Stitch make me cross
November 9, 2011 4:11 AM   Subscribe

How can I best simplify an image in order to make a cross-stitch pattern? Whether in PCStitch or in another image editor.

For the uninitiated - cross stitch is a form of embroidery which is mostly done in square stitches (pixel art translates well to the medium) but can also include outline stitching, dots (french knots) and half / 3/4 squares for more detail. Here's some example charts.

I want to use PCStitch to make some patterns based on images I already have or will scan in. I'd ideally like these to be a single or similar colour palette, similar to this design which uses the same shade of thread but different thicknesses for shading.

However, I tried with two sample images yesterday (I haven't decided to buy the program yet, so I'm just playing with the demo which won't let me save). The program converts everything into the square stitches only, so there's a lot of shading - I want to limit my colours and have crisper, finer details, and I don't know how to do this. I've tried using IrfanView to limit the colour palette in the actual image, but it seems to turn it into something muddy and crude. What I want to do is be able to import a picture and then use this as a starting point to create my design, using the original to fill in the details manually. (I can't draw at all.)

This one came through looking pretty good, but only in the square stitches meant I lost some of the clarity on the details. I tried edititing the lettering but it looked weird and blobby, as though it was sat on top of the image rather than part of it, if you see what I mean. (Searching for it has turned up this rubber stamp version, which is probably closer to the starting point I wanted!)

My second trial run worked a bit better, but I lost the gradient effect (if that's the right word) on the background lines, which is the kind of thing I might use different thicknesses of thread for.

I also tried with a two-colour image (the original was simple white on blue)to see what happened - which worked really nicely and just would have required me to turn some of the square stitches into three-quarter ones to get a smoother image. Yet the reasonably monochrome ones I was playing with didn't give anywhere near a good result.

Any ideas? Is there an easy way to do this that will allow me to add in the details without getting really frustrated?
posted by mippy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you are using a wndows machine, then I can highly recommend itksoft, which is a piece of freeware. It allows you t o import your own pictures and make your own charts with lots of variables, you can then edit those charts pixel by pixel (or stitch by stitch if you prefer) untill you get an end result you are happy with.

Sadly I know of no Mac/OSX equivalent, but itksoft used to run on Ubuntu (under emulation), but I haven't done that in afew yers so am not sure if it still works.

Good luck !
posted by Faintdreams at 4:24 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like your question. Unfortunately, I have little to offer in the way of help. Perhaps the IPad App,
'ValueFinder' is a starting point. It takes a colored photograph and turns it into a 3-Value
photo. Or a 4 Value Photo. From that you could get the outline and preliminary start point.
The detail would be added after basic outline of your work is established.
I am a little confused with the mention of threads having different thickness. I am unfamiliar
with Count and Cross Stitch having this variety. DMC, Weeks Works, and others I thought
were standardized.
posted by Mockinbrd at 4:31 AM on November 9, 2011

Faintdreams - PCStitch has the same ability. I've played with a few demos and this is the one that I prefer working with. It's annoying as I'd rather have a preference for the one that doesn't cost $49 plus $8 shipping to the UK!

Mockinbird - I don't have an iPad, but that sounds like the kind of thing. I could use theGimp to do this if I knew how. I can't draw freehand very well so I do need that outline.

As far as thickness goes - I mean strands of cotton! I was trying to explain it in a way that would make sense outwith the hobby.
posted by mippy at 4:42 AM on November 9, 2011

Have you tried something like this tutorial?
posted by runningwithscissors at 5:43 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

(The tutorial uses Photoshop, but I think you should be able to do it in GIMP.)
posted by runningwithscissors at 5:44 AM on November 9, 2011

That Photoshop tutorial was exactly how I was about to suggest you do it.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:08 AM on November 9, 2011

I don't want to make the charts themselves in Photoshop - so the solution might be to posterize my image first, then load it into my charting program?
posted by mippy at 6:23 AM on November 9, 2011

I've used Pixen to make charts before; there aren't any specific features for stitchery, but making pixel art has many of the same requirements. Automatic gridlines and limited color palettes are easy to do with it. If Pixen wouldn't work for you, try searching for other pixel art software.
posted by asperity at 9:24 PM on November 10, 2011

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