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What do you do if you need an embroidery design in a different file format?
Convert it, of course!
Thankfully, converting embroidery machine file formats from one machine file format to another is often straightforward.
And, there are so many free embroidery file format converters!
Check out my five favorites below.
Converting Image Files vs. Converting Machine Files
Before you get too excited about how easy it is to convert files, it’s important to know what you can and cannot convert.
Converting an image file (.jpg, gif, .bmp, .png, etc.) to an embroidery file cannot be done with basic embroidery file conversion software. The reason is that image files don’t contain stitch information, which embroidery machines need to work.
To convert image files, you need an embroidery digitizing program or a high-end embroidery machine with onscreen auto-digitizing and editing capabilities.
Thus, this article does not focus on converting pictures to embroidery files but rather on changing embroidery files from one type to another.
Types of Machine Embroidery Files
Also, not all embroidery files are created equal, and conversion from one type of file to another might not always yield good results.
Here’s a quick overview of embroidery file format types so you can understand the limitations.
1. Native Files (aka Design, All-in-One, or Outline Files)
Native files are created and edited in your specific embroidery software. Examples include EMB (Wilcom), ART (Bernina), and JAN (Janome).
These design files contain the most extensive design information of all file types and can be scaled without decreased design integrity and converted to any other format without information loss.
However, most embroidery machines cannot read native design files, so you must first convert or export the design to a machine file.
2. Machine Files (aka Stitch Files)
Machine embroidery file formats are specific to different brands of embroidery machines. Examples include JEF, PES, HUS, and XXX for Janome, Brother, Husqvarna, and Singer, respectively.
Machine files are less information-rich than native files as they don’t contain object information. As such, there are limitations to how much scaling you can successfully do within your software.
Now, you can convert machine files from one format to another (for example, to a PES file from a JEF file), but always spot-check after conversion. If you have a native file format of a design, instead opt to convert this type for more consistent results.
Also, converting a machine file to the more complex native file type isn’t perfect by any means.
Your software may attempt to recreate the object properties, but you won’t have as much control over a design converted to a native file as you would a design that was created first in a native file format.
A Note About DST Files
DST files (Data Stitch Tajima) are an old file format that most embroidery machines can read. They are even less complex than machine files and don’t contain thread color information.
You can convert a DST file to your machine-specific file if you’d like, but the machine file will still not contain color information.
FREE Machine Embroidery File Converters
When I mention machine embroidery file format conversion from here on out, I’m referring to converting one embroidery file format to another embroidery file format. Basically, saving an already-created embroidery file in a different file format with a different extension.
If you already have embroidery digitizing software, you should be able to convert files easily or save newly created designs in various formats.
However, if you don’t have software and accidentally purchased the wrong format of an embroidery design or want to convert to more embroidery file formats than your software supports, here are five free embroidery file format converters online that you can use to get the correct file format.
Supported Embroidery File Formats: C2S, CSD, DAT, DSB, DST, DSZ, EMD, EXP, HUS, JEF, KSM, M3, PCM, PCS, PEC, PES, PHC, SEW, SHV, SST, T01, T05, TAP, U01 series, VIP, VP3, VP4, XXX, ZHS, ZSK
Created by Designs in Machine Embroidery, ToolShed is native to PC but will run on MAC with their free MAC dimeTRANSLATOR.
You don’t have to provide personal information to download the software, and it doesn’t take up much space on your computer.
What’s helpful about dime Toolshed is it supports a wide variety of embroidery file formats, including some of the more obscure file formats for multi-needle embroidery machines.
And, the free ToolShed software does more than save embroidery designs in different file formats. It also allows users to simulate design stitching, resize designs, filter junk stitches, and change thread colors.
It also has the ability to set a default thread palette so there’s no need for embroidery thread color conversion charts to use your thread brand for all designs.
And, if you check your file folders, you can find a selection of free embroidery designs!
The short, helpful manual in the program interface is all you need to get started learning to use the software.
The software is part of a more extensive suite of premium embroidery software created by dime, which means if you love the software and want to expand to a digitizing or more specialized software, you can! For instance, adding modules like My Fabric Designer, My Block Piecer, and My Lace Maker. (You can try all these free in the software but cannot save files.)
2. My editor
Supported File Formats: ART, CND, DST, DSZ, DAB, EXP, HUS, JEF, KSM, M3, MLS, NGS, PEC, PES, PCM, PCS, SAS, SEW, SHV, SST, SWF, TAP, TBF, VIP, XXX, and a few others.
Created for PC, my editor is the free embroidery software created by the company Wings Systems.
While not a digitizing embroidery software, in addition to converting embroidery file formats, my editor allows users decent control over the editing of embroidery designs.
