Embroidery Design


Creating great embroidery artwork requires adherence to some simple industry design standards.

Text Prints  <  Embroidery

Text can always print smaller than it can be embroidered.  Small text is always an embroidery issue and should be at a minimum height of 1/4" or 25 points.  Any smaller and the needle and thread are too wide to mimic the thinness of the letter character and the text becomes unreadable, effectively collapsing in on itself.  This is especially apparent in letters with closed elements (i.e. A, B, D, O, P, Q, R) where they completely fill in.  Options are to add a filled color region behind the small lettering, increase the letter size or move the lettering to another area where it can be increased in size.  A 1mm or 2.8 point space is needed in between stitches to remain open.

Lines & Stitches

Designing line weights in embroidery presents the same challenges as text..  The two types in embroidery are running stiches and satin stitches.

Running stitches are single lines of thread serving multiple artistic design purposes and are represented by line weights > 0.44 mm or 1.25 points up to 1 mm or 2.8 points thick.  These can be used in fill and transition color areas.

Satin stitches are used for borders or thicker line weights.  They are created with a back and forth stitch pattern and can be created with lines weights equal to or above 1 mm or 2.8 points thick.  The minimum size for a well defined satin stitch element is 1.25 mm or 3.5 points and can be used for objects up to 7mm or 20 points wide.  All of the text and most of the lines to the right are produced with a satin stitch.

Fill stiches cover the rest of embroidery and can used in different directions to assimilate shading using the same color or patterned to create various color effects.  Fill stich examples to the right include the fork, dog and the fill area behind the BOSS text.

1/4" Box

Avoid small details and areas of color in spaces less than 1/4" by 1/4" or multiple colors in similarly small areas.  Embroidered designs cannot represent this level of detail well.

Vector Line Art

Always use simple line art.  Complex or realistic illustrations with blended edges or complicated detail won't embroidery well. This is because embroidery uses thread and needles to tear into fabric rather than printed ink dots.  Thread is solid not blended color.


Shadow and Drop Shadows in embroidery are difficult.  Avoid narrow drop shadows less than 1/4" wide. It's best not to outline drop shadows and avoid using drop shadows on fonts less than 5/8" (0.625") tall.


Gradients do not work well in embroidered images.  Try reducing all gradients to solid colors.  In the best circumstances, one left and one right color are digitized in an overlap fashion, creating the visual appearance of third color where they overlap in the middle.  This would be similar to a two opaque color printed blend.  However, this process is subject to the whims of the digitizing software and is not a controllable process.


Putting standard logos on caps requires a smaller vertical image space than that for shirts or jackets.  On the cap front panels, the embroidery must fit into a 2-1/4" height, while the vertical area on visors is even smaller.  Horizontally statured logos fit well on the cap front panel with a 4-1/2" wide spatial area.  The side and back of the caps are also image receptive.

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