How to Create Cross Stitch Designs from Photos and Pictures

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Your local craft store is filled with hundreds of cross stitch patterns and kits -- but none of them contain a pattern for the beautiful photo you took with your digital camera. With just a little effort, though, you can generate your own pattern from a personal photo for a unique and personal project. This requires some familiarity with photo editing software, but you can do it with programs freely available online.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital photo
  • Photo editing software
  • Pattern printing software
Create Cross Stitch Designs from Photos
Create Cross Stitch Designs from Photos (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Clean up the picture

Step 1

To go from picture to pattern, you'll obviously need a picture of some kind, like a photo taken with a camera or smartphone, or a photo you've scanned to your computer. You'll also need software to edit the picture and software to convert the picture to a pattern. Please see the last slide for an itemized list of tools and materials.

Things you'll need.
Things you'll need. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 2

Open your picture in an photo editing program. Decide which elements you want to keep for your pattern and which need to be erased. You'll generally want to remove busy backgrounds (unless you're doing a landscape), small objects, and items that detract from the main focus of the picture. For the best results, you'll probably want to focus on one central element and erase the rest.

This picture has too much detail to cross stitch.
This picture has too much detail to cross stitch. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 3

Select a region of the picture that you want to remove and delete it. In most photo editors, you can generally use the rectangular selection tool to draw a box around the area and then use the Delete key to clear the area.

Objects too small for the pattern are removed.
Objects too small for the pattern are removed. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 4

Delete more complex or oddly shaped areas with a Magic Wand tool (if your editing program has this). Then clear the selected area, again by pressing the Delete key.

The background is being deleted to focus non the main subject.
The background is being deleted to focus non the main subject. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 5

Use the Eraser tool to clean up any remaining details (using the Zoom tool for a better look, if needed). Crop or move the image if you want the main image to be centered. Save the image with a new file name so that you don't lose the original.

A simplified picture is much easier to stitch.
A simplified picture is much easier to stitch. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Resize the picture

Step 1

Calculate the size of your pattern in stitches. Suppose you want to create a 8 by 8 inch pattern. If you are stitching on 14 count Aida cloth, then each inch of pattern has 14 stitches. The height and width will be 14 stitches per inch multiplied by 8 inches, or 112 by 112 stitches (14 x 8 = 112).

Working with 18 count Aida? Then an 8 x 8 inch pattern will be 144 by 144 stitches (18 x 8 = 144). If your pattern will be a rectangle, then just compute each dimension separately.

Without resizing, this photo's pattern would be 163 by 185 inches.
Without resizing, this photo's pattern would be 163 by 185 inches. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 2

Resize your picture to the dimensions you calculated in the previous step. Each pixel in the picture will become a stitch, so the pixel size of your picture needs to match the stitch size of your pattern. For example, if you calculated that your pattern size should be 112 by 112 stitches, then resize your picture to 112 by 112 pixels.

This photo will be resized to create an 8 by 8 inch pattern.
This photo will be resized to create an 8 by 8 inch pattern. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 3

Save the image when you are satisfied with the new size.

This photo is saved with a descriptive name.
This photo is saved with a descriptive name. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Reduce the number of colors

Step 1

Decide on the number of colors appropriate for your project and skill level. A simple design for a beginner might use 6 to 12 colors, while a detailed design for an expert might use as many as 50 or 60 colors.

This picture still has 3905 colors -- too many for anyone to stitch.
This picture still has 3905 colors -- too many for anyone to stitch. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 2

Apply a filter like "posterization" to reduce the number of colors. Posterization is a photo editing tool that simplifies the number of colors in a photo. The lower the posterization level, the fewer colors appear in the picture. Use lower levels like 3 or 4 for simple pictures, and higher levels for more detailed pictures. Check the help for your photo editor if you need to learn how to use this feature.

A posterization level of 5 or 6 results in a reasonable number of colors.
A posterization level of 5 or 6 results in a reasonable number of colors. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 3

When you are satisfied with the number of colors, save the image.

The posterized image is saved with a new name.
The posterized image is saved with a new name. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Create the pattern

Step 1

Open a web browser to the address http://www.myphotostitch.com. This Web site allows you to upload your picture, and then it creates a pattern for you. Scroll down the page until you find the links to the basic "pattern creation form" or the "advanced pattern form" and select one of the links. The advanced form provides more control than the basic form, but the basic form is easier if you are just starting out.

Myphotostitch.com simplifies the job of turning a photo into a pattern.
Myphotostitch.com simplifies the job of turning a photo into a pattern. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 2

Click the "Select Image" button to load your edited image. Enter the desired pattern size, number of colors, and other options as needed. At myphotostitch.com, the advanced form allows you more control over dimensions and colors, while the basic form lets you select from a predefined set of sizes and colors.

These options give you more control over the final pattern.
These options give you more control over the final pattern. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

Step 3

Download and print your pattern.

The pattern shows which floss corresponds to which symbol.
The pattern shows which floss corresponds to which symbol. (Image: Kevin Mukhar)

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Tips & Warnings

  • Work with a copy of your picture, not the original. This way, if you make a mistake, you won't lose the original.
  • The software used here was www.pixlr.com and www.myphotostitch.com, but you can use any software you prefer.
  • Create designs from your own pictures, or use a picture which you have permission to use. Using photos that belong to someone else without their permission violates their copyright.
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