Valuable features include aspects such as generating a printable template of an embroidery design, editing stitches, previewing embroidery stitch-outs, exporting an embroidery design to an image file, and resizing embroidery.
Their software’s native file format is .ngs, so be careful when you edit or create new embroidery files that you don’t download in that format. I had accidentally set my software up to save in .ngs format instead of exporting in .pes format, which meant my Brother embroidery machine wasn’t reading any of the designs I was editing.
Supported Embroidery File Format Types: ART, CSD, DST, EMD, EMB, EXP, GNC, HUS, JEF, PCS, PCD, PCM, PCQ, PEC, PES, SEW, SHV, VIP, VP3, XXX
BERNINA ARTlink 9 is a small teaser to their more professional embroidery software.
ARTlink allows embroiderers to open embroidery designs in various formats and export them in just as many.
In addition, other functions of ARTlink include previewing designs, creating templates, and previewing stitch-outs in slow-motion.
What’s great about ARTlink is it can also read .EMB files, which are native to Wilcom products.
Wilcom recently discontinued their free Wilcom TrueSizer software. Thankfully, Wilcom also partners ARTlink embroidery software, and as such, the software can be used as a free replacement for Wilcom TrueSizer.
You must register for the software by creating a Bernina account, giving your email, full name, and location.
Overall, this software is nothing earth-shattering, but it’s free, simple, and easy to use.
Embroidery File Format Extensions (Reading): DST, DSZ, EXP, EXY, FXY, JEF, KSM, PCD, PCM, PCS, PHC, PEC, PES, SHV, SEW, VP3, XXX
Embroidery File Format Extensions (Writing): DST, EXP, JEF, PEC, PES, VP3
If you download the open-source, vector-based graphics program Inkscape, you can add the Ink/Stitch extension for embroidery design conversion, customization, and creation.
Ink/Stitch is the best free digitizing software option currently, as it allows users to create embroidery designs from scratch. However, it carries a learning curve if you want to do more than convert embroidery files from one format to another.
Their current list of supported embroidery file formats isn’t as comprehensive as most other programs. Still, in addition to running on PC, it’s an embroidery file converter for mac operating systems.
I highly recommend giving Ink/Stitch a try if you want to learn to digitize and create your own embroidery designs but have no budget for software.
Embroidery File Format Extensions (Reading): DST, EXP, JEF, JEF+, JPX, KSM, PCD, PCS, PCQ, PEC, PES, SEW, VP3
File Formats (Write): JEF, DST, EXP, PCS, PEC, PES
One of the best embroidery apps for Mac, iPhone, and iPad only, StitchBuddy converts embroidery designs between the file formats listed above. It performs other embroidery editing functions like thread color management, stitch modifications, and stitch simulations.
There are two versions: StitchBuddy Mac for Apple computers and StitchBuddy HD for iPads and iPhones.
The one caveat of StitchBuddy is file saving and other app features are only free for designs under 1,000 stitches. To save larger designs, you must make an in-app purchase, which is $49.99 for Mac and $9.99 for iPhone or iPad.
Free Trials Worth Checking Out
So, if none of the above programs fit your file conversion needs, here are several software options that might do the trick.
Replacing the free Wilcom TrueSizer, WilcomWorkspace now costs $49/year or $4.08/month and offers basic functions.
There’s a 14-day limited trial where you can examine the software, but unless you plan to use Estimator or other Wilcom products, I recommend just sticking with the above-listed free software, which can do more things.
One big bonus of WilcomWorkspace, though, is it is an online embroidery file converter rather than software downloaded to your device.
SewWhat-Pro is an affordable embroidery editing and customizing software with a 30-day free trial.
What’s excellent about SWP is you can also batch convert large groups of embroidery files in their listed formats.
You can also learn more about this software in my SewWhat-Pro software review!
BuzzXplore, created by Buzz Tools, is an embroidery management software used to convert design file formats and do other tasks. You can access a 21-free day trial if you’re interested in using it to manage your embroidery files.
I’ve never needed to explore this embroidery converter tool, but for a free trial and reasonable purchase price of $14.08, you can convert folders and subfolders of embroidery designs at one time.
5. Hatch 3
I use and love Hatch 3 Digitizer, the most complex of Hatch’s four currently available levels. It currently comes with a 30-day free trial where you can export all designs, converted or created, in the format of your choice.
Best Embroidery File Format Converters – Final Notes
There’s no need to invest in expensive embroidery software if you only need to convert embroidery design files from one machine format to another.
These free embroidery file format converters will do the trick in almost all circumstances, so get started resaving your stash of embroidery designs.
Confused about file formats still? Check out this guide for what file types are best for embroidery!