Understanding Resolution, Detail and Pixelation in Cross Stitch

Why "make it small but keep the same detail" is impossible

Explain basics of pattern creation, link to previous articles.

Often get requests to make small patterns but “keep the same detail”.

Impossible as the detail really is intrinsically linked to size. Explain what pixelation is.

TV analogy. You can get the same reoslution of TV (720, 1080, 4k) at different physical sizes. The number of pixels on a 1080 TV (1920 x 1080) is always the same, every TV will show the exact same resolution / pixelation. What differs is how far away you view it - a larger TV is better suited for viewing at a longer distance.

What people often confuse is whether they can notice pixelation with how much pixelation there is. If you go close enough to any screen, it is pixelated. It’s inherent in the technology. The same with cross-stitch - you make the picture from stitches (equivalent to pixels), so it’s pixelated. How noticeable it is depends on how close you view it.

If you make the fabric count larger the stitching density, how many stitches there are per inch, goes up. So the individual stitches / pixels become less noticeable. But of course it’s smaller, so you have to view it closer.

And that’s the thing - there is little point in stitching a huge, detailed piece on a high fabric-count where it’s going to be mounted and viewed at a distance. If it looks so like a print that you can’t tell it isn’t one, what’s the point? Why not just hang a print on your wall?

Don’t waste years of effort and $$$‘s of materials on detail you don’t need. Aim for the least stitching to convey the image with sufficient detail that you can just notice that it’s been stitched. It’s far more likely to get admiring attention when people can see it’s been hand crafted and the image is actually made of individual stitches.

Remember, if you double the length of the side of a piece you quadruple the number of stitches. It’s exponential. You can quickly go from a 2 to 3 year project to an 8 to never-completed project. Cross-stitch is more art than photography, people marvel more at the detail they thougth they saw when they see the stitches up-close (your brain fills in the detail),

Explain process - draw grid over image at size of pattern. Can only color in each square of grid with single DMC color from the reduced palette (maybe ~80 colors)

No finer detail possible with full coverage regular X stitches unless you add special stitch types, back stitching etc…

Impossible to make smaller and keep detail the same. That’s like saying “I want it to be 30 inches but smaller”

But how well the reduction is done can vary significantly. For instance, instead of just making each stitch the dominant or average color for the pixels that fall into it, we could take into account the neighbouring pixels, and how the eye sees those colors. We might also factor in that when converting the surrounding pixels to stitches and mapping them to the closest DMC color, there wasn’t always an exact match. Match the closest color was slightly lighter, or slightly greener than the exact match, so we can try to make the next stitch slightly darker and slightly less green to compensate.

Over entire image, keep balance, dithering.

Can trick the eye, fool brain into seeing detail that isn’t there.

Often don’t need that detail - you look close up at the stitches when working on a piece and worry about detail and pixelation. When completed, people look at the complete piece - the picture.

“View the painting, not the brush strokes”