FAQs About Fonts
Since I've started converting my fonts to BX files for use with Embrilliance and EmbroideryWorks programs, I've gotten quite a few questions so I thought I'd take some time to answer them here.
What's a BX file?
A BX file is a special installer file that contains "library" kind of file designed for use with specific Embrilliance and EmbroideryWorks embroidery programs. There are essentially two categories:
- Native design or font files that are designs or fonts digitized in Embrilliance software.
- Designs that have been digitized in other programs and converted to BX format.
Because they are "object files," native files provide better scaling and options to adjust stitch attributes (density, compensation, etc.)
Converted files are most often fonts that have been digitized in other programs, imported with the font utility, mapped to keyboard characters, had their spacing adjusted (all things you can do with the AlphaTricks module), and finally, using a special program, made into a BX file for easy distribution and installation.
These converted files are "stitch files." They may have been imported as a DST, PES, or any other embroidery file format the program can read.
How can I tell the difference between a "real" font (native font) and a converted font?
Converted fonts will have a needle icon in front of them. (I'll refer to these fonts as "imported fonts" to distinguish them from native fonts.)
The ones below are a few of the ones I've made into BX fonts. I've included their original size in the name so you have an idea how small or large they are.
My software won't read a BX file. I need the font in XYZ format.
Many sites offer individual design files of letters that are available in standard machine formats. While they're relatively easy to use as a monogram of 1 to 3 letters by combining multiple design files, they are very difficult and tedious to use to create a name or several words. (In most cases those letters are too large for more than about 3 characters in a 4x4" hoop anyway…)
And what if you want to arc those letters over another design?
The purpose of the BX format is to allow you to have a "keyboard font" that you can more easily use. After the font is installed, simply choose the font from the menu, type your text, and Voila! your lettering is ready to save for your machine.
Why do I have to buy yet another program?
Actually, you don't. Although you do need another program to use BX fonts if you don't currently have one, you can download the free Embrilliance Express (formerly AlphaTricks Express), which will work with pre-made BX fonts.
Of course, this program is fairly limited but you can create text using purchased BX fonts and save in your desired format—which is quite a lot for a free program in my opinion! Those files can then be imported into your machine or other embroidery programs.
How can I use BX files with my computer/sewing machine/embroidery software/format?
Embrilliance products and EmbroideryWorks run on both Macintosh and Windows, so your computer is a non-issue.
You can import your embroidery design into these programs, add the lettering, then export in your preferred format, which can then be sent to your machine or opened in other embroidery software.
So, yes, with software that works on most any computer, you can create lettering and save it for use with any machine.
How can I stitch out my fonts in Word on my embroidery machine?
I can't tell you how often I get this question! The short answer is you can't.
First of all, fonts aren't "in" Word; they are installed on your computer. Any program that works with fonts can access them, not just Word. Those fonts are designed to view on screen and to print. They aren't embroidery files and therefore they can't be stitched.
To turn them into embroidery designs, they have to be digitized.
Some embroidery digitizing programs have a True Type "font converter" utility, which will auto-digitize any characters you type.
Often these programs don't have the ability to install pre-digitized fonts or to make font sets that can be used over and over as pre-digitized (and edited and corrected!) keyboard fonts. Instead, you create new designs every time you use it—which means you often edit every time you create new letters.
About True Type to Stitches Font Converters
How good are these font converters? Well that depends on primarily 3 things:
- How good is the program? Some programs are better than others at breaking up the sections and applying the stitches in a "normal" angle.
- How good is the font? Many free True Type fonts are poorly drawn. Clean and simple fonts work best, especially for small letters. Sizes smaller than 1/2" may not auto digitize well.
- How high is your level of quality perception/expectation? Most programs that offer True Type conversion provide editing tools to clean up letters. If you are a good digitizer, you may find yourself spending more time editing converted characters than digitizing them from scratch.
I don't use a True Type font converter when digitizing my font sets. They have all been manually digitized and installed as keyboard fonts in my pro software where I have full control over their size, density, compensation, underlay and connection points every time I use one.
The fonts I've digitized are ones I wanted to use or have used myself. When I've had to digitize long passages of text, I've just added those letters to a font set. Later I've gone in and digitized the rest of the characters for a full set.
At this writing, Embrilliance does not yet have a program that will auto-convert True Type letters into embroidery and programs that do are generally fairly pricey.
Are BX fonts closest point connected?
