Embroidery software

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Machine embroidery
Module: Computerized embroidery
to improve
2019/07/02


  • Quality: to improve

1 Introduction

Franz Xaver Simm: Die Stickerin Oil on canvas, 94 x 68 cm

Typical embroidery software allows to create embroidery design files that define parametrized embroidery objects such as lines, sating columns or fill areas. These objects can be created directly through technical drawing or be translated (digitized) from vector drawings. From embroidery objects one can generated stitches that then can be exported to proprietary machine (stitch) formats that can uploaded to an embroidery machine.

Roughly speaking, we can distinguish between several types of software, although sometimes the frontiers are blurred, so you also can consider the following as list of modules that your software should have.

  • Software to create designs for "manual" embroidery
  • Vectorizers can translate a bitmap image to vector formats. Vectorizers can be found in typical general purpose drawing software like Illustrator or Inkscape, but also in embroidery software.
  • Digitizers can translate a vector format to a stitch section representations or directly to stitches (not desirable). It usually also includes a vectorizer. Some digitizers work automatically (or almost) for both raster and vector images, others give a lot of control to the user. Most offer both possibilities.
  • Viewers allow to view files, useful for script generated formats for example)
  • Transformers can resize, rotate, (sometimes) change colors, i.e. do some lightweight global editing
  • Converters can convert from one format to another. They usually include a viewer and can do transformations.
  • Editors can draw designs in bother vector and embroidery object (stitch section format. Design parts are often first drawn in some ordinary vector format since it allow for easy manipulation. These then must be digitized. Editors then allow for direct drawing of higher-level embroidery objects that can be be parametrized, e.g. with a pattern. Finally, editors also should allow to edit individual stitches (for fine tuning).
  • Lettering programs include optimized "stitch" fonts. If you just use a digitizer to translate letters from a vector file you likely will get bad results, since the filling algorithm is not optimized for lettering.
  • Organizers help to organize designs on your hard disk.
  • Complete embroidery CAD Suites, support all the design stages. Often, the drawing module is based on existing high-end vector graphics software. E.g. Pulse's embroideryi2 is an add-on for either Illustrator or Corel Draw. Bernina's Embroidery software is based on Corel. High-end embroidery software suites should include all of the software types listed above.

2 State of the software industry

Now a subjective (personal) opinion about the embroidery software market: It is very difficult to find out what software costs and - this is funny - where and how to buy. Some companies (like Bernina) seem to sell only through authorized resellers. Other companies have snotty sales people. E.g. email support from Wilcom wouldn't give a person from university of Geneva (who runs this wiki) the name of a Swiss dealer and even were implying that we were not smart enough learning their entry-level professional tool and showing our students how it works. Probably these guys never encountered any other drawing software or they might have a different idea of what "difficult" could mean. We regret to say so, but learning basic use of advanced embroidery software is easy for a technical person and takes no more than two weeks full time. Producing professional embroidery designs is more difficult and may take at least 7 years (but so does professional cooking, car racing or web page design ...)

Anyhow, we found out that most high-end consumer software is in the $1500 to $2000 range. Entry-level professional software also starts around $2000. I can understand that professional software costs $10'000 or more, but I have trouble understanding why what I consider mid-level prosumer software costs over $2000 since selling it cheaper probably would entice many more people to buy it. That being said, I do have the money to purchase, but I won't buy anything for which technical documentation can't be found (more about that a few lines down...). At least some companies, e.g. Sierra, offer extremely nice conditions to education.

I also noticed that too many embroidery websites do have HTML/JavaScript coding errors, e.g. some pages won't display on modern browsers. Not a good sign! Incompatibility and lagging behind technology is another problem. Often (according to forum complaints) does embroidery software have problems running under recent Windows versions. Some websites for high-end prosumer software (e.g. Bernina's and Wilcom's) seem to be well-made but do not provide any real feature list. On the opposite, Embird has a fairly ugly website, but it's fast, fully functional and even includes useful information. One could relate this site's web design philosophy to the facts that Embird software probably offers the best price/performance ratio besides (Stitch Era from Sierra) and that it is probably the most popular software suite for embroidery.

