Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3: Creating a digitized design using Bernina Artista Designer Plus Software

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

As I mentioned in my previous post I’ve tried most of the embroidery digitizing software out there over the last 10 years or so, and even after trying the latest greatest I always tend to come back to my stand by software, Bernina’s Artista Designer Plus. In this post I will take you step by step how I use it to create my own custom designs which are then stitched on my latest sewing projects.

Step 1: Get ready! Get set! Start your software! GO!

Do you have it up and going?

Great! Here we go!

You will notice that when Artista starts up it will be in freehand stitch placement mode where you can just draw stitches or shapes in freehand mode. This is the mode most embroidery software starts in.


We need to change it to picture mode so we can load our previously touched up artwork and trace the bitmapped image using the auto trace tool. To do this click on the picture tab up at the top of the design screen. Then click on the icon in the left toolbar that looks like a flower coming out of a folder. This is the Load Picture tool.


When the file browser comes up you can select your touched up artwork saved in a variety of formats like BMP (Bitmap), JPG (Jpeg), PNG (Ping), etc. I will be using my Mickey Indy Graphic that I touched up in Part 1 of this blog series. Click on the one you want to digitize and then click the Open button in the file browser and your design screen should now look like this.


The next step is to use the built in Artwork Preparation Tool on the left toolbar as shown below. Once you click on it the Artwork Preparation window will pop up and show you the number of colors in your design as shown below. You want to choose an amount of colors that still gives you good detail of the design, but no more than necessary. I never use more than 16, but I usually try to stay around 4-8 colors if possible.


Once you choose your number of colors and click on ok Artista will decrease the number of colors and smooth any lines in your design it can. It will also create large single color blocks if possible. This will provide the auto digitizing function with less work to do in the next step.

The next step is to take your prepared artwork and use the auto digitizer tool to insert stitches over your artwork. To do this click on the Design tab at the top of your design window as shown below. Then click on the Select Tool in the left toolbar. Next click on the prepared artwork image on the right. This will select it so it can be auto digitized. To do that click on the AutoDigitizer Tool on the left toolbar. It looks like a paintbrush with multicolored paint on it.

At this point you will see an AutoDigitizer window pop up where you can change your Fills and Details stitch types. I normally leave these settings at their defaults but you can use the different stitch types to create different looks for your designs. Choose your stitch types or leave it at the default and click on the OK button.


Now you should see the bar at the bottom showing that the AutoDigitizer is creating the different stitch objects of your design. Once it has finished your design window should look like the screen below.


If you click on the Artistic View tab you should now see a 3D representation of your completed auto digitized design as shown below.


This is all looking pretty good at this point except you will notice that it automatically digitized the white background of the design.

I don’t want this to stitch so it needs to be removed.

So I click back on the Design Tab up at the top of the design window. Then I click on the object Select Tool on the left toolbar (it looks like a white arrow). Then I click on the edge of the portion of the white background and it will be selected and turn to a pink color to show it selected.


Then I just hit the delete key on my keyboard and POOF it’s gone! It should now look like the screen below.


You can click on the Artistic View Tab at the top again to make sure you are satisfied with the results. Now make sure and use the File/Save As menu option from the top to save your design. Artista offers several design formats to save to so choose the one your embroidery machine uses. I always save in the PES format since I have Brother machines.


That is it! You are all done! Now you can change thread colors or resize your completed design to make it larger or smaller or rotate it, mirror it, or whatever else you would like to do with it using the built in tools.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post series, I sure had a lot of fun creating it!

Please let me know if you would like to see other topics covered or if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer.

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

62 thoughts on “Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3

  1. Great tutorial on the Bernina software 🙂 I will try and apply the steps on Embird or other software that does auto-digitizing. Is your software actually called “Artista” or is it Deisgner Plus, and what version?

