Welcome to BriTon Leap

Gallery Connection October 2009

The Gallery Connection October ’09 – Embroidery Software Basics

Typical Embroidery Application

Typical Embroidery Application

Last month, we covered some of the basics in editing embroidery. This month, let’s get a closer look at some common program elements in a ‘Customizing’ or ‘Personalizing’ program. Now, I know many of you have different programs, and that’s okay, because most embroidery software has these basic elements, and once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to spot them and use those features in virtually any embroidery software.

In the screen shot above, you can see a typical modern embroidery application. The main part of the screen is occupied by what I refer to as a ‘Design Page’. This page visually represents an embroidery file; what you see is what you’ll sew. Typically the design page has features you can turn on and off such as viewing or selecting a machine hoop. Other features typically include an alignment grid, a ruler along the edges, highlighting the points where the needle penetrates the fabric and a ‘3D’ or ‘Realistic’ view mode which lets you better visualize the thread.
A typical toolbar, above, usually has the common “windowing” features on the left. I say it that way because the visual screen with windows, toolbars, etc. was originally made at XEROX PARC and bought into by Apple and Next Computers (they did pay for it with their stock unlike others), so it’s not a Microsoft thing. But I digress.
The left side of the toolbar has ‘New’ which creates a new empty design page. Sometimes modern programs will be able to have several design pages open at the same time – and you switch using visual ‘tabs’ along the top, or using the Window menu.
Next there’s Open and Save which as their names imply get a file from your disk or put the current page you’re viewing out to a disk so you can use it later.
Copy and Paste (and sometimes Cut) often appear on the toolbar for a consistent interface, although this thinking is a little dated in 2009. Most people today know to use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl-C (copy) Ctrl-X(cut) and Ctrl-V(paste). No doubt those keys were chose because of their location on a US English keyboard.
Print is also a common and useful function. Usually a page with a real-sized version of the design is what you’ll print.
As described earlier, common ‘view’ items are turned on and off with the next buttons: 3D, Stitch Points, Grid, etc.
The magnify tool, while not universal, is nearly so. Sometimes it has a few buttons to do the same thing, but you can look for these functions: Left Mouse click zooms in, Right Mouse click zooms out, Left Drag zooms to the rectangle that you dragged over, then the tool gets turned off. Another common feature to look for is the use of the scroll wheel to increase and decrease zoom.
Items like the arrow ‘Pointer’ are used to select items on the page and move them around, rotate and resize them.
Design Inspector
The panel on the right (although it can float to different places) usually has several ‘Panes’ that provide you with information and ways to adjust the designs on the page.
In the example above, there are three panes: The Properties Pane, The Design Page Object view, and the Navigation Window.
The Properties page is tied to the design that is currently selected. What’s that? When you click on something on the page, you’ll see it change the way it looks. Sometimes it’s color changes, and usually it gets ‘handles’ around it. This means that it is selected. The properties affect whatever is selected. Not to get too technical, but an example of a property would be the font used on a text design.
The middle panel above shows what designs and/or ‘objects’ are used on the page. A design is almost always made up of different shapes – satin stitch areas, fills, etc. Each shape in a design was created by a process called ‘digitizing’, and those ‘digitized’ shapes are called ‘objects’. I know all this jargon can be overwhelming. So let’s take a closer look at the ‘T’ in the word “Text”:

object view

object view

See where there a running stitches creating underlay, and then the second object has the vertical bar in the ‘T’? Then there is another run followed by the satin stitches across the top of the ‘T’. Each of these stitch sections is an ‘object’ and each object can have its own properties to adjust such as color, density, etc.
Some common features in a view that shows the sequence of a design like this are: Lock and Hide. Lock prevents you from selecting and accidentally moving objects. Hide, well , that hides those objects from view. They are still there, you just can’t see them.
Another thing you can do in the object sequence is to select things. For instance, if I’ve hidden a design, how do I restore it to view? That’s why you can select it in the sequence.
The bottom pane on the right is a Overview or Navigation Window. Not every program has one, but many do. The idea is that you can click or drag in the window and see the section of the design page that you want, and it’s faster than scrolling and zooming separately. Sometimes you need to navigate all the way across the design to the other side, and you’re zoomed in. So you can get there easily without adjusting your zoom.

