Embroidery Digitizing: Tips on Creating Designs with Letters

If you work in embroidery, you know that embroidering intricate or small patterns is tough. Our digitizing team deals with a lot of text-heavy designs, and these can be very tricky to embroider. So I've put together some tips on digitizing text from our experts.  This information should help you with your own embroidery projects for customers and will give you some knowledge for working with vendors like Affinity Express when requesting digitizing files.

Size of Letters

We follow some rules of thumb for sizes:

  1. In general, capital letters should be at least 6.4 mm* high.
  2. If your design has both capital and small letters (that is, regular sentence or title case), the minimum height should be 5 mm.
  3. If you are using all caps, which are easier to read, you can have the letters smaller, though no smaller than 3.8 mm.
  4. The minimum column width (width of each bar in a letter) should be 0.8 mm.

In this design, the capital N's are too narrow to punch.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Thin Font - Before Before

By increasing the width of the column, you can make the design fit for embroidery.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Thin Font - After After

Space within Letters

Letters that have closed loops (such as o, p, q, etc.) can be tricky to embroider. If the letter is too thick or you don't account for enough space within the loop, you are left with something like the d's in this one.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Open Space in Letters - Before Before

The guideline we follow is for the space within the letter to be at least 0.9 mm in diameter. See the difference.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Open Space in Letters - AfterBefore


Space Between Letters

The "walking distance" between two letters should be between 0.5 to 1.0 mm. Any less and it looks like this:

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Letter Spacing - Before Before

Increase the size of the design and the spacing between letters to get a more legible, clean image (The flip-side is adding space increases the size of the design, and after a point makes it more difficult to read, so use your judgment.).

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Letter Spacing - After After


Trims are often used within two consecutive elements of a design to make the design look neater. However, each trim adds to machine time and too many trims makes the design inefficient. Also, for smaller letters, the tie-ins and the tie-offs may cause extra stitches, which in turn may cause the needle to cut the fabric or result in bulky stitching.

In the sample below, trims have been highlighted by triangles.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Trims - Before Before


If the distance between two elements is small, say less than 1.2 mm, you can do without trimming. The "walking stitch", or the stitch that connects two consecutive letters, should sink in between the two letters and be almost invisible.

If the distance between the two elements is not much more than 1.2mm, you can try to move the letters closer together to avoid trimming.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Trims - After After

Clean Edges

Sometimes, the letters you punch turn out hairy and rough at the edges, like this.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Text Clean up - Before Before

Check to ensure that the density of the stitches are as per standards for that particular garment category. If all goes well, your design should look like this.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Text Clean up - After After

If you have insufficient underlay, the design looks something like this.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Underlay - Before Before

By putting in an underlay with the right density to support your satin stitches, your design should come out better, with neat, smooth edges to the letters.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Underlay - After After

Even and Readable Text

You may come across a design with unevenly-sized letters.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Uneven Text Before


Use set-up lines (from the drawing tools in your software--all software should have them) to make the columns more even. Make sure you are compensating for the push and pull of the stitches.

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Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Text without Fill Before


Place a fill of tatami stitches under the text to support the overlying satin stitches, and the result is better.

Embroidery Digitizing Sample: Text with Fill After


Do you have an embroidery digitizing question you want answered? Drop in a comment below.

*We use millimeters(mm) for greater accuracy in measuring small sizes. 1 mm = 0.039 inch.


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