It is probably every embroiderer’s fondest dream to be able to simply “convert” a graphic file to a design.

Yep…that’s what I want to do!

And, no doubt somewhere along the line you have heard a dealer say “This program can auto digitize any graphic for you, it’s got auto-digitizing!”.  It’s usually 2,000 to 3,000 dollars and looks pretty complicated, but you’ll be able to do anything you want to, according to the dealer.

I’ve bought 4 different programs and NONE of them work right…growl, grumble…

That’s because digitizing a design is NOT simply converting a graphic to a sewing machine format.  We know we can convert one graphic format to another and it seems it would be quite simple to convert that same graphic to a sewing machine format, and it is.

The problem lies with the fact that a design must be constructed to be sewn out in a real physical world, with real fabric, thread, and stabilizer on a real sewing machine.  And, stitches are quite different from other types of graphic media -they require length, space, knots, a specific angle, and they don’t blend, they must be layered, and we can do things with thread that we can’t with any other media.

Auto-Digitizing Approaches

There are two different approaches to auto-digitizing currently on the embroidery market.  The programs work differently to acheive that instant “conversion” we seek.

  1.  Programs that works by defining the color spaces and outline of a design and then replicates that as a finished design.
  2. Programs that work by converting vectors (the objects that vector graphics are created with) into stitch objects.

So, why don’t they work very well?

Each type of program has it’s positive and negative features.  Overall, the instant conversion of a design to stitches is simplistic.

  • These programs lacks form consistency; they don’t “know” 4 tires should be the same color or type of object on a car if they are partially blocked from view.
  • These programs may require hours of working in a graphic program (or part of the digitizing program that adjusts the graphic) so they can be used.
  • Simple graphics work best, you usually can’t get exactly what you need to autodigitize from a graphic that is pixilated, too elaborate, or a photo.
  • These programs don’t know that changing the angle of a fill will change it’s color so it “sees and converts” slight variations of a single color as different colors.
  • These programs don’t usually take advantage of the special effects possible with thread, you are really getting a “conversion” of that graphic directly to the same thing in thread.
  • Logic isn’t part of an autodigitized design, so often how it is put together makes little or no sense as you sew it out.
  • While basic construction rules are programmed into the autoditizing features, they are not as exact as they can be if you do it yourself.  For example a design with quite a few small parts can be globally underlaid to sew out better, but an autoditizing program will underlay each part individually allowing more opportunity for gaps.

So Auto-digitizing, yes or no?

If you expect a quality design with a single click….No.  You’ll get a marginal design with most auto-digitizing, a rather simple coloring book type of design.  Fine in some instances, but not a fantastic success.

But, for a basic starting point…if you learn your programs’ tools and use your auto-digitized design as a base to make changes, clean up, and organize…Yes.  It will let you skip outlining all your objects and move right into the finishing of your design.

Heck, we are smarter than the programs and once we figure out which tools to use and how to make the proper choices, we can do a fabulous design taking advantage of Auto-digitizing.