SadMonkey’s Fake Embroidery Tutorial

Here’s a nice little tutorial to produce a “Fake” Embroidery Design in Adobe Illustrator. The tutorial requires at least an intermediate understanding of Adobe Illustrator.


First things first, you need a vector. Whether it’s a circle, a number, or your name, you need a vector to start off. The fewer nodes (anchor points) the better. Live traced and expanded images that have not been cleaned up will produce undesirable effects.

The document used in this tutorial is an 11″ x 8.5″ (The settings used in the tutorial regarding stroke widths and brushes may need to be modified for your documents settings and your personal desired effect.)



Once you have your vector ready to go, it’s time to get started. (Make sure there are no strokes at all on your vector object. For the start, FILLS ONLY) First thing we need to do, is open the Layer’s Palette. Organizing the vectors in the layers palette will make the following steps MUCH easier. Label your one and only layer so far. I’ve labeled mine “Front Blue Solid” (since this layer will be the front foremost blue solid shape, I kept the naming convention simple) Create a new layer above the solid layer. This layer will be the “stitch” or the stroke in relation to the blue solid. I labeled this layer “Front Blue Stitch.” Copy CMD-C your vector from the solid layer. Paste in front, CMD-F. With the vector still selected, move this vector to the stitch layer.


As of this moment your original vector should be on the “solid” layer and a copy on the “stitch” layer. With the vector on the stitch layer still selected, we want to add a stroke with no fill. (If it currently has a fill with no stroke, hit SHIFT-X to toggle the fills) We want the stroke color to be a little brighter and a little lighter than the fill color on the solid vector. For now, the default stroke settings will be fine.



Next, we need to make a new brush, our “stitch” brush. To help gauge on the approximate size you need the brush to be, zoom into your graphic. With the Elliptical Shape Tool, make a very narrow oval.


Open the brush palette accessible from the Window Menu. With the newly created oval still selected, click on the little icon on the top right of the brush palette and select New Brush.


A new window should appear. Select New Pattern Brush.


The size is completely up to you, I started off with Scale 100% and Spacing 10%. Underneath Colorization, chose the method of “Hue Shift.” This allows us the ability of changing the color of our brush. When finished, click OK. Now you should see the new brush appear at the bottom of your brush menu in the Brush Palette.



Now, we want to apply the new brush to the outline/no fill vector. To do so, with the vector selected, simply click on the new brush in the brush palette.


Now, you, like myself, may not be to happy with the size of the brush. To change this, adjust the Weight of the stroke using the Stroke Palette. I changed mine from 1pt to .75pt. Now it’s better, but still not great. We can modify the brush settings by double clicking on the brush preview inside the Brush Palette. This should bring up the Pattern Brush Options dialog box again. Modify the Scale to 80% and the Spacing to 20%.


Once we’re finished, click OK. A new window should appear asking if you want to “Apply to Strokes”, “Leave Strokes” or “Cancel.” Click “Apply to Strokes.”



Alright, the size appears to be good, but now it’s time for a little clean up. You’ll notice that at all the “hard” corners/points, the brush isn’t there.


Now, this looks bad all zoomed up close, but once you back out to normal view, it may not only be “not bad,” but it may be just right, depending on what results you are wanting. I, personally, am not happy to leave it as is, so I cleaned it up a bit. (This is why it’s good to start off with a “clean” vector. Imagine this happening on a hundred different nodes!) Now why you may try something fancy and come up with a corner for your brush, there is a simpler way, although it may be a bit more time consuming if you have a lot of nodes to clean up.

To make the brush go all the way around, you need to “remove” the hard corner. Using the Pen Tool on your tool bar, you will see a little black arrow on the bottom right corner, click the arrow and hold. A pop-out with three more pen options will appear. These three pens add points/nodes, take away points and allows angle/bezier manipulation. All we need to do is, simply smooth out the hard corner. If the closest points to the one we need to manipulate are a fair distance away, you may need to add a point on each side of the point we will be manipulating. This will prevent the stroke from dramatically changing paths.


As you see, the gaps in the brush coverage are now gone. In this screen shot I am in the middle of smoothing out that final point using the bezier (angle adjustment) tool.


Now we need to repeat these steps for our next layers. First, create two new layers in your layers palette. They should both be underneath the two “blue” layers. Label the upper one “White Stitch.” Label the next layer “White Solid.”


