Are free cross stitch pattern makers better than paid?

As a cross stitch pattern designer, I strongly sing the praises of any and all free and paid cross stitch pattern generators but there is something quite obvious when looking at these generators; they aren’t made equal.
 
As a result it often scares people away from purchasing a pattern or downloading software to make patterns. Further to this the confusion about what makes a good pattern maker is rife, and so I regularlly get people asking me if a free pattern maker is better than a paid one. The answer is usually no; paid is better, however the reasons why are quite important; it can mean the difference between a brilliant pattern, and a terrible one.

Color Selection

Color selection in a pattern is super important, and as you progress as a stitcher you’ll find yourself hand picking colors. The reason hand picking colors is so important is that no one actually know what the colors is. Here me out there; thanks to the new DMC threads there are 500 DMC threads in the standard range to choose from, and whilst you can find these colors represented in a lot of places with color blocks, the threads aren’t made up with computer screens in mind. As a result when someone wants to look at an image on a computer they have to guess what the color is. Yes, you heard that right, they guess.
To give you an example, below are two cross stith programs interpretations of the colors in the DMC range. The important thing here is to see how different they are. Even though they’re meant to be the same color.

DMC thread RGB scatter graphs (source: spritestitch.com)
DMC thread RGB scatter graphs (source: spritestitch.com)

Free programs use a list they found somewhere online, they haven’t sat down with each color and investigated what the accurate color might be. Paid programs do. In fact, many paid programs make similar graphs to the above just to check their working against others, as a result they have a higher likelihood of getting more accurate color selections.

Dithering

Dithering is a rather complicated thing, and I’m not going to describe it in detail, but in short, its how boundries of colors are represented. Actually making dithering work is a VERY complicated thing and In a lot of free cross stitch programs, its simply too complicated to bother and as a result there is no dithering. This sounds OK at first, but if you look at the example below (you can click it to enlarge it) you can see the difference dithering makes to ever part of the pattern. Simply put, dithering makes it look more real.

Cross Stitch Pattern with and without dithering example (Source: Thread-bare.com)
Cross Stitch Pattern with and without dithering example (Source: Thread-bare.com)

Extras

You might not think that any cross stitch pattern has ‘extras’ however things like per page thread usage, a preview image, page ‘cross over’ marks, amount of thread needed, and other things all come with patterns from paid pattern creators, however they don’t with free ones. In fact, with most, you’ll only get the bare bones of a pattern,.

Limits

It should also be noted that with every free pattern, there are limits. This is normally size and how many colors a pattern can have, most are limited to 200×200 and 30 colors, but there can also be other limits, such as only exporting in an image, or forced to have a weblink on the pdf.

Why They’re Free

Finally, there is one thing that everyone needs to realise; nothing is free. By offering a free program, what they mean, is they don’t think they can charge, as they know their program isn’t good enough to charge.
But that doesn’t mean you should never use free cross stitch pattern makers. In fact, there is definitely a time and place for them. We’ll discuss when you should pay for a pattern maker next week.
 
Although online programs like StitchFiddle make free programs super accessible, the ability of paid programs, such as the online Thread-Bare and the downloadable WinStitch make the paid alternatives much better.

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