5 Best Embroidery Digitizing Software for 2023 (Comparisons)
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When I first started embroidering, I imagined putting an SVG or JPG image on a USB, plugging it into my machine, pressing start, and watching my machine magically embroider the image.
Well, it turns out, that’s just not how it works.
You need embroidery software for everything from editing and customizing designs to creating your own embroidery designs, which is called digitizing. The exact type of software you need, though, depends on your embroidery design aspirations.
Purchasing software can be costly, and the different types can confuse beginners. Software selection and was by far the most challenging part of ramping up my own embroidery journey
If you’re a newbie and don’t know where to start, this post is for you.
I’ll start with the basics by explaining types of embroidery software and end with brief reviews of some of the best embroidery software for digitizing and basic editing based on my experiences.
That way, you can feel equipped to make the right decision for your needs!
Embroidery Software Types
Knowing the differences between the types of software is the first step in choosing the best option.
Not everyone needs the most advanced digitizing programs, which are expensive and more difficult for non-tech-savvy beginners to learn.
1. Thumbnail Viewers
Downloaded machine embroidery designs are in embroidery file formats such as .jef, .pes, or .dst.
These file types are not recognized by your computer, which will display a nondescript, generic icon when showing these files.
Thumbnail viewing software tells your computer to display the actual image of an embroidery design instead of a nondescript icon. I highly recommend this functionality!
2. File Conversion Software
Basic embroidery file conversion software converts embroidery designs from one machine format (ex: .pes for Brother) to another format (ex: .jef for Janome).
This is NOT the same as converting a picture file (ex: .jpg or .png) to an embroidery design file, though.
3. Editing and Customization Software
This type of software allows you to import premade designs and edit or customize them.
Examples of editing include: resizing while keeping stitch density constant, splitting a large design into small pieces for a machine with a small hoop, and changing thread colors.
Many embroidery customization software also allow you to add text to designs.
For instance, adding or creating a name or monogram. Depending on the software, you might be able to use computer fonts (.ttf) with some success in addition to purchased and built-in embroidery fonts.
4. Digitizing Software
If you want to create your own designs, you need digitizing software. There are two main types of digitizing software to consider.
4a. Auto-Digitizing Software
With auto-digitizing embroidery design software, you upload an image file (ex: .jpg. .bmp, or .png) or vector file (ex: .svg) from your computer. With minimal user input, the software generates an embroidery design.
This is quick and effective for some images, like simple 1-2 color logos. However, this DOES NOT produce excellent results in many cases. The more colors you have and the more intricate the image, the worse the quality.
Almost all auto-digitized images need some editing or clean-up. If you plan to sell designs commercially or start a home embroidery business, you do NOT want to rely on auto-digitizing for clients.
4b. Manual Digitizing Software
The most advanced digitizing software is manual digitizing software, which is significantly more expensive than auto-digitizing software. It also has a very steep learning curve!
However, you need manual digitizing capabilities if you ever want to digitize from scratch, create intricate in-the-hoop projects, make quilting blocks, or even create redwork designs.
Here, you create a design from scratch by telling the program what type of stitches you want to go where. This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to several days if you’re working on a highly complex design.
If you’re not artistically inclined, you can even load an image file as a guide, tracing the image file with your mouse and assigning stitches.
Is there a “best” embroidery software?
If you ask twenty embroidery enthusiasts what their favorite embroidery design software is, I bet you’ll hear at least five different responses. If you add in professional, commercial digitizers, you’ll get even more!
The best embroidery software is the one that is easiest for you to use, contains everything you need, and is in your price range.
You also DO NOT have to buy the embroidery program made by your embroidery machine’s brand. For instance, the best embroidery software for Brother embroidery machines is not necessarily Brother PE-Design 11.
Embroidery software has a steep learning curve if you plan to do more than just basic editing.
I know users who have no idea how to even work a computer and who decide they need top-tier embroidery software. Please don’t spend thousands of dollars on software if you’re not tech-savvy or want to learn with a fiery passion.
Try All the Free Trials First
Choosing the best embroidery digitizing software took over six months for me.
This is because I tried every free trial offered! I highly recommend you do the same to get a feel for the programs before purchasing.
Under each software review, I’ll try to link to the free trials when available. There, you can download the software for a period to try it before purchasing. Some free trials do not allow you to save designs, and others only allow limited functions, so keep that in mind.
Considerations Before Purchasing Embroidery Software
1. What features do you want and need?
Make a list of how you envision using your software, and then check your requirements vs. the features of each program.
