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Dst File for Embroidery: Complete Guide

Machine embroidery is my new passion. It’s fun and simple to do. Just turn the computerized machine on and away it goes. Creating stunning designs in the blink of an eye. I’m so hooked on it, and I need more designs. But I need something called a DST file to create new ones. But why? What is a DST file for embroidery?

Embroidery machines use a specific computer language to form the stitches they create. One of the most popular formats for this language is a DST file. Digital instructions contained in the file tell the machine how to stitch the design. Commercial and domestic embroidery machines can read DST files.

In this guide to DST files for embroidery, we’ll look at what they are and how they work. Read on to discover how to use them and how to create your own.

Dst File for Embroidery

What Is Machine Embroidery?

Embroidery is the name given to decorative embellishments sewn onto a fabric or garment with a needle. Historically this was done by hand. Using different colors, thread thicknesses, and stitches, sewists of old could stitch unique and eye-catching designs to a piece of fabric to show off their needle skills.

It’s an art form that has been around for thousands of years and it’s still as popular now as it was for our ancestors. Nowadays, embroidery isn’t a craft restricted to hand sewing. Modern technology has opened it up to the world of computerized machines that use DST files to create stunning designs in a matter of minutes.

To understand DST files, you need to know a little bit about machine embroidery and how it works. As the name suggests, machine embroidery is embroidery done by a sewing machine. It sounds basic enough, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

First, you can do machine embroidery on any sewing machine. It doesn’t have to be computerized. All you need is the ability to drop your feed dogs, so they don’t grab the fabric. Then, using a quilting foot, traditionally known as a darning foot, you create designs by moving your fabric backward, forwards, and side to side. It’s known as Free Motion Quilting.

Dst format

These designs tend to be basic. Their intricacy depends on how well you can draw freestyle, or if you have a projector, you can trace the projected image from. You follow the lines you drew on the fabric first, then go back and fill in the shapes with different colors.

It sounds a bit involved, doesn’t it? Like a lot of hard work. The popularity of machine embroider a design onto fabric is the reason behind the advent of specific embroidery machines.

Embroidery machines do all the design placement, stitching, and color change for you. They are computerized and most come with in-built designs. There will be a selection of images ranging from flowers, motifs, and alphabets in different styles. Some machines even have popular cartoon characters.

You simply push a button, select the design you want, and sit back. The machine will stitch it automatically while you wait. Leaving you to go and do something else if you get tired of watching. Although, to be honest, watching an embroidery machine in action can be mesmerizing and hard to walk away from!

Being a computer, the embroidery machine doesn’t see the image of a cartoon character the same way we do. It can’t see it unless the image has been converted to a computer language or program it can read. These programs are known as software.

An embroidery machine needs special software specifically developed for them. Not all brands of embroidery machines use the same language, though. So there are different formats available. One of the popular versions of the embroidery format is the DST file.

What Is a DST File Format for Embroidery?

Originally developed by the Tajima group, DST stands for Data Stitch Tajima. It’s a computer-aided design program initially used in their commercial embroidery machines.

These days a DST file can be found in commercial and domestic embroidery machines. It’s one of the most popular forms of embroidery software. Technically it should be shown as a .dst file because it’s a file name extension to identify the file as an embroidery format. The extension works in the same way as .docx does for Microsoft Word documents or .jpg for photos.

DST files contain coding for embroidery machines to follow. All the operating instructions the machine needs from start to finish are included. The color changes when to leave sections blank, even down to which color and position to start stitching from.

How to Open a DST File

What is a dst file

To open a .dst file, your computer needs to have software installed to read the information contained within. Not all software can decipher the data from a .dst file.

Most of the time, your embroidery machine will come equipped with the software you need to open the .dst designs on your computer. You can choose from PC or MAC depending on the computer you have. Some machines allow you to view the .dst file on the sewing machine itself.

If you don’t have the software, fear not; help is available on the internet. There are several .dst file readers available online for both PC and Mac machines. Most need to be purchased but offer a free trial, so you can test it out before you buy. A few are free to download and use.

