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Digitizing: Are You Sure You're Ready For It?
4 keys for digitizing if you are ready to start embroidery digitizing business.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from new embroidery business owners is, "Should I purchase a digitizing system when I buy my machine?"

That is an excellent question and one that takes some thought. Digitizing is a big step and you should understand what is involved with the process before you make your final decision. Focusing on it too soon can be a costly mistake.

To begin with, embroidery digitizing is a complex task. There is much more involved than simply scanning a design and pushing a few buttons. While most software systems have greatly simplified the operational process of digitizing, there is still a lot of theoretical knowledge required in order to create embroidery designs that look good and sew great. For example, you need to be familiar with the different types of stitches and how to use them. You need to understand stitch length, stitch density, push/pull compensation, column widths, underlay etc., and how all of these variables interact.

It takes training, knowledge, and practice to master the art of digitizing - and it doesn't happen overnight. If you are new to the field of embroidery, you may want to concentrate on learning the sewing (and selling) end of the business first and worry about digitizing later. If you choose this course, there are several things you can do to prepare yourself for adding digitizing capabilities in the future.

The first and foremost step is to analyze embroidery designs as they sew. Look at the various stitch types and see how they are used. Observe the effect of different stitch directions. How is texture achieved? Does the embroidery design have a nice three-dimensional look, or does it appear flat and dull? Are there excessive thread trims? Are there too many color changes? Do the outlines line up? How would you make it better? Try and determine what it is that brings a great embroidery design to life. While you're at it, try and see what it is that makes a bad embroidery design bad. By familiarizing yourself with embroidery design characteristics, you will go a long way in preparing yourself for digitizing.

The next thing you should do is read all you can about the subject. Every month, there are informative magazine articles written by expert digitizers. Read the articles carefully and make sure you understand the content. But realize that since no two punchers digitize exactly the same way, you will probably encounter several different solutions to any given problem. With this exposure to multiple viewpoints, you can gain quite a bit of insight into the details required to produce quality embroidery designs. Use this information to begin visualizing some of the techniques required for professional digitizing. As you watch your machine sew, refer back to these articles to help with embroidery design analysis.

The third method of introducing yourself to digitizing basics is to attend industry seminars. As with magazine articles, seminars typically are taught by industry experts with an abundance of knowledge and experience. In this type of environment, the speaker can show you step by step how he/she accomplishes a given task. And of course, you can ask questions about things you don't understand. Even if you don't yet have a digitizing system, you can pick up quite a bit of useful information. (Be sure to note whether a digitizing seminar is software specific or not.) In addition, you usually have the chance to get a hands-on perspective of what it really takes to digitize a design. Use this experience to gain an understanding of what software features are available and how they work.

Finally, if your software allows it, add editing capabilities before you consider digitizing. My software (Tajima DG/ML By Pulse) was designed so that I could gradually add features as needed. First I bought the lowest level, which allowed me to learn basic techniques such as setting up lettering and merging embroidery designs. Then I added editing, which gave me the ability to modify existing embroidery designs and fonts. (This was a very important step since editing is most definitely a prerequisite to digitizing.) Finally, I made the leap up to digitizing, which was relatively simple because I had spent a year mastering the aspects of editing. Of course, it still took many weeks of digitizing practice to come up to a decent level of proficiency, but I do feel that all of the preparation really paid off.


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