Years of experience in the embroidery industry have given us some insight into what does and doesn’t work well in embroidery. We’ve broken the thoughts down into the following areas:
Many professionally designed logos have blended colors or a transition from one color to another such as in this color bar. This might look fine on paper, but is very difficult to accomplish in a small, left chest or cap size logo. While printing simply adjusts the dots of ink on the page or pixels on the computer monitor, embroidery has to try to accomplish this with segments of thread. It’s hard to embroider a blended color well, especially in a small logo. We don’t even recommend it for heat transfers, since they are priced by the number of colors. A simple-looking color transition like this could have MANY colors in it, and therefore be prohibitively expensive. A large logo (such as to go on the back of a jacket) could look better as embroidery, but embroidery won’t be able to duplicate the look that can be achieved on paper or on your computer screen. Our advice is to not use blended colors at all if you don’t need them for embroidery or for heat transfers.
Embroidery: Our general guidelines are 3 to 3.75″ wide for logos wider than they are tall for embroidered use on the left chest of shirts. If the logo is square, 1.5 to 2″ on a side, and 2 to 2.5″ in diameter for circular logos. For caps, 2.25″ tall and 4″ wide are size limits, and 1 to 1.25″ tall and 4″ wide for visors. Full back logos (we only recommend putting them on materials no lighter than a sweatshirt) up to 11″ x 11″.
Heat Transfers: Left chest: Up to 4.5″ x 4.5″, but the size recommendations for embroidery hold true here. For a youth-size full back or front logo, up to 10″ x 10″. For an adult full back or full front logo, up to 12″ wide and 14″ in height.
Often, the limiting factor in a logo’s size is small lettering or a thin, small part of the artwork. Don’t worry about sending us a larger logo than these guidelines – larger is better for digitizing. Sending one smaller might be a problem, since we need to enlarge it for digitizing. If we think something needs to be changed, we’ll let you know.
Thin Elements: They are generally to be avoided. Embroidery has trouble duplicating the look of thin elements in logos because of the type of stitch that can be used. In lettering, for instance, we typically use the satin stitch (shown at left). This stitch goes back-and-forth across the entire width of the area to be embroidered. For example, when we embroider our logo, the capital letter “I” is stitched by the needle going through the fabric on the left side of the letter (the bobbin thread forms a lock stitch with the top thread while the needle is in the ‘down’ position), pulling out of the fabric and moving to the right side of the letter where the needle once again goes through the fabric, a lock stitch is formed underneath by the bobbin thread, then the needle pulls out and moves back to the left side of the letter a little higher or lower that the first stitch. Back and forth… left, right, left, right, left, right, etc. gradually moving up or down the letter to create what we call satin (or column) stitches. It’s the best and most beautiful way to embroider things such as letters. If the letters are very thin, we can’t use satin stitches. The left to right distance across a thin “I” is too small and both stitches fall into the same area of the fabric and result in a hole in the fabric. If thin elements are necessary, other (less beautiful than satin) stitches such as running stitches (shown at right) can be used. In the example of a capital “I”, instead of forming the letter by going back and forth (left to right) across the letter many times (satin stitches), running stitches are placed one above the other. A stitch is placed at the very bottom of the letter, then the next stitch is directly above the first, the next is above that, and so on the top of the letter. The letter “I” made with running stitches might have only 20 stitches, while the satin stitch version might have several hundred. Very thin elements can also present difficulties for heat transfers, depending upon the transfer type and the apparel chosen.
Material to be Embroidered:
Embroidery: It’s important that we know what type of material you’re going to want to have embroidered. For instance, t-shirt designs would have fewer stitches in them since the fabric is not as heavy as, say, denim, and simply can’t hold as many stitches. If we’re embroidering polyester fleece, the stitch type (and the ‘underlay’ stitches that you don’t see on the finished product) will be different than on other materials. Fleece has ‘loft’, meaning that it’s relatively thick and springy. If we don’t use proper underlay stitching to ‘squash’ down the fleece where satin stitches will be placed, stitches can be ‘lost’ in the springy fleece (and not be seen). This could lead to bits of the fleece poking through the stitching. All that said, most of the time we can use one logo on many different types of fabrics, but it looks best when we know in advance which fabrics and items are to embroidered (even on future orders) and can digitize the logo for embroidery accordingly.
Heat Transfers: The apparel selected for heat transfers is even more important. We generally like to use fabric with at least a 35% cotton content. We also need to know what color of garment you will be selecting. We use different types of transfers on light and dark fabrics. Inks to be used on dark fabrics need to be somewhat thicker and more opaque to ensure that light colored inks completely cover the dark fabric underneath. We also recommend only selecting smooth fabrics such as t-shirts and jersey knit polo shirts. No fleece, wool, or leather, and no pique knit polos (a non-smooth surface).
Caps vs. Shirts: Caps must be embroidered on a different type of frame and cannot be held as securely as shirts. We only do embroidery on caps – no heat transfers. Logos that have outlines around areas can be more difficult to embroider on caps since the cap may move ever so slightly between the stitching of the two different areas and have slight underlaps (or overlaps) where the fabric shows through. Another consideration on caps is whether the logo appears to have a ‘center’. Take our logo for example. As it is, it works fine for left chest application. On a cap, the center of the logo is about at the capital letter “R” in EMBROIDERY, so that is where the front seam of the standard six panel cap would be. To some, the text of the logo would appear to be off-center. We choose to move the text and center it under “EA” symbol for cap applications. Knowing this in advance, we were able to digitize our logo so that its size would work on caps, too. Additionally, stacking the logo allows the text to extend the entire width of the embroidered logo, and therefore be larger and easier to see, even on a shirt.
Embroidery: Consider the colors of your logo in relation to the colors of the items you will want embroidered. If you want to stick with one color scheme for your logo, it may restrict what color items we can embroider for you. A mainly royal blue logo will look fine on a white item, but may not show up as well as you would like on a royal blue item. If you’re flexible in what colors we use for your logo, you can have a wider selection of apparel color to choose from. Another consideration in Pantone colors. There simply aren’t enough thread colors to match all Pantone colors. We will work with you to find a thread color that either matches or is very close to that selected for print media.
Heat transfers: Unlike embroidery (which is priced based on number of stitches), heat transfers are priced by size and the number of colors. A one color design will cost roughly half what a four color design will cost. Consider having us simplify your logo to reduce the number of colors. If there’s white in an enclosed space in your logo and you will be putting the logo on white shirts, maybe you don’t need that color. If you’ll be putting it on other colors, you may need the white. Even if there’s just a tiny bit of a second color in a large design, it’s priced as a two color design. You can view the available stock transfer ink colors here. Because we use different types of transfers for light or dark fabrics, and for different types of fabrics, we need to know exactly what you will want the transfers applied to.