How to make a cross stitch chart in Excel

Have you ever wanted to make your own cross stitch chart, but don’t know where to start? We are going to show you how you can start designing your own charts on Microsoft Excel!

It is only natural that after a period of using pre-made cross stitch charts and kits, that you may decide you want to design your own charts. But where do you start? If you want to try out making your own charts before upgrading to cross stitch software the answer may be easier than you think. Microsoft excel has lots of features that mean you can start making simple charts straight away.

I am going to walk you through how to create a small chart and then go through the advantages and disadvantages of using this method.

Start off by opening up a new workbook in excel. You will start off with your standard Excel sheet. Now, to begin you will need to create your grid on which to work from. To do this click the tab above row 1 and left of column A, this will highlight the entire sheet. Then go to the top right-hand corner and click Format, as shown below.cross stitch Excel

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-11-59-47Click on row height and change that number to 0.4cm. As you use this program more and start to make larger charts, you can change it to as small as 0.1cm but I have found that 0.4cm is a good size to start with. Click okay and then go back to the format button, this time click column width. Change that size to 0.4cm as well.

Now you should have a sheet that looks like the below. Each square will represent a stitch.


You are now ready to start designing your own chart. For this example, I am going to be showing you how to design a cross stitch caravan. Now, I am no cross stitch designer, so this is a very simple caravan!

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-12-40-17To start off I have selected the colour of the base of my caravan. I have done this using the fill tool (right). I have highlighted all the cells that I would like to fill.I tend to do the outline first and then fill in everything else.


You can then carry on playing with the colours and creating your picture. Don’t worry about making a mistake. The great thing about using Excel is that if you make a mistake or don’t like where a stitch has been positioned, you can just highlight the bit you don’t want and click no fill in the fill drop down menu (as above).


You then end up with a basic outline of what you are trying to create. This may take a bit of fiddling around with, changing your colours and positioning etc. What I found helpful, was to have a picture of what I am hoping to create next to my excel sheet, so I have a reference. For my reference picture. I simply Googled ‘caravan’. Don’t forget that you can choose a wider variety of colours by going into the fill tool (as above) and click ‘more colours’. In there you can also create a colour palette of your favourite colours so you don’t have to keep going in and finding them. To do this you simply click the colour you want and then drag it into the pallet box as shown below.  screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-13-10-04

Now you can go in and fill the colour. What you end up may looking a bit box like, but never fear, you can add the detail in at the end. You fill the colour in in the same way you did the outline, simply highlight the cells you wish to fill in and use the fill tool to select your colour.








Now the caravan is taking shape. But it looks a little plain, doesn’t it? So you can now go in and add detail.



It looks a little block-like, but you can start to see how the finished design will look.

If you wish to you can use the line tool to go around the outline of your design. To do this you click in to the border tab, as shown below. You can then choose which sides of the cell you are in you wish to have an outline. If the outlines you want are not in the preset list you can click border options at the bottom and you will be able to add a custom border. screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-13-44-03

This part takes some time, however, it isn’t always necessary to do it. You can use it just to show your back stitches though, which is helpful. See detail below on the wheel of the caravan. It also helps to be able to see fractional stitches. screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-14-23-30







The reason I say it isn’t always necessary to add in the borders (like the picture above) is because if you are printing your design to work off of, you will have to use the border tool to create a graph so you can count your stitches. To do this you simply highlight your entire design, click the border tool and select ‘all borders’. This will give you your graph to print from. screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-14-27-54caravan

Here is my finished design! What do you think? Not to bad for a first time cross stitch designer if I do say so myself!

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of using Excel for cross stitch design?


  • It’s free
  • Great as a starting tool
  • Easy to use
  • Large selection of colours to choose from
  • Can make the graph as large or small as you wish


  • Colours may not match your preferred thread colour chart
  • You cannot easily show fractional stitches
  • Cannot import your own pictures to change into a chart
  • Can’t print in a key
  • There isn’t a built-in library of motifs you can customise

There are many things that you can’t do in Excel that you can do in Cross Stitch Design Software, however, Excel acts as a great place to start if you are thinking about creating your own charts, but don’t want to pay out for the software before trying it.

Our Cross Stitch Design Software are a number of awesome features such as:

  • Easy to use with friendly wizards to guide you through different functions.
  • Instantly convert photographs, clip-art, digital camera pictures and internet graphics into stitch charts.
  • Over 4000 motifs and 300 blackwork filling patterns included.
  • Huge range of built-in stitches including full and three-quarter cross stitch, French knots, back stitch, beads and even custom stitches.
  • Shopping list given for every design you create so you can buy all the supplies you need to stitch your design.
  • Multiple undo function lets you step back stitch by stitch if you make a mistake.
  • Realistic fabric simulations show how the finished stitched piece will appear on a wide range of different fabric types.
  • Use up to 200 thread colours per design or use the helpful tool to reduce the number of colours used.
  • Endorsed by DMC and Anchor with up-to-date thread colours and automatic updating of ranges.
  • 1000 x 1000 stitch design area is big enough for even the largest project
  • Print in colour or black and white symbols or even combine the two.
  • Template library includes templates for aperture cards – simply design within the indicated area for a perfect fit.
  • Automatic backstitch outlining saves time and hassle.
  • Add a key to your chart at the click of a button.
  • Export your chart to other programs.
  • Informative and extensive Help file to answer all your questions.

So give Excel a go today and if you love it and want to expand your design skills the Design Software is just a click away. It is now available as a Download or in CD-Rom version


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About Nadine

Nadine dabbles in a wide range crafts. If it's pretty and she wants to make it, she'll learn the technique to do so. She is also never without a cup of tea in her hands.