Success with Stock Designs

Get good artwork to digitize for stock designs and boost your product offerings.

By Lee Caroselli-Barnes, Contributing Writer

Be sure that art is 300-350 dpi. If your art is not as clear as you like, get better art or edit it to bring out the details. This may mean investing in a good graphics program.

April 15, 2015

Creating stock designs gives you the freedom to express yourself and the process can be rewarding. However, there are restrictions to that freedom.

As a digitizer, when you create a custom design for a client, you are given a design to copy, told what size is needed and the garment type on which the design will be used. In creating a stock design, you have hundreds — if not thousands — of customers and each may have different needs.

Stock designs not only must be attractive, but they also have to be digitized in such a way that they can be sized by end users to fit their jobs. These designs must work on any fabric without editing, and look good no matter what color garment ultimately is used. And, of course, they have to run well without thread breaks in order to get return business.

When you are picking the subject matter for a stock design, make sure you have good artwork that will give you the necessary information needed to copy it. For starters, it must be 300-350 dpi. If it’s not as clear as you’d like, get better art or be prepared to edit it to bring out the details. This may mean investing in a good graphics program.

Remember, digitizing is copying, and your embroidered piece only will be as good as the art you copy.

Also, ensure that your design is appropriate for your market, that it is from a reliable source and that you are allowed to copy it without restrictions. I like to use photographs rather than drawings or sketches. If there is a problem with the art, it will really show up in the embroidered version. However, every photograph has been “authored” by someone. This means, by law, you need a release to use it.

If you have chosen to use an animal, look for the light and dark areas of the image. If you look at the photograph of the dog (page 52), for example, you will immediately see the light and dark areas. When you can see them, you can copy them in your embroidered version. The light areas are where you will find the detail. They also are where you will find the expression that makes this animal special. In the shadows, there will be little to no detail, so that means there are fewer stitches to worry about.

If the animal you are embroidering has sections that are either very light or very dark — and they are on the edge of the design — you should presume that at least one of your end users will either select a garment that may be either dark enough that parts of the design will not show, or is light enough for these parts to lose definition. Be prepared to add shadows around the edge of the lighter section, and highlight around the darker section so that they both can be seen. These must be placed with care to make the finished image look natural.

Looking at the stitched version of the dog, you will see that the gray under his white chest is extended to define the chest area. Though it is not at the very edge of the white area, your eye fills it in. Also, in looking at the ears, the highlights are strong enough so that they aren’t lost against a dark background.

When you are creating a stock design, invest in software that will allow you to adjust it and save it in multiple formats. Why? Let’s say you sell a stock design to be sewn on a jacket back. Unless the stitches are layered, underlays and your pull compensations must be changed to work on the larger size.

Also, the stitches in your fill patterns will be slightly longer in a larger design than in a left-chest and hat-sized version. The longer the stitch, the more apt it is to pull in and cause design distortion. Each of these embroidered design sizes — the jacket back, left chest and hat size — will be a different design, as there will be major changes in their structures.

In an expanded format, such as DST, your customer should be able to scale up and down, between 10% and 15%. As the design is scaled up, the stitches are longer and further apart. This equals more stress and, thus, more pull. There’s also a good chance that your detail will not align properly.

By the same token, when you reduce the design by 10% or 20%, the stitches will be closer together and fighting for room. This will cause that rolling look, and to avoid thread breaks, delete all stitches shorter than 0.5mm. Also, to avoid a clumpy look, shorten the stitch in your fills as the design is reduced. If you were to run the small example of the baby (page 52) with the same stitch length as you see in the large version, the proportionately longer stitch in the small version would take away from the important detail.

As you scale down, you will find that you have to change your pull compensation and underlays and, at times, a column stitch must be changed to a simple running stitch for clarity.

As with the size, changing fabrics also requires changing underlays and pull compensation unless you layer the fill in your designs. The beautiful stock design you have created will change dramatically when you see it on wovens or fleece, as opposed to piqué. To maintain quality, you must edit the design to make it work. The rules here are the same when you are doing a custom design, but now you have to anticipate your customers’ needs. Remember, more customers means more demands.

Desirable, eye-catching stock designs usually have many things in common, one of which is layered fills. If you have read my previous articles, you already know that by putting down your fill one-third at a time, you will get no pulling in or pushing out of the material. You only need a running stitch for your underlay, and you can add detail on top of the fully filled area without the stitches fighting for room.

When it comes to the “push-pull” phenomenon, program the filled area as normal to layer your fills. Make sure you have no underlay stitches. Then, check the stitch count of that object. Next — and you will need software that allows this — reduce the number of stitches in that filled area to one-third. That means if the object is 1,500 stitches, then it must be reduced to 500 stitches. The stitches must run horizontally because it will result in the best color consistency. Next, duplicate the 500-stitch object twice so that you have three objects with 500 stitches each, totalling 1,500 stitches once all three layers are stitched.

If your first object starts at the top and ends at the bottom, then all three objects will do the same. So for ease of running, the second object must start where the first one ends. With the correct software, you should be able to move the start point to the bottom of the second object and the stop point to the top. Check the third object and you should find that it starts at the top, exactly where the second object now ends.

If you want a clean edge or you plan to outline this three-layered object with a fill, the final step is to add an edge-walk or running stitch underlay under the second fill layer. This will ensure that you hold the shape and that it will anchor any outline you may add. With this technique, you will have no distortion, pulling or pushing, and your underlay will be the same no matter the size. You also can scale the design up and down as much as you like, and it can be successfully embroidered on any fabric.

To ensure you can meet the needs of multiple customers, try using this technique with the exciting artwork you have selected. You will find you have no thread breaks, a better looking design and happy customers who love your work and will return for more.

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.

Hear Lee speak on digitizing topics at the Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). Individual seminars are just $25 if you pre-register: issshows.com.

Suggested Reading:

Like this article? Read these and other embroidery articles at impressionsmag.com:
• “Appliqué the Easy Way”
• “Essentials for Your Embroidery Shop”
• “How to Achieve Shading in Embroidery”