I often see folks in Facebook groups asking about a design they bought that didn’t come out like they’d expect, and wondering how to tell before spending their money that a digitizer is “good”! Digitizing software is more accessible than ever and it can be hard to tell who is really skilled at what they do, and who just plotted their first point yesterday.

All of these tips are my opinion and none are standalone. It can take a combination of several clues to find a quality design.

I advise anyone to start shopping “free or cheap.” If trying out a new digitizer, see if they have a free sample available to try. Or if they’re having a big sale, and you can spare a buck or two, grab something then. You can try it out and see if you like their style, or don’t care to spend any more money on their products.
I have a vault of FREE designs available so you can stitch them out and see if you like my style before you buy. You can find them by clicking here or searching “free forever.”

Check the screenshots and samples the digitizer posts. Do the satin widths (if holding fabric for an applique) look adequate to cover the fabric edge? Check out the letters if applicable. I can tell you from experience, digitizing letters or a font is a tedious task! It’s not something you can just click a button and voila! there is a perfect font. Often, digitizers who are not that experienced with fonts will tell on themselves with some of the following errors:
💔Satin columns with wonky angles throughout the letter e.g. a letter “l” that should be a straight satin column from top to bottom, but somehow has different satin angles appearing along the letter. This means the digitizer did not see it as a problem, or doesn’t know how to use inclination lines to fix it.)
💔Where letters (especially cursive letters) get “skinny” in parts, the satin column is so thin that it looks like it’s kindof “chewing” through the fabric (especially when used on vinyl). (This means the digitizer did not anticipate using the letters on vinyl – which could not possibly be true for someone who’s specializing in ITH items – and/or does not know how to change the letter and/or does not know how to use proper pull compensation.)
💔Letters come together at junctions really oddly – e.g. the letter “e” where the straight line meets the curve.

The age of website and amount of designs in one’s library can also give clues to the quality. Of course this isn’t cut and dry, but in my opinion if someone has been around a long time and has a huge library, they’ve likely received some kind of encouragement to keep digitizing for a while i.e. they have good quality.

Ask for recommendations! I admin a large Facebook group called Brother Machine Embroidery, I’m also involved in a few other groups like Totally Addicted to ITH, Brother PE Newbies, and more, where you can go in and say, “Hey, I have been loving my designs from X, Y, and Z, but can anyone recommend another quality digitizer for me to try? I am especially interested in _________(key fobs, ITH, applique, sketch designs, fonts, etc).” People love recommending their favorites! Of course keep in mind that these are still someone’s opinions and your mileage may vary.

Bonus tip:
After you buy, bring your design into your Embrilliance software (I love it; here’s why) and click the Stitch Simulator at the top of the window. Use the slider that comes up just under that button, and just look at what the design does! Is there a placement and tackdown (if applicable)? What lengths are the satin stitches that are supposed to be covering fabric edges? Hint: Just under your slider, you’ll see some number measurements and properties. One of them says “Length.” If you are dealing with a design with a satin stitch, meant to cover an appliqued fabric, and it is less than, my opinion, 3mm, RUN away from this design. If you are trying to trim fabric for a satin stitch that is 2mm wide, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and wasted materials.