  2. I enjoyed your tutorial and learned a lot. I have been exploring different software ( to purchase) for digitizing but I always seem to be drawn back to Bernina. I am interested in scanning my designs for appliques. Does this software allow you to do this? Also does this software allow you to adjust changes manually ( stitch density etc.). Thanks again!!! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments. Yes it will allow you to digitize designs for appliques. And yes it will allow you manual adjustment of just about anything including stitch density.

  3. Thank you for your refreshing post. I too have issues with all the software. However, I think Bernina might be too expensive for me. I currently use PE Design for Photo digitizing and then tweak it in Embird…quite the pain. I sure would love to do this as a job but it is so work intensive that it’s not worth the time. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Wow! I do have sympathy for you! I would never even consider editing anything in embird outside of simple conversions and color changes. And I wish you the very best!

  4. A few people have asked the same question several times recently, so I’m just going to combine them in this single answer for brevity’s sake.

    Q: What software did you use to create this design?

    A: Bernina Artista Designer Plus Version 4.xx.

    I’m sure I mentioned that info in the previous post in this series, but the TL;DR version is above for you in any case.


  5. Wow! that was so informative. As with digitizing, creating that excellent tutorial must have been a labor of love. I also have a Brother and recently purchased PE Design Next. Am muddling through it. Sadly, there isn’t much support here in Honolulu. Any tutorials out there like yours showing the steps to digitize a picture?

    Mahalo, Linda

    • No I am sorry I have not really had time to sit down and do something similar for the other software packages out there yet. I do need to update the posts in the future though so I will try to add that in when I do the next update on them.

  6. Perfect! I am not great with computers and I have been hesitant to dig in to the digital embroidery stuff but these 3 articles you have shared have given me confidence and have fueled my curiosity. I am sure I am not the only one, either. Thank you VERY MUCH for the effort you put onto this blog. This is one I will definitely be following!

  7. it was really interesting topic.
    Thanks to google I stumbled upon this blog.
    Just 2 questions, as your post was made in 2011:
    – are you still using the same software? Because the world of software changes very often
    – is it compatible with newer embroidery machines of pfaff, singer, …?

    I found it quite frustrating to buy a quite expensive machine and to be “forced” using their prepared patterns. It looks like ahandicap. On google or on their website (fabricator) you do not find a clear answer on it.

    • Yes I still use the same software and it is working just fine for me. In the world of technology things go by pretty fast, but in the world of sewing and embroidery things do not actually progress all that quickly at all.

      Yes the software will work just fine with all the latest machines from all the manufactures. There is also embroidery type conversion software available, like Embird that I mentioned in my blog posts that will quickly move one type of design to another for you.

      Yes using just the machines ‘built in’ designs is definitely a handicap and being able to use others, including ones you design yourself opens up such a new world of possibilities!

  8. Dear Lanita,

    I’m into boutique business, planning to include embroidery, was not having any idea about from where to start. You’ve answered many of my questions through your blog. I will bookmark the blog for future guidance. Thank you so much

  9. Hi Lanita,

    As another already stated, your blog has been more informative than weeks of research! I will soon be purchasing my first embroidery machine, most likely the Brother PE-770. But as I’ve never used one before, I’m doing a lot of research on software and I have two questions I’m hoping you’ll be kind enough to help me with.

    I’m looking to embroider tiny designs, in particular tiny discs the size of nickels and dimes, containing flowers. I will create these drawings myself using Adobe Illustrator but then I must transfer them to a program that will digitize them for embroidery. Since I’m only looking to use my machine for original designs, and not for clip art and other ready made designs, will Embird be enough, in your opinion? And my other question is will I be able to use other stitches than satin? For example can I make the stems with a chain stitch or fill in the petals with chain stitch or something resembling French knots?
    Thank you so much for any help you can offer!

    • No embird will not help you out in this regard at all. You will need to purchase true embroidery digitizing software to do what you want to do and embird is not it. You will most likely want to go with the lowest cost software from Brother since that is the machine you will be using it with. From a new user stand point it will all just work together much better. You can download a free 30 day trial from the brother website to try it out and make sure it will work for you and I think the software itself is somewhere around $199-$249 to purchase the lowest cost option.