Most software includes machine-specific features. On older machines, one has to pay attention to connectivity. Some machine types use specially formatted memory cards or USB sticks (or some other weird specifics) and do require special software to write CNC files. Usually this type of software is offered for free (either when you buy the machine or for download). The same software then also can convert, resize, rotate and preview. See converting software below. A more "exotic" feature concerns support for jumbo-hoops, i.e. hoops for large designs that don't really fit onto the machine and that must be turned in the middle of the process. The software should allow splitting a design in a correct way and also insert a message to user so that he/she can rotate the hoop.

Important: If you plan buying any sort of design software, you should check if your type/brand is directly supported, i.e. if the software can export a design to model-specific file formats (like *.art, *.jef, *.pes, etc.). If it cannot, you then could use a converter, but this may be a lossy process and you will loose time. I couldn't find any serious information on how well various converters work. Therefore, I suggest finding out what other embroidery software is produced by the company providing the converter. E.g. Wilcom creates software for both Bernina and Janome. Therefore we might hypothesize that their free Truesizer converter program ought to be able to translate an .ART file (output of Bernina V6) to *.JEF (Elna/Janome machine format) without any mistakes.

We couldn't find any up-to-date (Spring 2011) list that includes any sort of serious comparison of embroidery software. The best one we found was Understanding Digitizing Software, made by Floriani (2008) and was just a feature comparison, not a serious evaluation. Add the various numerous obscure file formats and you find yourself in a software jungle that is hard to beat in terms of inaccessibility, obscurity and overblown prices.

Some might argue that there isn't any non-financial reason to buy anything else than brand-specific software since almost every brand does have a more or less high-end consumer design suite. Unfortunately, some brand-specific software can do more that others. E.g. from looking at the sales flyers, Bernina's V6 is much more powerful than Elna's V3 or Janome Pro. The latter do not integrate typical object-oriented vector drawing features if we understood right. For techies, vector graphics is simply a must have feature since we already are used to vector drawing. Of course, importing vector graphics from another program would be an option for experts in embroidery, but it is not for beginners since one has to round trip a lot between various stages of a part design.

In conclusion, in the absence of any serious information on embroidery software, we decided to invest our efforts in the free Stitch Era Universal. We then later bought the Pro "liberty" version. Since July 2013, there is no more free version. However, the formerly free version is now available under a 6-month inexpensive rent program. Retrospectively (fall 2011/fall 2013/winter 2018), we do believe that the Stich Era route is the way to go if you plan to learn with an ambitious state-of-the-art program. The Pro version only has few extra features, and it will load faster. The cheap for rent versions are limited to 12K or 40K stitches (the latter is quite a lot). Education gets very conditions. You only will have to manage vouchers and the fairly long download process.

3 Free and open source, tools and projects

There exist virtually no totally free design + digitizing tools that are fully functional. Thredworks seems to be a fine and quite powerful editing tool for folks who would like to work fairly close to the stitch level. Stitch Era (the most modern and advanced system) did have some strings attached and is no longer free (except for education). SophieSew gets nice reviews but seems to crash a lot. Fortunately, for people like us who prefer to start from vector graphics, there is InkStitch (see the next item)

3.1 Ink/Stitch

  • Ink/Stitch: Recommended As of August 2018, the best bet is to work with an Inkscape extension for machine embroidery design by Lex Neva. It allows creating embroidery files from SVG. The only caveat is that you will have to learn how to use Inkscape. This program takes some time to learn, but there are hundreds of tutorials since it is the only full strength free and open vector drawing program. Since InkStitch is fairly new, there are not many tutorials yet. However, it has 2 major elements going for it. 1) It is the most effective open source project to date. 2) It's still under actual development (circa August 2018) with a community around it. Ink/Stitch
I tested this under Ubuntu 16x and Windows 10.`
(Tatarize) Though, after authoring pyembroidery I did get a ban for telling Lex Neva that he was "doing it wrong" in reference to his stitch simulator. He took offense at being told he was doing it wrong, and more offense at proving that doing it correctly is very possible, he extended the ban, and spun off his own version of pyembroidery so as to "not have to deal with me". -- Inkstitch, it does have a community around it. But, also the drama involved with that.
  • pyembroidery: a python backend for Ink/Stitch to replace libembroidery in that project. It's also a stand-alone project to allow reading and writing of a variety of embroidery formats. (full disclosure, I, Tatarize wrote the code, but it's solid and pretty complete).

