Switching From Paper to PDF Cross Stitch Patterns

Home > Blog > Stitching Tips and Guides > Switching From Paper to PDF Cross Stitch Patterns

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

If you’re making the transition from paper patterns to PDF charts, this blog unpacks some of the key considerations. We think digital patterns are amazing (but they don’t suit everyone) and we hope our post will help you decide if they are right for you.

Understanding Pattern Format

The first thing you need to know about digital cross stitch patterns is they are generally in PDF format. This is an open standard, which means the files are accessible and usable by anyone, anywhere.

To open a PDF file you’ll need the Adobe Reader app (or software) on your device, and most gadgets come with the application preinstalled.

What is a PDF?

PDF is an acronym that stands for Portable Document Format. The PDF format was invented by Adobe but is now an open standard. This means that people have an easy, reliable way to exchange documents – regardless of the software, hardware, or operating system being used by the person who views the document. 

Getting Your Charts

The next thing you need to know is how the files are delivered. Unlike a printed chart or cross stitch kit, you don’t pick up a digital cross stitch pattern from the supermarket shelf and carry it to your car.

Rather, you buy the charts online and receive your purchase (via email) within seconds of placing your order. Here at Cross Stitch Patterns Online you simply browse through our online shop, choose the pattern you want, pay for your order, and then click the link in the confirmation email.

Now save the file and presto, you’re done.

I thought you said PDF? Why is it a ZIP?

Once you have your download pack, don’t be alarmed if the file is in .ZIP format. Many pattern designers (including us) compress digital cross stitch patterns into .ZIP files to reduce storage space and increase download speeds.

Opening a .ZIP file is easy, so don’t let it put you off going digital, in most cases, you simply double-click (or double-tap) on the file name to get your charts.

If you’re not sure what to do with a .ZIP file, you can always check our Support Desk article Opening the .ZIP File because it contains full instructions for a range of devices as well as an instructional video.

Displaying on Gadgets

Now to the fun stuff — displaying your cross stitch pattern on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is truly the best feature of PDF charts because you have virtually unlimited ways of viewing the patterns.

Here’s a few ideas.

If you like sitting at the table while stitching (and prefer a larger-sized grid), open the pattern on your desktop computer and set the zoom to 150-200%.

Alternately, if you prefer stitching on the run, keep the pattern files in your cloud account (Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud etc.) and open the pattern on your smartphone. We particularly love this feature when we are at the craft store buying fabric and floss because we can easily view the Thread Key (a type of map that lists all the materials you need for the project) and work out what supplies we need.

displaying a chart on pattern keeper

Best of all, most PDF charts can be imported into the Pattern Keeper App. PK allows you to view an entire cross stitch project without losing your place, search for individual colour blocks, mark off completed work, and track your stitching rates and overall progress. If you’ve never used Pattern Keeper, it really is a game-changer.

How about a dedicated tablet?

Buying an Android tablet just for cross stitch is definitely a thing and last year we we did it too. For less than AUD$100 we grabbed a cheap tablet and loaded the Pattern Keeper App plus our favourite charts into Google Drive.

As a pattern designer, it’s also great having a dedicated tablet because it’s easy to test our new charts in Pattern Keeper. We are proudly a PK-supported designer and listed on their website.

pattern keeper tested bagde


Not all PDF charts work with with Pattern Keeper App. When buying digital patterns, look for the official trust badge of PK Supported Designers.

Printing Charts at Home

If you’re not ready to give up paper charts just yet, you can always print your PDF patterns on your home printer. This gives you the best of both worlds — full display on electronic gadgets plus the ability to customise your prints. Examples include:

  • Enlarging or reducing the print/paper size according to your personal preferences.
  • Choosing black and white or full-colour printing.
  • Using cheap bond paper that can easily be marked with ballpen or highlighters.
  • Ignoring pages you don’t need to print.
  • Quickly reprinting if you lose a page or want to stitch the design again.

Keeping Your Files Safe

Something very important when using digital cross stitch patterns is to keep a backup of your files. It would be dreadful to lose all your patterns if you misplaced your mobile phone, bought a new tablet, or upgraded your computer.

Even if you buy your patterns from us (we offer lifetime access to purchases) we still recommend storing an extra copy in a cloud account like Google Drive, iCloud, or OneDrive. Always best to be safe.

cross stitch patterns online heart logo transparent background 50x50

Create an account when you buy a PDF cross stitch pattern from us and you can download your charts 24/7.

Buying Your Own Supplies

Finally, if you’ve been stitching from kits up until now, don’t forget you’ll need to start buying your own craft supplies. This can actually be a benefit of switching to PDF cross stitch patterns because you have more control over the quality of materials, and it often works out much cheaper.

Though do remember to keep your beloved cross stitch supplies well away from cats!

cat checking out my cross stitch supplies
In the time it took to grab my cellphone to take a picture, my beloved Paul Cat swooped in for a look.

Final Thoughts

We grew up stitching in the 80s and 90s so PDF patterns were a bit of a shock for us initially — but once we went digital we never looked back. We hope this short blog has been helpful and gives you the confidence to try PDF cross stitch patterns for yourself.

Get Stitching

How about this stitching a haughty rooster in full strut? This genuine Art Nouveau replica is the perfect digital starter pattern because you can stitch him in a whole range of colours and chromas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *