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Designing a Great Emblem Made Easy

This custom embroidered emblem for the International Taekwon-Do Federation is easy to read at viewing distance.

Designing a great emblem is not difficult. This is our advice on how to make it easy.

Great emblem designs are readable

It’s important to consider the design at actual size. Will your design be easy to read/see from a viewing distance? This is probably the most important factor for designing a great emblem. You may be designing a 3 or 4-inch custom patch. Or, if it’s a keyring, it may be only 2 inches. A pin or coin could be even smaller.


Let’s start with embroidery. For a custom embroidered emblem (aka patch, keyring, bag tag), stitching with embroidery thread makes up the design. So, stitching is the primary design element. The backing twill can be a secondary one. And, the border shape is the third.

By using different stitching patterns, we can create shapes, lines, and textures. The key point is there’s a connecting thread that creates all the shapes. Accordingly, there’s a limit on how thin lines can be stitched cleanly. So, simplify your design for greater impact.

It can be helpful to think about the size and how things connect. To learn more please visit our Design Tips page.

Alternatives to Embroidery

When a design will not embroider cleanly at size, we can look at a redesign or an alternative method of production. A photo emblem or woven emblem can be a problem solver. Both methods produce thinner lines and greater detail but with some tradeoffs in texture.

Custom Photo Emblem made for the International Association of Astronomical Artists and Novaspace. Art by Amber Allen.

Photo Emblems

A photo emblem is a dye sublimation print method. It is a transfer print on twill or transfer on top of white embroidery stitching. Or, it can be on both. To keep things simple, we’ll just call them photo emblems. Unquestionably, photo emblems are great for designs with photographic images and gradients.

Woven Emblems

This is a solution adapted from label-making. A complex weaving machine uses colored thread to create the design pattern. The result can be intricate and detailed when viewed up close. Weaving produces a mostly flat surface. So, adding a contrasting, overlock edge border can provide a more patch-like look and feel.

PVC Emblems

A PVC aka rubber or silicone emblem is another option. This type of design works best with a clean, simple approach. The rubber material is placed into an upside-down mold and then vulcanized to harden it. The layering process is similar to baking an upside-down cake. There are 2-D, 2-D Raised, and 3-D surface options available.

Leather, Faux Leather and Suede

Other options that are available for making emblems include Leather, Faux Leather, or Suede. A metal stamp debosses the material. Color is then used to fill the compressed areas. Traditionally, it’s a darker brown than the color of the leather or suede material.

Metal Emblems

A metal pin, magnet, coin, or grill badge is another type of emblem. Raised metal makes up the outlines of the shapes. Recessed areas stamped into the metal can be filled with enamel color. Stamping and etching can also add texture and detail.

Designing a great emblem for metal reproduction requires thinking about the readability at scale. Too much intricate detail runs the risk of becoming difficult to see clearly. Previewing at actual size is recommended.

Decal designs made for our awesome clients. Simplicity is the key!

Decals aka Stickers

Printed decals do not have as many limitations as the other manufacturing processes. However, they are much more effective designs when kept simple! Design your decals and stickers so they are easy to read when viewed at a distance. You will be happy with the results.

Great designs look good from a distance & up-close

A great emblem design looks good from a viewing distance while revealing details like texture when viewed up close. This is the benchmark you should be aiming for. It’s easy when you keep things simple and design with the actual size of the emblem in mind.

A final thought…

What makes a poor emblem design? It’s often a design originally made for something larger like a sign, poster, or t-shirt graphic. Submitted as an emblem design unmodified. There’s too much detail – small text and fine lines – to work at the smaller emblem size. If this is your situation, don’t worry! We can help you sort it out. Our helpful design expert will make recommendations.

Want to learn more?

Please check out the Design Section on our Small Orders site and reach out with questions.