Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2: Which Digitizing Software should I use?
(Updated: June 13th, 2015)
First let’s get a few things out of the way.
The software you use to digitize your designs probably isn’t going to be a very important decision for you.
At first glance this might come as a surprise. But the reason I say that is simple.
Most of the embroidery machine makers usually have their own in house software that is made by a third party company for them. They don’t make their own software in house. There are only 2 or 3 major embroidery software creation companies in the world that create this embroidery software for them so they will all pretty much work the same way and have most of the same features.
So no matter what brand of embroidery machine you have, you can usually use whatever digitizing software you like or that suits you best for the job at hand.
Now they will tell you that you have to use their software so that you have the proper hoop support or the right thread colors, etc. but that is all bunk.
They are just trying to lock you into their particular product so that you always have to purchase their support, their updates, their supplies, etc.
Don’t buy into their hype and sales pitch.
I’ve been using a different manufactures brand software than the one that made my embroidery machines for over 10 years now without any problems whatsoever so use what YOU want to, not what they want you to use.
I have always only owned Brother embroidery machines (for why read this previous blog post), but I dislike their PE-DESIGN embroidery software that comes with their machines. It’s seems too simplistic to me, and it will not allow me to do some things I like to do, the way I like to do them, so I use Bernina’s Artista (Now called Bernina Designer Plus) software instead.
Why do I use this particular software rather than another?
Well for me, it was because I spent a lot of time at different sewing machine stores trying out everything they had in software (digitizing software) and hardware (embroidery machines) before I purchased anything.
What I found by doing this was that after using Bernina’s Artista, Brother’s PE-DESIGN, Husqvarna Viking’s 4D/5D, Janome’s Digitizer/Customizer, Pfaff’s Creative 4D/5D, Singer’s PSW (Professional Sew -Ware), and several others along the way, I just liked the way the Bernina Artista software worked the best.
More than anything it fit the way I seemed to want to work. So many of the embroidery software packages I tried just kept putting up road blocks and getting in my way. The Artista software never seems to get in my way, it let’s me get in and get what I need done, get out of it and get on with actually stitching out the design on my machine.
Most of the embroidery software comes in what they call modules. What that means is if you want to do resizing you have to load a single program to do just that. But then say you need to change the colors or maybe digitize something? Well that will require that you close the program you are in and load another one instead. And you have to continue to re-load the same design into the different modules over and over again.
That was a real pain in the keister!
The Viking and Pfaff software really suffer from this since the same company makes them both. I think they have something like 14 modules in all to let you use all of the different features they offer.
The Bernina Artista software has all of the modules built in to the same program and will allow you to switch modes by just clicking a button in the toolbar. Simple, reliable, and easy to learn.
Bernina’s software is created by the world leader in embroidery software Wilcom, who also makes their own commercial software called Wilcom Embroidery Studio (Wilcom ES) for the big embroidery houses to which they happily charge $5000.00 PLUS for a license to use it. I’ve used a demo of the Wilcom ES software and I can’t see anything I’m missing in my Bernina Software. Not for a personal home user anyway.
Now I am sure many will disagree with my choice of software and will say how much they love this one or that one because of this or that feature.
And I won’t disagree with them. I’m sure they love what they use.
I am just telling you why I use the software that I use. I’m not saying that it is better than one software or another, just that it works best for me and how I like to do things.
I should mention at this point that I am an Apple Mac user and that most of my embroidery software is used on my Mac using Virtual Machine software running Windows XP.
Unfortunately for us Mac users, there is very little native Mac compatible embroidery software available, and the Mac compatible software that is out there is VERY expensive and is only made for commercial embroidery designers.
There are a couple of bright spots on the horizon though.
A friend of mine, Matthias Arndt, in Germany has for the last few years, been creating a Mac compatible embroidery software capable of letting you resize, recolor, flip, convert designs between several different formats and much more. His software is called StitchBuddy. It still will not let you fully digitize designs but it may in the future. It is shareware and can be tried out for free before you need to purchase it at a cost of $50. I was a beta tester for the early versions and I think it is coming along fine. He seems to add new features to it a couple of times a year. He also makes a Quick Look plugin and a Spotlight Importer which he provides for free to let you view your embroidery designs and search for them in the Mac’s Finder. All very, very cool tools and they have decreased my need to start up Windows on my Mac far less than I previously needed too.
One other company called BriTon Leap has recently started converting their Windows embroidery tools to the Mac, but they are close to 3 times the cost of Matthias’s Mac tools. Still they are much less expensive than something like PE-DESIGN or Bernina Artista, etc. They make a Quick Look Plugin called Embrilliance Thumbnailer, a design converter called Convert it, mac, and what seems to be the first steps of a full blown Mac compatible digitizer called Embrilliance Essentials.
BriTon Leap also has a new product called StitchArtist which runs on the Mac and will let you do more complete digitizing than their Essentials product will. I have not reviewed this product yet, but once I do I will add my thoughts on it here.
They also have a demo that you can download to try out their software before you have to pay for it. Clicking on any of the links above will take you directly to their respective websites for more information on their products. I wish I could say I was making money by linking to them here, but I’m not. I’m just trying to help out some friends I believe in and pass the word to other Mac users.
Ever since the smartphone (iPhone and Android) and tablet revolution (iPad and Android) of a few years back, there have been several new tools released to help you digitize and convert designs on your smart phone or tablet. Both Matthias Arndt with his StitchBuddy HD and BriTon Leaps AirStitch app’s look interesting. I am currently trying out several of these new app’s and I will report back here and in a new post reviewing those tools specifically at a later date.
Stay tuned for part 3 of this series where I will take you step by step through a typical (for me anyway) digitizing session where I take the touched up artwork I created in part 1 and convert it to a fully useable, stitchable design.