Introduction: Clean-Color Embroidery Digitizing

If you have ever tried to digitize an image into an embroidery design, you know that it can be challenging to do that where the colors are cleanly defined. Sometimes your digitizing program is not as smart as you think it should be. You may only want to use a particular color set, and you certainly don't want small color fragments ("artifacts") scattered around what is supposed to be a clean design. This is a demonstration of how I control the digitizing process to make sure that colors get assigned everywhere (and only where) they are supposed to go.

Step 1: Equipment


  • Computer
  • Embroidery Machine
  • (if needed) USB floppy drive

I use a Windows 7 PC and a Husqvarna-Viking Designer 1 embroidery machine.


  • Drawing program
  • Digitizing program
  • Loading program

I use the free drawing program Inkscape (

I use an affordable digitizing program called SewArt ($75,

Because I have a Designer 1 embroidery machine, which only takes a floppy disk and the .shv file format, I must use a loading program to convert my designs to that format and load them on a floppy. For that, I use SewWhat Pro ($65,

Step 2: Drawing

If you want a clean embroidery, you must start with a clean graphic. In Inkscape, I make my sketch by drawing black lines and curves, coloring with the paint bucket, and then removing the lines from the finished product. This results in an image that is built from colored shapes with small gaps in between. This is ideal for embroidery.

Step 3: Exporting

Here's where the real magic starts. Once you have an appropriate graphic...

  1. Create a completely white square behind your design, and center it relative to your design. Make sure that the fill and stroke are white. You will not see the square once it is in place, but it plays an important role.
  2. Select all pieces of the same color, and the white square.
  3. Copy the items and paste them nearby.
  4. Color the shapes black by changing their fill color.
  5. Group the items together.
  6. With the group selected, use Inkscape's "Export PNG Image..." function.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for all colors.

The result will be several black & white partial images that represent each separate color of your design. Because you included the white square in every export, each image will be exactly the same pixel dimensions regardless of their content. This is important so that the images stack back together properly in the digitizing program.

Depending on how your digitizing software accepts images, you may need to convert the .png files to some other format such as .gif

Step 4: Digitizing & Loading

Here, the task gets specific to whatever digitizing program you are using. Here is the basic workflow:

  1. Create a new document in your digitizing program.
  2. Import and process each image/layer fully before moving on to the next one.
    • Choose white as the background color.
    • Reduce the number of possible colors to the bare minimum so that only one thread color gets assigned to the layer.
    • Assign each layer a unique thread color before bringing in the next layer.
    • The colors get stacked together in the document, and the resulting design looks much like the drawing you made.
  3. Export the digitized design to the file format appropriate for your embroidery machine. Autodigitizing 4 does not export as a .shv or load a floppy, so I export a .hus format file.
  4. Use whatever method you usually use for loading the file onto your embroidery machine's digital medium (floppy disk or USB stick). I use SewWhat Pro to convert the .hus to a .shv and load the floppy.

Sample Files

  • .asd Autodigitizing document with all layers assembled and digitized
  • .hus embroidery file
  • .shv embroidery file

Step 5: Embroider

When you embroider the design, you will discover that the meticulous prep work you did has paid off. Each stage of the embroidery lays down thread in clean segments. There will be no "artifacts" where thread of a certain color gets laid down where you did not intend it to.

Remember, you can embroider the same design using any thread colors you want.