3.2 Thredworks

  • Thredworks is a digitizing and drawing program for embroidery machines. Recommended (if you can't finance a commercial product). One reason why I recommend this program is that this software somehow entices learning how embroidery and stitching works, i.e. although the program works with forms and auto-adapted stitches (as opposed to simple stitches), display and operations are fairly close to stitching level.
    • I installed this software on Win 7 64-bit. The program comes as a small zip archive and only needs to be dezipped in a directory and only includes 4 files, i.e. no installation is needed. Click on thre3.exe to run.
    • Design of the interface looks fairly "old-style", but the program is fully functional and includes many features. It's by no means just a stitch editor with some simple transformations. For example, it can do sophisticated fills of shapes and strokes (borders)! The program also includes a simple bitmap tracer for bmp files.
    • Download the Thred lessons from the download page and go at least through the first 7 lessons in order to create a simple design. Read them all ...
    • As of 2015, last version was released in 2006.
    • A linux version seems to be available, read Embroidery design on Linux now possible with Thred Source code might be here.
    • (aArtline is a free drawing program with good thred integration, the last version of which dates back to 2006. Its homepage aartline.com is now a webpage design demo)

3.3 Embroidermodder

  • Embroidermodder. Free software tool originally allowed the user to add custom modifications to embroidery designs (read/write 5-6 formats). Started in 2004 by Mark Pontius, the project is currently led Josh Varga (as of March 2018), after the death of Jonathan Greig who previously shepherded the project with Josh. It had a failed Kickstarter campaign in 2014. The current 1.7 version allows (as before) to edit various types of design files and to create simple designs from scratch. A promised version 2.0 version includes many more features and might make it into a really usable program. But, does not seem to be going anywhere.
    • The 2.0 dev code (needs compiling) is available on Github
    • Compiled code is available from Source Forge
  • LibEmbroidery One of the side projects of embroidermodder, is libembroidery which is the core reading and writing (converting) ability in a command line interface. And one of the more pronounced contributions to open source software in that the source code long-time served as the only documentation of many of the embroidery formats.

3.4 Other Projects

  • Turtlestitch is still apparently under development (11/2018) there which seems inclined to combine turtle graphic and programming with embroidery within a teaching/learning environment.
  • Madpunch is a free program rumored to have similar features as some (earlier?) versions of an Embird suite, i.e. it includes editing, digitizing and lettering. Users have to change a key about every two weeks, probably to bring them to their web site. The site includes video (captivate) tutorials. It installed fine on Win 7 64-bit. Not tested for real. (2011). Website seems to be dead on March 2015.
  • SophieSew digitizing and editing of machine embroidery. Written and developed by Carlos Mandel, see his twitter updates. Also include some free designs. Installed and shortly tested on Win 7 (2011) and Win 8 (2015). According to various forum posts, this program is nice and usable, but it's in alpha stage and may crash or freeze - 5/2011). We suggest waiting for version 2.0 (September 2015: v2 was to be released in “the next few weeks” since at least June 2015. Last news is from 2013). The current version 1.3 hasn't been updated since 2007.
  • KXStitch aims to produce software to allow the creation and editing of cross stitch patterns for hand stitching. Runs under Linux/KDE. See kxstitch wiki

Some of these are available as plugins for graphics programs. Most programs are open source.

