5 experts review cross stitch charting software

Discover the best pro-level cross stitch design software, tried and tested by our team of professionals.

Cross stitch charting software reviews
Published: September 22, 2022 at 2:30 pm
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Keen to make your own cross stitch patterns, but unsure where to start? You’ve come to the right place!

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Finding the right cross stitch design software for your needs can be challenging. With so many options available, we drew together cross stitching experts from around the world to give a detailed overview of the best cross stitch pattern makers on the market.

Cross stitch design software is essential if you’re looking to create beautiful, complex designs to share and sell. Complete beginners might find graph paper and coloured pencils a better place to begin creating their own. Check out our beginner guide to making your own cross stitch patterns if that’s you!

We’ve compared five well-known cross stitch charting programs and apps, and asked the professionals for their seasoned opinions on:

Read on to discover which cross stitch software is right for you and the type of cross stitch patterns you want to create.

(Please note all prices and information correct at time of writing)

Cross stitch charting design reviews

Each expert featured in this list of reviews is a seasoned professional cross stitch designer. The cross stitch charting programs have been tried and tested by them and are independent reviews based on their personal user experience. Full information of features and system requirements for each program can be found via the developer websites.

Cross Stitch Professional Platinum (Plus Edition)

Cross Stitch Professional Platinum is developed by DP Software for Windows PC

Cost: Standard £68, Plus £114, Publisher £345 (digital download versions)

Cross Stitch Professional Screenshot

Used and reviewed by Fiona Baker

Cross Stitch Professional Platinum is a comprehensive program, with a fully customisable interface and tonnes of handy tools.

Ease of use

Threads and symbols

There’s a huge library of well-known thread brands including DMC, Anchor, Madeira, Kreinik and lots of speciality threads, as well as Mill Hill beads. Colour representation can look a little dark on-screen, but it's manually editable for exports.

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Cross Stitch Professional Platinum includes a symbol library. Users can also use any fonts installed on their computer, which is especially handy for getting the look you want for your charts.

Practicality

One of my favourite things on Cross Stitch Professional Platinum is the seamless compatibility of the right and left mouse buttons with all the drawing tools. You draw with the left button and delete that same stitch with the right button, making it very user-friendly. You save a lot of time avoiding switches between different tools.

Charting fractional stitches is also easy on Cross Stitch Professional Platinum. You simply click in a grid square’s different corners, rather than relying on fiddly separate tools like some other programs I’ve come across. There are also pre-set special stitches and a motif library containing basic shapes and patterns.

Key features

Photos to cross stitch patterns

Cross Stitch Professional Platinum has an auto-conversion feature for turning photos or pictures into cross stitch patterns. I found it quite complex, especially as it can produce varying results, but it could be useful if you're willing to have a play around with the settings.

I always create my own cross stitch patterns by tracing over an image viewable behind the grid instead. This allows for full control of designing and colour choices and avoids confetti-style stitches. I use this tracing technique to create the chart conversions from illustrations in The World of Cross Stitching magazine too.

Auto-generated key

Cross Stitch Professional Platinum has an editable auto-generated key feature. This is useful, although I prefer to create my own key on external software for designs I sell myself.

There’s also a separate tool for calculating thread usage, where you can adjust the fabric count and strand details to calculate both usage and cost estimations.

Export types

Cross Stitch Professional Platinum offers plenty of format types to export your designs, including PDF, JPG and PNG, as well as the ability to open and save different program files too. The software can also produce digital cross stitch simulations, which are handy for seeing how your design will look on different colours or types of fabrics.

Expert’s verdict:

I’d recommend Cross Stitch Professional Platinum for those who want full control of their cross stitch designing or would like to start making money selling cross stitch patterns. Producing your own designs can offset the cost, however, buyers should bear in mind there are also small fees for ongoing updates.

Check comparisons between versions carefully, but the Standard or Plus editions should be more than adequate for most home users or professionals.


MacStitch

MacStitch and WinStitch are developed by Ursa Software for Mac and Windows PC

Cost: Standard £39, Premium £20 upgrade

MacStitch screen

Used and reviewed by Cheryl McKinnon of Tiny Modernist

With the ability to create charts for cross stitch, plastic canvas (tent stitch), perler/round beads or diamond painting, MacStitch is fairly robust cross stitch charting software.

