February '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 9 F E B R U A R Y P R I N T W E A R 5 5 dia decoration, or even those that provide secondary business functions like decorated product visualization or job management. THE OFT-ASSUMED FEATURE NO SOFTWARE (REALLY) HAS Despite the best attempts of great minds, digitizing software doesn't automatically convert images to embroidery. There's no process at the time of this writing that can analyze an image and create a high-quality embroidery design that runs efficiently and keeps all outlines and shapes properly regis- tered with the aesthetic quality and consis- tency of a skilled digitizer. In particular, no current automation uses the material quali- ties of thread and the dimensional quality of embroidery to its best advantage. This isn't to say that automation hasn't improved, nor that it can't assist in the creation of embroi- dery, but that the best quality embroidery is not attained by a one-click process. At best, automation may help a digitizer create basic shapes or assign stitch values that are a reasonable starting place for edit- ing and refinement when applied to simple images. At worst, it makes embroidery that runs poorly and betrays the lack of care taken in creation. Even in a very common use case, the conversion of TrueType font shapes into embroidered lettering, the re- sultant glyphs can lack reasonable stitch angles, lengths, attractive cornering, and consistent splitting of strokes and serifs. WORKING FILES VS. STITCH FILES The complexity of embroidery file types and resources causes a great deal of conster- nation for those moving from print into embroidery. Initially, one must discover the difference between a working file and a stitch file. The working file is unique to its particular software suite and stores all imported art, drawn shapes, and stitch set- tings. The working file cannot be read by an embroidery machine. The stitch file is gen- erated by the digitizing software on export, taking the shapes and instructions in the working file and outputting them as a set of coordinates and commands that can be read by the machine and which is locked to the specified size of the design. Though stitch file types can be proprietary, the most used format, .DST, can be read by a multitude of machines, and most stitch files can be converted from one format to another for use on any machine. Stitch files generally contain only the stitch coordinates and ma- chine commands needed for the machine to run, but no longer contain the shapes cre- ated in the working file nor the prescribed settings attached to them. Unless software is used to process stitch files into objects or to interpolate/remove stitching, stitch files cannot be resized with- out increasing or decreasing density, alter- ing stitch length, and/or potentially creat- ing stitches longer or shorter than recom- mended or making details either too packed or too sparse. Though you may load a stitch file into digitizing software to add text or combine more than one design for a single decoration area, any significant editing or alteration of the basic shapes, settings, or sequence in a design requires the original working file and must be done in the same software suite in which the design was cre- ated. Though some software can 'process' stitch files to create editable working file objects, the process almost always results in shapes far different from the original work- ing file and often changes the texture and quality of the original stitching. In short, the metaphor of vector to raster print art is fairly apt. You may create a piece in a vector format, but export that image to a raster format like a .JPG or .PNG for use online. Though you could add things to These three examples show a couple of one-click renditions and a piece done with a simple auto-filling tool on the same icon silhouette art. The execution on the leftmost piece will result in unwanted texture and distortion, the second rendition is missing the separation between the head and wing, and the third rendition does not compensate for push and pull distortion and is incredibly flat. Digitizing at its most basic will see you consistently drawing shapes over images. With rasters like this it's not surprising, but even with vector shapes, you may find that it's easier to draw the shapes needed for embroidery from scratch rather than trying to alter or convert shapes from print art that doesn't take the physics of embroidery into account.

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