Some big things for me besides basic editing were being able to export SVG files for applique, digitize linework designs for edge-to-edge quilting, create in-the-hoop projects, and digitize designs for piecing quilt blocks.
Also, I wanted a program with both manual and auto-digitizing capabilities, plus the ability to use computer fonts as embroidery fonts.
2. Ease of Use
During the free trial period, watch the introductory videos, play with the interface, and decide if it’s a program you can use.
Everyone has different preferences, and the choice is about YOU, not what someone else thinks is the best embroidery software.
3. Your Computer Specs
Embroidery software goes on your computer, not your machine.
Thus, you must have a laptop or desktop computer (or, in some sporadic cases, a tablet) to use embroidery digitizing software.
So, check your computer’s specs and ensure they’re good enough for your chosen program.
Some of these programs take up a decent chunk of space and require specific processing abilities. (Read my list of best laptop and desktop computers for embroidery software for sample specs.)
Some software are also native to Mac, and some aren’t. Keep this in mind if you want embroidery software for a Mac computer.
Do you have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on embroidery software, or do you need to start small and work your way up to a higher level of digitizing software?
If the latter is true, modular programs purchased in levels might be a better fit for you.
Another viable option is using a monthly subscription software or choosing one with flex pay.
5. Support Availability
Before purchasing software, check for Facebook groups, YouTube videos, or classes from your local sewing shop.
Unless you’re an experienced digitizer (of embroidery designs, not just vector graphics!), you will need help learning to use your software and troubleshoot.
The more support you can find, the easier your journey will be.
Best Embroidery Machine Software – Reviews
This list is hard to order since the best embroidery program for someone who only wants to edit designs is not the same as for someone who wants also to digitize designs.
While I use Hatch 3 embroidery software and have been a proud owner for a while, I’ve tried MANY free trials and also own the SewWhat-Pro/SewArt combination and Stitch Era. I also use Embrilliance Express and am eyeing their Merrowly program.
And as a disclaimer, I am NOT a professional, commercial digitizer but rather a gal who likes to hobby digitize and spent a ton of time researching the differences in software before buying her own!
The software I mention are more affordable for home-based embroidery enthusiasts and those wanting to dabble in small-scale design production. Yes, there are VERY pricey commercial digitizing programs out there that are “better,” but I won’t mention those.
And, if you have sticker shock from these software, check out my best free embroidery software post. This is an excellent place to start if you do not want to purchase something immediately.
Plus, if you just want straightforward editing software, a thumbnail program, or a design organizer, the free options work great and will save you money.
Now, let’s get into the embroidery software reviews!
1. Hatch Embroidery 3
This is the software I use and what I feel to be the most user-friendly embroidery digitizing software. (I get no affiliate commission for promoting this, so don’t worry that it’s a biased review!)
I don’t recommend it if you’re simply looking for basic editing software, though, as its basic levels are pricier than other similar programs.
Hatch is produced by Wilcom, which is a giant in the commercial embroidery industry. Hatch is kind of like the “hatchling” of their mac-daddy Wilcom software, which costs thousands of dollars.
Hatch comes in 4 modules that build upon and include one another.
So, if you buy Hatch Digitizer, for instance, it includes the functions of the three previous levels.
However, if you start with Organizer, you can later pay just the upgrade fee to add Hatch Personalizer or higher levels.
Here’s a basic overview of what the levels accomplish and links to the Hatch site.
- Hatch Organizer
- Simple file viewer, resizer, converter, and organizer
- Auto fabric assist (convenient as this automatically adjusts design properties to accommodate different fabric characteristics.)
- Hatch Personalizer
- Add lettering and monograms and change color blocks
- Hatch Composer
- Extra tools: creative, sequence, and layout
- Editing of design objects
- Hatch Digitizer
- Manual digitizing and groovy stitch effects
- Photo Flash (check it out on their site!), Photo Stitch (digitizing a photo for embroidery), and redwork design capabilities
- Auto and manual applique creation with the ability to create cutting machine files
The main reasons I liked Hatch more than Embrilliance, which comes later on, are the auto-digitizing option, the computer font conversion to embroidery fonts, and photo stitch.
I also like the “Auto Fabric” setting, which adjusts design properties depending on the base fabric.
Hatch is expensive, but they frequently discount it if you check the price around major holidays.
Also, I recommend purchasing and downloading your free trial through John Deer’s Embroidery Legacy. He will give you freebies and free classes on digitizing theory to help you learn the process.
I’m a good machine embroiderer and decent-ish digitizer, but I’ll leave digitizing tutorials to people with much more experience and success than me!