A closest point font is one that will auto-magically discern the shortest distance between two characters and use that point as the exit point on the first character and the entry point on the next. Imported BX fonts are definitely not closest point because the program cannot regenerate start and end points on a stitch file.
To digitize a closest point alphabet for this type of use, you'd have to create a letter with every possible combination of entry and exit points and it would simply not be feasible to use.
In the sample below (Avenir Black 8mm), the top line shows how the connections were digitized and how they will connect as a BX font. The bottom line shows how they will connect if closest point is selected in the original program and the program calculates the connections on the fly.
With a little manual kerning on either side of the "A," the connections can be reduced and the word will look better.
Can I change the attributes on these fonts?
Sort of. If you enlarge an imported font, the stitch type will turn into a fill if the stitches get too long.
Other than that, you can't adjust underlay, compensation, density, or connection points.
Note: Embrilliance is always updating their software and adding new features and some of these attributes can now be adjust. Refer to the current software features to see what's available.
You change colors of letters, and move each one independently to adjust spacing.
Why do some imported BX characters have little blobs on them?
Because it is impossible to know when a letter might be trimmed (generally before the first character and after the last character in the group), each character in an imported BX font must have a tie-in and a tie-off.
These lock stitches are much more visible on small letters, thin letters, and running stitch letters than on larger ones. My recommendation is to trim only between words or when the connect thread is longer than about 1mm.
Also, only trim the front of the embroidery. If you must trim the back (in between words), leave a 1/4" tail on each end to reduce raveling or apply a seam sealant.
Can I resize imported BX fonts?
Yes. In the case of my fonts, the characters where digitized and tested at the size they are when installed (the default size). Also, I've included the height (generally the height in millimeters of a capital "I", which is not how designers measure type sizes) in the name.
Embrilliance will automatically add them on screen at this default size. Because I tend to use smaller letters more often than larger, I've digitized and tested the fonts near the smallest recommended size for each type face.
Embrilliance does do a good job of resizing and, if you click in on the "i" to get info on the font, it will provide some size range recommendation.
These recommendations are provided by the software, not the digitizer! Do test any resized fonts,
No digitizer can predict how a design will resize in other programs, especially when working with a stitch file and not the original object version.
If you are shrinking the lettering, make sure the stitches don't get too short (no shorter than 1mm, preferably 1.5mm) or you can damage your fabric. Embrilliance has a little ruler tool you can use to measure anything on screen.
Why don't the script letters connect?
Spacing is controlled for the entire font set.
If character spacing is set close enough for the letters to connect, so will the numbers and any other characters.
You can always adjust the spacing after the letters are typed in using the sliders or by moving characters individually.
What if I just have the letter design files and they aren't a BX font?
With one of the right programs in the Embrilliance line, you can import these design files into the program and assign keyboard strokes yourself.
It doesn't even have to be a full alphabet and the designs don't have to be letters, numbers, or punctuation. You can import any designs and assign keyboard strokes to them.
Why would I want to use imported BX fonts?
Imported BX fonts are a great way to expand your library of fonts and to use letter designs efficiently since all you do is type. If you aren't resizing the letters AND the original characters are well digitized, you should get excellent results.
Keep in mind that you can also use letters as design elements. The simple design below is composed of letters and numbers. See how to create it in this YouTube video: Embrilliance Essentials Quick Look.
Because you have access to the same letter alignment tools as the built in fonts, you can easily arc imported BX fonts (try doing that with individual designs!). Spacing is easily adjusted either for the entire line of text or you can kern letters individually.
You can also control justification (left, right, center). Manually creating arced text that is centered is extremely tedious and time consuming! Plus, unless you are use a line of the same characters, standard alignment tools will not work properly with embroidered letters.
An "Alpha Tricked" font allows you to spend your time more creatively!
Can I mix imported BX fonts with native fonts in Embrilliance?
Of course! Can you tell in this screen shot which fonts are native and which are imported?
What about monograms?
Yes, you can do that too. Embrilliance Essentials provides a variety of options for creating different monogram styles with any font in your list!
My Affiliate Links Disclosure
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- Embrilliance software is often available in our shop as a physical product that will be shipped (U.S. only) or as digital download from Embrilliance
- Get the free Embrilliance Express (formerly AlphaTricks Express)
- Check our huge selection of BX-ready fonts!
- Other general supplies can be found on the Resources page
- What's Your Addiction?
- Turning Thrift Store Finds into a Fashion Statement
- BX Machine Embroidery Fonts
- How to Get Perfect Monograms on Terry Cloth Towels
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.