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The Pros & Cons of Resizing Designs

(Click to View All Images)

Nothing is exactly the size you need it to be right? You can find the perfect design, but you need a cap logo and the design is jacket-back sized, or vice verse. What do you do? Do you purchase the design and hope that it will resize well? There are some considerations to take into account before you do that.

Most design companies say that you can reduce or enlarge a design up to fifteen percent. Most of the time, when they say that, it is merely to cover their proverbial backsides, and with good reason. Large designs are usually digitized with much detail. Smaller designs lack detail. Consequently, if you go too far in either direction, there will be problems.

What problems? When you reduce a large, detailed design, the stitches that make up the detail in that design become packed too closely together. On the reverse, when you take a small design that doesn’t have as many commands in the program up to a very large size, the design often looks distorted and unsightly. The rule of thumb is that designs are usually created to be stitched at the original size. You can, however, resize designs, and I do often.

How Good Is Your Editing Software?
Resizing well depends largely on how good your embroidery editing software program is. Does it eliminate stitches when the design is reduced? Does it add stitches when the design is enlarged? Does it read the stitch lengths and the column widths and adjust them accordingly? These are things you have to know if you intend to resize designs.

How Good Are You at Operating Your Editing Software?
It used to be, that if a design was in an expanded stitch format of any type, that the design could not be edited. However, there have been many advances in editing software.

Click to enlargeToday, most software programs will convert the stitch file to an outline format, allowing for more ease in editing. Assuming that you have such a software program, let’s take a look at what you can do.

The design at the right is a simple crown and is digitized at a size of nearly 2.5 inches wide by about 2 inches high. The problem with enlarging this design is the columns. There are columns creating the “jewels” on the bottom section, as well as the outline of the design.

The columns are hefty, and when enlarged, would be too wide to look nice, and they would possibly catch on sharp objects and threads would pull out. (We all know how difficult it is to rip out embroidery when it’s a mistake, but many of us also have experience with what happens when the columns in a design are too wide. Once the embroidery starts coming out, it’s almost impossible to stop that process!)

Let’s assume, for the sake of this article, that I want to double the size of this design. The only columns that become too large at that size are the purple gems. They would be about a quarter of an inch, at the edge of what we call reasonable. For that color, it would be wise to employ the technique of changing the column to a fill. This would be found in your editing properties.

Click to enlarge

Double The Size

Now the question is, is there enough underlay to support that fill? Does the stitch direction of the new fill run at an angle that will allow it to sit atop the base fill of that section as easily as a column does. Is the density at which the column was set suitable for a fill density? These are all properties that can, once again, be checked out in your editing properties. 

Something else that needs to be checked out when enlarging a design this much is the underlay of the rest of the sections. This particular design, I noticed, when I was analyzing its ability to be resized, was constructed with a manual underlay. In other words, the digitizer placed each row of stitches by hand, rather than relying on the software to place the underlay for him. Therefore, with the click of a button in the fill section of the properties, you can add underlay to the rest of the sections.

Those simple changes should make this uncomplicated design stitch-able at double the size. It’s still not a jacket back size, though, so if we triple the size of the design, what then? The problems are the same, just in a bigger proportion.  

Click to enlargeAll of the columns become too wide at the tripled size. They can be changed to a fill, but now they need more underlay than did the columns on the original design. Again, with the click of a button, I added an edge walk for the primary underlay and an additional center walk for the secondary underlay.

Since the problem was universal, I didn’t have to change the properties of each section, but could choose the entire design and change them only once.

You’d think this might be a very stitch intensive design at this size, but not so. It came out to 28,240 total stitches, on the low size of jacket back sized designs.
Click to enlargeColumns and fills are pretty easy to deal with when enlarging designs. Much more difficult are the designs that have a running stitch outline. What seems accurate at a small size is not necessarily so when enlarged. Any discrepancies in the outline become bigger and bigger as the size goes up. The design on the right, for instance, is a small design, cute at the size it is, but lacking in the detail that you would want if you were to enlarge it significantly. 

Compare the size of the running stitch outline to the size of a column. It’s apparent that there is far less leeway in portraying accuracy. However, if you do choose to enlarge a simple design like this one, and there are areas of the fill that need adjustment, you need a software program that allows you to move the edges of the outline.

The push/pull factor is huge when it comes to resizing designs. Experience will tell you that the larger the design, the more compensation that will be needed for fill patterns, simply because they are larger. Experience is the key! It takes time to become proficient in using the features in your editing software.
Click to enlargeLet’s go the other direction. Using the same two designs, let’s take a look at what happens when we go smaller. The original design of the child was just over four inches tall. Reducing it to 50 percent of that size works great. The only noticeable differences are in the compacting of the hair and the fill stitches seem a bit long. Remember, though, that we are looking at screen-generated pictures, and the look is not totally accurate. While they are a good judge of what will work and not work, an embroiderer really has to stitch out the design to test its accuracy. 

Now let’s go back to that crown. The crown is a different story because of the columns. The columns that finish off the edges of the design work great at the original size, but when reduced are too narrow for easy stitching, and will result in thread breaks.  

Click to enlargeThe columns, before adjustment, were at .04 inches, much too small to stitch. To get them back to a workable size, I increased the column width 170 percent. The whole thing seems a little over-run by black to me.

Let’s try changing the color and see what that does. The design looks very different, doesn’t it? My changing the black to yellow gold, the aspect of the black being overwhelming is eliminated. §
Click to enlargeNeither of the two designs that we have studied so far have very much detail. Just for fun, I’m going to take a very large motorcycle design and reduce it so that you will be able to see what happens when too much detail is compacted into a small area. The motorcycle was digitized at a size of 11.5 inches. That’s a huge design, but the size allows for much detail to be put into the motor area and the spokes on the wheels. Notice, too, the shadows that give the design a three-dimensional look.
Click to enlargeThe great amount of detail is possible because of the size. This design could be reduced effectively to about half of its original size. However, it is still almost six inches wide, certainly too wide for a left crest or cap design. You can see, though, that the stitches are already more compacted than in the design of the original size.
So let’s check out the same design at three inches, a size that would be suitable for left crests or caps. Wow, where did the detail go?  
Click to enlarge 
Once again, the black outline takes over the design, hiding what detail there would be in stitches that are too close together. Piling the stitches one on top of the other as this design would surely do, will not only result in lost detail, but would give the embroiderer countless thread breaks, as well.

If we’re not digitizers, we often ask why we have to pay for digitizing the same design more than one time to get various sizes. Those of us who are digitizers would like to be able to take the shortcuts to get designs of various sizes.

Sometimes it is possible, and other times it is not. But, the better you are at editing, the more you will be able to resize.

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Meet The Author: Barbara Geer
Barbara Geer, Creative Director/Digitizer, Grand Slam Designs, an embroidery stock design and contract digitizing operation, has been in the decorated apparel industry since 1990. She is a popular speaker at commercial decorated apparel and home embroidery events. She also is a frequent contributor to commercial and home embroidery publications such as EMB, Stitches, and Printwear. You may reach Barbara at 218-222-3501; e-mail barb@grandslamdesigns.com or visit her Web site at www.grandslamdesigns.com.

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Mary A Mar 12, 2015
Nice article
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