You can turn any Photo into a Cross Stitch Pattern – Here’s How

Pictures into Cross Stitch


Transform your favourite photos into unique cross stitch masterpieces! This guide is your gateway to unleashing your inner designer. Whether you’re a seasoned stitcher or just starting out, the adventure of converting pictures to cross stitch charts is both enjoyable and rewarding.

Let’s dive in and bring those cherished memories to life in stitches!

Understanding Cross Stitch Basics

Before you start, it’s essential to grasp the fundamentals of Cross Stitch.

New to this art? No problem! Our beginner’s guide will help you get started. Mastering the basics is key to ensuring your project turns out beautifully.

Mathysphere - Shining Star Stitching Pro
Mathysphere – Shining Star Stitching Pro from Issue 19: Yay

The Power of Cross Stitch Software

To truly level up your cross stitch game, consider using a computer program. There are various software options available for PC, Mac, and mobile.

Tools like PCStitch and MacStitch have been game-changers for many, including myself. Other popular choices include KGChart (Windows), ThreadBare (online), DMC Snap & Stitch (online). Magic Needle (iOS) and Cross Stitch Saga (Android) .

Here’s what a robust cross stitch software should offer:

  • Dimension Specification: Set the dimensions of your stitching area and adjust for different fabric counts.
  • Stitch Varieties: Use different stitch types, including cross stitch, fractional stitches, and back stitch.
  • Color Palettes: Access color palettes from common thread companies and set the maximum number of colors in your design.
  • Symbol Customization: Choose the symbols or fonts to denote different colors in your pattern.
  • Print Options: Print your design using symbols, color blocks, or a combination of both.
  • Image Import and Editing: Import and modify images with tools like color fill and cut-and-paste.
  • Pattern Creation: Create designs from scratch and incorporate different fonts.
Zweigart Green Cactus - Cross Stitch Pattern

Choosing the Right Picture and Fabric

Because a cross stitch pattern is a pixelated image, it will struggle with fine detail unless you make it very large scale. Similarly with curves, as cross stitch is made of squares, you will lost detail unless you make the image bigger.

Compromise is important in these issues – you can achieve amazing photorealistic effects if you are willing to take the time and effort to stitch something with a high number of stitches.

Alternatively you may have to make some design decisions that will achieve the desired effect but with a bit of illusion. Check out this Mona Lisa image as an example of how an optical illusion can be achieved with only a few stitches.

Mona - Cross Stitch Pattern

When it comes to fabric, consider the size, as it directly affects the level of detail you can achieve.

Here’s a handy table to illustrate the potential stitch counts on different fabric sizes, assuming a fourteen count aida:

Fabric WidthNumber of RowsNumber of ColumnsTotal Potential Stitches
1 inch1414196
2 inch2828784
4 inch56563136
6 inch84847056
10 inch14014019600
12 inch16816828224
Ellen Schinderman - Hello Dolly
Ellen Schinderman – Hello Dolly from Issue 10: Mixtape Vol. 2

Count and Color: Making the Right Choices

  • Count: Cross stitch fabrics are measured in stitches per inch. Adjusting the count can help you pack more detail into a smaller space. For example, a 6-inch fabric can range from 3600 stitches at 10 count to over 20,000 stitches at 24 count.
    This dimension is connected to the earlier idea of how realistic you want your image to be. You can increase the number of stitches per inch and to provide more definition in a small space, but it will lead to more stitching and could reduce your pleasure in making the piece.
  • Colour: Colour choice is vital. It’s often better to use fewer colours to reduce complexity and cost. Good software should allow you to limit your colour palette to create more realistic designs.
    We talk about confetti in stitching, where there are lots of single stitches of a colour. While this can create amazing effects, it can be time consuming. Limiting the colour palette size when designing the chart is a good way to keep confetti to a minimum.

Manual Conversion Method

If software isn’t your thing, manual conversion is a deeply personal and satisfying approach. It involves tracing your image onto graph paper and manually selecting colours. This method connects you more intimately with your design but requires more time and effort.

You can get thread colour reference cards from most manufacturers which are a great help in getting the colours right, even when using software.

Picture to Cross Stitch

Turning Your Pattern to Stitch

Once your pattern is ready, you can print it out or use your device to follow the chart. Printing the chart is often a smart move as it makes easy simple to track your progress.

Of course there are plenty of apps that you can use to read charts on a device with Pattern Keeper (Android) and Cross Stitch Markup being arguably the most popular.

Exploring Advanced Techniques

Once you have got to grips with the fundamentals of making a cross stitch pattern, you can begin to explore using decorative stitches and how to embellish your work. From a simple start, you can find a lot of freedom within the embroidery stitches.

If you want a great resource on decorative stitches, we recommend Needlepoint: A Modern Stitch Directory by Emma Homent, aka The Makers’ Marks.

Flava Time in a nice frame
Flava Time from Issue 2: Beats

Unlock your Cross Stitch Creativity

Converting a picture to a cross stitch chart combines creativity with the satisfaction of crafting. It can take time to get used to the process, but there is immense joy in making something truly unique by turning an image of a loved one into a cross stitch.

Hopefully our guide has inspired you to try for yourself, but if it all feels a bit much, XStitch Magazine delivers amazing cross stitch patterns with every issue, so you can still make epic cross stitch whichever way you go!

latest issues

Floral Cross Stitch - XStitch Magazine Issue 27

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