Design Tips for Custom Patches
To make sure you get the best results, here are our design tips for custom patches. Our pro advice on the things you need to know to design a successful custom embroidered patch.
Bold is better
Bold letters and design elements are more visible and look better when embroidered. So, use them. This simple advice can make your patch look so much better!
Strong Color Contrast is Ideal
Strong color contrast is better than light-on-light or dark-on-dark colors. In other words, if visibility is an issue with your current design, please consider improving the contrast for a better result.
The exceptions to this rule are black-on-white, or white-on-black color schemes. Either can sometimes result in poor-quality embroidery coverage. To address this, we can add extra stitches. Our salesperson and designers will assist if this is a concern.
Lettering – Minimum Size ⅛″
Letters smaller than ⅛″ of an inch compromise the legibility. If upper and lower case letters are used, the minimum size is based on the lower case letters.
Bigger is better!
Overall, using bigger letters is highly recommended. This is because small letters are not visible from a distance. No matter how well they are embroidered. So, avoid them and limit their use as much as you can. This will make your patch more visible when it’s being worn.
Open Block Lettering is More Legible
Similarly, narrow and condensed typestyles just do not embroider well. Tall and skinny font styles should be avoided. Squat and bold (not extra bold) are preferred.
Other styles of type that work
Other typestyles that embroider well include: simple script, bold font styles with serifs, and freehand styles. If you want to use a stylized font, then make sure to design the letters large enough so the small details (like the inside of a lower case “a”) do not risk “closing up”.
Blank Spaces are Boring!
Effective use of space is important. Enlarging graphic elements, extending or enlarging text, and introducing added graphic elements are ways to use blank space better. In other words, design to fill blank space for a more impactful patch.
Choose a Complimenting Border
For the most Classic patch look, we recommend an Overlock Edge border aka Merrow® border. Most simple patch shapes can have this type of border. Interestingly, an overlock edge border is applied after the patch is die cut from the roll. A Merrow® overlock sewing machine is used to create the border. Hence the name.
Leave some space at the edges
An overlock edge border is ⅛ inch thick. For best results, please keep your embroidered detail at least ¹⁄₁₆ of an inch away from the edges.
The Contour Seal
Any patch can have a Contour Seal aka Hot Needle Cut border. With a low profile edge, it’s a great alternative to Direct Embroidery. A Hot Needle Cut border offers real advantages to decorators and wholesalers. Here’s why…
Hot Needle Cut border patches save decorators time and money
Most garments can have a custom patch attached quickly to fill orders. This saves time, money, and provides greater flexibility with garment inventory when compared to direct embroidery. Custom embroidred patches also look better as they do not pucker the garment material like direct embroidery often does.
The same rule applies to leaving space at the edges
The minimum thickness for a Contour Seal aka Hot Needle Cut border is ¹⁄₁₆ inch. For success, please leave ¹⁄₁₆″ of space between design elements along the border. Interestingly, this type of border is stitched at the same time as the patch. It’s later cut from the roll using a hot knife aka needle. Hence the name.
Ideas for specialty borders include:
- A Laser Contour or Laser Cut border leaves a small margin of non-embroidered material around the entire patch.
- A Handcut or Diecut border with a frayed Raw Edge provides a vintage look.
- A Variegated Overlock Edge border provides your patch with a rainbow of colors.
- A Glow in the Dark or Reflective Overlock edge border is great for youth patches. This option can also be used to add a safety feature to uniforms and workwear.
Regardless of the type of specialty border you choose, please remember that background fills, landscapes, bars, clouds, etc. can extend to the border.
Beware Thin Black Lines!
Does your design have a lot of black lines separating elements? Are they necessary to the graphic? If they can be reduced or removed then the finished product will look better.
What are Capture Lines?
Capture lines are the thin black lines that define graphic details. Unfortunately, they are difficult to register when embroidering. Capture lines are embroidered in a Stepstitch. It’s a series of short straight stitches going from one needle entry point to the next. Stepstitch results in a line that is not the straightest or the smoothest looking. In other words, it looks choppy. So, we recommend you avoid this when possible!
A better way to design your patch
It can be helpful to think about Paint-by-Numbers. To start there is no color, only numbered shapes contained by capture lines. As the capture lines are covered over in the paint, they disapper. All that’s left are the colors.
When Capture Lines are essential, make them thicker
Sometimes capture lines are essential to the graphic design, as in cartoon graphics for example. In this situation, we recommend thickening the capture lines so they can be done in a Stiehl stitch. This is a reciprocal stitch (back and forth) that binds the edge of a graphic element.
Smooth and Continuous stitches look better
The beauty of Stiehl stitch is it’s smooth and continuous. Rather than choppy like a step-stitch. The thickness of a Stiehl stitch can be varied for added emphasis and effect. To summarize, we recommend thickening capture lines when they must be used.
Embroidery Friendly Positioning
This concept is diving deeper into embroidery design. Nonetheless, it’s important to know the placement of your graphic elements, and type matters a lot!
Embroidery is a mechanical process, connections matter
In the embroidery process, the needle must travel from one element to another. When elements are touching or very close it allows them to be connected. When elements are spaced apart it does not allow them to be connected.
Avoid excessive stopping and trimming
For example, let’s imagine your patch design includes a starfield and the stars are spaced too far apart. The embroidery machine must stop, trim, move slowly to the next position, and resume stitching. This process increases the chance of embroidery defects. So, avoid it when you can for better results.