Ease of use

Threads and symbols

MacStitch includes dozens of thread brands in a drop-down selector from the Palette tool. I use DMC in my cross stitch designs for the most part. Other featured thread brands include: Anchor, Cosmo, Gentle Arts, Sulky and WeeksDyeWorks.

MacStitch allows you to manually adjust each colour name/number, symbol and number of strands within the settings menu. You can also create alternate colourways for the design using the colour adjust feature.

Key features

From photos to cross stitch patterns

My favourite and most-used tool on MacStitch is inserting a picture behind the grid. I can easily use my drawings as a reference when creating new cross stitch designs. Once you’ve imported an image, you can resize it to fit, shift it around using arrow tools, lock it in place, and make it visible or invisible as needed, whilst you manually draw over the top.

MacStitch has a chart auto-conversion image tool, but I didn’t find it too useful. However, home-based users could find it convenient to convert personal photographs or images for personal use. The feature allows the user to select the thread brand, maximum number of colours and chart width. A thumbnail preview is displayed in a pop-up window.

Export types

After creating a cross stitch pattern, you want to export it easily. When I create patterns, I use the ‘Export as PDF’ feature, which allows me to open the design as a vector image in Adobe Illustrator. The vector image is especially important because I need the grid and symbols to be clear when they are sent to the presses.

MacStitch also has several useful customising features in the stitching key export. You can edit and choose to show Name, Comments, Stitches, Knots, Strands, Length (in Skeins or Yards), and whether you would like to include a backstitch key. I don’t use the exported chart, but I use the information to create my own chart pack layout in Adobe Illustrator.

Expert’s verdict:

I can recommend MacStitch for its usability and price. Whether you are an aspiring cross stitch designer or a home user, it represents good value for money. I use the Premium version and the developer releases updates and new versions each year, so you can always upgrade to the current version as it gets released.

(This review is based on MacStitch Premium. WinStitch is also available for Windows PC with comparable features although some differences may be found.)


PCStitch Pro

PCStitch Pro is developed by M&R Technologies Inc. for Windows PC

Cost: Standard $49.95, Pro $79.95 (digital download versions)

PCStitch Pro screen

Used and reviewed by Jenny Van De Wiele of Homestitchness

I purchased PCStitch Pro in 2008 to explore an interest in designing my own cross stitch patterns might lead. PCStitch Pro is the advanced version of the standard PCStitch and I have always thought the cross stitch software to be good value. For me, it was definitely a worthwhile investment, as it enabled me to start selling my original cross stitch designs as well as take on commission work for magazines.

PCStitch appealed to me because I tried out the program before buying. The free trial is still in place, and can help you get a feel for the program when you’re starting out.

Ease of use

I always planned to work from a desktop computer, so in terms of compatibility with Windows, PCStitch was an excellent option. I currently use PCStitch Pro Version 9 and have never needed to look any further, as the program has the features I require and regularly checks for new updates.

Threads and symbols

PCStitch offers a wide variety of floss brand options, including variegated threads. Occasionally the program’s digital colour representation can be a little off, but overall the interface is quite logical.

Key feature

Photos to cross stitch patterns

One downside of PCStitch is the image import. The chart image usually ends up much bigger than I want it to be, even when I try to scale it down.

If you’re not overly tech savvy, it’s probably better to avoid the feature. PCStitch does come with an auto chart conversion tool too.

Expert’s verdict:

I would highly recommend PCStitch software for anyone interested in creating their own cross stitch patterns from scratch. The program is easy to navigate and can be used for basic cross stitch charts through to complicated samplers. For me, it was definitely a worthwhile investment, as it enabled me to start professionally selling my original cross stitch designs. There's two versions you should compare carefully to see which one you need.


Stitch Fiddle

Stitch Fiddle is available on any internet browser

Cost: Free, Premium subscription £4pm (or £24 annually)

StitchFiddle screen

Used and reviewed by Gemma Pratt and Cynthia Fong of Stitch & Story

Stitch Fiddle is a cross stitch charting program hosted on the cloud, meaning you can access the site via your internet browsers on any device. Beginners would need to spend a little time navigating their way around the Stitch Fiddle interface, but after a design or two, the user experience becomes second nature.

