Liven Up Your Animals
Your animal designs can either look flat and boring, or alive and ready to run. Learn how to digitize realistic fur over muscle structure.
Digitizing an animal so it looks nearly pet-able might seem impossible, but there are a few tricks that can bring those furry friends to life. It’s not something that you can do with automatic scanning, because it requires adding details that aren’t always obvious in the artwork or the photo. Some automatic features can be used, such as one that creates a jagged edge on an object and allows for blending. But, no matter which type of stitch or function is used, it’s important that the digitizer maintain control.

Realistically digitizing fur requires that you be familiar with the direction of hair growth, as well as an animal’s muscle structure. The size of the design determines just how much detail you can include, with larger designs actually being less trouble than a small design. Then, it’s just a matter of including the most important details in the space you have, and then applying the appropriate technique.
Study and Prepare Artwork
You can use a drawing or a photo of the animal for digitizing. However, when you want to create as realistic a design as possible, such as for digitizing a custom design of a show dog for its owner, use a photo. No matter which one you use, study the artwork to plan a preliminary path and add marks to clarify questionable areas. Even in a clear photo, a dark color might mask or blur even the most prominent of features, so it’s helpful to have a print of the photo in hand to view while digitizing. In a large design, if structure isn’t defined, the sewing will appear flat or two-dimensional. Small designs don’t offer as much area for detail, so you’ll have to make an effort to capture any feature that portrays the animal’s individuality.

• Create guidelines using a contrasting color not found on the animal. The guidelines shown in blue on the image have been created in the digitizing system using object lines. Punch object lines instead of drawing permanent lines in a graphics program, because these lines can be quickly eliminated, moved, and turned on or off, and the color can be changed while punching. All guidelines in this image won’t be used for digitizing, because this design is being completed at a size under 4” tall and details must be kept at a minimum. However, a few lines will help maintain focus while digitizing, acting as a reminder to keep the hairs of the fur traveling in the correct direction, as well as offer the possibility to include particular details.
Stabilize With a Proper Foundation
Punch a base underlay of run stitches to stabilize the majority of the area to be sewn and follow it with a light-density fill stitch. A large design might require more than one section of light fill, with the second layer crossing the first in the opposite angle to create a grid. Use a stitch length conducive to the fabric being sewn.

• The purpose is to stabilize and prepare the area for the following layers of stitches that will push and pull in various directions, causing an excess amount of stress to the substrate. A good foundation is necessary to avoid puckers around the design, to retain flexibility and to lend to density of final coverage.
Choose Stitch Types and Parameters
Using sections of complex fill is acceptable on large designs, but make sure that you break large elements into multiple sections, rotating each to sustain the natural direction of hair growth. Column fill stitches usually work well for either a large or small design, with satin stitches used where columns become too narrow. Use satin columns or column fills with a long stitch length to define muscle structure as you see in the animal’s legs. Keep the size of objects at a minimum to allow for multiple changes in density and other parameters, as well as more flexibility in adjusting angles of stitches when editing. Adjust the stitch length according to the length of the breed’s hair – shorter stitches for short hair and longer stitches for long hair.
• Column density should be kept light to allow for manipulating the desired curves and angles of the stitches. If additional coverage is required, use a medium-density fill stitch over the entire section first, and then proceed with overlapping columns on top of the fill stitching; adjust density values to retain a balanced density throughout the layers.