are inserted into the tops of the Madeira thread spools to make sure she’s using the exact color she wants.

Nancy Zieman digitize embroidery designs

Designers are the ones who choose thread colors, and before sending the scanned image to the digitizer, they include a thread chart along with the image. Fun fact: when choosing thread, our designers use the Madeira Thread Treasure Chest as their palette. That’s because it’s a great selection, it’s the type most embroiderers use, and the colors are vibrant and true-to-life.

Next, the illustrations (with thread charts) are sent to a team of expert digitizers. That’s where the drawings are interpreted into embroidery designs. Things like stitch direction, density, and length are determined. Another key element is making sure the designs run smoothly on the embroidery machine with minimum thread breaks. Don’t be fooled—digitizing is an art. Each tiny area of the design is plotted for just the right effect to catch and reflect light. Our digitizers also experiment with how thread colors interact for optimum shading. All of these components work together to create a stitched design that has depth, dimension, and life. Below you can see an actual screen shot of what digitizers see during this process. They use their computer to draw lines on top of the original illustration. Each line stands for a stitch. The closer together the lines are, the more dense the stitches will be. Once completed, they have a computerized 3-D representation of how the stitched-out design will look, as shown in the second photo.

Nancy Zieman digitize embroidery designs

Nancy Zieman digitize embroidery designs

After that’s done, the digitizers send the stitch-outs back to us here at Nancy’s Notions. They enter a thorough quality assurance process to be honed to perfection. First our embroidery experts look at the fabric sample and check—by hand—for knots and density issues.

Nancy Zieman digitize embroidery designs

Then they review the design in embroidery software. The image on the left is the 3D rendering of the design in the computer software, and the right image shows the same design as a density map to check for any potential stitching problems (red means high density of stitches, blue means low density of stitches). The final tweaks are made and the design is finally display-ready.

Nancy Zieman digitize embroidery designs

If you’ve ever been on the Nancy’s Notions website, or bought a Sewing With Nancy embroidery design collection, you’ll notice the cover images are actually scanned images of stitched designs (not computerized images like other distributors). We do that so you can see exactly what you’ll get when you use the designs on your own machine. We want to show you the work we went through to bring you the best quality embroidery possible.

Nancy Zieman digitize embroidery designs

So, that’s digitizing—another tool in your belt for savvy stitching! If you fell in love with the adorable Kitty Christmas Capers designs used in this blog, visit us online to see the whole collection.

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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36 Comments

  • Barbara Markland
    October 28, 2014

    Thank you, that was very interesting. That is some processes to make an embroidery pattern. Now I understand how it all works.

  • Angie Kiker
    October 28, 2014

    Interesting topic. I wonder what digitizing software is being used in this article.

  • Lynne N
    October 28, 2014

    What software is being used for digitizing?

  • Debe
    October 28, 2014

    My guess for type of software is Wilcom (a professional one) as it looks a lot like my Digi MBX that is made by Wilcom. I like digitizing, but am no where near this advanced. When a person tries digitizing it makes one appreciate well digitized designs because of all the work involved! Thanks for this.

  • Claudia Hermansen
    October 28, 2014

    I have realized that it is a lot easier than my very long and frustrating time of trying to digitize a design from a picture someone sends me to embroider for them. I thought that by purchasing (several) expensive digitizing software programs, I would learn to digitize but being mostly self taught, I am now leaving it to the experts. time saved is well worth the price of having someone else do all the hard work! It is truly an art and thank you to all you professional digitizers out there!

  • Patty O'Neill
    October 28, 2014

    This is a wonderful article. I shared it with my facebook friends.

  • Sue Cleek
    October 28, 2014

    I loved reading this article. What I wonder more about is, if one has an idea but is neither an artist or digitizer, where does one go to (pay) someone to make the idea come to fruition – an artist, a digitizer, or someone else? Ad how does one connect with such?

      • Sue Cleek
        October 29, 2014

        Thank you for your response, Nancy! Do you have any you recommend?

  • Avis Cooper
    October 28, 2014

    This is a well-written and informative article. No wonder I appreciate purchasing these designs…someone else has done all the hard work that I don’t understand and I just get to display them on my projects. Thanks to all who make embroidering such an enjoyable experience.

  • Marilyn
    October 28, 2014

    I didn’t realize that there were so many steps to produce the final pattern. I learned something today! Thanks.

  • Ginny
    October 28, 2014

    Enjoyed this article. I had no idea how much work goes into digitizing a design! Perhaps next time I won’t balk at the prices.