Several very helpful Facebook groups also give tips for working with this software, as do many YouTube channels. Make sure to check those out as you’re learning.
2. SewWhat-Pro and SewArt
S & S Computing produces SewWhat-Pro and SewArt, which I loved when I first started. They’re affordable and easy to use after watching a few tutorials. (I recommend The Baby’s Booty on YouTube for that.)
SewWhat-Pro is an embroidery editing and customization software, and it offers functions similar to Embrilliance Essentials and Enthusiast, which I’ll discuss later. (I’ve written a SewWhat-Pro embroidery software review of features that gives more in-depth information.)
In contrast, SewArt is an auto-digitizing software from S & S Computing, which works well in many situations. As it is auto-digitizing, you can’t really freehand designs from scratch too well.
However, it’s simple to use and produces decent results for basic images with minimal design editing needed.
Auto-digitizing doesn’t take much skill or insight into the art of design creation, so this is good for users who don’t want to spend hundreds of hours learning digitizing theory or a more complex program.
This is a good option for beginners for a fraction of the price of Hatch! I started here before I realized its limitations and my desire for more intricate and accurate digitizing.
Embrilliance is arguably the most popular embroidery software and another great option if you’re looking for the best embroidery software. It’s one of the few embroidery software for Mac that runs natively, so I’d strongly consider this plus if you don’t have a PC!
Another great thing about Embrilliance is that it comes in different levels that build upon one another and add different embroidery abilities.
If you’re never planning on digitizing embroidery files and only want basic editing and customization software, this is a better choice than Hatch. I also highly recommend (and use) Embrilliance Express for using downloaded .bx fonts.
Now, here’s some basic info on the Embrilliance modules to give you an idea of what they all do. This is just a short overview of the features, and I recommend checking out their website for the full descriptions.
- Embrilliance Essentials: basic design customization and editing
- Resize designs appropriately
- Split big designs, merge designs, change thread colors, and delete stitches
- Add basic lettering and make monograms with included fonts
- Make appliques for die-cutting machines (read using a Cricut & embroidery machine together!)
- Embrilliance Enthusiast: advanced editing features
- Create a knock-down stitch and baste hoop
- Save a .png image of a created design
- Embrilliance Stitch Artist 1: basic digitizing
- NOT auto-digitizing and NOT a customizing program. While you don’t have to have Essentials to use this, you will likely want it if you plan to edit or customize designs.
- Embrilliance Stitch Artist 2: adding more digitizing abilities
- Foam embroidery
- Expansion of satin stitch options
- Import SVG files for tracing
- Embrilliance Stitch Artist 3: really only for advanced digitizers
- You have to have this level if you want to create your .bx fonts.
- Embrilliance Express
- This is free and allows you to work with .bx fonts using your keyboard. I highly recommend this over importing font letter files into your program one by one!
Just to note, Embrilliance Essentials and Enthusiast must be purchased each independently.
However, Stitch Artist 3 gives you levels 1 and 2, and Stitch Artist 2 gives you level 1. But, you still have to purchase Essentials and Enthusiast separately if you want editing capabilities.
A major caveat of Embrilliance for the graphically challenged or embroidery hobbyist is that it does not auto-digitize designs or convert .ttf fonts into embroidery fonts as Hatch does.
While it only takes 10-15 minutes to digitize a simple design manually, this is 10-15 minutes that you could have spent embroidering if you used an auto-digitizing program for simple designs.
Embrilliance also doesn’t have photo stitch, which is something available in Hatch. Not that I’ve used the function more than twice, but having the option available makes me happy.
One big pro of Embrilliance is Merrowly, an add-on, which allows you to create faux-merrow borders when digitizing patches.
Their free trial does not allow you to save files but gives you a demo of the program to try out.
4. Sierra Software – Stitch Era Universal
I’ve recently been digitizing with Sierra Software’s Stitch Era Liberty and highly recommend their suite of programs for several reasons.
First, the Argentinian-based Sierra Software offers multiple levels of both their hobby digitizer and professional digitizer software. (Stitch Era and Embroidery Office, respectively.)
Second, each of these software is available as a one-time purchase or as a monthly, bi-annual, or annual subscription!
A subscription is such a cost-effective option for someone who isn’t ready to make a substantial down payment yet or who only needs to digitize here and there.
When it comes to ease of use, the software is also easy to understand (it has a Microsoft Word-esque layout), and the tutorials and videos are helpful in learning to use the program.
I also use their free Embroidery Explorer plugin, which organizes the thousands of embroidery designs I have loaded on my PC.
5. Embird Embroidery Software
Embird is another great software option to consider for beginning digitizers.
