How to Create Good Clipart for Machine Embroidery


Clipart can be created by drawing by hand, then scanning the drawing into a computer, or by using a computer software program. Photographs can also be used, but some details need to be removed. Clipart should have clean, sharp lines; blurry or dotted lines will not digitize well. Keep the colors simple. Although monitors can reproduce more than 16 million colors, remember that for each color used, you must load a different color of thread into the embroidery machine.

Clipart goes through a digitizing process to make the final embroidery design. Digitizing software opens the clipart, traces the lines, and assigns the color values using the colors from a thread manufacturer.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Digitizing software
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Photo (optional)
  • Embroidery machine
  • Thread
  • Fabric
  • Decide if you are going to hand draw or use your favorite image editing software to create the clipart. You can scan hand-drawn images. You can use either bitmap or vector images to create your designs. Save your clipart with any of the following file extensions: .bmp, .tif, .jpg, .pcx, .wmf, .png, .eps, .fpx.

  • Create clipart with clean, solid lines and a low color count. Dotted or dashed lines or lines that are soft and blurry will not translate well to embroidery. Low color count is important because when the design is stitched, the embroidery machine will stop after each color section and you must load the new color. If your design has 18 colors, that means the machine will stop 17 times. There's a greater chance of your loading the incorrect thread color, resulting in an incorrectly stitched design.

  • Use simple black lines for black-and-white designs, one-color images, and redwork. Redwork is an outlined design that is stitched with red embroidery thread.

  • Keep the lines of the clipart close together. Large, open center areas will be filled with thread. Home embroidery machines sew an average of 5mm to 9mm wide, or up to .354 inches.

  • Keep multiple images in your clipart design close together. As the embroidery machine finishes one section, it moves the needle to the new location and continues stitching. When the stitching is complete, you must snip the threads between the artwork.

  • Keep words or phrases short, and use two or more rows. A two-inch design will fit better on a shirt shoulder or a cap than a design that is four inches long.

  • Size your clipart according to popular home embroidery hoops. Sizes are 2x2, 4x4, 5x7, and 8x10.

  • When the artwork if finished, digitize it with a digitizing software program to create the final embroidery design.

Tips & Warnings

  • Creating clipart for embroidery can be a work-at-home business, especially for special-order designs. You can run all of your business transactions through a website.
  • Look at embroidery thread manufacturers' color charts, and use these colors when creating your clipart. The digitizing will work better and the colors will be truer to the design.
  • Keep colors to 18 or fewer per clipart.
  • Design clipart with a theme: Babies, children, animals, flowers, holidays, sports, and logos are the most popular categories.
  • Create clipart sets, which are frequently used in the center of quilting blocks. For example, draw a bear in 3, 6, 9, or 12 poses or holding something. Flowers, animals, butterflies, small characters, and lacy designs also work well as sets.
  • Beginners should start designing with larger shapes or blocks rather than patterns that have small, detailed items.
  • Too much detail will not work well for embroidery designs.

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  • Photo Credit teddy bear image by Warren Millar from
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