SUPER IMPORTANT UPDATE: I made this post a couple years ago and lamented Coricamo’s lack of a PDF, however I have found a way to make that happen! Use Coricamo in Chrome browser and “print” your file with the chosen chart type. Then in the print window choose “open PDF in preview” and voila, a PDF is generated than you can then save. I assume using Chrome in a Windows system will give a similar option (“open in windows photo” or something like that). With this awesome discovery I have to say that Coricamo REMAINS the best program and now gets a 10/10. Read on for the original article and the FULL breakdown of online charting programs, with links.
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Hello all! As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been spending the
nonexistant minimal free time I have had lately working on patterns for a replica of Jan Van Eyck’s Ghent altarpiece.
Yes, I’m a crazy person.
Now, a truly crazy person would chart the various panels by hand, but considering the level of detail and the size I ultimately want to use (about 1/3 the original 10 foot high scale), I decided the best way to create my charts was to use some sort of photo charting software. These programs aren’t perfect, but they are
definitely probably better than what I can do by hand. As a result, I figured this week’s pattern project could be spent going through the various programs available and which one I think is the best using everyone’s favorite kitty, Lil’ Bub. NOTE: I have a Mac, so I will not be looking at PC specific programs (ie: PCStitch). If you have a PC, there are already plenty of articles about PCstitch and it’s obvious superiority, so go find that. If you have a Mac like me, read on after the jump!
I want to start with free programs since many of you probably don’t have $40 to plop down on crafting software. Obviously if you are a serious cross-stitcher it’s worth your time, but that’s not the point of this article. Looking up “photo to cross-stitch” online brings TONS of results, each with a slightly different algorithm which creates the works. Let’s take a look at a few:
This is probably the easiest website to navigate as it has one purpose and one purpose only: make simple patterns from photos. I’m going to use a lovely picture of Lil Bub as our reference, cuz the world needs a Lil’ Bub needlepoint pattern, AM I RIGHT? Click on and zoom into the examples to really see the quality of each program’s pattern. The pattern I deem the best quality will be at the end of this post cuz I know a lot of you will skip everything for that. PS LAWYER PEOPLE: the publication of a free Lil’ Bub pattern based on this photo is considered fair use, so don’t try and play wit me. I’m not making any money off this blog and if people want to stitch a cute kitty they are totally within their rights. BOOM.
ANYWAY to use this program you upload your photo and choose the maximum cloth size desired. There is no option to change thread count, so all images are charted on 14 count Aida. I’m gonna pick the largest possible size (150 x 119 stitches) to get the most detail. I’m also going to allow the maximum number of thread colors (50) for the same reason. For the sake of this blog I’m choosing colored boxes only, but you guys will want to pick “symbols only” for a proper pattern. After a couple seconds, you get:
Looks pretty good, however this program has automatic dithering which means that colors are randomly scattered to add “realism” to the work from far away. I kind of hate dithering because I’d rather the pattern be as close to the photo as possible. The lack of control over size also means the pattern doesn’t look as real as I’d like unless you stand far away. It’s a simple program if you want quick results, but not for the serous pattern maker.
2. Pic 2 Pat
This used to be my favorite free program, mostly because it was simple while still being customizable. Similarly to MyPhotoStitch, you upload your file and pick your preferences. Here, however, you can pick what brand of floss you want to use, how many stitches per inch (fabric thread count), and the specific size of the work. I decided on DMC thread, 18 count Aida (my usual go to) and a moderately large 20 x 13 inches. Number of colors isn’t chosen on this page, however once you pick next you’ll see a series of possible patterns, each with fewer and fewer colors. I went ahead and chose the first, most detailed one. Here’s what I got:
As you can see, this one looks A LOT better than the first, owing to the denser thread count and larger final size. There doesn’t seem to be any dithering as the color distribution is pretty true to the photo, so that’s good. I’m pretty pleased with the final result and the PDF created by the website, but I wish I could control the number of colors and size a bit better. For this project their maximum possible size was fine, but when working on the Ghent it was too small. Nevertheless, Pic 2 Pat is My Photo Stitch level easy with a bit more beef involved.
This website claims it’s the leading online photo to cross-stitch converter, and they also have a little “partnered with DMC” banner on their site. That all seems legit, but how is the program?