      And yes you should be able to ‘fill’ things with whatever pattern and stitch type you decide would work best for you.

      Best of luck!

    • Just curious as to why you said Embird would not help her, as Embird has a full digitizing program, Embird Studio. She certainly can digitize with Embird Studio, at a cost much less than PE Design. 🙂

    • I would love to hear more about why you thought my answer was incorrect first so that I may better answer your question.

      I do not believe that embird itself will help her. It is great for conversions and such, but for editing uses… Well let me just put this little blurb from their website here:

      “Basic Embird program resizes, splits, edits, displays, prints and converts embroidery designs. There are several optional plug-in programs and alphabets available for Embird, expanding its capabilities with digitizing, lettering, cross stitch designs, conversion of TrueType fonts into embroidery, etc.”

      Now embird STUDIO with all the plugins, which I think are around what $500 USD now in total may help her, but why not go the lower cost option and pick up a nicely used version of PE-Design 5/6/7/8 off of ebay or amazon for the under $200 range which should work great for and with her brother machine. Back in the day when the full pop embird studio with all the plugins was under $150 I used to recommend it more often.

      Now if cost is not a concern, but I am guessing that due to her choice of machines it very much is, I would of course have a very different recommendation.

    • Hi, sorry to be so late with my reply, health issues/weekend stuff got in the way.

      What I found incorrect in your reply was exactly what you added later above 🙂 It was the “at all” at the end of your sentence, saying that Embird would not help her “at all”, as well as saying Embird was not a true digitizing software. As Embird WILL help her, and it IS a true digitizing program IF she includes Studio in her purchase. In your reply to her, you didn’t mention Studio. Most Embird users just refer to Embird as ‘Embird’, there is no real distinction until you start talking editing versus digitizing. 🙂

      I actually started with an old copy of PE Design 6. It was a friends that no longer used it. There are some things to be aware of when buying software on ebay. One can receive copies, hacked versions, and upgraded or broken dongles. One person I know got a hacked version, and got a virus. Another got an upgraded base software and the dongle didn’t work so she couldn’t install. Also, Amy has to make sure that if she has Windows 8, to make sure those older versions will run on it, and hopefully future versions of Windows. I actually watched on ebay for a legitimate PE Design for a lower price than Embird and I never could find one, so I tried Embird and was so glad I did. I bought everything but Sfumato and I plan to buy it eventually, because my very expensive photo stitch type software included with Wilcom Designer e3 is paltry compared to Sfumato, lol.

      I did not like PE Design, but it’s not to say that Amy wouldn’t, it’s just for the little bit more money, she has a legal, fully upgradable, fully current, maintained, feature-rich piece of software that will do most anything she wants. The upgrades are around 20 bucks every couple of years. This software could last her forever. So it would be a good buy. There are also TONS of tutorials and user groups to help her get started. Way more than PE Design. If she wants to use Illustrator, she should get Font Engine as well. Embird will not allow her to import AI files, as most digitizing software will not, but it will allow her to bring in vectors to Embird. I’m just putting forth the other side of the coin. I balked at the price at first, but it was WELL worth the money. I am just going to a higher level with digitizing and wanted more control, so I moved on to Wilcom but still use Embird for cross stitch and other things. 🙂 🙂

    • Gina,

      No big deal. It is summer after all. Enjoy it while you can. In 12 short weeks it will all be over again for another season! I do this as a hobby myself so I don’t watch over it 24/7/365 either.

      Yes you are correct in that she did not mention ‘Embird Studio’ vs. ‘Embird’ and so I had to guess that she meant the normal one without the add-ons to allow it to digitize things.