  • SVG2Embroidery Converter. Including six short tutorials to create stitch files in Inkscape. As close to stitch level as it can be (in particular, one needs to manually check that generated patterns have a density close to 4 or 5 stiches / mm).
apt-get install python-shapely
cp embroider.inx embroider.py PyEmb.py ~/.config/inkscape/extensions
In Inkscape, the extension is available in Extensions->Render->Embroider
Only works, if you create a drawing with filled regions that are converted to pathes and are not grouped. (So no grouping, no strokes, etc. !)
Result *.exp will sit in your home directory or some other place ...
I managed to create a stitched oval and display it with some *.exp viewer. - April 2011.
  • embroidery, an Inkscape extensions by Garfield Kass, based on Jon Howell, 2010 (above)
produces VP2 (Pfaff) files
  • Joachims's freeware include Pesview 1.3.0, a Viewer/Conversion-Tool for PES/PEC/PCS/DST/SEW and EasyPEC for converting PES.x to PEC 1.0
  • PES-file thumbnailer (pes2png converter) by Linus Thorvald himself ! (for Linux, needs pnglib-devel and cairo-devel to comple) Read Embroidery.. gaah January 13, 2010. To install this under Linux (Unbuntu 10)
apt-get install libcairo-dev
apt-get install libpng-dev
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/pesconvert.git
cd pesconvert
make
cp pesconvert /usr/local/bin
  • Embroidery Reader for PES (Brother)
  • Planned since 2009: The Brother Liberation Front announced working on and Inkscape and Gimp plugin named Yarnscape (seems dead as of 2015) and Crafty Gimp respectively. If this will happen, then Inkscape could become a free embroidery design tool.
  • showjef was a 2009 project by David Boddie to decode .jef files circa 2009.
  • pyembroidery not to be confused with inkstitch/pyembroidery was a 2006 project by Jackson Yee to implement a wxPython interface with some reading and writing of .dst files.
Free online converters
  • SVG 2 embroidery Free online service that can convert SVG (strokes) to PCS. As cool as it can get. Since it only translates strokes, you do need to replace fills by lines, e.g. some zig-zag pattern. Otherwise just use this programs to draw line-based art.
  • Embroidery Viewer and Converter does online conversion to dropbox and google drive. It almost certainly is using pyembroidery as the backend conversion, with a nice front end with some ads installed. Pyembroidery is MIT licensed so this is perfectly permitted. This is strongly suspected because it converts to `gcode`. Literally there's like one person with a gcode accepting open source embroidery machine.

4 Commercial digitizing and design tools

It is difficult to find out who produces the software (as opposed to selling it), how much it costs, and (again) what the software can really do. Some websites are too heavy on useless pictures, light on information and difficult to navigate. In addition, more than one product may be advertised on totally different web sites which is quite confusing. And even when the products claim to be different they can be white labeled version of the same software. I find it interesting that at least three products are based on Corel Draw and I wonder if there is some common code base. Also, many modern programs can at least import from Corel or Illustrator by copy/pasting or some OLE mechanism.

Most sewing/embroidery machine makers sell their own custom software suite. Most of these packages also work with other brands, i.e. they can digitize into more than one format and write to several types of cards or otherwise communicate with a machine.

High-end "prosumers" (advanced home users) software superficially may look quite the same as entry-level professional software, but there seem to be the following differences:

  • Prosumer products may have additional features and tools for the home market, i.e. so-called short-cuts and other built-in features that will make design easy.
  • Entry-level industrial products may give the designer better control over stitching and control of stitching machines.

Good examples are Bernina embroidery software V6 made for the home market and Wilcom DecoStudio made as entry-level professional tool. Both are made by the same company and both are extensions of Corel Draw. Bernina's software is cheaper, is based on an older and weaker Corel version, but it does support other machine formats than their own. I.e. strictly from looking at specifications, one could qualify it as the advanced home user tool. However, we don't know how it would scale up against cheaper suites like Stitch Era and DrawWings (see above).

