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1. What is Embroidering Digitization?

Creating the perfect embroidery file: A simple guide

Machine embroidery is a great way to add unique designs to fabric and other materials. Unlike printed designs, machine embroidery allows you to create intricate and delicate patterns that are durable, long lasting, and have a premium texture and look. But before you can start embroidering, you need to create a file that contains the design. 

When it comes to embroidering, it's not as simple as just plugging in a design and hitting the start button. You need to create an embroidery file that translates into a beautiful and professional-looking design when it is stitched out. So if you're curious about how to create the perfect embroidery file, keep reading!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Understanding the fundamentals of embroidery, including the right time and place to use different stitch techniques, is the first step in successful design.

  • Digitization is an important process that translates your design into an embroidery machine-friendly format.

  • Good planning, which includes following guidelines and using templates, ensures your design fits neatly within the maximum permitted area.

  • Avoiding common design missteps, such as overly small text, thin lines, or highly intricate graphics, can greatly enhance the quality of your embroidery.

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What is Embroidering Digitization?

Digitizing is the process of converting an artwork or design into a format that an embroidery machine can read and understand. Hand embroidery is a labor-intensive, skillful art form in which embroidery threads are stitched by hand to create various patterns or images. Usually, the embroidery design is transferred onto the fabric using a stamped or printed template and the embroiderer follows along. Machine embroidery, however, is done using an embroidery machine and requires a different process. 

It still requires a design or pattern, but instead of being printed or stamped onto the fabric, the pattern must be turned into a digitized file for use in an embroidery machine. The resulting file contains all the necessary information for the machine to stitch out the design, including color codes, thread type and density, and more.

Here's how embroidering digitization generally works, step by step.


Step 1: Design Creation

Initially, you create your artwork in a digital format, such as a JPEG or PNG. While these formats are perfect for other types of printing, embroidery machines can't read them.

We recommend uploading a PNG design with a transparent background, to ensure only your design is embroidered, not the background.


Step 2: Design Upload

This is where embroidering digitization comes in. You upload your artwork to the product you’ve selected, and at this stage Gelato will provide an initial mockup of the design - this is a draft preview, and doesn’t show a perfectly accurate stitch-level view. Once you place an order, your design will be sent for digitization.


Step 3: Manual Digitization

This is where embroidering digitization comes in. A skilled digitizer then works their magic on the design. They manually determine the stitch types, their direction, the stitch density, and the sequence they should follow. The digitizer takes into consideration the fabric type and the specifics of your design while making these decisions. This process takes, on average, 24 hours to complete.


Step 4: File Conversion

Once the digitizer has set all the parameters, the software converts your graphic design into an embroidery file. This file will essentially be a roadmap of stitches that the embroidery machine can understand and execute. Every embroidery technique uses its unique set of stitch patterns. So, a file digitized for flat embroidery won't work for 3D puff embroidery, and vice versa. Every design, and every embroidery technique, requires its own individual digitized file.


Step 5: Reuse & Recreate

The beauty of digitization is that once your design is digitized, you can use this file again for future orders of the same type of embroidery. You only need to go through the digitization process once per design per embroidery type. This can be a huge time-saver, especially if you plan to use the same design repeatedly.

What Are the Different Types of Machine Embroidery?

Embroidery stitches can make a world of difference to your designs by impacting the texture, complexity, and overall look of your products. Here's a quick overview of the different types of embroidery styles to consider:

  • Flat Embroidery. This is a traditional technique where the design is stitched directly onto the fabric, resulting in a flat, smooth, and highly detailed finish.

  • 3D Puff Embroidery. This type of embroidery utilizes a foam underlay to elevate the stitches. It creates a three-dimensional effect that adds depth and dimension to the design.

Gelato currently offers flat embroidery. 3D puff embroidery is coming soon!

The other element to consider is stitch type. The most popular are:

  • Tatami Fill. Characterized by its tight, interlocking patterns that give a textured and durable finish, tatami fill is a type of machine embroidery stitch that’s used to cover large areas.

  • Satin Stitch Outline. Perfect for outlining designs or creating elements with a slight sheen, this type of embroidery stitch creates smooth, glossy lines.

  • Run Stitch. This is a simple, straight embroidery stitch often used for outlining designs, creating fine details, or stitching lettering or small motifs

Do's and Don'ts for Creating Your Embroidering File

If you’re designing your own embroidery, first you need to get your artwork into a format that’s compatible with an embroidery machine. If your digital artwork isn’t appropriate, then your final result likely won't turn out as expected. Here are some tips to remember when creating an embroidery file.



Follow Design Guidelines

The guidelines provided by your embroidery service are the compass for your design process. They will instruct you on design dimensions, permissible stitch types, and color schemes. Adhering to these guidelines can circumvent issues that may arise during the digitization and embroidery process.

Utilize Embroidery Templates

Embroidery templates are your design's boundaries. They ensure your design stays within the embroidery area's permissible limits, maintaining the aspect ratio and guaranteeing that the complete design is embroidered.

Mind the Design Dimensions

The translation of your digital design to embroidery requires particular attention to dimensions. Elements like small letters or thin lines might not be as distinct or sharp in the final embroidery. Keep text at least 0.25 inches' in height and lines at least 0.0 inches' thick for clear, crisp rendering in stitches.

Keep Designs Simple

While intricate designs can look appealing on digital screens, they can be challenging to reproduce with embroidery. Designs with gradients, negative space objects, or distressed graphics may not translate well into embroidery. Simplifying your design elements can lead to better results.

Optimize Color Selection

Choose colors that will stand out on the fabric and complement each other. For instance, use lighter-colored threads for darker fabrics and vice versa. Avoid using too many colors, as they can complicate the design and the embroidery process. To ensure quality stitching, we limit thread colors to no more than 6 colors per design.

Make Sure Your Text is Large

Text, particularly small text, can be difficult to read when it is embroidered. When designing with text, make sure that the font size of your text is at least 0.25 inches. This will ensure that your embroidery does not come out looking illegible.



Don't Use Overly Thin Lines

Thin lines are difficult to reproduce in stitches and are likely to cause problems. Make sure that all lines and letters are well above 0.05 inches thick. If there are a lot of fine details, consider redrawing the design with thicker lines.

Don't Use Negative Space

Negative space designs look great on the computer but can be challenging to reproduce in embroidery. Machine embroidery will typically fill small areas of negative space with thread, making designs look different from their digital counterparts. Whenever possible, use positive space elements to create your design.

Don't Use Colour Gradients

Gradients and other shading effects may look pretty on the computer but they can't be reproduced in embroidery. Stick with flat, solid colors to ensure your design turns out as you expect.

Don't Use Photographic Images

While digitization can handle a lot of design types, it doesn't work with photographic images due to their complexity and color variation. So, stick with simpler, vector-based images for embroidery.

Don't Neglect Viewing Distance

The visibility of your design elements can change based on the viewing distance. Keep in mind how the design will be viewed – up close or from a distance – and adjust your design elements accordingly.

Start Your Embroidery Design Journey

Now that you're equipped with the knowledge to create your perfect embroidery file, why not start offering your customers unique embroidered designs? At Gelato, we're excited to announce our new print-on-demand embroidery option. This exciting addition to our platform gives you the freedom to create high-quality, professionally embroidered products. We can't wait to see the incredible embroidery designs you will create!


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