      Yes you are right to be concerned about getting a bad copy on ebay or amazon but that is why they have no questions asked return policies on both these days. I order lots from both and anytime I have had a problem they get it fixed up toot sweet! I don’t really worry about viruses and malware these days since those can pretty much come from any direction and several times a day in this day and age. I just make sure to keep an up to date internet security solution like norton on my computer and don’t do any terribly unsafe things on the internet while using it.

      As I mentioned in my series of articles, I didn’t really care for PE-Design either which is why I don’t use it any longer, even though it is one of the ones I started out with so long ago. It was always ‘too simple’ for me. I wanted to do some advanced stuff and it just wouldn’t allow it which is why I went with what I use now. But I do still stick by my original premise that it is very easy to get up to speed with and very simple to use. And not terribly expensive if you get a good deal on it. PE-Design 6/7/8 are all available for a reasonable cost in my opinion considering what they do. And more importantly for a beginner, it is made by BROTHER to work with BROTHER hardware. Brother dealers will also offer training classes on how to use PE-Design but not on Embird. Some people need hands on instruction, some do not.

      I think most people after a few years with PE-Design tend to outgrow it. PE-Design 9/10 (Also called PE-Design NEXT) has added several very nice features that the older ones were lacking and it has a much more sophisticated auto-punch system (like sfumato stitch), but for the cost I would still go in another direction than it.

      But most of all, I think for a beginner it is important to stay small and simple and in-expensive until you get your feet wet enough to know what direction you are headed. And you figure out just how much money and time you are willing to dedicate to this endeavor.

      But at the end of the day it is why I recommend to everyone to download them all. Try them out thoroughly while under their 30 day free trial periods and see what makes you the happiest. It’s what I did, and I know what I chose because of doing it. Without doing what I did I would have made a very poor judgement based on my original research.

      Stay Shiny!

  10. Thank you so much for your information! And you are spot on – my choice of machines is based on budget. So I do appreciate you steering me towards a more cost effective software. I will be checking in regularly to your blog, your projects are adorable and your information invaluable!

  11. Hi Lanita,
    I thought I replied to this email already but since I don’t see it here I guess it didn’t go through. Yes, you are spot on about me having a small budget (actually I thought I had a big budget until I saw the price of the machines and software! lol!) Thank you for your advice, it makes total sense. And I will be checking in often to this blog as it is the best resource I have found regarding digitizing.

  12. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I was scared before that this would be a very difficult process, but you made it look so simple! Do you have a post about porting it over to the Brother machines? I’m brand new at this and really have no idea what I’m doing. Thank you so much!

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Before I answer your question though, please know that no, digitizing your own designs is not a simple process, not in the least. It takes dedication, patience and skill.

      With my tutorials I was trying to teach some basic skills and a concept of what is involved in doing it so they would know what they could expect.

      But no, teaching you to use your brother machine and possibly brother digitizing software is beyond the scope of this blog. I did my best to give newbies and oldies alike some basic expectations and ideas of how to create something on their own rather than just always using the ‘in the machine’ designs and I hope I did that, but it wasn’t supposed to be an all in one training course. There are many books, videos on youtube and other tutorials on other blogs to do most anything available out there on the internet somewhere so do a search and see what you can find. I mention a few of my favorites in various blog posts of mine. I wish you the best of luck!

  13. I want to know what is the best affordable sewing machine that will allow me to import my own designs? I was looking at a brother innov-is 1500 but i’m not sure if it will let me do my own designs.

  14. Hi I have the opportunity to buy a used Brother 4000D, ($2,000 AUD 1050 GBP?) this unit is for my daughter & its a present she is a Mac user so therefore will want to design/digitise I looked at the links on 2/Sew Forth and Sew On & I believe Stitchbuddy? has progressed since you wrote that blog, what are your thoughts, I know the history of the user/machine very well looked after & only selling to upgrade. She will also want to do her own designs/patterns not only replicate generic designs etc your thoughts?

