Font Secrets

Backgrounds, colors and the lettering technicalities must be considered when stitching letters.

By Lee Caroselli-Barnes, Contributing Writer

April 18, 2016

As most embroiderers inevitably discover, some customers expect you to take a symbol they have chosen, add lettering and create a logo. This leads to a certain amount of freedom to choose the ideal font.

However, most customers present logos designed by someone with limited knowledge of what an embroidery machine can do and, as embroiderers, we have little or no choice in choosing the font. But it is our job to guide our customer toward the ideal font that would do justice to the logo — one that runs well and looks good when embroidered. Either way, our expertise is a key element in the successful presentation of that logo.

Some fonts will not embroider well, and some text is so small that it is difficult to embroider. Before examining techniques that will allow you to accomplish the impossible, let’s look at how you can gently guide your customers toward a font that you both will enjoy.

Background and Color
Backgrounds must be kept simple behind your fonts. If your design has bold checks behind the font, you will need to soften the background. This can be accomplished by lightening the density of the stitches.

The lighter density allows that background to disappear so you can embroider the letters on top of it without having your stitches fight for room. This prevents thread breaks, and allows those letters to sit on top and be seen. Also, if the background is run at a slight angle to the posts of your letters, you will find they will not need extra underlay.

Pay careful attention to the color of both the lettering and the garment being embroidered. The same letters in the same color on a different background will not look the same, nor will it have the same impact. To make a letter “pop,” you will want more contrast with the background. Look at a color wheel, like the one pictured abouve and select contrasting colors.

Let’s say you are putting a yellow letter on a blue shirt; blue is directly opposite orange on the color wheel. To have that letter pop, use a yellow that has an orange cast — or a yellow-orange. But if you choose a yellow with a little green in it, since green is next to blue on the color wheel, that shade of yellow will blend into the background.

Lettering Basics
The construction of the letter you use also is important. Letters with serifs can be a problem on some garments, in which case you will have to ensure the serif is strong enough to hold up. This means widening that part of each letter.

Having a letter that is wide enough to show is important. However, that does not mean you have to take that slender letter and distort it to the point that it compromises the design.

Dealing with a column stitch gives you the ability to make a slender letter rounded. This will give it the strength it needs. Your stitches want to pull in and the longer stitch in your column will pull in to the underlying edge run underlay.

The underlay dictates the column’s width. So by bringing your underlay in the center and throwing your stitches wide, you will have those stitches pull and fill in, and your letter’s column will become rounded. This gives that narrow letter more volume while keeping it narrow.

If the posts of your letters start to “wobble,” that’s your machine’s way of telling you that you have too many stitches in that column and, therefore, too many stitches in the letters. Thus, you should lighten your density.

Use a font that worked well in the past if you are choosing the lettering to place around the customer’s image. If you are allowing your customer to help choose the font, limit his choices. Do this by stitching samples of your favorite choices and let him choose from them.

Some embroidery software suppliers offer stock letters that can be used with no editing, and some offer options that simply need to be “cleaned up.” I have had great success widening groups of letters, especially when constrained by height. This gives a custom look to stock lettering and a cleaner letter that needs little editing.

The size you choose for a group of letters will dictate its importance. If you’re dealing with hierarchy, use larger letters for the main copy and smaller ones for the subheading. This also is the perfect segue into those small letters that customers seem to love so much.

The same rules govern the column stitches in the tiny letters as in larger, narrow letters. The longer the stitch in that column, the more it will pull in. The more it pulls, the more rounded the column becomes. However, when those stitches pull, they fill in and, in doing so, begin to compete for space. Here again, the trick is to lighten the density so that each stitch has room.

Finally, when nothing else will do, learn how to make the perfect tiny letters with a running stitch. That simple group of stitches will save your life in jobs with impossible letters that are less than
1⁄8-inch high.

Lee Caroselli-Barnes, owner of Balboa Threadworks Embroidery Design, is known for her innovation and excellence in embroidery digitizing. She has 30 years of experience in the embroidery industry. For more information or to comment on this article, email Lee at balboainfo@aol.com.