Oh wait, you have to pay.
Yup! This one pretends to be free but actually costs around $9 per pattern. They tell you this upfront before you begin the process however, and you can see your pattern for free first. Unfortunately, there are literally no options for the final pattern parameters; they simply tell you how many colors and what size the final piece will be. Here’s the photo they showed me:
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s worth $9 when I can get a much more colorful and realistic version for free. Thanks but no thanks.
Once you get over the terrible grammar and site design (what is it, 1995?), this website claims it’s special in making each pattern a unique work of art!
So once you click to continue, you realize it’s another paid for service. What a scam these people. Here’s the example of the competitor vs. their design:
if you like creepy bleached out cartoon men. I don’t know, basically I’m not impressed with this one. To see a preview you have to send them your photo and then they put it on the website with your name, which I do not like. So basically I would avoid this one unless cartoon man boys are your style. Might be fun to look at some of the examples though, they are really goofy.
This is BY FAR the best free-online program, at least for serious cross-stitchers. They provide an intense amount of customization and allow you to make a pattern any size and density you want. I loaded Lil’ Bub into the program which then allowed me a few customization options. I would recommend clicking on the “advanced” button to see the full range of options, more than any other program seen here. I chose to make the pattern 20 x 13 inches, on 18 count Aida, using 50 colors of DMC. On the last tab you can choose the color selection algorithm, which I wouldn’t touch, and dithering, which I would turn off. Click ok and after a few minutes you’ll get this:
The viewing window made it difficult to see the whole pattern, but just LOOK at his precie little face. FLAWLESS. This website is even more great because you can print your pattern AND save it to your computer. The save file only opens in this online program, not in PDF, but you can look at your chart and all the corresponding information in there if you want to save paper. The best part? There are NO hidden fees here, it is totally free!!!! I think this program totally blows all the other free programs out of the water and it is my go-to for pattern creation. I’ll give it one half point off because you can’t make a PDF, and also because occasionally symbols are repeated, but if you are diligent in reading your pattern it shouldn’t be an issue.
If you’re going to plop down some money for a cross-stitch pattern maker, don’t pay one of those online sites $10 per pattern, shell out the $40 – 70 for this program. Why the price range? Macstitch offers a variety of levels depending on what you need the program for. The higher end program allows a variety of export formats, image editing, beads, buttons, sequins, and every type of stitch. These programs all also work on Windows, but most PC users should probably check out PCStitch first. You can download an extremely limited free demo to get the idea, which I’ll use to generate a Lil’ Bub. Using the image import wizard, I imported the image and used the slider scales to pick size, cloth thread count, and number of colors, choosing the same parameters as Coricamo. After choosing DMC threads, I hit done and was rewarded with this:
Oh. Oh no.
Yeah the photo conversion in Macstitch is iffy at best. Perhaps in the full version there are some more options, maybe including turning off dithering (blech!), but based on this test it looks maybe the worst of all. HOWEVER, this does not mean Macstitch isn’t worth your money. The real beauty of this program is the ability to chart your own patterns by hand while simultaneously creating a thread list. It also allows you to blend threads and come up with a variety of knot and stitch types. For our purposes today it’s a bust, but as an overall program it is heads above the free programs if you are at all interested in hand charting.
In the end Coricamo is definitely the best free program, creating amazingly detailed and customizable patterns you can print at home. I do wish they had a PDF export for offline ease of use, but it is a minor complaint. If you want to make a pattern by hand, however, I recommend shelling out at least the base price for Macstitch. Sure beats graph paper and colored pencils.
I’m going to use Coricamo to make my Ghent patterns in the coming weeks and hopefully will have some progress photos here and there. I’m gonna keep the focus on my DIY’s for now however, as I know that’s what you guys love the most. Lil’Bub is posted at the bottom in the PDF from Pic to Pat since WordPress won’t let me upload the weird Coricamo format and that pattern was pretty good. If you NEED the Coricamo quality like I do, I can upload my final pattern in another manner, so let me know! If you make any patterns using these programs or if you work on Lil’ Bub I’d LOVE to see! Send me photos and contact me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Ravelry (OMG SO MUCH SOCIAL MEDIA).
In the meantime, keep crafting!