Ease of use

When you start, Stitch Fiddle gives you the option to upload a picture to auto-convert into a cross stitch pattern. You can set the number of shades for the design or start a brand new cross stitch pattern from scratch.

You can’t trace over an image yourself – instead you need to draw directly onto the grid. This means you cannot use background reference photos or drawings to help guide you.

Threads and symbols

Stitch Fiddle only has thread brand options for DMC and Anchor, so the program is more limited than other cross stitch charting programs. You also can’t seem to mix and match between them.

For Premium subscribers, there’s an in-built library of symbols, and you can change the allocated ones in the chart as you wish. The feature is particularly helpful if some of the suggested symbols are too similar to each other. The basic (free) version exports colour-only designs without symbols.

Export types

You can export your final chart as an image or vector file (including PNG, JPG, GIF, EPS), or a document (PDF, docx, xlsx), meaning it’s very versatile for whatever file format you need. The auto-generated key is quite basic, however, so you may wish to create your own in another program.

Expert’s verdict:

You can use Stitch Fiddle for free or pay a monthly subscription to unlock all features. It’s great for first-time designers, as well as professionals making simple designs.


StitchSketch

Stitch Sketch is an app developed by Mozusystems for iPhone and iPad.

Cost: £6.99

StitchSketch Pro screen

Used and reviewed by Mollie Johanson

The StitchSketch app has a fairly simple interface. Designed for phones and tablets, most of the app’s tools are nested in pop-up menus. Once you spend some time using it, however, it's easy to get around and find what you need.

Ease of use

The pencil is the most useful tool on StitchSketch because it's easy to draw with your finger or a stylus. There are also other great tools for drawing straight lines and basic shapes, plus a handy undo feature.

Threads and symbols

The latest version of StitchSketch includes five thread brands: Anchor, Cosmo, DMC, Danish Flower Threads, and Olympus, plus a limited RGB palette and three bead brands, which you can combine.

You can also easily swap out colours or change the symbols or colour names/numbers. However, it is disappointing that the app has limited symbol options, especially as that restricts the program's usefulness in creating large designs.

Key features

Image to cross stitch pattern

StitchSketch has a tracing paper function so you draw your cross stitch pattern over an image viewable behind the grid, or you can auto-convert a photo or drawing into a cross stitch chart too, but I rarely use these for the type of patterns I make.

Fonts

There’s no motif library here, but StitchSketch does allow you to create whole stitch letters in a few dozen fonts. The app has pre-made elements for fractional stitches, so I use the vector drawing tool for adding backstitch and French knots to charts although it can be a little clunky.

Export types

I mainly export PDFs for my cross stitch patterns, which open as editable files in programs like Adobe Illustrator. There’s also an auto-generated key, and other export options including PNG if preferred.

Expert’s verdict:

StitchSketch is only available for Apple devices, but the low price, paired with the range of functions, makes this cross stitch design app a bargain. It's perfect for anyone wanting to give cross stitch pattern charting a try on an iPhone or iPad, rather than on a desktop, or if you enjoy designing simple charts as I do.


Choosing cross stitch design software to launch your crafty side hustle

Whichever cross stitch design software or app you choose, remember to check the system requirements on the developer’s websites before you buy to make sure it's compatible with your computer or device.

There may also be alternate versions of cross stitch design software, aimed at different levels of designers. Free demos can be a great way to test the main features and usability of programs before you buy.

Other ways to make your own cross stitch patterns

Anyone can give cross stitch pattern charting a try, so don’t be put off if a computer program isn’t for you!

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Try making simple cross stitch patterns using Microsoft Excel following Gathered’s how-to guide.

Authors

Fiona BakerSenior Technical Editor, The World of Cross Stitching

Fiona is the Senior Technical Editor of The World of Cross Stitching. She’s responsible for the team of fabulous charters and taking the designer’s submitted projects right through to completion, ensuring each chart and key is technically correct for readers to stitch. One of her favourite roles is converting the wonderful illustrations by the likes of Margaret Sherry, Tatty Teddy, and Aardman Animations into patterns for stitchers around the world to enjoy. She also designs her own patterns at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FionaBakerDesign

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