Comparing Fonts: Embrilliance & Hatch
Because I use both Hatch and Embrilliance, I often get questions along the lines of "which one is best?" Recently that question has popped up about fonts so here's what you need to know!
Well, the answer is each one has something it does better than the other and if you're serious about embroidery, you may need both!
Generally, I like Embrilliance better for editing stitch files and Hatch for digitizing.
Note: Because I'm a digitizer and generally only work with designs I create, I seldom actually work with stitch files. Instead, I'll modify my designs in the program where they were created. However, if you purchase designs, it's rare to get a true stitch file and even if you can, you must have the software it was created with to even open it.
One question I get asked a lot is about fonts. Hatch and Embrilliance handle fonts very differently and of course, each one does something the other can't. Only you can decide which one is best for how you work.
But first, we need to understand the difference between stitch files and object files.
About Stitch Files
Stitch files are what your embroidery machine sews—PES, HUS, EXP, and the like. When you open a stitch file in a program, it is just a collection of stitches.
Some programs will attempt to convert the design back into "blocks" or "objects" but my experience is that this is seldom successful and never the way the design was created. The resulting design can be much more difficult to edit because you can have lots of "partial" objects. (Hatch does this something like this.)
Other programs will instead just separate the design by colors, even if that color is composed of multiple "units." (Embrilliance works this way.) This can be less confusing to work with, especially with basic customizing.
Stitch files can be likened to bitmap graphics, which are a collection of little colored blocks called pixels.
Imagine you've taken a photo of your cat and you want to modify it. It's pretty much one big blob of lots of colored pixels.
You can do basic things similar to an embroidery customizing program: mirror, rotate, resize, skew. But you can't just click on the nose or the eye because they aren't discrete objects.
About Object Files
Object files are composed of shapes that have stitches applied to them.
You may also hear them called "native" or "all-in-one" or "working" or "creator" files. This is the master file and can only be manipulated in the program where it was created.
For Hatch, this is EMB for Embrilliance, it's BE. Native files can usually only be read by the program that created them whereas most embroidery programs these days can import and export most any stitch file.
Object files can't be read or sewn on an embroidery machine. To sew, the file must be exported to a stitch file.
Embroidery object files are similar to vector graphics, which are composed of mathematically defined shapes. Object files are more scalable and more adjustable.
With an object file in the right software, you can change the shape by moving "nodes" or "points" on the outline as well as adjust the stitch attributes such as stitch types, stitch angle, underlay, compensation, density, lock stitches.
Such controls are seldom possible with a stitch file on an object level although some programs have "fabric recipes" for global changes.
While it's possible to save a stitch file into a working file format, it doesn't make it a true object file.
Embrilliance BX fonts are "stitch file" fonts and are therefore limited as far as controls.
Note: A BX file is actually an installer file for dragging and dropping onto Embrilliance Essentials or Embroidery Works to add a formatted set of characters to the font menu. Technically, they don't even have to be an alphabet, they could be a set of images like dingbats.
They are also "frozen" in the sense that the start and end points of each letter can't be changed so connections between letters cannot be optimized for shortest jumps, known as closest joins nor can they be shaped by adjusting a node (because there aren't any).
The advantage of BX fonts is that it's easy to create a font (using any suitable software), save the characters out as a individual design files (not hard but definitely tedious), and then map it in Embrilliance. That means there are thousands and thousands of fonts available.
The disadvantage is because it's relatively easy and doesn't cost much, that means there are a lot of horribly digitized fonts out there that were quickly auto-digitized in other software by people of questionable skill and then made available. Also, I suspect some of them were created from fonts that were already installed in the program and not digitized at all by the provider. I rather suspect quite a few of those are never test sewn.
Of course, there are a lot of well-digitized fonts created by digitizers who really know what they're doing but there are limitations to creating font sets that are mapped from stitch files.
The trick here is that you won't really know the difference between good and bad fonts. Just shop from reputable digitizers and you should be fine.
Because Embrilliance only works with stitch files, all letters should be digitized with tie-ins and tie-outs because who knows where trims will occur and satin stitch objects are more susceptible to raveling. Tie stitches can unnecessarily run up stitch counts and smaller letters can have little "blobs" that marr the stitching at a tie-out.
Also, while Embrilliance is very good at resizing, because you're working with stitch files instead of objects, scaling can cause unexpected problems, especially in small elements and inside curves. Scaling fonts should be limited and no digitizer can guarantee the results you get.
Different sizes really need to be created with the stitch types and attributes (density, underlay, compensation) optimized for that size.
When you resize stitch objects, they are scaled proportionally.
For example, underlay that performs well at the actual size may become exposed if the letters are shrunk.
Notice in the smaller "a," which was shrunk the maximum amount in Embrilliance, how the distance from the edge walk underlay is much closer to the edge than in the larger one. It's very possible to have a line of stitching hanging out of the satins on that smaller one.
With an object letter, the software "knows" there is underlay and what the offset should be and maintains it as you resize the design.
In a stitch file, there are no designations of underlay or even stitch type. The software has to make it's best guess. Fortunately Essentials does a very good job most of the time.
Also, some stitch types resize better than others. For best results, always work with a font that's closest to the size you need and resize as little as possible. And do I need to remind you to test sew?
Hatch was developed from professional software that has been around for several decades.
You can't make "keyboard" fonts in Hatch but there are possibly 1000 or more professionally digitized fonts (known as ESA fonts) that can be installed and be used in a more professional manner. By that I mean they are digitized in a pro level of Wilcom (a very pricey program not likely owned by a hobbiest cranking out crap) and they are "native" objects in Hatch.
