How to make a cross stitch pattern – 4 easy ways

A tutorial on how to create cross stitch patterns on your own from the comfort of your home - 4 methods

Have you wished you could make cross-stitch designs in the professional way that the designers do? They give the right shadings and do the most intricate designs with such ease. Other than buying cross stitch kits or having expensive cross stitch software, there is a way. In fact, there are many ways in which you can do it.

Checkout this tutorial for cross stitch if you are a beginner as well as the FAQ on how to embroider 

How to make a cross stitch pattern

how to make a cross stitch pattern

1. Professional services

Give your photo to a photo charting company – could it get easier-  they will turn your photo into a cross stitch chart . or go to this site – they do all the work for you.

I downloaded the picture of a rose from and then converted it into a cross-stitch chart on this site.

crosst stitch design made on external website

Choose a photo in which the main subject is clear and in focus, without too much details around it. You need uncluttered photos.

After you have printed out your pattern, you can transfer it to your fabric and start embroidering with cross stitch or its variation stitches.

2. Using a grid paper

The next DIY method involves using a grid paper.

grid paper for making cross stitch design

Grid papers have horizontal and vertical lines forming grids. Each square in the grid is counted as a cross stitch when designing.

If you do not have grid paper at home ( or if you cannot tear one from a kid’s maths graph workbook as I have done; though this is only good for a basic overview purpose as the grids in a graph paper are generally big for the cloth you have; The grid paper you have should ideally match the cloth you have.) it is ok. You have online sites like ( and many other; just google grid paper online) that will give you printable grid paper.

Get the  the design / photo you intend to use, the grid paper and a carbon sheet.

cross stitch pattern

Ok maybe not so complicated; find a simple design. Checkout different inspirational sources of embroidery design. This pinterest board has some simple and excellently worked cross stitch designs you can find inspiration from.

how to make a cross stitch pattern

Trace the design onto the grid paper. You will need to trace all the defining lines of the drawing onto the grid paper.

Use a pencil to shade the inside.

how to make cross stitch pattern

You can use colored pencils to shade inside the design with the color of the floss you intend to use. or if you would rather make markings rather than coloring, use straight lines, square corners, and forward and backward diagonal lines to indicate the curves in the design as close as possible to the original design. Write down the colors you intend to use. 

how to make cross stitch pattern

Finish the work.

how to make cross stitch patterns

What size graph/grid paper is best for cross stitch design

Each square of the graph /grid paper you have will be a cross stitch in your design. The cloth you get specifically for cross stitching will have indications as to how many squares per inch make this cloth. That is what it means by a 11, count cloth, 14 count cloth, 20 count cloth etc. As the number increases, it indicates that the cloth is closely woven.

With a 36-count linen (which is on the higher side), you have a tight weave, and even if you take two threads for each stitch, the design will be very small. Here, you have the advantage of making more intricate designs and shadings.  

But most of the time, you are cross-stitching on a garment or accessory, and you probably do not know the count. Then, what you can do is draw an outline on graph paper, which is the exact size of the design area in your garment.

Then you can draw the design inside the outline. Then fill with coloured pencils. Now you will know how your final design will look when it done on the garment. Here you can use a 10 count grid paper.

Use colour pencils to fill the outline with the necessary highlights and tones and shades. You can mark the fractional stitches as well in the grid paper.

If you do not want to transfer the design directly, the photocopy machine and a plastic sheet can do the job easier for you. Keep the transparent sheet above your picture.

Make an outline of the design with a pen. Now keep the transparency above the graph paper. Take a photocopy. You have the design with the appropriate grid lines over it. Easy.

3. Use your computer

You can use the Excel program on your computer to make the cross stitch patterns

This is another easy way. This can easily recreate simple design the way you want it. Best for simple projects with repetitive patterns like border cross stitch designs. You make grid lines on the excel to match the ones you want.

To fill the design with the colours, you can use the method of negative filling. This is by filling an area with colour and then deleting the colour on grids in a pattern to make the design (Use the ‘no fill’ tool in excel tool bar).

To make a border of repetitive patterns you can just copy paste this pattern you have made the way you want it.

The best thing about this method is that you can play around with colour. In the above method of using grid sheets , you will have to redraw the design again and again ; here with the computer you can fill different colours and see the effects without much effort again and again. When you are satisfied you can print it out as well for reference.

Checkout related posts on Mastering the Art of Embroidering Letters

How to prepare a photo to be converted into a cross stitch design

To make a cross stitch design in the computer like the designers do, you need a scanner and a simple cross stitch design software 

First and foremost get a smooth flat photo which is very clear with crisp outlines and some contrasts. Reduce the resolution of the scanner to its lowest setting. Keep a piece of clear plastic sheet on the photo and place this on the scanner. Scan the photo in the scanner at a 24-bit setting and convert it into a format that your cross stitch software asks for.

Here pixels equals to stitches per inches. So if you want a design of 100*100 stitches, get 100* 100 pixels.Check that you have only the necessary elements in the image. If there are any unwanted details use the program to edit it out. Now the photo is ready to be converted to a cross stitch design. Read the manual of the program to know further details

Some tips when designing your cross stitch project

Choose a design close to your heart – you will want to finish it sooner

Choose simple designs for your first work

You can select 3 or 4 colours you like and then combine shades of these colours for your design.

If you have a design and you find that it is a little bigger than what you wanted change the count of the fabric – say a 14 count fabric rather than a n 18 count fabric.  

Related post : Easy cross-stitch letter designs; Turn a photograph to embroidery.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

2 thoughts on “How to make a cross stitch pattern – 4 easy ways”

  1. I have been trying to make my own for years, did make my sister from a photo, came out great, but i want to draw my own, This is great

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