Embroidery Digitizing in Adobe Illustrator

By Erin McManaway

Embroidery is the art of using an embroidery machine to sew vibrant patterns and images onto cloth. This is often used to decorate clothing, pillows, blankets and other fabric crafts. You can use Adobe Illustrator to conceptualize digital images on your computer and transform them into embroidery on cloth. This is done through a specialized plugin or external software designed to work with Adobe Illustrator’s vector graphics.

About Illustrator Vector Graphics

Adobe Illustrator is graphic design software that provides tools to create vector images on your computer. Vector images use geometric shapes and lines based on mathematical expressions. Unlike traditional raster graphics that you download from the Internet, vector graphics provides a sharp, clear image that does not distort when you re-size it. Vector images are also excellent for printing and other applications, such as digital embroidery patterns.

Illustrator and Embroidery

Computerized embroidery machines require a pattern created from a vector image. If you have a non-vector image that you want to turn into embroidery, you must first convert it into a vector image. To do this, import the graphic into Illustrator, create a new floating layer above the original image and redraw the graphic to create a new vector version. Once you have a vector version of the image, you can use an embroidery plugin to change the image into an embroidery pattern that an embroidery machine can use.

Illustrator Embroidery Plugin

Embroidery i2 is plugin software that converts a vector image into an embroidery pattern. The plugin allows you to select individual vector objects within Illustrator and apply embroidery paths and fills, turning the shape into a stitch. Embroidery i2 offers stitch effects that create patterns, border effects, many styles of embroidery fills and even embroidery fonts that you can place on the fly. You will be able to see the changes to your vector graphic in real time as you change the image into an embroidery pattern.

Embroidery Software

Another option for transforming digital images into embroidery is to purchase embroidery software that works independently of Adobe Illustrator. Programs such as Embird, Logic Embroidery Trace or PE-Design can import your Adobe Illustrator vector image and transform it into a pattern that can be used by an embroidery machine. The process is similar to using the Illustrator plugin, in which you select vector objects and choose a type of stitch or stitch pattern for each shape. The price of these software packages varies, and some are designed only to work with specific brands of embroidery machines.