That also means they will recalculate to make the joins between letters shorter. Also, because they are objects, you can reshape them and apply tie stitches only where needed.
Because ESA fonts are objects, I could easily tweak the "i" in "Paris" so the tail connected to the "s."
- Top is original, enlarged, with modified compensation and underlay added.
- Bottom is a copy with the adjusted character.
To accomplsh that in Essentials, you'd need to have Enthusiast enabled and manually add the extra stitches to make the pieces connect.
On the subject of tie stitches, trims are more controllable in Hatch than Embrilliance. I have yet to figure out how, when, where, and why Embrilliance inserts trims; it's handled totally invisibly. You can actually see where they are in Hatch and have some control over them.
ESA fonts typically come in just one size.
Because they are objects and you have access to all their attributes (stitch type, compensation, underlay, density, etc.), you can resize them more than a stitch file. That doesn't mean they are infinitely resizable; there are guide lines for stitch lengths!
Additionally, Hatch can auto-digitize TrueType fonts installed on your computer. They may require editing for optimal sewing but they are far more editable than a BX stitch file in Embrilliance.
Note: Auto digitizing is one of those things that often sounds better than it is. Just saying…
Embrilliance cannot auto digitize TrueType fonts but it can bring in the font outlines for manual digitizing if you have Stitch Artist.
Hatch also comes with more built in fonts than Embrilliance and, IMO, are better digitized. Even the fonts that come with Embriliance aren't editable as objects.
What's the BFD With Closest Join Fonts?
With some text, the letters are close enough together that a connector thread is unnoticeable. This is especially true with script fonts.
A tie stitch adds 4 - 7 stitches and you need one set at the beginning of an object and another at the end. Oh yeah, and they need to be invisible.
Imagine you have 1/4" letters. A small simple character might be only 12 stitches. Adding a tie-in and tie-out can easily double the stitch count. Tie-ins on small letters can usually be hidden but tie-outs are much harder to hide.
OK, so that doesn't sound like much—12 more stitches—big deal right?
But now add that to every single character in the design plus the time it takes for your machine to stop and trim each one. Or, if it doesn't suto trim, how much time it will take you to trim if the connection is long and obvious.
Compare How These Letters Join
Top: Standard baseline joins. Depending on the letter sequence, connector threads can be quite long!
Middle: Auto closest join. Spacing is still funky because the software places a bounding box around each character and they don't overlap.
Bottom: Closest join with manual kerning.With kerning and closest join, you might get by with 2 or no trims depending on the size of your letters. Software that can calculate when to apply trims and tie offs will minimize unnecessary stitches and trims and improve productivity. (Hatch can do that.)
Those extra stitches not only negatively impact productivity, they can negatively affect the quality and appearance of lettering—especially on running stitch letters where ties are particularly hard to hide.
Closest point joins are considered a sign of professional level embroidery. Fonts have to be digitized in a certain way to permit this to work well and then your software has to be able to use an object-based alphabet to create it.
Nearly all the BX fonts I've digitized were created as closest join characters but they only work that way in the program where they were digitized where they are still objects.
Why Do I Make BX Fonts but Not ESA?
I can't make ESA fonts because they need to be created with a pro level of Wilcom, which I don't have.I can make BX fonts from all the fonts I've digitized in Punto the past few decades and that's where I use them. I don't actually use them in Embrilliance because I want ultimate control.
In Punto, they work like the ESA fonts for Hatch. They are fully editable objects mapped to keystrokes so that they can be selected from a menu and used like a text processor. Plus, they are closest point joins.
When I create designs with fonts, I use the fonts that are native to Punto or Hatch so that they can be optimized for the most professional result.
In other words, I may make fonts for Embrilliance; I just don't use them there.
Which Program Should You Get?
Both Hatch and Embrilliance are modular programs, meaning you can start basic and add on as you need features. Both programs offer a trial period so you can try each one out. Both run on Windows but only Embrilliance runs natively on Mac.
There is a growing repository of how-to videos on YouTube for both programs. In other words, just because your dealer might not sell it, doesn't mean there's no help available. Facebook groups are another resource for both apps.
If you have sets of stitch file alphabets, you need Embrilliance Essentials and Alpha Tricks to maximize their use. Alpha Tricks is used to map all those stitch files to the appropriate keystroke, get the font aligned (not as easy as it sounds, especially if you don't understand how stitches push and pull), and added to the font menu in Essentials.
If you want more control over fonts or you have an embroidery business and do a lot of customizing for clients, then Hatch can give you a more professional result with ESA fonts.
See why you might need both?
Where to Get Fonts
Check out the extensive collection of fonts in the Alphabets area of my shop. Fonts are available in single sizes, sets with multiple sizes, and volume 1 of mega fonts with 165 BX files.
Fonts digitized for keyboard sets are available in BX and DST only. DST is only available as individual character designs. No other formats are supported. Most machines and software can read a DST. Simply import the letters you want to use, align them and save in the format you prefer.
Some monogram sets are available in the full range of supported machine formats and letters in these sets are available individually.
Embrilliance Express is a free downloadable program you can use to access BX fonts. Create your text and save out in a format for your machine or other software.
About the Author
Lindee Goodall is a veteran master digitizer who's won awards for her beautiful designs, been a guest on numerous PBS sewing shows, written articles for a variety of home and industry related magazines, and is a Craftsy instructor.
Lindee G Embroidery is her second company, following Cactus Punch, which was founded in 1994.