Often when the term “custom apparel” is heard, our minds jump to the ubiquitous methods of screen printing and sublimation. However, the art of embroidery should not be forgotten. Embroidery creates an added level of detail and lends a sophisticated, high-end look to any garment. From adding decoration to jeans to logos on company shirts to fun designs on casual wear – the options are endless.  

When you’re ready to start moving the needle with custom embroidery – there are a few tips you should keep in mind.

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Prep

A successful decorating project always begins with proper preparation. For the best results, you’ll first want to wash and dry the garment to avoid any shrinkage that may occur after the initial round in the washer and dryer. By skipping this step the embroidered design could become warped if the fabric shrinks underneath. Once your fabric is prepped, you’ll want to make sure the requested design will work for embroidery.

For example, artwork with a gradient can tend to look more like a color block. While many customers will request intricate designs, steering them in the direction of the most simplified version of the design possible will result in a cleaner and clearer embroidered design.

Material

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Not all textiles are created equal. For example, embroidery on sports performance gear is generally difficult to pull off successfully due to the fabric. This isn’t to say it’s impossible, it will just require more practice to get the design right.

The best fabrics for embroidery are thicker and less susceptible to wrinkling and shrinkage. These include cotton blends, denim, most outerwear and knits.

Pro Tip: The Gildan Heavy Blend Crewneck Sweatshirt is a good option to work with.

Color

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Color is an important factor in successful custom embroidery. When giving color recommendations to your clients, keep in mind that embroidery tends to look best on darker-hued materials. Most fabrics will shrink the first few times they are washed, leaving the potential for the fabric to bundle a little around the embroidery. This bundling will be far more noticeable on lighter fabric than darker fabrics. Also, darker fabrics will provide a nice canvas for any pops of color you use in your custom designs.

In addition to the apparel material, it’s important to take the colors of the embroidery design into mind as well. In general, avoid or simplify complex color gradients, as embroidery works with solid colored threads you will not be able to get the same “fade” effect that you can achieve from printing.

Pro Tip: Suggest a dark, sport green, like the Gildan DryBlend 50/50 T-Shirt to make colorful designs pop.

Detail

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Once your client has decided on the material, color, and initial design, the next step is to take a closer look at the detail of their design before moving forward with final production. Make sure you have a high-resolution version of the design to ensure the integrity of the image when resizing.

Other important details to consider are line weight and text size. Fonts under ¼” tall are too small to get a clear rendering of when doing custom embroidery. In addition, lines that are too thin will translate as dotted lines rather than a solid line. To avoid this, thicken lines where you can. Before you embroider, make sure you and your client have arrived at a design agreement that will make them happy and appropriately represent the quality of your products.

Press

As a final touch, press the design from the back to help work out any wrinkles and flatten out the design. Just like that, your custom embroidery work is ready for pickup or shipping. Get ready for some very happy customers!

What tips and tricks have you used when making custom embroidered pieces? Share in the comments below!

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