My personal experience when I trialed Embird, though, was there were too many screens and modes. Using multiple modules together was confusing for me.
I like Embird, though, because it’s an affordable program if you want to digitize manually. It also gives you some unique options (cross-stitch and photo-stitch) that many other digitizing programs don’t offer.
Now, there are four main “plug-in modules” that build upon Embird’s Basic Program. To use the modules, you do have to purchase the Basic Program. Here are a few details of some of the features of each program.
- Basic Embird: the required base module for simple editing and customization
- Split and resize designs
- Simple editing properties (thread color changes, joining designs, individual stitch editing, etc.)
- Add text using your own embroidery fonts (or created in Font Engine)
- Creation of image files
- Embird Studio Digitizing Tools Plug-In
- The manual digitizing module add-on, which is necessary if you want to create designs. It also has limited auto-digitizing capabilities for converting vector files into embroidery files.
- Sfumato Stitch Plug-In
- Import a photograph and create a photo-stitch. This is not “automatic” per se and requires user input to create a realistic photo embroidery stitch out.
- Font Engine Plug-In
- Automatically create embroidery lettering or a monogram from .otf or .ttf computer fonts (with limitations)
- Use purchased embroidery fonts with keyboard lettering
- Cross Stitch Plug-In: This is awesome, but it takes serious brainpower to get good results if you’re not graphically inclined!
- Manual or automatic cross stitch pattern creation from an image or font file.
The free trial has minimal functionality and works for 30 days or 100 designs.
If you are willing to put in the time to learn, I think this program compares to much more expensive digitizing software. It’s also 1/10th of the price!
It is a fully-fledged manual digitizing software that relies on some underlying knowledge of vector graphics. It is a VERY powerful software for the price.
Beginner-friendly, though? I had a hard time at first.
The user interface isn’t as intuitive as most, and support is limited. While they have a helpful Facebook group and a collection of introductory videos within the software and on YouTube, the learning curve was steeper.
For instance, see all those icons on the right of the screen above?
They were much too small on my laptop, and it was challenging to remember which icon did what function. There are also no auto-digitizing options, and you can’t automatically convert .otf or .ttf fonts to embroidery lettering.
The free trial is available for 30 days with full features, though, and I highly recommend trying it out if you don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on an embroidery digitizing program!
Other Options Worth Considering
These programs below are options that I’m not as familiar with because they’re either more expensive for similar(ish) functions or programs that didn’t offer everything I wanted in software.
But, I think it’s important for newbies to check out every piece of software before making a decision.
I’ll leave you more resources than in-depth reviews here, but several helpful users have added their experiences in the comments to fill in gaps in my knowledge.
There are also several DIME (Designs in Machine Embroidery) software options. You can view their large selection of software and add-on modules on the DIME website.
Their Perfect Embroidery Professional software is their most full-featured digitizing software geared toward commercial digitizers.
What’s fun about their software is you can purchase add-ons like the My Block Piecer (for quilters), My Pet Emoji, and even Word Art in Stitches!
I also love their free Embroidery Tool Shed for tasks like converting file formats and estimating the thread required to stitch a design.
Floriani Embroidery Software
Floriani software is the most common software sold in my local sewing stores. As such, classes are offered in-person locally, which is a huge plus.
When I stopped by to try the software out during my hunt, I found it VERY easy to use and filled with impressive functions. (Here’s where to find a Floriani Preferred Dealer to try it.)
However, I had major sticker shock when considering purchasing! If you have a larger budget for embroidery software, though, this one’s worth a second look.
Here’s the software comparison guide for Floriani Total Control U, Total Control Pro, and Floriani Embroidery Suite, showing all the features these three embroidery programs offer.
Inkscape and Ink/Stitch Extension
If you’re interested in a challenge and have no capital to spend on embroidery software, I recommend checking out the free, open-source vector graphics program Inkscape and its embroidery extension Ink/Stitch.
For users familiar with CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator, you already think like a vector graphics artist, so you’ll have more success using Ink/Stitch. I like to create SVG files for my Cricut in Inkscape, and I successfully transformed many of them into embroidery designs.
Ultimately, the process just wasn’t as user-friendly, as it required much more manual input rather than the automatic features of many premium programs.
For complete newbies who do not know objects, paths, and nodes, this isn’t the best option unless you’re motivated to learn independently. There is limited support available because, after all, this is a free program. Do check out YouTube and Facebook for other users if you need a question answered.
Brother Embroidery Software
Brother also has a vast selection of Brother embroidery software for digitizing, editing, monogramming, and more. I’ll leave you with the Brother website to check out the availabilities and the features of each program.
