5 Tips for Converting a Photo to Cross Stitch

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

One of the most exciting developments in the world of cross stitch is the ability to convert your favourite photographs and drawings into beautiful cross stitch projects.

Whether you’re using a professional conversion service (like ours) or designing the pattern yourself, this blog will help you choose the best image and ensure the finished project meets all your needs. Let’s go!

1. Image Quality

The first thing you need to consider is the quality of the image you have. Where possible, use high-resolution images with sharply defined features because they will produce cross stitch patterns with much more detail.

EXAMPLE 1: this high-resolution photograph of a rainbow lorikeet produces a wonderful pattern. We’ve set the grid to 100 x 225 and used 99 colours. If you increased the grid size (and added more colours) the pattern would be even more defined.

Sometimes the best photo you have is the only photo you have, and that’s perfectly fine. But if it’s available, use the higher-resolution image.

EXAMPLE 2: now let’s check this low-resolution image of an Australian King parrot. We’ve used the same sizing and configuration as the previous example but you can see the detail in the parrot’s feathers, eyes, and beak were lost due to the grainy photograph. Plus the pattern wouldn’t pick up any more than 69 colours. You’ll need to make a really big pattern if you want to get some definition into those wings.

2. Background

Something to remember when converting a photo to cross stitch is that everything in the photo transfers into the pattern.

Unless the background holds special meaning, we recommend using photos that have minimal background elements and cropping out unnecessary space.

Otherwise, you will be stitching it.

Example: these dog photos could be lovely in cross stitch, especially the golden labrador on the left. Leave the background out completely and just stitch on blue or black Aida cloth.

Alternately, the collie dog on the right looks lovely against the forest background and rocky road, but it would be an extremely complex project because you would be stitching everything. A happy compromise might be to crop down to the dog’s ears (top) and tail (left).

3. Canvas Size

The next thing to consider is the canvas size and how many stitches (and colours) you are willing to tackle. Larger canvases allow you to use a lot more colours and look more realistic, but they take a long time to finish and require a lot more materials.

Example: this lovely cat photo transfers wonderfully to cross stitch. We’ve imported into our pattern software using four different grid sizes while selecting maximum colours. You’ll note the colour palette gradually increases as the grid gets larger.

In our example, the final stitch count ranges from 3,200 (50×64) to 115,200 (300×384). This means your choice of canvas size can be the difference between stitching for the whole weekend, or the whole year.

4. Complexity

Are you familiar with the cross stitch term ‘confetti’? If a project is filled with confetti it simply means there are lots of different colours splattered all over the canvas — and very few areas with blocks of single colour.

When used properly, confetti can give your finished project added depth and a more 3D-like appearance. There is a catch though, projects with lots of confetti are very difficult to stitch.

coloured confetti

Example: we’ve created two different charts from the same photograph of snow. You’ll see the original (below right) has blocks of single colour, whereas the confetti project (below cleft) splatters colour. It’s more difficult to stitch, but the finished piece will look more like real snow.

Using a professional conversion service allows you more control over the detail and quality of the finished piece. You’ll also have a professional-level chart with a full thread key and chart map.

Of course it costs more, but a reputable designer will ensure you have a beautiful project that looks amazing when stitched.

5. Pattern Keeper

Finally, if you love using Pattern Keeper you’ll want to make sure your charts will work seamlessly in the Android App (sorry iOS fans, no PK for just iOS yet). Not all patterns work with PK so it’s best to know that BEFORE you pay for the service.

pattern keeper tested bagde

Cross Stitch Patterns Online is a Pattern Keeper-supported designer. Our photo-to-cross-stitch and custom chart services include an extra chart that is specially formatted for Pattern Keeper — at no extra charge.

Using our photo to cross stitch service

We hope this blog gives you a better idea of how to ensure your treasured photo looks amazing in cross stitch. If you don’t feel confident doing it yourself, why not use one of our conversion services? We offer 3 x levels as follows:

  1. Photo to Cross Stitch — converting a photo to cross stitch pattern, exactly as is.
  2. Custom Cross Stitch — converting your photo or artwork to cross stitch, with basic photo editing (eg, cropping, background removal, colour enhancement, straightening).
  3. Personalised Remembrance — a fully customised project that can include basic photo editing, text and graphic elements.

For all three services, you can choose the canvas size, thread count, and pattern complexity (confetti levels). You’ll also receive an extra chart to use in the Pattern Keeper App.

banner for blog post about pic to cross stitch patterns

Image Attribution

The images used in this article were sourced from Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons, and are for display purposes only. None of the example charts are available for sale or download.

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