4.1 Rather cheap general purpose software for the consumer market

  • Embird Embroidery Software sells several programs, A base program (Basic Embird) plus several plugins e.g. Embird Studio (required for digitizing). Can read/write many formats and supports many machine types. It comes in several components, e.g.:
    • Basic Embird Embroidery Software (basic editing, sizing, stitch editing, etc.). This $164 program must be acquired for other modules to run.
    • Studio (digitizing, lettering, auto-tracing, freehand, conversion of vector files into embroidery) is $150 (to digitize drawings with a low number of colors, the most common use case) + $90 (optional, to digitize photos) = $240. Demo version cannot save your work.
    • Font engine, $145
    • I.e. for less than $550 one gets a good package and it can be tried out before buying. In addition, the web site has real information (as opposed to fancy PDF files). This program seems to be fairly popular and seems to offer the best price/performance ratio. It's probably as powerful as many high-end consumer design suites.
    • There are many forums with support (google yourself). One example that includes a beginner's tutorial is Clipartopolis
  • EmbroideryWare is as of 2018 a new product and very cheap (i.e. $90). It includes digitized lettering and digitizing from drawings. This could be best cheap buy for beginners, but so far, we did not test it. It can import SVG files, but only supports lines and beziers. If the file includes other elements (like groups or strokes) the file has to be simplified. Trial version lasts one month...
  • SewArt Embroidery Auto-Digitizer by S&S Computing, is “for converting clipart or other forms of raster and vector images into an embroidery file. Image processing tools and a step-by-step wizard are provided to produce an image suitable for yielding a high-quality embroidery stitch-out.” Free 30 day demo, only $75. (Needs the Microsoft C++ 2005 library, also available as download). Tested under Win 7 64bit. I found it very easy to learn the basics (about 30 minutes). I managed to digitize and create a stitch file for a complex photo (including color reduction, pixel reduction, color merging, despeckling, etc.). Of course I can imagine other features it should have, but I like the price/performance ratio. - Daniel K. Schneider May 2011.
  • BuzzTools sells a series of design tools, e.g. design management software, Buzz-2-Stitches (digitizer, $300), BuzzEdit (editor, $190), Words to stitches, etc. These tools seem to be fairly popular and are reasonable priced. Trial versions are available.
  • Brother, also a maker of sewing machines sells PE_Design Basic (formerly 'PED Basic Embroidery Software', for simple downloading/editing) and PE-Design light (digitizing, letters, combining, etc. about 300 €). A higher-end product also exists (see below). Brother products enjoy a good reputation in forum messages and offer a good price/performance ratio as far as we can tell.
  • Stitch & Sew made by Compucon has several product levels: Designer (Standard Digitizing & Editing package), Editor (Lettering & Editing package), Embroidery Studio (digitizing & editing). The full package is called Embroidery Studio Plus. No idea how much it would cost. Demo versions are available, e.g. from central european distributor (teamhoko). Files are dated 2008. Several vendor links on the stitch & sew site are dead. Some point to local Brother dealers where no information can be found, i.e. Internet presence is messy. In addition to Stitch&Sew, Compucon sells EOS (Embroidery operating system), a high-end software.
  • Stitches in Motion has Sew Art (software for converting clip-art or other forms of raster and vector images into an embroidery file). It can output in PES or JEF. For other formats, you will have to use a conversion program.
  • Embroidery Software from Amazing Designs. Several software, e.g. Edit 'N Stitch (editor), Digitize 'N Stitch (digitizer), Personalize 'N Stitch (lettering and monograms). All around $200, the whole combo around $450 street price. Trial versions available. Also available from online shops like Amazon.
  • ApS-Ethos has several programs. The top-end Virtuoso Plus can edit, letter, digitize, import vector files, etc.
  • Designers Gallery seems to sell the same under a different packaging (not sure about this.)
  • Art and Stitch Standalone digitizing software for longarm quilters and machine embroiderers. Includes drawing, filling, importing vector graphics, punching. $ 87
Brother PR-650 (semi-professional embroidery machine)