Each program should come with a free non-saving trial. The most popular software options are PE-Design 11, PE-Design Plus 2, and BES Lettering 4.
I tried all the free trials for the Brother software and didn’t find them as easy to use as Hatch or Embrilliance. The auto-digitizing also wasn’t as great.
I am a HUGE Brother fan and currently own five Brother machines (three embroidery machines, one sewing machine, one serger, and one coverstitch). However, I just couldn’t appreciate their digitizing software as much as I did others.
However, I know many people who own and love this software, so it might be the best fit for you! Also, many dealers offer classes, which is a big plus for new users.
Lastly, it works well with all Brother embroidery machines with wireless design transfer. The Brother Luminaire XP3, for instance, has added capabilities that help PE Design 11 and the machine work more in sync together.
Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff Embroidery Software
Premier+ 2 software is related to Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff. While it’s slowly being replaced by mySewnet, you can still buy physical copies from some local dealers and online retailers.
Check out their website for more information and the differences between the tiers (Premier+ 2 Ultra, Premier+ 2 Extra, and Premier+ 2 Embroidery.)
SVP Worldwide also offers mySewnet, a monthly subscription embroidery software with a free (very basic) tier and two higher tiers, which are relatively pricey.
For mySewnet-compatible machine users, this might be worth a look for ease of use, though.
Bernina Embroidery Software
There are also three main Bernina software options:
- Bernina Toolbox, a basic editing and customization software
- Bernina Embroidery Software 9, their full-featured embroidery digitizing software
- Bernina ARTlink 9, their free Bernina software that does fundamental tasks like file conversion
You can learn more at their website and download 30-day free trials.
The Bernina interface looks similar to Hatch’s interface, and there are many similarities between the two programs.
Janome Artistic Digitizer
Like every other embroidery machine manufacturer, Janome also has its own full-featured embroidery digitizing software called Janome Artistic Digitizer.
You can check out more information about it on the Janome website.
Buy From the Manufacturer or an Authorized Retailer
I know the $5 embroidery software copies on eBay or Etsy look very tempting.
However, if you visit embroidery groups, tons of people have tried these and had terrible results.
Besides being pirated copies, this software often contains viruses or forces you to connect to the buyer in a way that opens your computer to insecurities later on.
Furthermore, you can’t get updates because you don’t have a valid license for the product. And, if the company finds out you’ve been selling designs made with pirated software, I’ve heard of prosecution reports.
So, I recommend buying directly from the manufacturer or an authorized retailer.
Authorized retailers sell on their websites, in local stores, or on Etsy. They will specifically state in their description their credentials.
And that’s my experience with searching for the best embroidery digitizing software.
I hope this has been helpful for new embroidery enthusiasts, and I’d love to hear about experiences with other programs I’m not as familiar with!
So, if you find Sew What Pro difficult to use-what do you do? I am not a techie person and I have struggled for years with SWP. I am on a FB group; members have been helpful, but I get tangled up with the lettering icons. It is so discouraging. I will stop for months and the try again.
Most embroidery software will be difficult for non-tech savvy users. That being said, though, I’d recommend trying out the free trials for other programs (esp Hatch and Embrilliance) and see if those are any easier. While I bought Sew What Pro first because of the much lower price, Hatch was much more intuitive for me. It also has words instead of icons on the left side of the screen, which is great because I have a hard time remembering what many small icons do also!
I have two embroidery machines and have downloaded free copies of other software programs and not used them. I have purchased so many designs I think I need the thumbnail viewer and editor first. I am not an ‘artistic’ person but would like to convert some of my daughter’s art which she has in vector files. Would Hatch be best for that? I will look throught the free options for organzie files. Thanks for the research!!!
For simple organization, I use 2Stitch organizer (it’s free!) Now, for converting vector files, it depends if you want to learn to digitize manually or just want to have the program auto digitize for you with a click of a button or two. Manual digitizing took me several months of practice to become “good” at, but the drawback of auto digitizing is results aren’t very good at all with complex designs.
Hatch Digitizer was my favorite when I did all the trials, so that’s what I use and love now! (It also has editing capabilities, of course, and works as a thumbnail viewer in addition to having manual or auto-digitizing capabilities.)
I’d recommend doing all the free trials and see what jives best with what you want to do and how you learn! Hope that helps!
This was the most comprehensive review and help I have found online. I am new to machine embroidery and loving it so far but need some software. Thank you for taking the time to write this and research it. It was very valuable to me.
I really enjoyed your article. I’ve been doing machine embroidery for about 9 years. I’m a crazy techie person and I like a challenge.
