/ / / From a painting to a cross stitch
From a painting to a cross stitch

From a painting to a cross stitch

with 6 Comments

About a week ago I wrote a post about the ArtRage app that I’ve been playing with over the last year or so. I’ve found it to be really helpful in allowing me to draw and paint again, even if it is digitally. It’s pretty flexible which I like, and I decided to try and use the paintings I’ve done with the app in another media – cross stitch.


I hadn’t cross stitched since I was a little kid, when I got older I decided I really didn’t like the traditional patterns and kits that you could buy. I lived in a small town so the availability of patterns and such was very limited at the best of times, so there certainly wasn’t anything modern that I could buy. So I gave the craft up, and only thought about it again about six months ago. I was thinking it would be neat to be able to have other people be able to basically make their own versions of my paintings, so I came up with the idea of turning some of my paintings and drawings into cross stitch patterns.


Of course, I had no idea how to do that in practice. I looked online and downloaded an app called “Cross Stitch 2 Go” on my iPad. It was only about $2, so I figured that might be useful. The first painting I decided to use as an experiment was my digital painting “David.” The app I downloaded couldn’t turn my painting into a pattern (unless I bought the desktop version, MacStitch, which was around the $35-65 USD range depending on which features you wanted). The iPad app could however record my stitches (by me entering them manually, it has DMC thread charts and some other neat features). This was ok for me as a start because I wasn’t sure how well my painting would transfer into another media, so I wasn’t too worried about having to do the pattern by hand.


What I ended up doing to actually create the pattern was to colour photocopy my painting onto a sheet of clear acetate (like you’d use for overhead projectors). I’d brought the photocopy to the needlecraft shop to buy the floss I thought I’d be needing. I matched the colours with the photocopy as best as I could (trying to not get too many different colours) and I just guessed at how much floss I would need. I had no clue as it had been so long since I’d stitched, I didn’t even remember that I’d be using only a few strands at a time instead of the whole thread of floss (each skein has 6 strands spun into one thread). For this piece I also just guessed at the fabric – I bought some 22 count hardanger fabric that was on sale, and decided to stitch over every second thread of the fabric. So, it ended up being 11 stitches per inch, 22 per inch for my first project in close to 3 decades would have made me insane. To create the pattern, I put the acetate over the fabric and just started stitching. I kept trying to line up the photocopy to the same spot on the fabric each time – pretty much I did a few stitches in one colour, put the photocopy over the fabric to see if I needed to change colour yet, lifted up the photocopy to keep stitching, etc. It was a very long process, but it was neat seeing the painting slowly emerging on the fabric. I kind of like the finished result – it’s not as detailed or “smooth” in its colour gradations as my newer patterns I did with the MacStitch software, but I like it. The colour blocks kind of match the solid areas of colour in the original painting, and that project showed me I could get some really neat results by turning my paintings into my own cross stitch patterns.


"David" painting and cross stitch, 5x7", 2014
“David” painting and cross stitch, 5×7″, 2014


The next digital painting I turned into a cross stitch pattern was “Pieta.” This time, I decided it would save me a ridiculous amount of time if I downloaded the actual desktop program MacStitch. I first trialed the demo version, and it was really good, but I couldn’t save my pattern so I bought the premium version of the software. There’s also WinStitch by the same company if you happen to use a Windows computer. This program was really neat, you could upload your image, make alterations to the finished thread count, size, number of colours, etc, and then upload the image. I ended up making some changes to a few details and the colours by hand (to make them more vibrant), but other than that the program did a really excellent job transferring the image to a pattern. Obviously the higher the thread count of the fabric or the bigger the finished size, the more detail you can get, but I stuck to 14 count and a finished size of 5×7″ to not make myself nuts.


Pieta pattern closeup
Pieta pattern closeup in MacStitch


This time, because I had a pattern (which I uploaded to the Cross Stitch 2 Go app so I could read it off my iPad), the stitching went much faster. Instead of about a month, it only took 2-3 weeks working off and on to finish this piece. I really like it, it’s got some lovely gradations and even with a limited palette it represents the original painting really well. I purposely limited the number of colours and the size to make it more suitable for a beginner/low intermediate stitcher.

"Pieta," painting and cross stitch, 5x7", 2014 MacStitch
“Pieta,” painting and cross stitch, 5×7″, 2014


So, that’s how I started turning my paintings into cross stitch patterns, and I’m certainly enjoying working on my current large Michelangelo piece. Below is my current progress on that one, it’s coming along slowly but very nicely.


Sistine 1 in progress
Sistine 1 in progress


Follow Dana Batho:

Artist and Designer

I am an artist, veteran, analyst, and mommy to the sweetest dog ever. I am constantly thinking of ways to use my creativity in everything I touch despite my physical limitations, and I love encouraging others to do the same.

6 Responses

  1. Ishwarya
    | Reply

    Hi Dana
    So the macstitch software produces patterns for the images that we upload. But what stitch type should we follow to replicate the actual image near perfection? I am a beginner and have zero knowledge in cross stictch. I would like to gift a cross stitched photo of my friend on her birthday. Thanks in advance.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi Ishwarya, thanks for your question! You need to play with the settings and then make alterations as needed when you upload your photo as to how much detail it will give. Like if you upload a photo of someone’s face, but want to stitch it on 14 count Aida (14 stitches to the inch) and have the finished piece be only 5″ across, you’re never going to get a photo realistic look. On the other hand, if you tell the software to import the image for 28 count fabric (28 stitches to the inch) and you want the finished size to be 14″ across, then you’re going to get an amazing amount of detail and you won’t have to do much alteration at all. No software allows you to just upload an image and then the pattern is absolutely perfect (unless you upload it at the highest finished size, which could be 30″ across). That’s why a lot of the bigger art patterns, like Heaven and Earth Designs, are done as such large patterns with so many colours — that’s very close to how the software can generate the best image, so very little adaptation needs to be done to the pattern. What I’d suggest is download the demo of MacStitch (it’s free to use, you just can’t save or print your patterns with the demo), and play with the import options to see how your photo will come out. You can change how big you want the finished size, the thread count of the fabric, how many colours you want to use, etc — all that will change the details of the finished pattern. Then once it’s imported, you can make changes by hand (like change a few stitches around the eyes to make them more detailed or brighter, etc). Converting an image takes time, and it’s really dependent on the fabric you want to stitch on and how big you want to go. Does that help? 🙂

  2. Madelyn
    | Reply

    Please subscribe me to blog. Thank you.

    • Dana
      | Reply

      Done Madelyn, sorry it took me a while, I’m finally back to a stable internet connection! 🙂

  3. Penny
    | Reply

    Hi Dana, I think your Pieta is beeeeeeautiful. (And that NONE of your art is creepy… What was THAT about???) I found your blog via a link on the Macstitch website (contemplating a purchase), and funnily enough I am also an Artrage fan. All my pieces are abstract – not the same level of talent as you, but that’s the wonderful thing about art right? Something for everyone!

    • Dana
      | Reply

      Thanks very much Penny! And I don’t mind if others have differing opinions of my work, but that was the first time my work has been called creepy (especially as a lot is modelled after Italian Renaissance pieces). I love ArtRage, I have a neck injury so it’s allowed me to get back into drawing and painting. It’s obviously a little different than working with “real” media, but it’s better than not being able to do it at all! And I just uploaded another video and blog post about MacStitch where I go through some of the settings I use when importing, altering a pattern, and exporting, so you might find that one useful too. Enjoy the program (have a good play with the demo version), and if you have any questions feel free to ask! 🙂

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