This past weekend is typically one in which families get together. Out come the cameras for the family group pictures and the individual silly shots. One of the questions we often get after a holiday weekend is how photos can be turned into cross stitch patterns. There are several companies and software programs available on the market that will actually do this! Let me tell you about a program that will convert photos to patterns in just a few steps: PC Stitch (6927).

Creating a Cross Stitch Pattern from a Picture

Here are probably the top two most important things to know when creating your pattern: (These will be options that you want to make sure your software program has.)

The more stitches you have in your design the most detail your pattern will have. One way to do that is to try and match the number of pixels to the number of stitches. For example if your picture is 300 pixels by 450 pixels, then set your width to 300 stitches. Your program should automatically set your height to about 450 stitches. These programs also let you choose your fabric count and whether you are stitching over one or two threads. When you plug in all that information, look to see how large that makes your pattern and adjust accordingly. I used a rather large photo and a large fabric count and my first pattern turned out to be 33.5" tall!!! Almost life size!! Needless to say, I went in and tweaked the information to make it more manageable.

The second most important consideration is your floss selection. The more colors you use, the closer your pattern will be to real life. However, even will all the floss colors, you may still not be able to perfectly match all the colors from your photo. To see the difference, when setting the specifications for your pattern, start with 10 colors and then increase the number to 25 and then 50. Are you happy with the colors chosen? If so, stop there. If not, continue to increase the number of colors by 10. DMC has over 450 colors of floss, but using that many colors would be almost impossible to manage. The Fractal patterns done by Cross Stitch Collectibles often use 100 – 150 colors to achieve the shading. Heaven and Earth also uses a multitude of colors to achieve their adaptations.

One of the most important steps no matter what you are doing on a computer is to Save Your Work FREQUENTLY!! Nothing is more frustrating when you have put a lot of time into your project and have it just the way you wanted it, to have something happen and lose the work!!! Save, Save, Save!!!

The Basic Steps to Create your Pattern

Both PC Stitch and PC Stitch Pro have tutorials available when you load the program.

From the PC Stitch Pro tutorial, here are the basic steps:

  • Select your picture. This can be imported from a file on your computer or disk, or from a scanner or digital camera.
  • Crop the image to the area you want to stitch.
  • You can remove the background if you want. For example, you may have the cutest picture of your grandchild, but in the background is a playground full of other children. Delete those images and substitute a solid color.
  • Size your design, remembering that the smaller the pattern, the less detail you will have. Be sure to preview your pattern changes as you work. PC Stitch Pro has a side by side window where the original photo is on the left and your working copy is on the right. You will also be able to see a section of your pattern to see how it looks before you create the actual pattern.
  • Image adjustments can help make your pattern cleaner. Some of the items you can change are brightness and contrast (if an image is too light or too dark, you can use the brightness and contrast controls to improve the picture), saturation (the part of color that we see and describe as bright or dull), and hue (the actual color). If you like the photo the way it is, you can skip this step.
  • Now it is time to choose your floss colors. PC Stitch Pro gives you choices in Anchor, DMC, J&P Coats, Kreinik metallic, and some Mill Hill beads.

Once you have all the options set, preview it and adjust it until you are completely satisfied and then create your pattern. These programs generate full cross stitches only.

Adding Back Stitches

If you want to include back stitches on your pattern you want to do that after you generate your pattern. Pro has a feature called Auto backstitch, but it did not do what I was looking for. It will give you a backstitch around a certain block of color. For example, if you have 9 connected squares of light rose, the software will draw a line around those 9 squares, when I wanted a line that extended out to include several of the colors to help define the shadow. This type of backstitch has to be done manually by you actually showing the program where you want the back stitch line to be drawn on your pattern.

An Example

Here is an example of a pattern I did for this tulip. When I cropped the tulip, the pixel size was 83 x 86, so I made the pattern 85W x 91H. I chose 50 colors trying to get a getter definition of the bottom of the tulip. I went right through the steps and created a very simple pattern. Printing the pattern was next. There are several options for the pattern – symbols only (black and white), color blocks only, symbols over the color blocks, or the stitch. Here are two of the ways:

symbols and symbols over color

The legend also can be printed a couple of ways – right hand margin or separate sheet

Both the standard and Pro editions have other options for enhancing your pattern such as adding borders and alphabets. PC Stitch Pro has several other custom features such as creating custom stitches, alphabets, and borders.

Creating a Cross Stitch Pattern from Scratch

Another method you can use to create a cross stitch pattern is to do it from scratch, placing every color one stitch at a time. You have the option of full, half, and quarter stitches. You also add the back stitching yourself. This is great for charting small cross stitch motifs or bookmarks. It would be very time-consuming if you were trying to do a large, full color design.

Companies that Convert Photos for You

There are companies advertising on the web who will convert a photo for you for a price. I have heard mixed reviews on how well the pattern turns out. If you are going to use one of these companies, try to get some references or a money back guarantee. If possible, make yourself a copy of the photo you are sending in case it is misplaced or damaged while in the mail or doing the process.

I hope this has answered a few of your questions about the photo programs. In general, you get what you pay for whether it be the money spent on the program or the time you invest in learning the program and working with your photo conversions.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

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“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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