Started with a Singer and purchased the digitizing software with the machine. Wasn’t pleased so I went to Embird. Not a bad software but takes some getting use to.
I now have Stitch Era Liberty which came with my Avance’ 15 needle machine. The software came on a dongle. I’ve been using for about 3 years. The software is fairly easy to use but has it’s limitations. I don’t care for the limited number of pre digitized fonts that were provided. Has the ability to digitize True Type but find I have to manipulate too much. The software won’t digitize fonts smaller than 30mm clearly. Just plain aggravating! I digitize for a local small sporting goods store. Need small fonts!
The other buggy thing with Stitch Era is that if you do something it doesn’t like it will give you error messages. The only way to stop the messages is to shut down your computer then start it back up again. The auto save feature is important here. You can choose how long between auto saves. That way you don’t lose too much of your work when you have to shut down due to error messages.
I’m looking at Hatch now. Will do the free trial before I buy. I do like how Hatch will give you a picture of the separate areas that you digitized, the Stitch Era only gives color separation for each area digitized in the stitch inspection menu.
Thanks Again for taking the time to write your article, Wish I had it to look at a few years ago.
I have the same experience with Stitch Era Liberty. All I needed was a good selection of reliable fonts and the fonts are spotty. I generally need 6-14mm sizes and I do not have the time to manipulate every stitch. Even the bigger sizes are unreliable. these reviews really helped. I love the Avance machine tho.
I’ve vowed to stay away from Premier Embroidery products. They make it way too complicated to keep up a license. The website doesn’t load properly. Just go look at all the versions offered. For $2K+ I spent, upgrades should be free. It’s a substantial burden. I have the FULL 6D embroidery suite. Doesn’t work on a MAC without Windows and Parallels so I installed those. Real burden to use.
Speculatively, that company went to MySewNet which is $100 a month subscription because other people think so too. Finally, it’s just less expensive to find cute and elegant designs with multiple sizes and use ‘em straight up. Etsy is a good source, as are a lot of great embroidery sellers online. Online tutorials are good, but sometimes you need a structured class. There is a lot on youtube, but there’s overhead of putting up with chatter, illogical workflows. I’ve spent more time watching videos and reading stuff than sewing. Tired of it. The one thing I want to do, which is create line outlines for appliqué appears only in full digitizing software. But you know what? I have a great sewing machine and i can stitch that down the old timey way without spending months fiddling with software first.
I am looking specifically for software to take a .jpg or .png file and convert it to .pes for embroidering. which of the many software options is good for that?
You will want to pick a software that offers auto-digitizing if you do not want to digitize the design yourself from the .png or .jpg. Hatch 3 is my favorite of the bunch for that.
However, auto-digitizing has a lot of limitations, and you cannot usually convert complicated .jpg or .png files well. (Basically, auto-digitizing is best for simple designs with a minimal amount of colors.) If you want to digitize anything more complicated, you will need to manually create the design, which any of the listed digitizing software will let you do.
I recommend doing the free trials for the software and seeing how the auto-digitizing works for your images before purchasing anything, though.
For Mac users, Chroma from Ricoma could be a good choice (the full version is expensive, but maybe the medium one can do ….). I did a quick test today and it’s as easy as Hatch. Its “luxe” version can do a bit more.
PS: I mostly digitize from vector graphics. I personally use Embroidery Office (pro version of Stitch Era), Hatch 3 with CorelDraw add-on, and Ink/Stitch. Each one has different benefits. Embroidery Office gives a lot of control, Hatch 3 is easy, has smart auto-digitizing and cool special effects (radial fill, hand fill, etc.) but doesn’t work that well as Embroidery Office with complex forms and fine tuning of fills. Ink/Stitch is free and getting very good at “line-based” designs.
Thanks for your input, especially for Mac users!
Good morning from Maine! I am a retiree who only bought my Bernette b79 embroidery/sewing machine in February of this year. Because I’m still cautious re: covid, my son picked up the machine from the “local” sewing shop 45 minutes away. I have self-taught myself with help via phone to the shop, the process of both the embroidery aspects and the “cutwork” tool aspects. I have a copy of Digitizing Made Easy and am leaning toward Hatch as the program to further my embroidery education. My “problem,” is not knowing “iconology.” I loaded Inkstitch and since every button is an icon, I don’t know the “process” of using it. I don’t think I’d have a problem learning in a “Step 1, step 2…” process. The number of “buttons” throws me! I am an artist and would like to try my hand at both simple and more complicated designs. I have the Bernina Toolbox and through it created a “banner” for my niece using the editing tools to resize, change fill stitch, etc. and was rather pleased with myself for creating it “alone.” Watching the John Deer Embroidery Legacy videos seems confidence-building. I think I’ve talked myself into the free trial (even if the program will probably take up half my computer – wink!). I am an avid learner and my son is my computer guru so he has my back in that area. Knowing that I’m a “show me” type of learner, I’d appreciate your feedback beyond your info above.
