As the world’s most awarded embroidery digitizer, I’ve had tens of thousands of people ask me: what is embroidery digitizing? Although the answer to this can be rather complex, in the simplest of forms:

Embroidery digitizing is the process of using embroidery software to transform artwork into an embroidery design file that can run on your embroidery machine to create stitches.

what is embroidery digitizing

Although the explanation above is rather simple, I assure you that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Embroidery digitizing is like painting with stitches, and just like painting, certain rules apply. Digitizing is all about the physical attributes of machine embroidery and learning how to use digitizing software to get the results you want. Choosing the appropriate stitch type, settings, & direction is where the real learning curve is involved.

If you want to learn more about how to edit and create unique designs with embroidery digitizing, I highly suggest you check out our fan-favorite Free Embroidery Digitizing 101: Video Course & Cheat Sheet. It’ll give you a foundation of embroidery digitizing theory that EVERY embroiderer should know to help you get better results by understanding what’s really happening underneath your needle.

What All Can I Digitize into Embroidery?

This is where the real fun is involved.

You can digitize just about any piece of artwork or image imaginable to turn it into your own custom machine embroidery design!

Whether it be your children’s drawings, a company’s logo, or an image you found on the internet, chances are you can digitize it.

Now keep in mind, there are some limitations in place. Unlike printing something, machine embroidery has more limitations in place because we’re dealing with physical mediums like thread and fabric. That said, you couldn’t digitize the Mona Lisa onto a 2-inch patch and expect the same level of detail.

As a general rule, the smaller the size of the design, the less detail you can put into it. Because of this, for tiny designs and logos you must often adjust your artwork accordingly before you start digitizing your digital files.

Do I Need To Be Artistic To Digitize?

you don't have to be an artist to digitize embroidery

Another question I often get is, “do I have to be artistic to digitize my own machine embroidery designs?”. The answer to this is:

No, you don’t have to be artistic to become a digitizer.

I can barely draw a stick figure myself, yet I’ve won over 30 awards for digitizing in the commercial industry and have done work for thousands of large corporations. Although I’m not an artist, I would certainly consider myself ‘creative’. You can be a very creative person and still not be an artist. Every machine embroidery hobbyist I’ve met I would consider to be creative. This means that you’re just as qualified to become a digitizer as anyone else!

How Long Does It Take To Learn Embroidery Digitizing?

In my opinion, this is a bit of a loaded question because the answer really depends on the type of embroidery you’re looking to create and how much time you’re willing to invest.

Like any other hobby, the amount of proper instruction & the positive results you experience will directly reflect the amount of interest you have in learning. Things like underlay stitches, understanding the three basic embroidery stitch types (running stitch, fill and satin stitches), push & pull compensation, and density are all key aspects that must be considered when learning how to transform artwork into an embroidery design.

I understand that some of these words (or all of them) might be new to you and seem foreign. The main thing to remember is that much like painting, digitizing is an art form that simply requires patience and, of course, a guiding hand from the right instructor. If creating or editing your own custom embroidery designs is something you’re interested in, this is where my online interactive digitizing education will prove an invaluable resource for you. Having over 10,000 students take my online interactive lessons with proven results, I’m happy to say that we guarantee that we can get you past the learning curve quickly & easily or your money back.

Which Embroidery Digitizing Software Should I Use?

To properly answer this question, I highly suggest you check out my other blog article, “what is the best embroidery digitizing software”?

It breaks down some of the key factors you should consider while looking into digitizing software.

Hatch Embroidery Digitizing Software

However, for now, I would suggest you download a free 30-day trial of Hatch embroidery software through us (we’ll even throw in some bonuses) to make sure digitizing is something you’d like to pursue before you financially invest in it.

Embroidery Digitizing Is Not New (Sort of)

Although embroidery software and embroidery file formats are new and constantly evolving, the age-old rules of how thread interacts with fabric are not. In fact, they’re thousands of years old!

Now keep in mind that machine embroidery (compared to hand embroidery) is still somewhat new, starting in the nineteenth century. But still, contrary to popular belief, embroidery digitizing didn’t start with computers.

No, machine embroidery used to be done on Schiffli looms that were 10-15 yards long and produced hundreds of pieces at a time. These machines were operated by Schiffli master digitizers who manually commanded and traced each stitch in live time (each master apprenticed for 10 years to learn their trade)!

Schiffli Embroidery Machine & Digitizer

I’m proud to say that as far I know, I am the last Schiffli master digitizer still alive and teaching in North America (I know most of you know my story, so I’ll stop it there)…

The point I’m trying to make is that although these days software makes things A LOT easier by putting most of the digitizing process on “autopilot” for you, embroidery is an artform dealing with the physical mediums of thread and fabric which are governed by rules. Because of this, there is some basic embroidery theory that every embroiderer should learn to really understand how embroidery designs are created and how to get the best results, even if you don’t want to learn how to digitize fully!

I Want To Try Digitizing. Where Do I Start?

Embroidery Digitizing 101

Hopefully, now you can see that digitizing is comprised of 2 parts. Theory and software. Owning only software is kind of like using a calculator, if you don’t know how to add or subtract (theory), the calculator won’t do you much good.

Because of this, I would highly suggest you check out our free Embroidery Digitizing 101: Cheat Sheet video course by clicking here. Whether you’re new or a more experienced digitizer, this course covers some essential theories that EVERY embroidered should know.

Conclusion: Is Embroidery Digitizing For You?

Embroidery digitizing example
Embroidery digitizing finished results

The thing about embroidery digitizing is that it’s like olives… some people really like it, some people really don’t. Either way is fine! I realize that digitizing is not for everyone; it’s either you love it or hate it.

So is machine embroidery digitizing for you? Well, there’s only one way to find out…

Before you invest any money in digitizing software, I highly suggest you download the 30-day free trial of Hatch embroidery software through us to see if digitizing is something you’d like to move forward with. I’m even sweetening the pot & throwing in some free digitizing lessons (with artwork you can load in) so you get the full digitizing experience.

Or, at the very least, check out our free Embroidery Digitizing 101: Cheat Sheet video course. Whether you want to digitize or not, the theory you’ll learn will help improve every aspect of your embroidery…

… Plus, both options are 100% free! What do you have to lose? Best of luck in your digitizing journey and please feel free to reach out if you have any question! Remember the name of our site says it all