Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here.

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.

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here. Part 3 of the Series is here.

31 thoughts on “Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2

  1. Oooh, can’t wait for Part 3!!!! Interesting read. I would not like all the little modules and opening and closing. Thank you for mentioning that. I haven’t tried any digitizing software yet, haven’t even downloaded the trial of Embird yet. But I’m interested to see how Artista works in your next installment.

  2. Gina thanks for waiting patiently for the new posts! Sorry it is taking so long to get them all done, but I didn’t think anyone was interested in the series, then the holidays were upon us, and well enough excuses. Luckily Part 3 is already completed and it should be up in a few weeks from now. So you won’t have to wait much longer.

    Embird is a good program for what it was designed for. And that is embroidery format conversions. Simple but good. Today it suffers from the module problem since like 12 different people create all of the different modules for it. One company makes the lettering portion, another the digitizing portion, and so one. Many years ago when it was one of the only embroidery format conversion tools on the market I used it all the time. Even then though I never cared for it much, plus it was always crashing on me in the middle of trying to do something and loosing all of my work. After I got fed up with it a few years ago I switched to Buzz Tools and have now moved on to using the Mac Tools I mention in the article for my conversions. As for digitizing though I have stuck with the Bernina software through 3 major versions. I have not tried the new version 6 of the Bernina software, but I am planning a trip to a dealer shortly to see if it offers any reason for me to upgrade to it.

  3. I’ve seen it for as low as $100 used on ebay. Just type in bernina embroidery software or something similar to search for it. The latest version from your dealer is usually around $1200 for the Designer Plus version. Or free if you buy a new Bernina embroidery machine of course.

    If you are just starting out the lowest cost machine version is probably Brother’s PE-DESIGN. It can usually be purchased at dealers for below $500 and used ones on Amazon and ebay much less.

    I guess I should ask you what embroidery machine you have and what you are looking to accomplish before I advise you further.

  4. Well, I have a used 270D right now, lol, which is a Brother. But I am ready to take the dive and move up to a bigger used or new machine, most likely the Brother 4000D upgraded to a 4500D, or a brand new Brother 4500D if I can swing it. Obviously, you are familiar with these machines 🙂

    I haven’t tried ANY embroidery software other than SewWhatPro.

    I am very familiar with Photoshop, Illustrator, and those types of tools. I used to be a website/graphic designer several years ago, and hobby photographer. Are you familiar with this software? I’m interested in the Bernina software because from what I understand it has Corel Draw in it, which is close enough probably to what I am used to in Illustrator. I am extremely interested to see the workflow of the Bernina software you will post. 🙂 If you want, we can continue through email. Feel free to write through the email link on my comments.

  5. Hi, this is my first look at programmable sewing/embroidery machines and digitizing software. I am a graphic artist, always used macs, always known how to sew and embroider by hand, and now am starting to sell some of my designs that I hand-embroider. I find your blog posts on this subject very informative, easy to understand, and excellent advice. I’m now thinking it might be more competitive of me to try machine embroidery(?) I enjoy sewing by hand but also love the designing and technology side of things.

  6. I am in a delimma. I presently have a PC with XP and use my PE Design on this computer. I’ve bought a Mac laptop but can’t use the PE Design on it. Now, my PC needs to be replaced and I don’t know if I should go with another Mac and have them install Windows XP on it or should I stay with a PC and buy another PE Design that will support Windows 7 or 8. Embrilliance will work on a Mac and with all the programs necessary to actually transfer a design to a card, it will cost about $300. Looks like it will cost much more to buy another newer version of PE Design to work with Windows 7 or 8. I really like the Mac computers but don’t want to give up my embroidery. Any one familiar with Embrilliance?

    • You should be able to use your existing PE-Design with your Mac. You just need to install VMWare’s Fusion or Parallels Desktop software and then you should be able to copy your existing PC’s Hard Drive to your Mac using the guides in the Fusion or Parallels Desktop software to do that. Then on your Mac when you start Fusion or Desktop you should have your old PC running in a window on your Mac and you can do everything you used to do before on your PC on your Mac.

      It’s all really quite magical and I have been very pleased with doing it this way for the past 7 years or so. It works great and when I am done using my Windows embroidery software I just close the PC window running Windows on my Mac and it shuts down Windows and I continue to use my Mac as a Mac.

      If you read my Embroidery Software posts you should see where I mention this is how I do it on my Mac. You can do a web search on the above mentioned products to find out more. It’s been awhile. I should probably update my Embroidery software posts at this point. Maybe later.

      I’ve tried Embrilliance and it is fine and works well, but it isn’t a replacement for some of the better Windows Embroidery Software out there that I use. But as always, it is your choice what you do. I just wanted to let you know what works for me.

  7. I would like your recommendation on which embroidery machine to buy. All my sewing machines are Brothers. I am advanced in sewing but beginner in embroidery. I would like to be able to design my own, upload them to the sewing machine and voila.

    • Well if you like the Brothers I would say stick with them. The new Brother Innov-is 5000 looks to be a solid machine with most everything someone might want with a reasonable cost. Take a look at it. The Quattro’s are really really nice but they are overkill for most people.


  8. Look at PlayOnMac. You can install Embird 2013 on Mac or Linux. This works only with Embird 2013.
    Another contender on Mac is TrueEmbroidery.