4.2 brand specific for the home market

  • Bernina's Embroidery Software (en) based on Corel Draw is about $2000/€ 1600, but one can find it for less (€ 1400). The current embroidery software version 6 probably was developed together with Wilcom and should be quite similar as Deco Studio. Bernina sells other products: Software link (en/USA). See also the Swiss version of the software page (de/fr). In Switzerland, a little price cut is offered to education.
  • Janome, a sewing machine maker has line of products known as Janome Digitizer Software Series with three software levels Jr, Pro and MB. There is no price list. Digitizer MB is about € 1000. Digitizer Pro and MB are probably powerful vectorizers/digitizers, but one can't draw (if I understand right). I.e. the program allows to import a bitmap or windows vector file and then "massage" it into a stitching design. Janome Customizer has very basic digitizing capability and is lenghty to use. It seems that Janome programs are made by Wilcom.
  • Elna has Digitizer EX V 3.0. This product looks more like mid-end software (e.g. one can't draw). Price is about € 1000. Probably the same as Janomes Digitizer Pro, since Janome and Elna have a strategic partnership (common machine models).
  • 5D Embroidery Software Packages. This company sells two kinds of high-end packages, one for Husqvarna and one for Pfaff. Individual modules can be bought directly from 5D. No price list.
    • Husqvarna's packaging of the 5D suite for its Viking line, includes 5D™ Professional. This product includes eleven software modules, e.g. design creator (edit/fill/etc), editor, aligner, sketcher, cross stitcher, organizer. Eight of these can be bought separately. Did not see real technical information (i.e. power of the design tools).
    • Pfaff's 5D™ embroidery software version.
  • Drawstitch sells two software families:
    • DRAWings includes graphics design, digitizing, computerized quilting and textile printing. Cost is about $1800 / € 1300. There are other variants like Creative Drawings or Wings modular. Available through third-party dealers only. Seems to have a good performance/price ratio and comparable to Wilcom Decostudio. Needs a USB dongle (and I always loose these ...). In addition there may be OEM solutions. Maybe Artistic Suing Suite could be one.
    • The professional eXPerience include 4 different levels (price unknown and relationship to other Wings software is not clear.)

4.3 General purpose prosumer and professional

  • Sierra has two product lines, Stitch Era and Embroider office. The latter includes the former, we believe.
    • Stitch Era by Sierra is an advanced embroidery design software for which a free version existed, but no longer. There are good and cheap limited versions for rent (between $2 and $12 / month). Recommended commercial software (for good quality/price relationship).
    • As any high-end commercial embroidery software, Stitch Era does have somewhat steep learning curve. Read our article and its associated tutorials (started on May 16 2011 and sometimes updated). Also do read the manual or go through the training videos. There is no way learning this software just by playing around. There is also a better version in French.
    • The full commercial version is available from www.d-era.com or through an authorized dealer, either for rent or as perpetual license. The full Sierra Stitch Era Liberty product costs about $950, but there exist add-on modules.
  • Embroidery Office (EO11) includes: Art and Design; Design Administration; Production Organization; Machine Connectivity; Catalog Preparation and Spreading. Claims to be very high-end and easy to learn. No pricing information. Stitch Era, a product we introduced above, is part of Embroidery Office.
  • Wilcom has a large product line.
    • e4 by Wilcom. e4 refers to a series of high-end products. It includes 3d4 Designing, Decorating, Editing, Lettering, Web API and TrueSizer Pro. The Decoration, Editing and Lettering application are reduced versions with respect to Designing, e.g., only allow to edit *.emb models or do lettering.
    • The professional level Embroidery Studio e4 Designing, integrates CorelDRAW® Graphics for drawing and supports advanced digitizing functionality. Pricing for e4 Designing in the UK is about 100 Euros / month (or £2999), but we also have seen cheaper prices. Additional functionality, e.g. particular fill stitches, can be added.
    • We do not know exactly what e4 Decorating, priced £1899, does. It includes "basic digitizing, lettering and editing". In terms of functionality, this product probably can be placed between "Hatch" and e4 designing.
    • Some Wilcom-made software is sold under various machine brand names. These are simpler, cheaper and easier to use.
    • Wilcom's own home user and beginner's product is marketed separately under the name Hatch. Its best version, Hatch Digitier, costs about $1100. We don't know if Digitizer is still being sold. (May 2019)
  • Embroidery software by Pulse. Pulse creates various products like Tajima DG/ML, Tajima Librarian, Tajima Passport. High end and really expensive. For the home user, there is Embroidery i2, both for Corel and Illustrator, rumored to cost just a few thousand $.
  • Melco (D) has a line of products known under "Design Shop". See Melco USA: Lite, normal, Pro and Pro+. Melco produces embroidery machines and software prices are not directly communicated ....
  • I-CLIQQ € 1900, is a suite with three levels that is marketed for professionals. Claims to in the same league as the multi-thousand competition. (Demo version available).
  • Floriani has a larger product line. Embroidery Suite Pro costs € 1600 and includes 8 products, e.g. editing, digitizing, borders, monograms, lettering, resizing. These also can be bought individually. The top-of the line product is € 5000.
  • McStich Professional software, fairly useless web site....