In many programs there is an area where the program can give you hints on what to do next. If you have a program with this, it really helps you learn to use it.


Perhaps the most important thing for you to know about is the Help system. Most programs have extensive help which typically includes everything in the manual, which always seems to get misplaced or is in another room anyway. So Help can really give you an overview of your software, as well as provide a description of what exactly the program does. I know reading this stuff can be tedious, but the rewards are many.
Now that you know some basic parts of the program, what does it do???? Ah, I’m so glad you asked! Typical functions include:
• Merging embroidery designs together
• Resizing designs
• Adding lettering or monograms
• Changing colors in designs
• Creating designs from scratch. (A really big topic!)
At this point, let’s talk a minute about embroidery designs. There is a lot of confusion out there I’d like to clean up. So what’s in a design ‘file’?
An embroidery design starts life as a picture or drawing. Somebody has some picture that they want to embroider. The problem is that embroidery is not a ‘graphic’ function. People often want to ‘convert’ a picture to a design for a machine, but embroidery machines only understand simple commands like ‘Needle down’ and ‘Go here’. Since images or pictures have dots or shapes of color, and embroidery machines can’t understand those concepts, someone has to ‘Digitize’ the design. So every ‘area of color’ in the picture basically gets traced around in a digitizing program, then gets a type of stitching added to it as a property, like ‘Fill stitch’ with a certain density and angle.
Once the design is digitized, the information that contains those shapes, objects and properties should be stored so that someone can later adjust it, right? That’s what we commonly call a ‘working file’. At present, embroidery machines can’t understand much in the way of a working file. (There are exceptions.) But once the shapes are input, and stitches are created, those stitches can be saved in a file that a machine can understand. Naturally different machines understand different stitch files because they are made by different manufacturers, and the technology is always evolving. Stitch file types that are common are .DST, .EXP, .PES, .JEF, .VP3, etc.
A common problem with embroidery files for many of you is that color information is often missing. This is due to the technology of yesterday’s commercial embroidery equipment. As those machines only know which needle they are supposed to use, and couldn’t see color or display it to the user, color wasn’t included in stitch files like .DST and .EXP. So many of you buy designs that were originally made for commercial equipment, and those files have no color. But you will get a color sheet with those designs. Using your software as I’ve been describing, you can usually colorize the design and also you can save the design in a format that understands color. We usually use .PES or .VP3 but most of the home machine formats do store color.
To tie all this together for you, the programs that are commonly available will: 1.) Load a working file or stitch file. 2.) Move and sometimes resize designs. (See my last month’s article for a bit more on sizing.) 3.) Convert the design into a suitable stitch file for your machine. 4.) Colorize the design so that it is easier to pick threads for it and sew it out.
Given all that it can do, doesn’t it make sense to learn the basics of the embroidery software? Yeah it does. Is it hard? It doesn’t have to be. Do a little reading and maybe take a class. Once you have the basics down, your imagination can take over – and that’s where the fun begins!
Until Next time, Happy Embroidering!

Tags: , , , , ,

Posted in Brian's Articles and News 9 years, 5 months ago at 3:18 pm.


2 Replies

  1. Deanna Hansen Nov 12th 2009

    Greetings. I am a Mac user and purchased Convert It. The program works great. I am now looking to find a program similar (I believe) to the one above for Macs. I would like to place, arrange, and/or combine designs into one. Anything in the works? Or know how one can do this?

    Thank you,

    Deanna Hansen

  2. Hi, Deanna; We are working on a system for lettering, editing and digitizing. It’s a big process involving several man-years of work. The stuff behind the scenes is coming together. We’ll keep you posted. -Brian

Leave a Reply