    • Hey that is great! So I guess using playonmac would be like using CrossOver for Mac or Linux to do the same thing? I’ve had good luck using CrossOver to run Embird when I tested it. I wonder why you might use one versus the other? Have you tried them both? Is one better for that purpose than the other?

      I have been meaning to have a look at TrueEmbroidery but since it comes from the same people that do the Viking software for Husqvarna and my previous bad experiences with it I am somewhat apprehensive about it. Also knowing the cost of the Viking software I can hazard a guess as to what they want for the TrueEmbroidery software $$$$. How do you like using it versus the other software I mentioned?

      I wish they had a downloadable demo I could try without a 200 mile trip to a sewing shop so I could test drive it first. Ah well. It is on my to do list for my next sewing trip.

  9. VERY VERY HELPFUL! Please do not underestimate the value of your knowledge and experience! For those of us who are just starting out, “Digitizing” is a new word and a new world. The more information you can share, the better! Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write these articles!


  10. I’m buying a simple Brother embroidery machine and want to use it to create a special presentation bag to put my self-published books in. I want to put my books’ logos on them and want to use the new machine’s USB capacity to import self-created embroidery designs. I don’t have thousands of dollars, and I’m very concerned about trying to create the logos with this special software and find it doesn’t work, is a waste of money I don’t have, etc etc. I have a Mac. Your post is now two years old. What software would you recommend to create the logos? What else would you recommend that I do ?

    • Ah yes, I get this question a lot it seems…

      Give me it all, give it to me now, and give it to me for free or next to nothing.

      The short version (tl;dr) is this: You might be better off finding a local embroidery shop that actually does this for a living and has the skills and the tools to do this small batch job for you. It will most likely save you a lot of money and heartache.

      But the longer version if you care to read this far is this: Yes of course this will work to do exactly what you want it to do! Hopefully you have planned on around 6 months of dedicated work to get the machine, learn it’s in’s and out’s and do’s and don’ts, as well as the embroidery software you have chosen to use it’s in’s and out’s and do’s and don’ts. Once you have done all of that you should be ready to start on your project and have a fairly good chance of success with it. If not, I would choose the short version I previously mentioned above.

      If you choose the longer version you can download the free 30 day trial version of the Brother PE-Design NEXT 9.xx software from their web site and get started on learning it and creating your first designs long before you ever purchase your embroidery machine to see if it’s for you or not.

      And just because my series of posts on “Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs” is over two years old does not make the skills and tips I was trying to teach any less useful. It took me over three months of research and effort during my own very limited amount of free time, while I was not at work to create those posts just so the information they presented would be a little bit timeless. I would love for people to send me envelopes full of money so I could quit my day job which currently pays the bills and continually keep those types of posts updated, but alas I’m not holding out that is going to happen anytime in the near future.

      But best of luck with your project!

  11. Lanita hi just been reading you blogs superb, I am just starting out with new embroidery machine going to buy a digitizing program a brother one as I have a brother embroidery machine wish me luck

  12. Hi I just bought the singer legacy sewing and embroidery machine . I was hoping their software which you can use your photos and turn them into embroidery design . Like you can do with cross stitch . But sad to say just had email saying their soft ware wouldn’t support Mac ☹️ I’m not sure if the software they use for turning photos into embroidery only works on their Futura . Just wondered if any one knows if there is software for this purpose that would be compatible with the Singer Legacy 😩 Sue

    • What you want is called auto digitizing software and the only software available as of April 2016 to do that on a mac is TruEmbroidery 3 for Mac. It is quite expensive though. Around $2500.00 USD.

      For something less expensive but would require that you have access to a pc running windows or install a virtual windows emulator like Parallels or VMWare Fusion on you mac so you could run windows on it you could try these which are much less expensive:

      Listed in order of cost, low to high.
      Brother PE-DESIGN

    • Boy that sure isn’t what the singer website shows. It says that model is a sewing only model. But that doesn’t really matter. Yes singer embroidery machines use .xxx embroidery designs and all of the software I mention in my articles will create designs in the .xxx singer embroidery format just fine. Enjoy!

  13. Hi, I am a new machine embroiderer and very much appreciate this series, a welcome change from all the corporate-sponsored non-opinions out there. You mentioned in this series that you were going to take a look at StitchArtist and AirStitch. I’m a Mac user and my instinct is to use a Mac-based product rather than running a Windows product under Parallels or whatever. So I was hoping you might do your review of the new Mac programs soon 🙂 Thanks very much for all the work you put into this series.

    • I have been working with them as I have time and I’m hoping this winter to get those additions made to the series. But this isn’t a paying job for me as it is for so many other bloggers these days. I can only do as much as my very limited amount of free time will allow.

      In the meantime while you wait, you might want to checkout the Brother Macbroidery software. I’ve been having pretty good luck with it. A 30 day trial is available HERE.

    • Thanks Lanita! I am also amazed how many bloggers are getting paid (and sometimes with such low quality — I wonder how they are chosen). I understand the time it takes, just wanted to let you know that someone is reading 🙂

  14. Thank you for this post full of information. I brand new to machine embroidery. I am looking for software that will convert a picture to redwork. Is there such a product out there?
    Thank you !

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