Published on Monday, January 19, 2015

Learn All About Small Lettering

Keep your lettering sharp and clear, no matter what the size!

While often overlooked, small lettering is something you will want to get right. It is all about getting the detail and precision that gives smaller alphabet embroidery a sharper, more professional look. With small lettering, it is inevitable that the letters will start to blur together because of their size. To prevent this, we have put together a short guide for beginners and experienced users alike on how to get that sharp small lettering look.

Small embroidery alphabets

Did you know that all Wilcom software, from DecoStudio to EmbroideryStudio, comes standard with 17 x 4mm and 5mm embroidery alphabets? Additionally, there are also 28 x 6mm embroidery alphabets which you can tweak to suit your design. There is no ‘right embroidery alphabet size’ to begin with so choose whichever size suits your situation. The user manual provides recommended sizes.

Increase stitch spacing

With standard 10mm embroidery alphabet, stitch spacing is usually 90%, the default setting. However, if you are working with a 4-5mm embroidery alphabet, it is advisable to increase spacing to 150-250%. This will reduce overall stitch count. Less is more after all!

Remove or minimize underlay

As for underlay, this is generally not needed. If it is, it’s best to use center run or zigzag.

The type of fabric you use is also significant. Backing, topping and garment fabrics are all things you should consider. You may have noticed that a lot of designs embroidered on bomber jackets look fantastic. This is because the tightly-woven polyester these jackets are generally made from provides a stable surface for embroidery. 

If you are using stretchy, knitted, or more delicate fabrics, you will need to provide that stability with a suitable backing. Hence you generally obtain better results by hooping in a cut-away or even non-stretchy polyester backing. A solvy film topping is also recommended.

Alternatively, you could consider using a tatami fill object beneath small lettering, usually in the same tone as the garment color. 

Hooping and sampling

When it comes to sampling, make sure the sampling material is the same as the garment fabric. This should be the same as the auto fabric used in the design. When you hoop the fabric, make sure it is taught like a drum. No bubbles. If it’s a stretchy fabric, always hoop-in your cut-away backing.

Unfortunately, there is no magic number to suggest because the overall pull-push effect depends on the fabric you are using. It’s best to test a sample or two before production.



Fixing the eye of the letters

When it comes to lower-case lettering, it is often the ‘eye’ of the letter that will cause problems. In small lettering, this tends to close up. If this is the case, you need to open it up. It may look a little strange and out-of-proportion, but due to the pull-push effect, letters automatically adjust when stitched out. A good trick is to periodically zoom to 1:1 by pressing ‘0’ so you get a real size perspective of the design. 

Make two samples

If you can’t get clear definition, try a run stitch embroidery alphabet. Make two samples – one of each embroidery alphabet – and seek the customer’s approval. 

If the order is large or you have a fussier customer, try a finer thread like the classic 60 from Madeira and a smaller needle like the ‘65#9’. Then run the machine at slower speed (about 500rpm) in order to minimize thread breaks.




Letter shrinkage and expansion

Another pull-push effect to watch out for is letter shrinkage and expansion. This means that letters such as W, T, I, P, F, D, H, K, L X, N, M and V may need to shortening at top and bottom, while turning strokes such as ‘o’ and ‘c’, may need to be enlarged. Consider this problem … 

In this case, we see that the vertical turning stitches in the letters ‘c’ and ‘o’ are pulling inwards, causing letters to shrink. Conversely, horizontal stitching in vertical strokes is pushing the letters out. The solution here is to manipulate characters so that shrinking letters extend, while vertical strokes are shortened.

Because of the pull-push effect, the final stitch-out will look something like this …

Tip: It’s a good idea to save adjusted characters using the ‘Create User-Refined Letter’ function. We will explain more about this feature in our next how-to!

If you’ve experienced difficulty with small lettering, don’t worry you’re not alone! While it takes some work and patience to get it right, the results are worth it. 

Want to ensure you get the best results for your all your embroidery projects? Click here to find out more about how EmbroideryStudio will help you create the highest quality designs.

All the best with your small lettering designs!

The Wilcom Team

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