How To Make Cross Stitch Patterns

So you understand how to cross stitch, but now you want to make your own patterns?
I’ll start by saying; you rock! Making patterns is half the fun of cross stitch, so you’re onto a good start.
Depending on what you have in mind, there are a series of ways to make a cross stitch pattern, and so without using a specific program, I’ll go through them all here. However, if you’re looking to make video game cross stitch patterns you may want to look at our specific guide for that.

First things first

To start, you need to work out what image you’re trying to make. Depending on what it is specifically you want, you change the way you make the pattern.

  • I have a photo – Definitely the easiest pattern creation. All you need is pattern making software.
  • I want to make an image – Brave. But rewarding. You need an image package (MS paint will do), and that might be all.
  • I want to edit an image – If you need a large amount of edits to your image you need to edit the image before making the pattern.
  • I have a pixel image – If you have a pixel image in hand, you have a few options, but you need to make sure your image is right first.

I have a photo

With a photo you have a load of quick, easy options to making a pattern. However, all of them require you to have the image on your PC. If you’ve already got this, skip the next paragraph.

In order to get the image onto your PC, you may be able to simply send the image from your phone, or insert your cameras memory card, but in some circumstances, you may only have a printed version. If you have one of these, you can scan the image through a regular scanner.
Don’t have a scanner? There’s still an option for you. If you have an iPhone/iPad try out the app Cross Stitch Camera, which allows you to take a photo and make a pattern all on your phone. It’s a lot more automated on this app, so you should just follow the app guide.

You’re ready, the image in hand, ready to make a pattern, so what’s the hold-up?
Size. Any photo you’re likely to have on your PC will be HUGE and will make an equally huge pattern. So the first thing to do is work out how big you want the pattern. Start by working out (in inches) the size of the largest edge. Then work out what count aida you’re using. Time the inches by the count. This figure is important, so write it down.

If the overall number is less than 500, you could use an online pattern maker, such as, but if you’re brave enough to edit your image, you may need a downloaded pattern creator. Usually, images tend to come out too dark, could scan in weirdly, might have scratches, etc, and so I would suggest downloading a pattern. You can find the best one for you here.

With the pattern software downloaded (or loaded online), you need to upload the image. It’s usually called “import” on downloaded software. You’ll be hit with a series of options. First off is size; remember that number from earlier? You should input this in the “ct” box, making sure its the largest edge. The smaller size will update automatically.
The next choice is the number of colors. I would always suggest using as many colors as you can with a photo, but if you want to make it easier you can lower the color count. What I would say is the detail will be reduced with fewer colors.
Finally, you may have options about names, color palettes, and authors.

KG-Chart import screen shot (source: KG-Chart)
KG-Chart import screen shot (source: KG-Chart)

The software will then create a pattern for you. You can start stitching with this straight away, but if you want, you can also edit the pattern to your needs.
Don’t you like the color? Swap it out for a different one.
Want more colors? Repeat the import with a larger number.
Something hasn’t come out, right? Try increasing the size of the project.
Once you’re super happy, just hit print (if you’re on Mac you can save this to a pdf, or if on PC you might want to download cutePDF) and stitch to your heart’s content!

I want to make an image

This is definitely the most rewarding way to make a pattern. It does have its limits though. The first thing I would say is to pick your medium. Sometimes drawing something out then scanning it in would be the best option, other times you may want to paint, create in photoshop, or even make pixel art. However, whatever you want to make, pick what you feel comfortable in. For those of you looking for video game sprites, I have a specific guide for you.
Assuming that you want to create your image on the PC, and you’re happy to work in pixels, you could either use something like MS Paint or even create something within a pattern creator itself. The advantage of this would be you’ve set your sizes, and you can pick colors the way to make sure its perfect, but not all pattern creators have this ability. You can see a few options on our post about the best pattern making software.

I want to edit an image

Depending on what this image is, you may be able to edit the image with ease, however, I would always suggest photoshop for photos, and a simple image package like MS Paint for pixel images.
If you’re editing a photo, you can edit to your heart’s content, but do it outside of a pattern editor. Once you’ve imported it, it gets very complicated. Once done, just import as a photo by following the “I have a photo” guide above.
If you’re editing a simple image/pixel image you could always consider importing it into a pattern creator first. The advantage of this is you already set out what size image you want, and the number of colors. You can then re-position/recolor/etc on the fly to make sure the image is perfect. This is especially helpful if you want specialized stitches. If so, I would follow the “I want to make an image” as best as possible.

I have a pixel image

Sweet! I love pixel art! But before we get down to making a pattern, you need to work something very important out. Size.
Pixel images can be very small, or very big. You need to make sure that the pattern you’re going to make isn’t too big (or too small) as you can’t resize the image.
Work out what count aida you want to stitch on and times this number by the largest edge of the pixel image. This will give you the inch size of the image. A rough judge is an inch square in one color will take an hour, 2 colors will take 2 hours, etc.

  • My image is fine – Great! You can follow the “I have a photo” guide.
  • Its too big/small/needs edits – With a pixel image you might not have too much option, I would suggest contacting the person who made the image, but if you’re brave you can edit the image yourself.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Morgyn L Olson

    I started creating patterns using Microsoft excel. Anything else i have tried just confuses me. Its a bit more difficult to do plan certain stitches and back stitching but I use both color and symbols in the square. Has anyone tried this and have tips?

  2. Keryn Mason

    Hi, I am positive you had a tutorial on preparing images prior to importing into a pattern software that had link as an example? Wanted to share it with my sister who has just gotten into cross stitch.

    1. LordLibidan

      Not us I’m afraid! I think you’re probably thinking about ThreadBare. They have a blog with many posts devoted to things like that.