You've purchased an embroidery machine, practiced the designs that were included in the package, maybe even bought a disc of designs or downloaded a few designs off the Internet to stitch out. Now you're thinking about investing in digitizing software and taking your embroidery to the next level. But the digitizing program is just a part of what you'll need before entering the creative world of embroidery digitizing.
Choosing the Hardware
An embroidery digitizing program is image editing software capable of converting a digital picture to stitches and saving it in a format that can be read by your embroidery machine. And, like any robust image editor, a digitizing program is resource intensive. The program's packaging will state the manufacturer's recommended minimum computer system specifications to operate the software. Let's take a look at just such a recommendation and see how the 'minimums' stack up. (I won't mention the program or the manufacturer but these are actual recommendations from a popular digitizing software. Yours may vary but probably not by much.)
Manufacturer recommends: IBM-PC or compatible computer originally equipped with a USB port.
I recommend: The same.
Manufacturer recommends: Windows(R) 98, ME, XP or 2000.
I recommend: Windows(R) XP Pro with the latest Service Pack and updates. You might be able to get by with an antiquated operating system but not for long.
Manufacturer recommends: N/A
I recommend: Any comfortable, optical, non-rollerball mouse. When doing imaging you cannot attain the precision you need with a rollerball. And an optical mouse means there is no ball on the bottom to catch or jerk at a critical time.
Manufacturer recommends: Pentium 500 MHz or higher.
I recommend: Pentium class 1 GB or higher. The faster the processor the better. We're imaging, not typing a letter.
Manufacturer recommends: Minimum 64 MB (256 MB or higher is recommended.)
I recommend: Minimum 512 MB. Memory is cheap and more is always better. You can never have too much.
Hard Disk Free Space
Manufacturer recommends: Minimum 100 MB
I recommend: You'll need 100 MB free to install the software but you're going to need a lot more than that to store your creations. Purchase a hard drive with a minimum of 40 GB, 80 GB or higher is better. A hard disk is like a garage: It collects junk and you rarely clean it out. Give yourself plenty of room for storage.
Manufacturer recommends: SVGA (800x600), 16-bit color or higher.
I recommend: 17" SVGA (1024x768), 32-bit color. You're going to appreciate the extra screen real estate from a large monitor, and you'll need to be able to easily differentiate your thread color choices.
Manufacturer recommends: USB Ver. 1.1 or higher.
I recommend: USB Ver. 1.1 or higher, 2 or more. Some programs will run only if a card reader/writer is installed. That's one port taken. If your machine accepts input directly from your computer you'll need another port available to send your finished file to your machine.
Manufacturer recommends: A graphic printer that is supported by your system (only if you want to print your images).
I recommend: A graphic printer. You will want to print your images and the associated thread color data. As a side note: I'm not sure why anyone would have a printer that was not supported by their system.
Manufacturer recommends: Required for installation
I recommend: The same, but with a minimum twenty-four-speed (24x) drive speed. A higher speed drive is fine, it transfers data faster but it's also a little noisier.
CD-ROM Recorder Drive (RW)
Manufacturer recommends: N/A
I recommend: Once a year or so when you're in the cleaning mood, you'll want to burn your images to CD to reduce clutter on your hard drive and reorganize.
Deciding to purchase machine embroidery digitizing software is just the first step to truly creative embroidery with a personal touch. Get the most out of it by making sure it is happy in its new home.
Digitizer Deb Schneider offers her machine embroidery designs on her website, WindstarEmbroidery.com.
You'll also find Embroidery Thread Conversion Charts and information about embroidery digitizing.
You can email Deb at: dschneider(at)windstarembroidery.com