How to make a cross stitch pattern - 4 easy ways - Sew Guide (2023)

Have you wished you can make cross stitch designs in the professional way that the designers do. They give the right shadings and do the most intricate designs with such ease. Other than buying cross stitch kits or having expensive cross stitch software there is a way. In fact there are many ways in which you can do it.Checkout this tutorial for cross stitch if you are a beginner as well as the FAQ on how to embroider

In this article I will cover:

  • How to make a cross stitch pattern
  • 1. Professional services
  • 2. Using a grid paper
  • 3. Use your computer
  • How to prepare a photo to be converted into a cross stitch design
  • Some tips when designing your cross stitch project

How to make a cross stitch pattern - 4 easy ways - Sew Guide (1)

1. Professional services

You can get this software (free) and start making your own cross stitch designs on your computer. The most easy way. Or give your photo to a photo charting company – could it get easier- they will turn your photo into a cross stitch chart . or go to this site – they do all the work for you.

Choose a photo in which the main subject is clear and in focus, without too much details around it. You need uncluttered photos.

2. Using a grid paper

The next DIY method involves using a grid paper.

Grid papers havehorizontal and vertical lines forming grids. Each square in the grid is counted as a cross stitch when designing.

If you do not have grid paper at home ( or if you cannot tear one from a kid’s maths graph workbook as I have done; though this is only good for a basic overview purpose as the grids in a graph paper are generally big for the cloth you have; The grid paper you have should ideally match the cloth you have.) it is ok. You have online sites like ( and many other; just google grid paper online) that will give you printable grid paper.

Get thethe design / photo you intend to use, the grid paper and a carbon sheet.

How to make a cross stitch pattern - 4 easy ways - Sew Guide (2)

Ok maybe not so complicated; find a simple design. Checkout different inspirational sources of embroidery design.This pinterest board has some simple and excellently worked cross stitch designs you can find inspiration from.

How to make a cross stitch pattern - 4 easy ways - Sew Guide (3)

Trace the design on to the grid paper. You will need to trace all the defining lines of the drawing on to the grid paper.

Use a pencil to shade the inside.

How to make a cross stitch pattern - 4 easy ways - Sew Guide (4)

You can use coloured pencils to shade inside the design with the colour of the floss you intend to use. or if you would rather make markings rathern than colouring, use straight lines, square corners, and forward and backward diagonal lines to indicate the curves in the design as close as possible to the original design. Write down the colours you intend to use.

How to make a cross stitch pattern - 4 easy ways - Sew Guide (5)

Finish the work

How to make a cross stitch pattern - 4 easy ways - Sew Guide (6)

What size graph/grid paper is best for cross stitch design

Each square of the graph /grid paper you have will be a cross stitch in your design. The cloth you get specifically for cross stitch will have indications as to how many squares per inch makes this cloth. That is what it means by a 11, count cloth, 14 count cloth, 20 count cloth etc.As the number increases it indicates that the cloth is closely woven.

With a 36 count linen ( which is on the higher side) you have tight weave and even if you take two thread for each stitch the design will be very small. Here you have the advantage of being able to make more intricate designs and shadings.

But most of the times you are cross stitching on a garment or accessory and you probably donot know the count. Then what you can do is draw an outline on the graph paper which is the exact size of the design area in your garment.

Then you can draw the design inside the outline. Then fill with coloured pencils. Now you will know how your final design will look when it done on the garment. Here you can use a 10 count grid paper.

Use colour pencils to fill the outline with the necessary highlights and tones and shades. You can mark the fractional stitches as well in the grid paper.

If you donot want to transfer the design directly, the photocopy machine and a plastic sheet can do the job easier for you. Keep the transparent sheet above your picture.

Make an outline of the design with a pen. Now keep the transparency above the graph paper. Take a photocopy. You have the design with the appropriate grid lines over it. Easy.

3. Use your computer

You can use the Excel program on your computer to make the cross stitch patterns

This is another easy way. This can easily recreate simple design the way you want it. Best for simple projects with repetitive patterns like border cross stitch designs. You make grid lines on the excel to match the ones you want.

To fill the design with the colours, you can use the method of negative filling. This is by filling an area with colour and then deleting the colour on grids in a pattern to make the design( Use the ‘no fill’ tool in excel tool bar).

To make a border of repetitive patterns you can just copy paste this pattern you have made the way you want it.

The best thing about this method is that you can play around with colour. In the above method of using grid sheets , you will have to redraw the design again and again ; here withthe computer you can fill different colours and see the effects without much effort again and again. When you are satisfied you can print it out as well for reference

Checkout relatedposts on how to design your own letters in cross stitch and how to embroider letters ( different ways)

How to prepare a photo to be converted into a cross stitch design

To make a cross stitch design in the computer like the designers do, you need a scanner and a simple cross stitch design software

First and foremost get a smooth flat photo which is very clear with crisp outlines and some contrasts. Reduce the resolution of the scanner to its lowest setting. Keep a piece of clear plastic sheet on the photo and place this on the scanner. Scan the photo in the scanner at a 24-bit setting and convert it into a format that your cross stitch software asks for.

Herepixels equalsto stitches per inches. Soif you want a design of 100*100 stitches, get 100* 100 pixels.Check that you have only the necessaryelements in the image. If there are any unwanted details use the program to edit it out. Now the photo is ready to be converted to a cross stitch design. Read the manual of the program to know further details

Some tips when designing your cross stitch project

Choose a design close to your heart – you will want to finish it sooner

Choose simple designs for your first work

You can select 3 or 4 colours you like and then combine shades of these colours for your design.

If you have a design and you find that it is a little bigger than what you wanted change the count of the fabric – say a 14 count fabric rther than a n 18 count fabric.

Related post : Turn a photograph to embroidery.

Learning Embroidery – 10 FAQ answered


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