Digital Decorating:

Which Emblem Tech is Best?

Sew-on, heat-seal and pressure-sensitive patches all have their place, depending on the application

By Randy Carr, Contributing Writer

Multiple methods of applying patches and emblems are available to suit a wide range of customer needs. Shown here, a heat seal emblem is being applied. Photo courtesy of World Emblem

October 16, 2023

Once you have chosen the type of emblem you want to use, you must decide which application method will be best. Below, I outline the options available and what you need to know to make an informed decision as to how best to proceed.

Heat Seal

Whether or not you can heat seal an emblem or patch to clothing or an accessory is determined by two factors. Can the item withstand temperatures of at least 340°F to use a low-melt adhesive, or up to 395°F to use an industrial adhesive? Can the item fit into a heat press?

The good news is with the wide range of specialty heat presses, pads and pillows currently available, there are few products that cannot be heat sealed. In addition to traditional clamshell and swing-away heat presses in a range of sizes, there are also a variety of specialty heat presses for applying transfers to caps, koozies, umbrellas, shoes, sports balls and more in addition to just shirts.

Same thing with today’s specialty platens, including those expressly configured for use with caps, hat bills, can coolers, sleeves, pant legs and shoes. If you are not sure what you need, call a heat-press customer service rep to find out. They’ll be more than happy to talk to you!

Getting back to the different adhesive types, industrial heat-seal adhesive is designed for use on apparel that must withstand commercial laundering. Work uniforms are a good example. It can be applied to any fabric that is made of 100-percent cotton, 100-percent polyester and 50-percent cotton/50-percent polyester. It may also be applied to tri-blends, leather, nylon, rayon, bamboo and canvas, though it is recommended you always test before beginning production to ensure you have the correct settings.

Hat with heat-applied transfer

Multiple methods of applying patches and emblems are available to suit a wide range of customer needs. Shown here, a heat seal emblem is being applied. Photo courtesy of World Emblem

Popular candidates for heat sealing include sweatshirts, T-shirts, jackets, polo shirts, headwear, button-down shirts, industrial uniforms, aprons, backpacks, tote bags and luggage. As a rule, industrial heat sealing will withstand up to 50 commercial washings, though bleaching a heat-sealed patch is not recommended.

By contrast, low-melt adhesives are designed for use on fabrics that are delicate and prone to scorching or shrinking when exposed to high heat. In addition to all those garments that work well with industrial heat-seal adhesives, low-melt is most often used for performancewear, activewear, swimwear, dancewear and lighter headwear.

To better protect delicate fabrics, you can use a silicone pad to shield a garment against the heat. Again, be sure to test in advance. Low melt should never be used with any garment that is going to be subjected to industrial washing. Typically, a patch applied using a low-melt adhesive will hold up to 25 washings in a home machine.

In terms of image and design type, most types of emblems and patches can be heat sealed, including embroidered, 3D embroidered, sublimated, a combination of embroidered and sublimated, woven, leather, three-dimensional and PVC. In terms of costs, heat sealing is the least expensive, least labor intensive and fastest way to adhere a patch or emblem to a product.

Sew On

One of the reasons why a client might choose a sew-on emblem, as opposed to a heat-sealed on, is the desire for a more traditional look. Sew-on emblems and patches are also more easily removed and replaced, making it easier to prolong the life of a garment in the event of logo or personnel changes.

If you want to sew on a patch, obviously, the product needs to be able to fit into a hoop. It needs to be made of a material that will allow a needle to pass through as well. Embroidered, 3D embroidered, printed and sublimated, sublimated and woven patches all qualify.

You can even sew on a leather patch, though a special needle is recommended. PVC emblems can also be sewn on when a special sewing channel is added to the design. By contrast, three-dimensional emblems cannot be sewn on, but must be heat-sealed. Popular products typically employing sew-on emblems include sweatshirts, T-shirts, jackets, bags, caps, sweaters, tote bags and luggage.

Label sewn on jeans

Though leather can be sewn, it requires the
use of special needles and heavy-duty thread.
Photo courtesy of World Emblem

Generally, sew-on emblems will last the life of a garment even if subjected to commercial laundering, though again, bleaching is not recommended. This makes them ideal for any type of work uniform. Although labor intensive, as stated earlier, a sew-on emblem can also be removed and replaced.

Sewing on an emblem requires having an embroidery machine. The shape and design of the emblem also needs to be digitized. The garment must then be hooped, placed on the machine and then removed and trimmed after the emblem is sewn. This makes for a more expensive and labor-intensive process than with heat sealing. However, it’s worth it in those cases where a client is looking for that classic look.

Pressure Sensitive

Pressure-sensitive adhesives can be added to the back of a patch that is going to be applied to any hard surface, including wood, metal, plastic and glass. The application couldn’t be more straightforward. Simply make sure the surface is flat, clean and dry. If there’s a chance of there being any kind of residual finishes or chemicals on the surface of whatever is being decorated, it’s a good idea to also wipe the area with rubbing alcohol.

Popular products for pressure-sensitive emblem decoration include drinkware, luggage, laptops, tote bags, coolers, binders and just about anywhere else you might want to put a decal or sticker.

The lifespan of a pressure-sensitive patch depends on its usage. For example, with drinkware, it depends on how the cup is washed. If the item being decorated tends to be left outside, a given patch or emblem will understandably not last as long as one applied to an item only used indoors. That said, if an emblem is applied correctly, it can last a couple of months at least, depending on usage of the object and its exact location.

Randy Carr is the CEO of World Emblem, based in Hollywood, Florida, a company his father founded in 1993. World Emblem supplies of a wide range of emblems and patches worldwide with multiple manufacturing facilities across the United States as well as one in Mexico and Canada. You can reach Randy Carr at or visit the World Emblem website at