How I make pictures of stranded knitting

I’ve been noodling around for years, trying to find a consistent way of producing images that look like stranded knitting that make me happy. I think I’m finally there. I’m going to share an overview of what I do, just because. It’s written for people who already know how to use vector art software (Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, or other programs like that). I explain what I do, but not how I do it.

If you’re not comfortable with that kind of software, is a reasonable alternative. I used it for quite a while. It doesn’t quite work out for the effect I have in mind, but if you want to design colorwork, it’s good for that aspect.

The vector art software I use for the initial drawing is an iPad app called Graphic. I sometimes edit the stitch colors in that app, but I often use the color filters in an app called Colorburn; the color filters in other photo editing programs would also work, but there’s not as many options. When that’s all done, I use a filter in an app called Brushstroke to change the shape of the lines and the texture to make it look more like actual knitting. I’m sure there must be other similar options out there.

Anyway, I have a file that I copy and use to make the knitting stitches that looks like this. Here’s a PDF of it that you’re welcome to save and use. The stitches are drawn so that snap to grid will function properly when copying the stitches and pasting them above and below other stitches. The grid is 12 px by 12 px.

I don’t change the scale of the drawing (except a little at the very end) because I need the line size (it’s 4 pts) to be at about this size relative to the stitches to make the later filters work out properly. I change the final canvas size to match the size of the drawing.

Anyway, I start by putting that block of stitches on a layer with a picture of the chart I want to turn into a drawing. I add and delete stitches as necessary to get a block of stitches that’s the size of the finished stitch pattern. I don’t know if the PDF retains this information, but each stitch is two parallelograms that I’ve grouped.

I copy some of those stitches and put them on a separate layer. This helps with being able to edit colors quickly and easily if I’m going to do the colors in this app. (I don’t usually know if I’m going to do that yet at this stage). I change the fill in the stitches on this layer to a dark grey. All the lines are a medium grey on purpose; this works well with the final filters, depending on what color combination I choose. Sometimes I need to come back and change it so the lines are darker than all the stitches.

I drag stitches on top of the background stitches until I have the left half of the design in place. If there’s several stitches in a row that are the dark color, I select that number and move them all at once to save effort. Whoops! I didn’t get the number of stitches in the first layer right. (I deleted the extras at this point.)

This design has a single column of stitches up the middle, so I don’t need to mirror that. I select the stitches I need and copy and paste them.

Then I mirror them horizontally and drag them into place.

Now that I’ve got the pattern into place, I go back to layer 1 and delete the chart. Next I’m going to make the number of background stitches the size of the final piece of art. I want it to be at least three repeats in each direction (how many I do varies by stitch pattern). So, because this is a stitch pattern with a repeat of 12+1 stitches, I select just the part that repeats and copy it.

I paste it twice horizontally to make room for a total of three repeats. I don’t know why Graphic hides any objects that are right next to the edge of the canvas, but I promise those stitches are still there.

The row repeat is 8 + 1 stitches, so again I select just the stitches to be repeated. (You can now see the outlines of the hidden objects). I copy and paste those twice vertically.

Finally, I select all the stitches on this layer and group them. Then I go into the menus to find out my final image size – 1776 by 924 px. I adjust the canvas size accordingly.

Then I switch back to layer 2 and copy and paste the stitches there to make the repeats. I select all the stitches on this layer and group them to make color changes easier.

Finally, I decide to do the colors in the Colorwork app, so I’m going to do one last adjustment. I copy and paste the contents of layer 2 into layer 1, group everything, and then make the rectangle narrower. The exact size I made the stitches was for snap-to-grid convenience, but my actual stranded knitting has something like a square gauge. I adjust the final rectangle so that a 3 by 3 block of stitches looks about right to my eye. (I compared the final numbers, and it’s approximately 85% as wide.)

I exported the final image to my photos on my iPad, and then I imported it into Colorburn, which has a thousand color filters. This is the color filter selection screen, which you can just slide along until you find something you like. Higher contrast is generally better for the next stage. The time I did this chart for a blog post, I did it in honey colors, but this time I decided to do a different set. I clicked on one and clicked the arrow in the upper right corner to save it.

Here’s what I picked.

I imported the result into Brushwork and chose the O4 filter, which is handily on the first screen. The contrast is reduced here, so you can see why I picked a high-contrast color combination. It’s important to have the stitch size and line thickness be correct, or this won’t look right. There’s an arrow in the upper right to tap through to the next screen, and then choose save. I don’t usually make any changes at this point, though sometimes I edit the brightness and contrast in a regular photo editing app on our desktop computer. (Affinity Photo or Graphic Converter.)

Anyway, that’s how I do it. The end result looks more or less like actual knitting stitches and gives a sense of what the pattern might look like in yarn, though it takes less time than the actual knitting.