Unraveling the Machine Embroidery File Format Mystery

Kris Daub
Published by Kris Daub | Senior Editor
Last updated: December 15, 2023
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As an avid embroiderer, I know firsthand the frustration of dealing with machine embroidery file formats. Between ART, PES, DST, and more cryptic acronyms, it’s a dizzying array of file types to keep straight! But using the correct format for your embroidery machine brand is crucial for successfully stitching out designs.

In this article, I’ll draw on my embroidery expertise to clearly explain these file types in simple terms. My goal is to help unravel the mystery, so you can easily identify the right formats for your machine.

What Are Embroidery File Formats?

Embroidery file formats contain specialized commands that instruct an embroidery machine how to stitch out a design. This includes details like:

  • Thread colors
  • Stitch sequences
  • Color change instructions
  • Stitch density and length

Without this coding, a machine wouldn’t know how to interpret a design file correctly. These formats differ greatly from common graphic files like JPEGs or SVGs.

Common Machine Embroidery File Formats

There are a few major file formats tied to top embroidery machine brands:

  • ART – Used by Bernina machines
  • PES – Used by Brother machines
  • DST – Used by Tajima commercial machines
  • HUS – Used by Husqvarna Viking machines
  • EXP – Used by Melco commercial machines


Additional formats like JEF (Janome) and PCD (Pfaff) cater to other machine brand specifics. Converters are available to go between different formats when needed.

Each brand develops its own proprietary format to create customer loyalty and make switching machines harder. But this can create headaches for embroiderers!

Choosing the Right File Format

To successfully stitch out a design, your machine embroidery file format must match your machine’s expected type. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Machine BrandFile Format
Husqvarna/Viking.HUS, .VP3
Commercial Tajima.DST

Tip: When purchasing designs online, download the format for your machine to avoid issues!

Converting between formats can lead to potential corruption or data loss in some cases. I recommend editing designs in native machine brand formats when possible.

The Role of Embroidery Software

Embroidery design software allows the creation and editing of embroidery files. Native formats are generated within the software and then exported into the machine-readable file types listed above.

Native formats are generated within the software and then exported into the machine-readable file…

For example, the Hatch software utilizes the advanced .EMB format, allowing full design editing capabilities before exporting to your Brother .PES file.

The software makes light work of file conversions and provides helpful time-saving tools for embroiderers.

Tips for Managing Embroidery Files

Here are my top tips for staying organized with your embroidery file collection:

  • Adopt a consistent file naming convention, including design details and format
  • Store files in clearly labeled folders by machine format type
  • Leverage design software to batch convert files when needed
  • Use cloud storage so you can easily access files across devices
Embroidery Machine

Well-organized design files will save you headaches down the road!

I hope this article has helped unravel some of the common confusion around machine embroidery formats. With so many file types and machine brands in the mix, it can quickly become a convoluted mess!

The key is using the correct format for your machine model. And don’t be afraid to leverage file conversion software to get files into the right type.

Have any other embroidery questions? Reach out anytime; I’m always happy to help fellow embroiderers.