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Machine Embroidery Design Formats

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Machine Embroidery Design Formats

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When purchasing designs, you will need to know which format is compatible with your machine. Like the difference in human languages, one format type is understood by various machine brands and not others, so the format must be written in the language that your particular machine understands. Some machines will accept more than one format and others require one specific format. Adding to the confusion, embroidery design software programs each create a format specific to the software, and most software formats cannot be understood by an embroidery machine. Many designs at are offered in both software formats and machine formats. The formats that will be available for immediate download are listed on the design product page to help you know if your format will be available in your order download. To determine which embroidery design format is right for your machine, let’s take a look at the differences in both software and machine formats.

Click on the small thumbnail images to enlarge.

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What is a Format?
The "format" is recognized by the filename extension, which is the last two or three digits after the dot (.) for example: Design.PES. Basically there are two types of data file formats that are used in computerized embroidery. The software file that the digitizer creates is referred to as an “object” or “outline” and the properties can be easily modified because the file contains adjustable wireframe objects. Each type of digitizing software creates a different format that is specific to the software. This “master file” is then used to write a file for the machine that includes only the data for each stitch and machine commands, like color stops and trims. The “machine” or “stitch” format operates the embroidery machine and cannot be easily modified without resulting in various sewing problems and a poor quality sew-out. You will find most stock designs are available only in the machine formats, but some vendors at also offer software formats. 

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Software Formats
The master file, sometimes called a “working” file, contains all properties and machine commands. Variables like density and stitch length can be changed, as well as the shapes manipulated when the object file is loaded into the software program. This master file should always be saved and stored with the machine file so it can be used for any necessary future revisions.
Common Software Formats:

ART: (Grade A and B) Bernina
BE: Embrilliance
CND: Melco Epicor
C2S: Floriani
CLQ: I-Cliqq
DSG: Sierra
EDF: SEDS and I-Punch
EOF: Embird
ERF: Compucon
EMB: Wilcom
GNC: Great Notions
OFM: Melco Design Shoppe
STI: Datastitch 

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Machine Formats
A machine format is created from the master file and is used to run the embroidery machine. The stitches in machine files can be manipulated to a small degree, but major property changes can only be done in the master file. You could say that the stitches have been frozen into the only language the machine understands. There are only a few software programs, such as Floriani SmartSizer Editing III that will automatically generate outlines around the stitches so that some of the design properties can be edited. The machine format is intended only for the operation of the machine and each type of machine requires a different format.

Common Embroidery Machine Formats:

ART: (Grades C and D) Bernina
DST: Tajima
CND: Melco w/style parameter functions
CSD: Poem/Huskygram/Singer
EXP: Melco/Bernina
FMC: Barudan
HUS: Husqvarna Viking
JEF: Janome
PCD: Pfaff
PCM: Pfaff
PCS: Pfaff
PEC: Baby Lock/Brother/Deco
PES: Baby Lock/Brother/Deco
SEW: Janome/Elna/Kenmore
SHV: Viking Designer 1
VIP: Husqvarna Viking/Pfaff
VP3: Husqvarna Viking/Pfaff
XXX: Singer

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Format Versions & Grades
Due to continuous upgrades there are different versions of various machine formats, such as PES that currently has about 10 different versions. The newer machines and software usually can read all of the earliest versions of PES, but older machines and software have trouble understanding versions of PES higher than version 4. When the file cannot be opened it usually produces an error message, such as “bad data”. Some software programs offer the option of different versions available to save the PES format and others save in only one version or another.It’s a matter of trial and error to find out which version your software reads and writes and what your machine understands. When a conflict occurs, usually it means that the higher version needs to be converted again to version 4 or lower.

The ART format also comes in different versions, as well as “grades”. The grades A and B formats are the master object files and can only be made by the Bernina software. Grades C and D can be created by other software programs by different manufacturers, but these versions do not contain object data that allows them to be edited as a grade A or B format in Bernina software. Bernina offers a free download of their software that can help you determine the grade of an ART design file, as well as convert an ART format to another format like PES or DST. Bernina’s ART link will read different grades of ART, and it will convert all grades and versions of ART to other machine formats, but if you want to save the design in ART format, you must first start with a design that is an ART format of a grade A or B.