Now select the vector inside the “Front Blue Stitch” layer. Copy and Paste In Front. Move this copy to the “White Solid” Layer. We are using the vector in the Front Blue Stitch layer for this instead of the solid because of the bezier corrections we applied in the previous step. While this will not save us from all future corrections it will save us a few redundant corrections later on.


With the new copy selected in the “White Solid” layer we want to change the stroke/nofill to fill/nostroke. Make the fill color white. Now we want to “enlarge” this shape. Select a bright red color and apply it to the stroke. (If the stroke came back with the stitch pattern, you will want to return to the default stroke settings or use a round brush. We DO NOT want the stitch pattern for this step.) Increase the stroke width by several points. In the stroke palette, chose to have rounded edges and rounded corners. This will remove any unfavorable miter effects.



Once you have the stroke width on the white solid layer to your liking, we are going to want to turn this into a solid shape. Go to your Menu bar and select Object – Flatten Transparency. Make sure “Convert All Strokes to Outlines” is checked. Move the” Raster/Vector Balance” slider all the way over to the right,100. Click OK.


Your selection should appear similar to what is below.


Using the Pathfinder palette we want to “Unite” the entire object. We can easily do this by clicking on the Unite Button (the top left box in the pathfinder palette) while holding down the ALT key. This should give you one complete solid shape.



Before doing anything else, make sure our new solid inside the “White Solid” layer is in fact, a white fill with no stroke. Copy this object. Paste In Front. Move this new copy to the “White Stitch” layer. Remove the fill, adding a light grey stroke.



Apply the Stitch Brush to this vector using the same settings that were used on the final “Blue Stitch” layer.


Again, you’ll notice the gaps at the hard corners. It’s time to get out the trusty pen tool, and start cleaning them up.



Back to the layers palette. Create two new layers below the “white” layers. The first is “Red Solid.” The next is “Red Stitch.” Copy the White Solid Layer. Paste in front. Move this copy to the Red Solid layer. Change the fill to a dark red. Move this object down and to the right.



Copy the Red Solid Layer. Paste In Front. Move this copy to the Red Stitch Layer. Remove the fill. Add a stroke with a little brighter and lighter color red than the solid layer. Apply the Stitch Brush. Clean up gaps if necessary.



Back to the Layers Palette. Under the red layers, create two new (and final) layers. Name the first “Bottom Blue Solid” and the next “Bottom Blue Stitch. Then, select all, CMDA.


Next Copy then Paste In Front. Move all new copies to the “Bottom Blue Solid” layer. Once you have moved all new copies to the blue layer, remove all the strokes. Now, Unite using the Pathfinder palette.



Now we need to make this layer expand. Repeating Steps 7-9, add a stroke, adjust the weight to your liking, flatten transparency, unite, and you have your bottom blue solid layer.



Copy the Bottom Blue Solid layer. Paste in front. Move copy to Bottom Blue Stitch Layer. Remove fill, add stroke color and weight identical to the top blue layers. Apply the Stitch Brush, using the same settings as well.


Fix the gaps.



It’s looking pretty good so far isn’t it? Well, we’re not done yet. Now we need to expand the appearance of each Stitch Layer. We will do this one by one. For starters, lock every layer in your layers palette leaving the only editable layer the Bottom Blue Stitch Layer.


With the stitch selected, from the menu bar, go to Object – Expand Appearance.


Continue doing this for each Stitch layer.


Now that every stitch layer is “Expanded” …


…we want to start “randomly” deleting ovals. Again, make sure every layer is locked except for the working layer. Using the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow) from the toolbar, begin selecting ovals and deleting them.


Continue doing this for each stitch layer.



SadMonkey-Stitch-36By deleting random ovals, it gives the appearance of a “real” embroidered stitch.


And that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial. I tried to keep it as rudimentary as possible without overkill. If you get lost, or have a tip on how to make it better, please feel free to add your advice to the comments section. Remember, depending upon your final dimensions, your settings may need to change, too thin of a stroke or stitch pattern and the effect could be lost.

For a larger view of the final design please visit SadMonkey’s Flickr Page.


2 responses to “SadMonkey’s Fake Embroidery Tutorial

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » First Friday

  2. cheers dude, helped me out!