    • If the machine is in good condition that sounds like a good price. I still love mine! Yes Stitchbuddy has progressed some since my post and it can do more editing, but it still isn’t a full digitizing option. You will need to stick with another software option for that purpose.

    • Thank you yes the seller takes pride in her machines, they are like her children or grandchildren, haha. She has offered to show her how to use it and has a vast knowledge. So what software do you recommend its hard to explain but putting it simply she wants to draw patterns/images like abstract painting you could say & transpose them into stitches?

    • I would think any of the digitizing software that I covered in my embroidery software posts would work great. The best thing to do of you can is visit a dealer and try the software they offer to see what fits best for her work flow. If not start with embird and PES design which are free demo downloads and see if one of those will work.

  15. I have recently bought Bernina 750QE with embroidery version and have a Mac computer. I am searching for software to create and cut my own designs. Do you think TruEmbroidery software is just as compatible as the Bernina software?

    • I would think so yes. As I mentioned in my post, There are only 3 or 4 software developers in the world that produce the embroidery software that every one else slaps their name on and sells as their own.

      TruEmbroidery is basically just the Husqvarna Viking 4D, 5D, 6D software made by SVP ported over to work on the Mac OS.

      Personally I dislike their whole module for this, module for that type of mentality and it confuses me greatly. But, if you like it and you can get a good price on it, I say go for it!

    • Thank Lanita. Do you mean the TruEmbroidery module is confusing? Is that because of the difference between Apple and Windows?
      My other option is to stick with Bernina software and invest in a cheap windows computer. What do you think?

    • I’m guessing by your comments that you have not tried out the TruEmbroidery software before. Make sure you spend some time with whatever solution you are considering before spending any money on it. Personally if you already have the Bernina software I would get parallels or VMware fusion software to run Windows on my Mac and just use the Bernina software that way. It is the way I run it here on my Mac and it works great for me.

  16. I am new to Bernina embroidery and looking to digitize my collection of cross stitch patterns , as I can no longer do miniature cross stitch due to arthritis , is this a viable ambition ?

    • I would say that it is. Almost all of the higher end embroidery software packages I have used have special cross stitch modules that should let you do that.

  17. Thank you so much for your posts they are enormously helpful.
    I am an experienced dressmaker but completely new to machine embroidery.
    I am purchasing a Britannia Instyle 200 plus embroidery unit and the Essentials software (aka Embrilliance I believe) so a very exciting time.
    I have no fear of the computer part of the operation being an IT professional but I am hoping the merging of my 2 skills won’t be too painful.
    From your blogs 9thank you again) and what I have read elsewhere the most important points are a good quality design to start with and loads of patience to make sure you digitize it appropriately BEFORE you start stitching.
    Thanks again for your excellent advice and wish me luck as I dive in to this fascinating world.

    • Thank you for your comment and I do wish you the very best of luck. It is a hobby that has brought me both immense frustration at times, and immense joy at other times.

  18. Thank you sharing your process. I have the bernina software v6 and it’s the best of all the home digitizing software I’ve found out there. I run a small contract sewing business where I do everything from simple alterations to custom projects, and custom one-off embroidery. I’ve been digitizing embroidery for about 4 years now. I was self taught because there are not a lot of resources for learning digitizing. I see you’re using the auto digitizer. I’ve never had good luck with that feature, I usually manually digitize everything. For me it takes the same amount of time to fix the graphics I’m using as it does to just manually digitize it.

    My biggest issue with the auto digitizing is the stitch direction and odd shaped portions it creates. Often it will put curve nodes where straight nodes need to be or too many nodes in one spot. Looking at your design I see a few of the things that I would have issues with. Did you stitch out this design? I’d love to see what it looks like on fabric.

    • Not everyone is an artist or has any hope of being one. I wish I could just sit down and manually digitize whatever is in my head, but for me and most others, it just isn’t possible.