When you are unable to use a file in the PES or ART formats, the format may need to be reconverted to a more appropriate version. Contact our Customer Service team and we can make another version appropriate for your machine.

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Downloading Your Format
If there is no blue button available in your format column on the download page, as the HUS format in this image, you can try using the Online Conversion Tool available on the same download page. Click on the ‘Change Format’ link that sits to the right of the design image. Choose your format from the drop down menu and click on ‘Convert Now’. You will be given a link to download the design. After downloading, use the Back button to back up twice if you wish to return to the download page. Please note that the Online Conversion Tool is unable to convert a design larger than 3.9 x 3.9” in the PES format because it is only able to convert to version 4. When this occurs, you can contact our Customer Service team and request that the design be converted to PES and emailed to you. As well, our Online Conversion Tool will not convert to any version or grade of ART, but if you require the ART format, contact us and we will email the design to you in a grade C or D.

To convert a file from one embroidery machine format to another, you would need to install a software program on your computer that has the conversion ability to read and write different formats. The file is opened in the software, and then saved in the format that you need. We have several programs available that can be used for converting files, such as BuzzTools programs and Embrilliance programs.

Design used - Valentine Owls Embroidery Design:

Related to the article:
Embrilliance Essentials:

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Meet The Author: Bonnie Landsberger
Bonnie Landsberger has been a crafter and hand embroiderer since childhood and a machine embroiderer and digitizer since 1986. She was the in-house head digitizer for a 50-head embroidery shop for 11 years and later offered custom digitizing services and stock design sales through her web site for Moonlight Design since 1993. She currently also holds a position as a customer service representative at Bonnie has won several awards for digitizing, including a gold medal in the 2002 Digitizing Olympics and grand prize in all categories & first place for Winter Holidays category in the Stitches Magazine Great Greeting Card Contest 2003. Her embroidery and digitizing technical articles can be found in various trade magazines and she is currently a contributing writer and Editorial Advisory Board Member for Stitches Magazine. You can also find more of her articles online at and will continue to contribute articles to our Learning Center.

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christa m Aug 09, 2014
Bonnie has written great articles that will help any home sewer. Easy to follow. Thanks.

Dawn D Aug 09, 2014
I just wanted to say how helpful this article is. Bonnie has supplied some great info that is usually hard to come by. I just wish it would print in the same size as is seen on the screen, rather than the small paragraph format that I can't seem to get around when taking a copy. Thanks for the info though. I really enjoy your column. Dawn Duke

Anonymous Aug 11, 2014
Thank you for this article. It was helpful. I've been a freehand machine embroiderer for 38 years and recently bought a new machine. I am still feeling like I'm trying to learn a foreign language. This helps.

Marlene B Sep 05, 2014
Is this available in shv format. I have a designer 1.

Anonymous Oct 18, 2014
I have had four Viking machines & have 5D software. I now have purchased a Elliisomo Baby Lock. Do I need to change anything with the software on my computer besides being PES now instead of HUS.? Can I just download a design specifying PES. Thank you! Love your column.

Hüsch T Feb 15, 2015
Hallo ich habe eine frage suche ein Programm wo ich Bilder Digitalisieren kann und das Bilder von Hunden. können sie mir da helfen. habe eine Brother PR-600 und mir macht es auch viel spass.

Judith M Feb 28, 2015
My machine has a vp3 format. I find very few of your designs in that format. Is there a way for me to convert some of your designs to the vp3 format?
Anonymous Jun 06, 2015
Hi I also use vp3 format for the husqvarna , but I have downloaded hus designs and they work perfectly

Diane H Jul 19, 2015
Do you have anything on cutworks. Like how to cut out the rose or way to do other think with cutworks?

Marie H Mar 25, 2017
How can I convert from one format to another eg. from hus to jef Marie

Bonnie L Mar 27, 2017
To convert a file from one embroidery machine format to another, you would need to install a software program on your computer that has the conversion ability to read and write different formats. The file is opened in the software, and then saved in the format that you need. We have several programs available that can be used for converting files, such as BuzzTools programs and Embrilliance programs.

Susan O Jun 18, 2017
Thank you Bonnie for going the extra mile. I ordered the Buzz explorer and now I understand every thing you were trying to get in my head. Thank you for being so patient with me.
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