What Every Embroiderer Should Know About Contract Digitizers

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digitizing embroidery contract digitizers

A well-digitized design is the foundation of the embroidery process; whether a company is digitizing in-house or is outsourcing this service, it’s the most critical step in promoting both quality and profits. Most newcomers to the industry purchase embroidery equipment and digitizing software at the same time. In my opinion, many end up purchasing levels of software that they won’t be ready for some time. Many people don’t realize that although both spectrums of the industry are closely intertwined, there are entirely separate learning curves involved with both.

The learning curve

The learning curve to mastering the embroidery process is the first hurdle to be crossed…

As most people realize, it can take many months, if not years, before you can feel completely comfortable with all the variables that go along with embroidery. It’s not as simple as one first perceives; you’ve got to learn about threads, needles, backings, toppings, hooping techniques, fabric types, different applications, and so on. That in itself is enough to make your head spin.

Want to learn more about embroidery thread, stabilizers, and hooping tricks? Check out our other blog articles, Types Of Machine Embroidery Threads And When To Use Them, Complete Guide to Machine Embroidery Stabilizers, and Hooping Tutorial, Tips, & Aids

Adding full scale digitizing and expecting to use it right off the bat is only a recipe for disaster. Most who do get very frustrated and end up giving up on their software.

That’s where finding a good digitizer is a must. Right off the bat, your finished product should look as if you’ve been in the industry for years. And you’ll also end up reducing the amount of damaged and poor quality products produced, which when you’re starting out, can quickly affect your bottom line. The single most significant attribute when using a quality digitizer is the theory that can be learned by simply watching how the designs run. 

The digitizing process is quite simple if you have the right foundation.

It consists of utilizing the proper mapping, density, and underlay techniques for the given design and application. Even though it is very repetitive with the number of variables involved, it is a skill that takes time and patience to master. It has been said that some of the best digitizers had their beginnings as machine operators. With years of watching a machine they learn how designs and garments react, and when they do take that step into digitizing, they benefit from thinking in stitches and not just in graphics and software. 

What to look for in a contract digitizer

What you should be looking for in a contract digitizer is quite simple; someone who gives you consistent quality, convenience and meets your delivery requirement at a price point you’re comfortable with. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it! But finding an individual or firm that meets all these criteria is usually a hit and miss game. So the best advice I can give is to shop around and ask a lot of questions before making a decision.


The first question I would ask is the credentials of the person or firm. How long have they been digitizing for and their background in the industry? If they have more than one digitizer on staff, ask about their training methods and their employees’ level of experience. 

Countless times people asked me, “ok, if I start using you guys, can I make sure you are the one digitizing all my designs?” The answer is always no. However, a digitizing firm that operates properly will train their apprentices to use the same methods that built its reputation in the first place.

digitized leopard


The work should be consistent no matter who digitized it. Asking for test files is a good practice. Keep in mind that these files you receive will more than likely be flawless. Consistency, once you’ve started using them, is the real determining factor.


Convenience is critical and falls into many different levels. First, is there a good administrative department in place with quick response times, toll-free numbers, and online order and quote forms to assist you? And for the most part, are potential issues regarding the production of the design addressed at the time of placing your order. There is nothing worse than getting “that call” the day the order’s due, with problems or revisions that should have been taken care of in the first place! 

Second, is there an in-house art department that gives practical solutions in assessing your designs? We all know that most printed graphics need to be changed and revised to some extent when being transformed into embroidery. Asking policies for acceptable art formats and when reproduction costs may apply will eliminate any surprises down the road. The company should have its art department or digitizers assess potential problems regarding the artwork at the quotation level, not after the orders have been placed! 

And thirdly, are the digitizers accessible to answer questions regarding digitizing, production, and editing issues. A well-trained digitizer will have a wealth of experience relating to design and production issues. Our in-house policy has always been that we try to better educate our customers regarding our digitizing services and assist with other production-related issues. If they are more proficient and profitable, then so are we.


As time goes on, I’ve noticed more emphasis on delivery over the years. When I first started, my standard delivery was 5-7 business days, and customers accepted it as industry standards. Now standard delivery for most firms I’m familiar with is around 3-4 business days. And many firms offer the same day and 1 days services as well. It’s quite obvious our business has changed, but it doesn’t differ from any other aspect of today’s society; our customers wanted it yesterday, and it’s our job to comply. 

My grandmother, who started in the Schiffli industry in the ’50s, frequently reminds me that in her day, 6-8 weeks was the expected norm in the industry and that she’s glad to be long retired. The point is, now more than ever, reliability with your digitizers’ ability to meet your delivery requirements is a must. Production schedules are usually prepared based on when you are expecting your completed designs and deliveries, and more importantly, your reputation depends on it!


The next one is what we call in-house the “Oops” factor; let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. Even if you’re using the best digitizer in the world, there will still be certain circumstances and situations when editing will be required after the finished design has been sent. A good digitizer will drop everything to make sure that the problem is rectified quickly. Most times, problems like these occur when you are at the production stage, and your machine is left standing. Your digitizers’ job is to fix your problem within minutes not to lose much production time. At this point, you should feel as if your digitizer is as accessible as your staff.


As far as pricing goes, you can determine what you perceive as a good value. The reason I say this is that you can have one person where the price point is everything. It doesn’t matter if the quality is poor or if the designs aren’t production friendly, as long as they’re cheap, they’re happy.

I feel there is a misconception in the industry that you must be really expensive if you are considered good. Most of those in the industry whom I would consider being the best in the digitizing field have adjusted their pricing along the way and are very competitive. Always remember; a well-digitized design will always increase your production and profits.

Conclusion: choosing the right digitizer

There are many factors to consider when choosing a contract digitizer. Although there is no right answer, you must decide what personally works for you.

If you don’t want to look around for a digitizer, why not become one? We offer a free Digitizing Made Easy Challenge that can help assist you on your embroidery digitizing journey.

Don’t have embroidery software? We’ve got you covered. Try out a free 30-day Hatch Embroidery Software Trial here.