  • Berenice
    October 28, 2014

    God bless the digitizers of the world! They keep me going. I really do not think digitizing is my niche!!

  • Arlene
    October 29, 2014

    Thank you for such an interesting and informative article. Now I understand why your designs are so awesome.

  • Ella Liddle
    November 2, 2014

    Thanks for the information. I had no clue what embroidery digitizing was about.Also, thanks for info on watching your shows. : )

  • Candi Cramer
    November 21, 2014

    I have been very interested in learning digitizing machine embroidery designs,I’ve had some exposure to a few different software packages/suites that has been out on the market,I evenpurchased educational DVD’s,but it seems very lacking in having it really work out for me. Where do digitizing professionals go to college/ specifically for this,or is there online college level courses?

    • Richard Carpenter
      December 6, 2014

      Candi: I had been doing digitizing for 20+ years, way before the softwares came. It used to be called punching and tapes, which gave way to softwares now. We had not gone to any school for this, but it was a hands-on training with a lot of mistakes and learning through it. The best suggestion for learning digitizing is by doing it yourselves. Nowadays, the people who sell the software itself provides training. Nothing would suffice, until you jump into it and test thigns out yourselves. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

      My primary business is now being a technician, and rarely digitize any more. To answer Sue Cleek’s question about a good digitizer: A few years ago, I had visited an embroidery location, where the embroidered output was striking. I immediately asked about who the digitizer was. Since then, for the past 8 years, I’ve had many people who asked me about a good digitizer. Every one who I had referred about them had came back with a remarkable story about how their years of problems had gotten solved so easily. I would highly recommend them. When you get a chance, feel free to reach out to http://www.abcoln.com.

      Let them know Rich from usagraphix had referred you to them. My email is: usagraphix at gmail dot com.

  • Ashley Josephhg
    February 16, 2015

    I really like your ideas of embroidery designing. The digitizing idea you have shared is unique and awesome. thank you for sharing this

  • Mark Daniel
    May 4, 2015

    So beautiful inventive embroidery, i truly appriciated 🙂

  • Jeff Hernandez
    July 8, 2015

    Nice article! Nowadays, Embroidery Digitizing is very popular among craft lovers. Embroidery Digitizing is a process of converting embroidery designs into a format that is readable by modern embroidery machines. One more article which I found interesting is http://www.hometalk.com/8732515/seven-insane-but-true-things-about-embroidery-digitizing . You can take a look at it to know more about Embroidery Digitizing.

  • Ryan Jaxon
    April 11, 2016

    this blog is very amazing, and great embroidery digitizing i appreciate this blog,
    Thank you!

  • For growth you need improvement. But to figure out the particular area where e actually improvement required and recommendation, author actually provides all this in just one article.

  • This article gives us a good insight about. Highly appreciated, very thoughtful.

  • Malisa Soe
    October 12, 2016

    It is really a nice article
    This is malisa from Eminent stitches i am offering my services for you. You can digitize your logos from us in such cheap rates we deliver the best. Do consider us at once thanks.

  • Mark Oscar
    December 8, 2016

    This Article was really interesting 🙂 I really appreciate your work 🙂 Keep it up

  • Mark Oscar
    March 13, 2017

    Very nice collection 🙂 Great informative thanks for sharing this post very helpful to users 🙂

  • Embroidery Digitising
    January 29, 2018

    Hey Nancy,
    Thank for this wonderful post : Design logos awesome. I Read you for the first time here and I quite liked the way you have written it. I learn from it so much experience. Keep sharing such informative post with us.

  • Megri Digitizing
    May 14, 2018

    I really love reading articles related to embroidery digitizing. Your blog will contain good knowledge. This post shows that you have quite nice embroidery sense.

  • Sasha White
    June 14, 2018

    Wow! you start from scratch i.e Sketching. I am impressed. Great Work.

  • Digitizing
    April 9, 2019

    Wonderful. I must say that you are extremely talented in the field of embroidery and digitizing.

  • velmy khan
    June 21, 2019

    Kitten project is very nice, I want also share my kitten project with you.

  • Megri Digitizing
    September 14, 2019

    Great, Thank you for sharing with us. Very nice article & have great information.

  • Jamie
    March 12, 2020

    I’m looking at taking a digitizing course online and have been looking at https://digitizingmasterclass.com/dmjk/

    Has anyone else tried this course? If so, what did you think about it?

    They are running a special right now and I’d like to get it but want to make sure it’s a good course to take.

    Any help would be appreciated!

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