Program Purchase Options Computer Operating System
Balarad Embird Studio Free Trial Windows
BuzzXplore 4 Free Trial Windows
Orchida Embroidery System Free Windows
Premier+ Embroidery Paid Windows, MAC
Google Chrome Embroidery Viewer and Converter Plugin Free Online
Embroidermodder Team Embroidery Viewer Free Android
David Olsen Touch Embroidery Free Android

If you find you can’t open your .dst file with the software listed above, you may have a corrupted file. Sometimes, as with any computer software, the file can be damaged by malware. Or you could find your computer doesn’t have the necessary memory or disk space to open the file. In those circumstances, you may need to enlist the help of a professional company to open the file for you.

Best DST File Viewer Online

You can also open a .dst file using online-based software. has an online .dst file reader you can upload your file to. With no installation requirements or any need to register to use it, it’s quick, simple and 100% free.

Click on the link to be taken to the website. Then, all you need to do is click the blue box marked, ‘select DST file’ and upload the file from your computer.

Better still, you can use any device to view the file. As the software is based online, all you need is an up-to-date web browser like Chrome or Firefox and away you go!

How to Create DST Embroidery Files

dst embroidery file

If you want to create your own .dst files, you will need embroidery digitizing software. An embroidery machine can’t read information straight from your computer. The two devices speak different languages. It will need a converter which is where the digitizing software comes in.

To confuse the situation further, not all embroidery machines use or read .dst files. Before creating your .dst file, you will need to double-check that you have a .dst embroidery machine. Many are, but some use .exp files.

Embroidery digitizing software can be expensive. Top brand names in the embroidery machine business, Brother, Husqvarna, and Janome, all have their own digitizing software you can purchase. You may find some are brand-specific but others, like Embird Machine-Independent Embroidery Software, can be used on most machines.

Program Purchase Options Operating System
Embird Machine Independent Embroidery Software Free demo Windows
Janome Artistic Digitizer Paid Windows, MAC
Husquarna Mysewnet Embroidery Software Paid Online
Wilcom Embroidery Studio Free trial Commercial machines
Brother Embroidery Design Software Paid Windows

You can also use graphic design software to create .dst files. However, you may need to download digitizing plugins or use a digitizing software solution compatible with either of the two programs listed below. This can add to the expense of creating your own .dst file. Please be aware these options may not work with all embroidery machines.

In Adobe Illustrator

No products found.The first step is to use Illustrator to create a vector from the image you want to convert to a .dst format. Once your image has been changed to a vector, it’s ready to be digitized into an embroidery file.

Next, you will need to use Illustrator’s Embroidery i2 plugin. Embroidery i2 will enable you to turn the vector image into stitches and save the design in a format an embroidery machine can read. Each shape or individual object will need to be converted into a stitch pattern separately.

There are third-party software solutions such as Embird or PE Design that can work in partnership with Illustrator to create embroidery files. The process to convert the file is the same as using the plugin.

In Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop | Photo, image, and design editing software | 12-month Subscription with auto-renewal, billed monthly, PC/MacPhotoshop can be used to help convert .jpg files to .dst files for embroidery. First, select the image you want to convert. You need to reduce the number of colors within the design. Start by removing the background color if there is one.

Next, go to the File menu in Photoshop and click on ‘Image’, followed by ‘Mode’ and then ‘Indexed Color’. This will transform your design into one with fewer colors. Save it as a .tga file.

Unfortunately, Photoshop can’t digitize the image for you. It can make the image ready for conversion, but you will need embroidery digitizing software to change it to a .dst file. Import the image into the embroidery software. Then, follow the instructions in your software to convert the file to a .dst format.

How to Convert Images to DST Embroidery Files

How to create a dst file

Tajima Ambassador by Pulse

Images can be converted into .dst files by using embroidery digitizing software. One of the most popular converters is Tajima Ambassador. Developed by Pulse, Tajima Ambassador is a free, easy-to-use online software application. It can convert many of today’s more popular file formats like .jpg, for example. Not only that, but it can also convert other embroidery file formats to a .dst file.

Step 1

Using the software online requires an account. So your first step will be to register to use it. Once your account is active, follow the instructions on the screen to upload your first image.

Step 2

Choose the file format you want to change your image to from the list available. The software will convert the image for you. All you have to do then is save it to your computer.

There are other options available online for specific file extensions. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular ones.

JPG to DST Converter

A .jpg file is one of the standard formats for digital photographs. Also known as JPEG, the file can’t be read by an embroidery machine until it is converted into a .dst format.

