Tutorial: Making Basic Cross Stitch Charts with Photoshop

Hello dear readers! Today I will show you how to use Photoshop to make images that are easy to convert into cross stitch charts (using a program like Macstitch or KG-Chart). This is how I start with pretty much every pattern I make.

chart tutorial feature

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • an image (or images) that you want to incorporate into your cross stitch design — remember to use images that you have the rights to, even if you’re just making a design for yourself. It’s not nice to use other people’s art without their permission
  • Adobe Photoshop, (or GIMP, which is free)
  • some familiarity with using Photoshop or GIMP — there are many tutorials online for both of these programs, if my explanations are unclear: here’s a getting started guide for Photoshop & a list of tutorials for GIMP
  • a cross stitch chart program — I have used and liked MacStitch (paid, Mac & Windows options available) & KG-Chart (free, but Windows only); there are many, many others (including web-browser based ones) — as long as they have an image-to-chart conversion feature they should work

Resizing & Editing

Start by opening your image in Photoshop and saving a copy as a Photoshop document.

orange cat clip art

I used this free cat clip art from Sweet Clip Art

The first thing you likely need to do is resize your image to the size you want your stitched project to be. First, crop the image down to just the part you want to use in the design. Then, resize the image so that it is as many pixels wide (or tall) as the number of stitches wide (or tall) you want the finished project to be. There are many cross stitch calculators on the web (like this one); or if you already have a size (in inches) in mind, multiply that by the stitch count of your intended fabric. For this image, I decided to make it 4 inches wide on 18 count aida, so I resized it to be 72 pixels/stitches wide (4 times 18 = 72). Here’s what the steps look like in Photoshop:

steps for resizing image in photoshop

You’ll want to make sure that you choose to resample your image (step 3). The different options are different algorithms the program uses to make the image smaller. I think that “nearest neighbor” works best for making cross stitch patterns.

After resizing, your image might be kind of messy. Use the pencil & eraser tools to clean up and simplify the image.

using the pencil, eraser, and eyedropper tools to edit the image

For this cat, I first selected the dark brown outline color and drew in the outline before selecting the other colors and cleaning up the nose, eyes, white patches, and body color.

Now, you may be thinking, ‘Hmm, these are all things I can do in my cross stitch chart program, why would I want to use another program?’ I would give two answers: 1) the magic wand tool, and 2) adding text. The magic wand tool is super useful & I haven’t found a cross stitch program that does something similar; some cross stitch programs will do text but I find using an image processing program like Photoshop makes adding text so much easier and less frustrating. So let’s take a look at both of these features.

The Magic Wand Tool

Here is a way better tutorial on the magic wand than I could ever write, but I’ll try to give you the basics. The magic wand selects pixels based on tone and color, so you can use it to easily find pixels that are not the right color, or to select everything that is sort-of close to the right color and make all those pixels one color, without individually changing the pixels using the pencil tool.

an illustration of the magic wand tool

Right side: the magic wand with ‘0’ tolerance; Left side: the magic wand with tolerance at ’30’

For example, setting the magic wand tolerance to 0 means that it will only select pixels that are the same color as the pixel I click on. In the image above, you can see that this makes it easier to spot the pixels that aren’t the same color as the rest of the body (left image). Bumping up the tolerance and clicking on the body color again selects all the pixels that are sort-of-body-colored, and makes it easy to make all the pixels the same color with the paint bucket.

Adding Text

Use the Type tool to add any text that you want. This is much easier than in the cross stitch programs I’ve used, because you can go back and edit the text, move it around, change the size and font, etc. Although you can theoretically use any font, there are specific fonts (called bitmap or pixel fonts) that are great for cross stitch because they are designed to be readable at small resolutions.

adding text to the cross stitch design

There are hundreds of free pixel fonts at sites like dafont.com. For this example I used a font called Handy, designed to be 8 pixels tall. When using a pixel font, be sure to choose ‘none’ as the anti-aliasing option (see illustration). If you’re using a non-pixel font (like any of the basic fonts that come with your computer), play around with the anti-aliasing options and size until you find something that looks good to you. Remember, each pixel will be one stitch in the finished chart.

Saving the Image

When you have the chart how you’d like it (except for backstitching, fractional stitches, or knots, which have to be added in a cross stitch program), it is time to save it. Using “Save as,” save the document as a PNG file (.png). You can then import the PNG into KG-Chart, Macstitch, or another cross stitch chart maker to make your chart! When the program asks you what size it should make the chart, choose to make it as many stitches wide & tall as the PNG file is in pixels.

Pretty much anything that you can do in Photoshop you can save as a PNG and turn into a cross stitch chart. Tutorials in how to use Photoshop are beyond the scope of this blog (and also very numerous on the internet), but I recommend checking some out if you want to make more complicated designs.

And if you want the chart that I created for this tutorial, here it is:




1 Comment

Filed under Tutorials

One response to “Tutorial: Making Basic Cross Stitch Charts with Photoshop

  1. Reblogged this on To My Imagination and Beyond and commented:
    So, I like to sew, but I can never find any really good cross-stitching patterns within my budget. (Plus, they’re great Minecraft patterns). Hopefully, this’ll help with my problems, as well as yours!


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