Digitizing Designs

I have been diligently working on digitizing designs and trying to optimize the way they stitch out. (You can see the designs I have digitized at the bottom of the Samples page). I am starting to work on designs that can be sold and/or used on products for customers and thought I would do a new post on how this process works for those of you that are new to embroidery and/or the digitizing process. It's actually quite interesting.

First, there are multiple embroidery software products available on the market that range in price. A lot of people ask which one is the right one to buy and the answer is the one that fits you and your budget the best. I would encourage people to take advantage of demo/trial versions to give it a good test run before you purchase any product if it is available. But for this design, I used Hatch by Wilcom. I also have Embird, but since I purchased Hatch, I have been using it exclusively for my digitizing. Both products are great, they are just different and I've found the learning curve for Hatch is not quite as steep.

Ok, so what is the digitizing process? It is the process of taking a piece of artwork/clipart/image of some sort and turning it into an embroidery design that stitches out smoothly and looks great on fabric. This process should optimize the number of times your machine has to stop to change colors and it should also optimize how many times your machine has to jump or trim to go from one location to another in the design. It should not be too dense or pull and make puckers in your fabric you are putting the design on. Suffice to say there are many factors to consider when creating the design and there are great videos out there that explain all these factors so I won't be taking the time to do that here.

The Planning Process

Once you have a piece of artwork that you want to digitize, you have to plan the process of digitizing it. In this example we're going to work with this design (from Clipartopolis). Isn't he cute!!

So in evaluating this artwork for the digitizing process, you have to look at the layers of the object. For example, the tail is behind the back leg and the back leg is behind the front legs and chest and the neck is behind the collar, and so on. You want to digitize the parts that are behind other parts first.

Starting to Digitize

I started with the tail first. I used a standard fill object, clicked around the outside of it to close the fill area, changed the angle a bit, and it was done. From there I was already right where I needed to be to digitize that right back leg and hip area. For the next part I needed to get from that leg/hip over to the other back leg that was hidden behind the front legs there....and which is actually in two pieces. So I created what's called a connection or running stitch that took me from the hip/leg over to the top portion of the other back leg. These connection stitches are underneath other areas that will be covered with fill later. After finishing that I did another connection to the bottom portion of that back leg, created the filled area for that, and it was finished.

Now it was time to move on to the front legs and the chest. As I am sitting right at the bottom left front leg, I can just start there and go around the front body/neck area. That left me right where I could do another object for the head/ears. I did not go around the muzzle area with the first color so to finish up the head itself, we had to switch colors and digitize the muzzle. After finishing these, I has the basic outline for the entire puppy done.

The Details

Of course when you look at the design at this point, it looks more like an alien than a puppy <smile>. But we can fix that!

When working on the details at this point, we needed to make holes for the eyes and inside of the ears. By selecting the head piece, I used the software to digitize holes where I wanted them. This is to prevent multiple layers of stitching on top of each other which makes the design much too dense and can cause needle breakage, puckering, and other bad side effects. Small areas it's ok to layer the stitches, but generally in areas like this, you want to make a hole for them to go into.

I also added the lines in the filled areas called carving lines. These are the lines you see that separate the toes in the paws or to give the muzzle the nose and mouth. He's looking pretty good so far....next we tackle the eyes which are always a challenge for me. My granddaughter says the eyes are the mirror into the soul and should be very characteristic of the model. <whew> She's a little deep sometimes for a 13 year old.

So back to the eyes....there are 3 layers to the eyes... the white around the outside, the blue for the eye coloring and the black pupil.

When I digitized the white I did not cover the entire hole area, just the portion that would be white, over lapping so it would be underneath the blue and there would be no gaps between.

Next the blue was added which now covered the hole created for the eye on the right hand side.

On the left hand side, I actually added the great around the eye first, then the white and blue.

And finally adding the black pupil to complete the eyes. I did this stitching on top of the blue fill area as it was a small portion to overlay and wouldn't cause any issues. I think he's got character in those eyes, what do you think? <smile>

Adding the color for the inside of the ears, finishing off with some more carving lines, and the face is completed. Only one thing left to finish this little guy. The collar.....

I did the color in two pieces and used a special fill to give it the texture I wanted. Then the last piece was the heart. I added the outline to make it stand out from the rest of the color and the digitizing was done. Now granted, I'm showing you pictures here after the 3rd stitch-out so he wasn't perfect from the beginning. You should always stitch out the digitized designs to check how well they do, and if you have succeeded in following the general digitizing guidelines of optimizing color changes, trims/jumps, and overall density and fabric pull. So it takes a few tweaks, back to another stitch-out, tweak some more, and repeat until you are totally satisfied with the result. Here is the finished digitized design along side the final stitch out design. I just love the character of this little guy and I'm going to be working on a whole collection of them so keep watching the web site as they get posted!

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