MI provides an online .jpg to .dst file converter you can use for free. All you need to do is follow the online instructions. One thing to remember before you start the conversion, make sure your embroidery machine uses the .dst format first.

PNG to DST Converter

The file extension .png stands for Portable Network Graphic. These files tend to be digital art like logos or icons. Although, sometimes you will find a photo saved as a .png.

For a .png to .dst conversion, you’ll need embroidery digitizing software. Check out the list of options in the creating a .dst section above. Or you could convert your .png to an Illustrator file and use Adobe’s Embroidery i2 plugin.

PDF to DST Converter

PDF files are document files. It stands for Portable Document Format. They can contain both text and images. Using .pdf allows you to convert documents created in different word packages into a universally readable format.

It only works with word processing software, though. For an embroidery machine to see the file, it has to be converted to an embroidery format. has an online .pdf to .dst converter you can use for free.

Simply follow the online instructions at the link above. Again, make sure your embroidery machine uses .dst files before you begin.

SVG to DST Converter

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics and is for two-dimensional imagery used in animation. This is another file format that needs embroidery digitizing software. There is a list of embroidery software earlier in this article.

As they are graphic files, you may be able to convert a .svg into either a .jpg or .eps. Once in the .jpg format, you can use a free online converter to change to a .dst file. However, you may find you lose some image quality. The .jpg to .dst converter from Mi should be able to do this conversion for you.

Alternatively, convert the file to .eps and open it in Illustrator. Then it’s simply a case of using Adobe’s Embroidery i2 plugin to change the file to .dst.

EPS to DST Converter

An Encapsulated PostScript file, known as .eps, is used for documents that are usable as graphics. Applications for this kind of file include logos.

EPS files were developed by Adobe for use in their Illustrator program. Converting .eps to .dst is as easy as using Adobe’s Embroidery i2 plugin with the Illustrator package.

What Are Other Embroidery File Formats?

There are several embroidery file formats. A .dst file is one of the more popular ones. Each one provides the machine with instructions on how to create the embroidery design. From what stitch to use, which needle, and where to start and stop.

Although the file extension differs with each type of software, there are only 3 families in file formats. Let’s take a look at each one.

Expanded File Formats

DST files are an example of an expanded file format. So is the .exp extension. You will find most commercial or domestic embroidery machines will read one of these formats.

Staying close to the original design, these files will recreate the image as instructed. Sending information to the embroidery machine to use needle 1 in sector 3, for instance. That’s a basic explanation of what these files do. They plod their way through the steps as shown, never deviating or corrupting.

This can be both good and bad. It’s good because you’ll always get a precise image. What isn’t so good, it relies on you setting your machine up correctly. If you have the wrong color loaded on needle 1, your design could be blue instead of yellow.

Machine File Formats

Machine file formats are ones only readable by certain machines. Some of the top brands in embroidery machines use brand-specific software to encourage brand loyalty. Two companies who do this are Bernina and Brother. What this means to the consumer is you can only use Brother software on a Brother machine.

Bernina files end in .art. Janome’s are .jef. If you have a Brother or Babylock machine, you’ll find the file extension is .pes or .pec. Having file formats based on the machine enables manufacturers to create exclusive designs and keeps consumers locked into a brand. Thus ensuring Janome customers upgrade to a newer Janome rather than going over to Babylock.

Native File Formats

A native file format is a blueprint for any embroidery design. The building block or foundation in its true form before being converted to a language readable by a particular machine. Native file format tends to be readable only by the software package.

If any alterations to color or stitch selection are needed in a design, it’s usually done in the native file format and then reconverted into the machine-readable format. This gives better quality and accuracy.

One of the better-known native file formats was created by Wilcom and has the .emb file extension. Popular and easy to use, it can resize and alter designs at the touch of a button.


Embroidery files contain all the information the machine needs to recreate a design. A .dst file is one of the many formats these instructions can be formatted. Whether your machine can read a .dst file depends on which one you have. Once you know your machine is .dst compatible, this guide will help you read, create and use your own .dst files.

Let me know in the comments if you liked the article. Have you got an embroidery machine compatible with .dst files? Have you tried creating your own designs using a .dst converter?