5 Tablet Apps and Speciality Service

As of 2017 there are, in addition to countless apps that simply attempt to sell pre-digitized embroidery, a number of apps for android and ios with the express purpose of embroidery.

5.1 Android

  • Touch Embroidery has a free version [1] and paid ($2.99 circa 2017) [2] on Google Play. It shares many of the same features for Embroidery Viewer but includes considerable amount of editing ability at the stitch level (it doesn't do shape based editing 2017), but has a lot of odd features like drawing embroidery with smudges or making spirographs.
  • Embroidery Viewer produced by the Embroidermodder group, is free on Google Play [3] and has "Ability to view .DST,.EXP, .JEF, .PCS, .PEC, .PES, .SEW, and .XXX designs."
  • DST Viewer Pro (cost $2.99 circa 2017) there was a free version previously. It does less than Embroidery Viewer, for 3 dollars more. Only opens DST. Converts to a static bitmap.
  • Embrotailer lite (free) is able to open .PES (brother) formats and view them. And, though cumbersome, move them to another location. This is primarily intended to allow a user to load the file, and move it to the brother embroidery machine which can be accessed via a USB-go cable.

5.2 Ios

  • Drawing Snap produced by the Wings Systems, which also produces some desktop software. It does some very basic editing and allows you to buy additional modules to do more than basic things.

6 Specialty Services

  • PhotoEmbroidery takes uploaded photos, converts them into machine embroidery through a custom process and sells the machine embroidery files.
  • eStitch.com takes uploaded files and sell the end user a framed embroidered portrait.

Both services appear to be different than any traditional photo digitizing services which usually involves using software and an artist's skill to digitize the relevant elements of image. Neither service has software available or much in the way of detail.

7 Free converter tools and other utilities

Screenshot of Wilcom TrueSizer V2.x
Free converters/resizers/etc from commercial companies

I suggest to install the following four programs: Wilcom TrueSizer, Bernina Artlink, Pulse Ambassador and myEditor. Then pick the one that you like best. Also, each can do at least something that the others can't. Read on ...

Screen shot of Bernina Artlink 6 (Unconvincing model made with Embroidermodder)
  • WILCOM TrueSizer. Read, resize, rotate and convert many popular industrial and home expanded/condensed file formats. Can't write .ART (Bernina) but can write .JEF (Elna/Janome). The program is free , but registration is required. Tested under Windows 7 64 bit. The software and I managed to convert a file to *.jef. It can resize and rotate designs. Wilcom is one of the leading software companies in embroidery. Recommended.
  • Bernina Artlink, a free multi-purpose utility program form Bernina. Can resize, rotate 45 degrees, select stitch color, read/write many embroidery formats, display hoops for various types (also other brands), write to various hardware. I somehow got the German version, but there is also an English edition. Cannot save in *.jef (Elna/Janome). Recommended.
  • Pulse ambassador is quote: “a free, easy to use software that allows you to change design formats, resize designs, change colors and more. Import/export to various popular formats”. It can change colors but it cannot resize. It cannot save in *.art. This software includes an animation of the stitching process and probably shows more details than the others. Pulse is the maker of high-end prosumer and professional software (Tajima and Embroidery i2). Download is difficult to find and is here when last checked. Recommended.
  • MyEditor from Wings Systems is a free, Opens/saves to many different formats. Includes a complete stitch editor, scaling and rotation, array tool, etc. Can import/export to many formats (including *.jef). Recommended.
  • multi-converter from Stitch & Sew. Can read designs from manufacturer's cards to the hard disk and the other way round. Registration required. I Installed it on Win 7/64, but did not understand how I could convert files within my hard disk.
  • Artistic my editor free viewing and editing software: view and modify supported embroidery files and then re-save them in any of the available embroidery file formats. (not yet tested, may be the same product as MyEditor above).