I LOVE Hatch, and if you haven’t trialed it yet, I highly recommend you do so!
When I was learning how to use the program, I printed the hefty manual and read that front to back to learn how to use the software itself. My purchase also came with a free Hatch Academy pass, which was helpful because it had videos showing how to use each aspect of the software.
If you purchase through John Deer, he also has a free training that will teach you the theory behind digitizing. (Although, I had read his book Digitizing Made Easy years ago, and there was overlap between the book and his course.) One thing I will also recommend that has been awesome is John Deer’s Machine Embroidery & Digitizing Made Easy Facebook group, as they do “Friday Try Days” where they teach you step by step how to digitize different types of designs. (Just search, and you’ll find the last 50+ Try Days if you join the group.)
All that to say, if you’re a “show me” learner, there are LOTS of resources for that type of tutorial with Hatch.
Hatch Embroidery has alot of potential. Unfortunately, it’s aggravatingly sluggish, even on very powerful PC’s. I suspect it’s due to the license manager software they use. Hatch doesn’t seem to care or want to acknowledge this fact, even though people complain about it on their community forums. There are also many bugs that have been carried over from Hatch 2 to Hatch 3, and again they’re being ignored when reported by users on the Hatch forum. I own Hatch 2 and Hatch 3 Digitizer editions, and I came here looking for a better alternative.
I understand about the sluggishness! That’s one of the reasons I recently upgraded my PC to a much better one so it would work faster.
Wilcom, who created Hatch, is also associated with Janome’s and Bernina’s premier software, so they ran similarly slow when I trialed them. As for other software, Embrilliance is much faster, but it doesn’t have all the features of Hatch that I love.
As for why I still love Hatch despite its sluggishness, occasional bugs, etc…it’s easy to use, and I just don’t have a reason to shell out 3-5x for a more commercial digitizing program. Speaking of commercial programs, though, the computer specs recommended for Wilcom’s EmbroideryStudio e4.5 are even higher than for Hatch’s (ex. rec 32 GB memory for e4.5 vs. 16 GB for Hatch 3). I can’t help but wonder how slow e4.5 might be on an older, less powerful PC, though, if they are created similarly.
How about WingsXP and DRAWings digitizing softwares? Any review on those yet? Please, I like to hear from those softwares too. Thanks…
Hi Aly, Again thanks for a great site. I have spent much time reading comments on this page on digitizing software. It has truly helped me for Hatch is out for I refuse to put windows on my MAC. This is preference for me only with respect. I like others that posted are MAC based so my short list is shorter. I did notice that Creative Drawings XI 11, was not mentioned. I have read some good reviews on this software but they are not extensive like others. Prices are all over the spectrum. I wonder if you and your base could give me some information on this software. Thanking you and your base in advance. Bobby
Hi there! I’ve heard decent things about that software as well, but I could never find a free trial of it to test out myself. (And, it was too expensive for me to rationalize purchasing if I didn’t get to trial it first.) Hopefully someone else with more experience with it will chime in soon in the comments with more details for you!
There’s a new software from John Deer called Design Doodler. It works differently than other software – it converts “doodles” to stitches. People that have never digitized are finding his new software easier to use. There is a new very active Facebook group. Note that this is not an editing program, just a new way to create. Also, it works on Windows and iPad. You have to have the Windows part in order to use the iPad, but it’s fun to be able to digitize on an Ipad. You can find the program at Deer’s Embroidery Legacy and there are several new YouTube videos. (Not connected with the company, just a happy customer!)
This was most useful. Thank you for the reviews! I outsource logo digitizing but I do fast digitizing of names on old software and old computer that is working past its time. All I need is a few reliable scalable fonts and easy process to put together name a credentials. I got pricey software when buying one of the commercial embroidery machines but the fonts that came with it are low quality and I do not trust additional packs to be any better. It took me a while to learn it too and now I am fed up. The Hatch Personalizer seems like the right fit. Are the fonts good quality? is it fairly quick process to get name done? I appreciate the work you put into this. Kat
As long as you have a computer powerful enough to run Hatch, I don’t anticipate you having any issues with the fonts or learning to use the program. While I’m not 100% sure which ones are included with Personalizer (I have Digitizer, which *might* have more?), you can download the part of the manual which lists the fonts and tells you the max and min sizes you can use them with for good results. Looking at my manual from 2018, the min sizes range from around 5mm and max sizes all the way up to 200mm, depending on the font selected.
