The idea for this post came from this quote: “Just because you can print it, doesn’t mean I can stitch it” which I first saw on the ADF forum. The quote was from a great forum member, who does a great job of explaining what he means on his web site. Truth be told, I probably could just direct you there, but then this would be a short post, so I decided to go into some of the rules about printing and embroidery that our parent company has accumulated over the 30 plus years it has been in business instead.
Rule 1: Thread has density, ink doesn’t – When you print a design, the ink is flat, and doesn’t take up space. Thread has dimensions, it needs to wrap around the material and it takes up space. A very dense design won’t reproduce well in thread, since there won’t be enough space for all the details.
Rule 2: Small lettering won’t be legible – As a general rule, lettering should be no smaller than 1/4 inch. The optimum size of the letter may also depend on the font you choose to use. You may need to experiment with different fonts to find the minimum size for any lettering done in that font.
Rule 3: Gradients and shading won’t reproduce well – Variegated thread may be a way to get around some shading issues but, as a general rule, designs with shading or fading or gradients won’t reproduce well as embroidery. Solid color designs work best.
Rule 4: Bad artwork results in bad embroidery – At some point we’ve probably all encountered the customer who brings us a print of a low res design with fuzzy artwork and wants it embroidered. Bad artwork results in bad embroidery. Make sure you get the best artwork possible and that you get the best digitizing possible too. The better the work that you start with, the better the finished product will be.
Rule 5: Ink color and thread color aren’t always the same – The colors in a printed design may not be exactly duplicated by the thread used to embroider the design. If the customer wants an exact duplicate of colors, ask them for PMS numbers. Most threads, Iris thread among them, do give PMS numbers for their thread colors. This may not give you an exact match since there will be variations in color between ink and thread dyes, but it should be reasonably close.
Rule 6: The material being embroidered also matters – Embroidering on fleece is different than embroidery on a polo shirt is different than embroidery on an oxford and so on. When determining if a design will work for embroidery, you should also consider on what fabric it will be embroidered.
Obviously, this is just a broad overview of the subject. If you have any additional questions, please leave them in the comments.