What is PE-Design?
PE-Design is an embroidery digitizing software system available from Brother dealers and though the 'PE' stands for Personal Embroidery, don't let that fool you. It's a robust system that allows for some pretty advanced digitizing and embroidery and is an excellent program to begin learning the art of embroidery digitizing. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) or What-You-See/Interact-With-On-The-Screen is colorful with large, intuitive buttons and fly-outs. It's also organized very well with no clutter for a large workspace.
PE-Design allows the digitizer to convert a digital picture to stitches and save it in a format that can be read by the computer in your embroidery machine. The image can be one you've hand drawn and scanned, one created in another imaging program such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or JASC Paint Shop Pro, one you've captured (legally, of course) from the Internet, a CD or floppy, or a digital snapshot from your digital camera. Whatever the case, the original image must be in .jpg, .gif or .bmp format.
The PE-Design full product package includes a card reader/writer. It must be plugged into a USB port in order for the program to run. Though you can install the program on any machine, it can only function on the machine where the reader/writer is installed.
Once you've created your design, you can save it in Brother (*.PES), Husqvarna/Viking (*.HUS), Melo (*.EXP), Tajima (*.DST) and Pfaff (*.PCS) formats. It is a Brother product, so its native format is PES.
What Does It Cost?
The program will probably run you somewhere between $1,000.00 and $1,200.00, but if you are purchasing an embroidery machine or are a good customer of the shop and don't mind a little dickering, you might be able to negotiate a substantial savings. It never hurts to try. Here's a tip: Before you buy ask your dealer if any major upgrades to the software have been announced. If a major upgrade is forthcoming and you are in no hurry, you may want to postpone your purchase. Major upgrades come with a price, usually in the range of $250.00 to $300.00, and must be purchased from a Brother dealer. Though a major upgrade is usually worth the investment, you don't want to purchase the software one month just to have to shell out more money a few months later. Minor upgrades, from the current version 6.0 to version 6.03 for instance, are free, and are downloaded from the Brother web site.
Commercial or Home-based?
PE-Design is designed with the home-based digitizer and personal embroiderer in mind. That means that many functions or settings are automatic with limited manual control available to the digitizer. Commercial digitizing software is just the opposite: Functions and settings are in the hands of the digitizer and automatic settings can be adjusted and saved. Of course, commercial digitizing software will cost five to twenty times more than PE-Design. Still, in the hands of a skilled and creative digitizer, PE-Design produces excellent embroidery designs.
Beginning to Digitize
As with any sophisticated software be prepared to practice, practice, practice and use your creativity to explore and push the program to its limits. Learn the fundamentals of what makes a design sew out perfectly, then look at the designs you like with an analytical eye. Ask, "How did they do that?" and try to recreate the technique. With time you'll develop your own style and find your digitizing niche.
Many shops offer digitizing classes. Ask to sit in for free on a few before making a time or financial commitment. If all the instructor does is follow the booklet that came with the software, save your money. You'll probably teach yourself quicker.
Speaking of the manual: It is 262 pages and was obviously written by a team very familiar with PE-Design and the English language. It is well organized with plenty of images and screenshots, is very easy to read and covers the basic use of every tool in depth. It is not a digitizing teacher. Use it to learn the tools, it won't take long, then practice, practice, practice.
The Bottom Line
If you are interested and excited about learning to digitize your own embroidery designs, whether for personal use or to sell, I think PE-Design is a wonderful way to get started. Its reasonable entry fee and easy to use and learn interface, will allow you to reach new creative heights in all your embroideries.
Machine embroidery design digitizer Deb Schneider offers her embroidery designs and PE-Design training on her website, Windstar Embroidery.