Of course, you can purchase additional .ESA fonts, which are also very scalable (within reason, of course) in the software.
There’s a free Hatch Personalizer trial, so I recommend trying that out before purchasing just to ensure it fits everything you need.
Hi Aly I need a software that can do logos.. not a beginner but also not a pro..will embrilliance be best or hatch?
They should both be good for logos! I recommend doing the trials to see which is more user-friendly for you, though.
I’m a professional graphic designer looking to get into embroidery.
I bought a Brother SE725.
I have Adobe Illustrator and will be doing all my work in there to create the vector art, so I don’t need any type of creating software. What would be the best/cheapest option for someone like me who just needs to digitize my vector art?
Unfortunately, vector art still requires digitizing software to create the actual embroidery design.
You can create the embroidery design by placing stitches yourself (recommended) or using auto-digitizing software to create stitch data (so-so unless it’s a super simple design.) Thankfully, with your background in graphic design, learning to digitize the designs will be much easier for you than for the non-graphically inclined.
As for options, Ink/Stitch is free and is an extension of Inkscape. Other inexpensive options include a software subscription, where you can choose the months you want to subscribe and digitize. Depending on the complexity of the designs you plan to digitize, you may also be able to get away with purchasing just the entry-level of Embrilliance Stitch Artist.
I have a few companies that want me to embroider their logos. What is the best program for this? Is it the auto digitizing? I have a husqvarna ruby if that matters. Thanks!
The best program will be one where you can manually digitize the logo, although you’ll have to spend time learning to digitize.
If you don’t have time to learn and it’s a super simple logo, a program like SewArt would be a cost-effective way to auto-digitize logos. However, I recommend trying out several programs with your logos and seeing how auto digitizing works. Then, you can decide if it’s worth the time and cost investment to manually digitize.
Also, I don’t think the Husqvarna Ruby is mySewnet-enabled (I’m a Brother user so am not sure), but mySewnet is Husqvarna’s subscription embroidery software and might also be worth checking out as a Husqvarna owner. That software has both manual and auto digitizing capabilities and is purchased on a subscription basis, so it’s also a good choice for occasional digitizers.
Thank you so much for this helpful article. I taught computer software sewing classes 15 years ago when this was all new. I haven’t done much with software since then. It was nice to see the comparisons. I have now retired and love to do simple things, removing parts, adding letters and combining designs. I like the idea of trying out the software with samples, will be looking into this. Thank you again
I am a Bernina Version 6 embroiderer of many years on an old Windows 7 computer and am now having difficulty getting designs. My husband graciously will let me use our Lenovo IdeaPad 3. I need to upgrade to version 9, but have put it off due to the cost. Will Hatch run on the Lenovo? I signed up for the Hatch trial and was unable to use it due to family issues and now it has expired. Do you think there is any way I can get another trial? I tried signing up, but my trial opportunity is listed as ‘expired’
Would you suggest I stay with Bernina since I have used it for 12+ years, rather than trying Hatch? I Stitch most of my designs on my Happy Voyager.
Thanks for your input.
I don’t know which version of IdeaPad 3 you have, but I recommend checking its specs against the minimum and required specs for Hatch (found here: https://www.embroideryhelp.net/hatch/digitizer/en/setup/system-requirements.)
As for getting another free trial, did you try registering a new account on the new computer? I also think they have a money-back guarantee if, for some reason, the program doesn’t end up working out for you.
As for changing from Bernina to Hatch, it might be more financially feasible to pay for the upgrade for the Bernina and stick with what you know. Bernina software is also associated with Wilcom (the makers of Hatch), so there are many, many similarities between the two programs.
All that to say, I’d recommend trying to get another trial of Hatch and compare the two software and pick what works best for your computer and you!
this article is GREAT!
you talk about free software. Is it going to convert over to the new software. If I am going to put in the time learning the new software, is it going to convert to the new software. if you talk about switching companies, do they convert?
If you use a free version of a brand’s software and then upgrade to a premium version, yes, almost everything will convert over. However, if you switch companies, nothing will convert over. Although, technically, any skills you’ve learned regarding digitizing theory can be used across software brands.
Just wanted to add that Janome AD is no longer associated with Wilcom, it’s Drawstitch now.
Thanks for the update!
Thanks for the very illuminating artricle. I understand better what to look for in any digitizing software.