Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What the Font are we talking about? - Embroidery Machine Text

People ask about lettering all the time.  Minimum sizing, font styles, keyboard vs. digitized, are all valid questions.  Here’s a quick primer on machine embroidered text.

Most embroidery designs with lettering are company logos of some sort, which is mostly what commercial embroiders do.  Lettering is important because it carries the pertinent information the client wants people to see, marketing the company name and other business information.

I only use keyboard lettering if it is an exact match to the design (or in the case of multiple names for personalizations) and even when I do, I always have to edit or “clean” it to ensure that it will sew properly and have correct pull compensation.* The rest of the time, it’s more effective to digitize the lettering by hand. It almost takes more time to edit the “canned”* text and the customer gets lettering that exactly matches their art.

That being said, customers will sometimes tell you what font they want on their designs naming a print font they like.  You should know that some embroidery fonts are named the same as their print counterparts but many are not.  Likewise, different embroidery softwares may have different names for the same font.  Certainly, not all print fonts make good embroidery styles.

You should also know that not all embroidery softwares do a great job on keyboard lettering. Many do not, therefore, you should understand what good lettering looks like and how proper characters are pathed and formed to determine if your software is creating letters correctly.  No software is perfect which is why there will always be things you will and should adjust. This is one place where it becomes apparent that all embroidery softwares are not created equal and the cream rises to the top. (IMHO Wilcom has dedicated more time and years of experience in creating their algorithms for lettering and consequently has some of the best keyboard lettering results on the market;  Melco a close second. ) (and yes, I used the W word and the M word in the same sentence)

You can purchased additional coded fonts to add to your keyboard lettering from the manufacturer of your software. These have a specific extension and are created to work with your software program.  (You can also purchase stylized “fonts” online which are really just separately digitized letters that can be used for monograms or to spell words and names.  Each letter is a separate file and you must paste them together to do so)

When using keyboard fonts, follow the software creator’s parameters for each font including size range and join method.* There is a reason they give you that information; you’ll get much better results. Not all fonts can sew effectively at a minimum size of ¼”

Remember, much about the way lettering sews has to do with the fabric also. Nylons and twills can handle smaller text better than knits and denims, sewing the exact same size and font. Be sure to use the correct densities, underlay and traveling stitches for crisp letters.

In the end, “canned” fonts can save you time if you get familiar with the ones in your software and understand their limitations. Oh, and one last thing. Many softwares have a true type font conversion which sounds great in theory but don’t bother. I haven’t seen one yet that didn't suck.
·         “Canned” fonts – slang for keyboard created, pre-digitized coded text
·         Pull compensation – a setting related to stitching that increases width to compensate for the pull of the fabric which draws inward due to thread tension.
·         Join Method – how the software configures the path of the letters and where the crossover stitch between letters will be.
Donna Lehmann has been in the commercial side of the industry for 22 years.  For more information on NeedleUp’s Digitizing services, email Donna at donna@needleup.com or call 303-287-6633 for info and pricing.  Visit www.needleup.com/gallery  to see some of our most recent work.

1 comment:

Eric Blaise said...

That looks pretty neat. Just the other day, I used a machine that embroidered letters on a T-shirt after reading them off of a computer screen. I don't know whether I should call it 2D printing or embroidering since I did not do it by hand.

Eric | http://www.stitchmine.com/design.html