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Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 1

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 1: How to get a usable graphic image ready to digitize.

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

Happy Fall Everyone! I thought I would give all my lovely readers something great to start Fall, the 1st of October (my favorite month) and the weekend with, so without further ado, here it is!

Before I start talking about the software used to digitize your own designs, and how to go about digitizing on your own, I need to talk about the first step in the process.

And that step is to first get the artwork you want to use, and then making it usable to be digitized.

This is the most important step in the process, and if you do it correctly it will usually take the most time.

The hardest part of the whole process is getting good artwork and tweaking it so that you will have no problems digitizing it using your choice of software later on.

If you don’t do this step first your end results will most often end in frustration and disaster.

I can not stress this point enough, if you don’t spend the time now getting your artwork in good shape before digitizing, you will spend hours and hours later trying to fix it.

Please don’t try to use badly photographed or the lowest resolution clip art that you have downloaded off of some website somewhere on the internet that is no larger than a postage stamp, you won’t like your finished results.

Try to make sure your artwork is clean and in a medium to high-resolution format. I usually like to start with something at least in the 300×300 pixel size range. Of course if you have some camera ready artwork of 1200+ pixels in size you should be in great shape and you should get some excellent results without too much tweaking.

ALWAYS REMEMBER! The lower the resolution of the item you are trying to digitize is, the more work you will have to do up front in a graphic editor getting it ready to digitize.

Of course you don’t need to have great camera ready artwork to start with. If you have a simple idea of what you want, you can just sit down with a piece of blank white paper and sketch out a simple design of what you are trying to create. I’m no artist, so I usually try to use something that has already been drawn by someone else and go from there. But if you cannot do that, just sketch something simple onto a piece of plain white paper and either scan it in or take a photograph of your sketch to get it into your computer to get started on the process of cleaning up the bitmapped graphic before you begin the digitizing part.

Here are a few photos to show you what I am talking about in the good art department.

original1

To the left is an original photo I found on the internet somewhere. I really wanted to use the Indy Mickey graphic for an embroidery design but I didn’t want to use the background since it is very complicated and it wouldn’t embroider well.

The first thing I did was extract Mickey from the background graphic. I won’t be describing the exact process or software I used to do this since almost any graphics editing software can do this process of snapping out an object from the background of a photo. Do a search on the internet for ‘remove a background from a photo’ and you will find several great articles and tools on how to do this.

Of course the most common graphics editors used to do this type of work are Adobe’s Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. They are great tools to use for this. But there are many others that are very usable and are available for very little money or for free in shareware and freeware tools.

Ok!

Now once you have the graphic that you want extracted from the background you should have something that looks like Image 1 below.image-1-2-3This is a good start, but it still needs to be edited by hand a little more to remove more detail before going any further.

This next step is a very important one too.

On most designs you will want to have a heavy black edge around the entire design to help with digitizing later on.

So if you look closely at Image 2 you can see how I traced around all of the lighter lines around the border and the light grey colored areas to make them thick dark black lines and curves.

This little bit of editing here will give you a nice dark satin stitch around the border of your design once we the design digitized.

Here is my edited image a little further on in the process.

image-4In Images 3 and 4 I am getting really close to the final bitmapped image that I will put into my digitizing software.

You will notice that I have continued to edit the graphic until I have changed the hair and teeth on the golden idol to more solid colors rather than the individual fine lines that the original graphic had. I’ve also simplified the shoe strings and shadows on the shoes since at smaller sizes these would end up being unrecognizable blobs of knotted up thread on your embroidery machine once it was stitched out.

And you don’t want that.

It’s a mess!

In Image 4 you can see that I changed some of the colors in the graphic to other colors that already exist in the graphics design to reduce the number of thread colors I would need to use when digitizing the graphic.

The fewer colors you have  in your bitmapped graphic once it has been tweaked, the easier it will be to get a good digitized embroidery design in the end.

When embroidering something on a machine that needs to punch thousands and thousands of holes using a needle into a very small area, fewer colors means fewer punches.

The fewer the punches that are needed, the happier you will be with your end results.

Luckily for you, most graphic editing software tools have a great feature that will reduce the amount of available colors in a graphic image easily or automatically for you by using color averaging.

It’s best to reduce the image you are working with to 256 colors or less before trying to digitize it.

I usually prefer to stick with under 16 colors in my embroidery designs. 8 is better still.

Sometimes you do need more colors than that to make your design work though, and that is ok too.

It just won’t be as sharp and precise of a design in the end.

Well I hope that gives you a pretty good idea on how to get your original ideas, concepts and designs into your computer and get them into a condition that will work well for digitizing.

The next step will be to get that graphic into your embroidery software and finishing the touching up and final digitizing of the design.

I will cover that in my next how to: Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2.

Part 2 of this series is HERE, Part 3 of this series is HERE.