      I agree that sometimes the auto digitizing doesn’t come out quite like one might hope, but it is easy enough to click on a section that you would like stitched differently and manually select what you want. It is what I do when I run into that problem anyway.

      And of course I stitched out the design I created. Several times as a matter of fact on several different projects. A simple search on my blog would have turned up this for you: https://sewforthandsewon.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/i-had-no-choice/

      As you can see, it turned out beautifully!

  19. Thank you for the picture it looks great. It’s very interested to see the different way everyone uses the same products. I’m am always looking for new or different ways to create better embroidery. I really enjoy your blog.

  20. Hi! I might have missed it but I wanted to ask…

    I am buying a Viking Jade 35 in a few weeks. It has basic software design on it so it is limited. I am however really great at photoshop/designing. I know that does not really help me with embroidering unfortunately. My question is this…

    I have priced the design programs for viking and the prices were about 500, 1000 and the one with the most diverse and usuable program is almost 3000. This is the one that I want, of course, bc I can make my own design but I am also poor. The older version is still around 1300 for the software… again, poor. lol Short story long… Will your suggested program work with any embroidery machine? or do I have to sell my first born for the 3000 dollar one? (Just kidding, I would never)

    Since I am investing so much into my first machine, I dont have a lot left over for the designing program so now I am a little freaked out. I want to start a side business to help make ends meet. I hope that my rambling is understandable. lol

    Thank you!

    • Yes the one I recommend will work fine but I recommend purchasing the least expensive option until you get used to it and learn a little more about the process. Then after you have tried out a few different demos of the available software you will have a better understanding of what you need and what you don’t and what price you can expect to pay.

      Download Embird or the Brother embroidery software demos from their respective websites and give each one a try and see if it will do what you need it too. Once you get more comfortable with the software you can decide if it is worth paying for or not. You can get the basic version of each for around $199. If that works for you, I doubt you will need to get anything more. All of the software makers make sure that their software works for all of the different manufactures products so don’t worry about the whole VikingBerninaBrother thing. You can get any of the software and when saving the file just tell it to save the file in the type your machine is compatible with and you are fine.


  21. Hei Lanita.
    I have a old but great pfaff creative 7570 embroidery/sewing machine. do you are familiar with old embroidery machine and softwares, like pfaff VIP software? If so, can you help me a little with it. like you show, to digitize in your blog, is it possible with my software?

    • I am pretty sure Pfaff stopped using or supporting that software sometime around 2008 or 2009. They use a newer embroidery system today. Your software might still be able to do what you want but I doubt I could be much help.

      Try one of the newer much more simpler to use software packages like the studio or sfumato stitch plugins for Embird. They are simple to use, not very expensive and have a very large support system available. You can find more info on it at embird.com

  22. I have looked all over the internet for an answer but have found no specifics. What are all the formats the Bernina software will save to? I would like to use it with my Singer Quintet but it would need to save to XXX. Is that possible?

    • Yea!!! Thank you so much. I am spending my “stay”cation in June at home practicing on my machine with the Bernina software. Want to do some fundraising this year by embroidering towels for breast cancer awareness. I am so excited.

  23. As much as I would love to buy the software you are using, can you recommend a low priced software where I can take .pes files (like letters) and put them together to make words instead of doing them separately on the fabric and aligning each one. Thank you.

  24. What density should a full cover design be so it will look good and not
    be overdone. I use an older PE-Design 6 to resize using stitch-to-block.
    Default is 114 density and I just converted a full stitch design to about 6.5 x 6.5 (puppy head) with 117,000 stitched. That seems tooooooo much. At 79 density it is still 85,000.

    • Density is certainly dependent on design and fabric type but I always reduce the design to the absolute minimum I can that will still allow the design to look good.

  25. OMG! I finally was able to digitize a design after having my software 10+ years. The Bernina dealers in my area didn’t have the knowledge and didn’t offer classes and not a lot of tutorials online. With this article I was able to muddle through a design. Thank You I’m so excited.

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