What is Puff Embroidery and is it Right for Your Next Project?

Whether you’re doing your research for your new merch or you want to be able to impress your friends with niche embroidery knowledge, this article has you covered.

From the iconic NY Yankees baseball cap to the name patch on your mechanics uniform, you see 3D embroidery every day. We bet you’ve never given much thought to how the technique works or how you could use it to make your next custom design pop. Whether you’re doing your research for your new merch or you want to be able to impress your friends with niche embroidery knowledge, this article has you covered.

First of all, what is 3D embroidery?

As the name suggests 3D embroidery, also commonly referred to as puff embroidery, uses a method that makes the design three-dimensional – or ‘puff’ out from the material it’s stitched upon. This look gets achieved by placing foam cut into the shape of the design on the item being embroidered and stitching over top of it.

What designs and materials work best for puff embroidery?

Think of puff embroidery like lip filler. Done right it looks great, gives volumes, and draws attention where you want it. BUT if you use too much, things start to go south fast. The same concept applies to 3D embroidery. It won’t work if you try to accomplish too much. Keep it simple. Here’s why:

  1. The devil is in the details. Due to using foam to add volume to the design, it’s difficult to accomplish thin lines and small shapes. It’s best to stick with bold, uppercase text or initials and simple, bold shapes and logos.
  2. Material matters.Thin materials don’t play nicely with puff embroidery. It’s best to use thick materials that are sturdy enough to support the structure of the foam and extra stitching. Baseball hats, bags, and hoodies are all options that work well with puff embroidery. 
  3. Cost consciousness. In addition to the design and material limitations, the process is more involved than flat embroidery and therefore, comes at a higher price point. If you’re ballin’ on a budget then you may want to simplify a design or concept if you want to use 3D embroidery.

Setting Up Your Design for Puffed Perfection

Once a member of our team helps you determine if 3D embroidery is a good fit for your design needs, we get started on formatting your design. The three factors to consider during this stage are size, style, and file type.

Embroidery Design Setup

From both aesthetic and logistical viewpoints, it’s best to keep your embroidered design smaller than a typical screen printed design – but not too small as we said before. Don’t worry our team will make sure you’re not guessing like Goldilocks. We’ll help you decide on a size that’s just right. Just know ahead of time it should be under 10 x 12 inches.

The style of clothing or product you want the embroidery on is another important consideration. For example, if you want to have text across the chest of a hoodie then you will want to pick one that doesn’t have a zipper or buttons. This obstructs the design and the outcome will not be seamless.

Last but not least the file type is the last detail to cover before you let our team take over and bring your vision to life. We can work with most visual file types such as PDF, JPG, and EPS, but the best option is a vector. This allows our design team to manipulate the design easily and get you the end product faster.

3D Embroidery Production Process

At this point, your work is done and our team will move into the production process. This consists of digitizing the design, getting the product set up on the machine, or getting the garment fitted on the hoop that goes into the embroidery machine. Yes, kind of like the hoop your grandma uses for cross-stitching. The similarities stop there unless your grandma is a robot and can whip out 800 to 11,000 stitches per minute. The hoop keeps the fabric taut while the machine goes to work. 

embroidery machine

3D embroidery requires a few more steps than its 2D counterpart. First, we set the foundation for the design using flat embroidery. That is then topped with the foam that is outlined for stability before being covered with stitches. Once the design is fully embroidered, any extra foam or stray threads are removed.

After all of the items in your order undergo a quality check, we’ll let you know your design is ready to wear and show off to the world – or at least all of your Instagram followers. 

Get in touch with us today to get a quote started for your next design, or check out our blog Dye-sublimation vs. Water-based Screen Printing if you want to keep learning about our design techniques.