Are you an embroiderer who’d like to create your own designs? Did your embroidery machine come bundled with digitizing software that’s just too confusing with just way too many screens and obscure terminology? Why do you have to learn all that to just create a simple design? Well, today you don’t! Now it’s entirely possible to create your own embroidery designs without the labor of traditional digitizing.Auto Digitizing Software to the Rescue!If you had asked me a year ago about embroidery programs that could automatically generate a sewable design from clip art, I would have told you it couldn’t possibly produce a decent result. I’m now eating those words because these programs have come a long way!Why Auto Digitize?The obvious allure of such programs is instant embroidery designs without all the tedium of manually creating every element, figuring out sequencing, understanding compensation, density, stitch length, and underlay. A good program with clean artwork can produce a sewable design in just a few clicks. However, in many cases, the result is rather uninteresting. That’s where having a program that will let you modify stitch types and directions can truly release your inner creativity.How It WorksAs with any digitizing program, it starts with artwork–and the better the artwork, the better the results. This is true whether you are doing the digitizing or a program is doing it for you. The difference is that a program works by identifying colors and applying stitches based on the size of the area. It doesn’t know whether your design is bird, a plane, or Super Man. Large areas will get a fill, smaller ones a satin, and very thin lines will get a run stitch.Automatic functions come in a variety of forms from completely automating the art-to-embroidery process in just a few mouse clicks to semi-automatic functions such as True Type font conversion and Magic Wand digitizing of selected areas. Basic programs simply churn out a design while more complete programs offer features for editing of stitch attributes and object shapes (node manipulation) plus full manual digitizing features. Specialized functions also include photo stitch and cross stitch generation.Does it Live Up to the Hype?While it is unlikely that you will produce an award-winning design optimized for efficiency with a handful of mouse clicks, auto-digitizing is great for one-off designs. With the right artwork and just a few minutes of editing, it is quite possible to create viable designs. The more you understand about the anatomy of an embroidery design, the more efficient you will be at creating embroiderable designs in a fraction of the time of traditional digitizing. By presetting stitch attributes before digitizing, you can further speed the process.Highly interesting effects can be created via photo stitch that are virtually impossible to achieve with manual techniques. Replicating traditional cross stitch is incredibly tedious with traditional digitizing but is effortless with a specialty function.What to Look ForToday’s embroidery digitizing programs offer a range of automatic features. Don’t restrict yourself to just what came with your machine or is available at your dealer. Do a little research first. Things to consider are:What features are in the program?
True Type font conversion is becoming a more common feature
A Magic Wand tool provides for “semi-automatic” digitizing of manually selected areas
Full automatic image to stitches is offered in some programs
Editing ability is a must for control over stitch types and directions
Node editing of converted fonts and images can give you ultimate control over quality
Photo stitch is a great feature and is implemented in a variety of ways in different programs
Cross stitch conversion can produce embroidery that resembles hand-stitched cross stitch
The addition of full manual digitizing permits ultimate customization of the embroidery design and will insure that you don’t outgrow your software investment too quickly
The ability to scan directly into the program and clean up artwork before digitizing without additional software can save additional start-up expense and learning time
Ability to save in popular machine formats
Who supports it? Are there on-line forums, users groups, or webinars? These are excellent resources since dealers aren’t usually experienced in software beyond the basics. Many programs have a strong Yahoo group and you can often get the answers you need more quickly and thoroughly here than from a dealer. Independent educators are more likely to tell you the features as well as the bugs–and their work-arounds–than the company selling the software. While you can often find quick videos on YouTube, check around for more comprehensive training, which may include both free and purchased products. Look for digitizers who are using the software and find out if you can get designs in the program’s native format.Getting StartedWhile these programs can create a design quickly and effortlessly, do plan on expending some effort getting acquainted with the program. A fully featured program can be reasonably easy to use once you know your way around, offering a way for the complete newbie to create a design quickly and easily along with the power and functionality to satisfy the advanced digitizer. A downside is that you are not likely to find some of these programs or adequate support at your local sewing machine dealer.Before resigning yourself to whatever software that came with your machine, check out what’s available. Gone are the days when your only option was one program. Today’s embroidery programs save to most popular formats and have a host of fun and easy-to-use features. Learning to use a traditional digitizing program can be overwhelming. By using a good auto digitizing program you can be creating designs quickly.