8 Commercial converters, resizers, etc.

(See also the free conversion tools above, there is probably no reason to buy one of these, unless you don't own any kind of embroidery software)

  • SewWhat! from Stitches in Motion. Can read most formats and write a lot of formats (but not .art). Between $50 and $65. Free trial versions.
  • StichBuddy converter, resizer, etc. For Mac OS X. Cheap (€ 40) and demo version is available.
  • Embrilliance. A (relatively) cheap multi-purpose tool for converting/merging/lettering etc. Supports most embroidery formats, but can't import "normal" 2D graphics. (Mac/PC)

9 Features of home user embroidery software

Below is a provisional list of useful features. Certain items are missing, others will need explanation. Also, wording should be changed for some items once we get a better picture.

  1. Range and target population
    1. Type of program: Specific standalone program, modular software, or complete design suite
    2. E.g. Computer novices, graphics or CAD savvy end-users, professional punchers
  2. Format and machine support
    1. Reading many embroidery design formats
    2. Writing (some) embroidery design formats
    3. Writing machine specific files.
    4. Hoop support, i.e. show the hoop in the design area
  3. Tracing and digitizing
    1. Tracing of bitmap files
      • Color reduction / color thresholds
      • Despeckling
      • Smoothing with 2-3 parameters
      • Pixel thresholds
    2. (Semi) Automatic digitizing of images directly into stitch sections
    3. Import of vector file formats (conversion)
      • Format support, e.g. AI and SVG not just (simple-minded) WMF, EMF and EPS
    4. Color merge and substitution (in the vectorized picture) See also: editing
    5. Digitizing of vector elements (translation of one, some or all vectors to parametrizable stitch objects.
  4. Vector graphics (see also fills and stitches)
    1. 2D primitives
    2. Bezier drawing
    3. Simple transforms (resize, move, rotate, flip, skew, etc.)
    4. Smoothing, filling holes, etc.
  5. Stitch sections (embroidery objects)
    1. Quality of the digitizer, e.g. how well can the program translate drawing objects into stitch sections
    2. Recalculation the number of (associated) stitches when a design is resized or otherwise changed
    3. Parametrization of stitch sections
      • density
      • direction,
      • stitch type (line, zig-zag, pattern)
      • stitch lengths
      • underlay
      • adding/removing borders
      • thread color etc.
      • Pull/push compensation
    4. Simple transforms (resize, move, rotate, flip, skew, etc.)
    5. Grouping by color
    6. Joining and splitting of designs (including text from lettering modules)
    7. Change stitch order of various parts
    8. Edit single stitches
    9. Manage color palettes
  6. Support for appliqués and patches (e.g. adding an outline)
  7. Lettering
    1. Built-in stitch-optimized fonts
    2. Can true type fonts be digitized?
    3. Monograms
    4. Envelope changes like curving
  8. Interface and utilities
    1. How many steps can the undo option go back to?
    2. Compensation for various textiles
    3. Built-in reusable patterns of various sorts
    4. Support for all major thread color palettes (different manufacturers)
      • Including information that then is save to stitch files !
    5. Statistics (like print time, number of stitches, etc.)
    6. Shortcuts for various processes
    7. Batch converters
    8. Stitch simulator, including 3D view showing stitches in relief
    9. Pattern management
    10. Does the software require a dongle. (I really hate these, since I don't use some software for month dongles have tendency to become lost and they can fall out of my backpack ...)
    11. Debugging aid, e.g. does the digitizer allow to track which vector is being translated

10 Acknowledgements

Due to reorganization - i.e. the breakup of the Computerized embroidery page - names of original contributors, in particular Tatarize, Jrouquie and Cybermancer do not apprear in the history of this page. But they are not forgotten !