In the wonderful world of commercial embroidery there is a great deal of confusion surrounding what are commonly called, “fonts.”  The most important thing to remember is, Embroidery Alphabets (keyboard lettering)  are not the same thing as fonts used in applications such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw and a host of other applications. To call them such is a misnomer. I realize I may be splitting hairs and getting hung up on semantics but the truth is a “font” and a professionally digitized embroidery alphabet are very different things.The first and possibly the most glaring difference between fonts and embroidery alphabets is there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of fonts while there might only be a couple hundred (well digitized) embroidery alphabets. To further complicate this fact embroidery alphabets do not follow a naming convention that matches any given font. While embroidery software package “A” and package “B” might both offer (what they call) a Times New Roman alphabet neither will be a dead on match for the real thing or even with each other.

In this example:

The stitched Alphabet and the True Type font are both called Times New Roman but if you look closely you will see subtle difference between the font used for printing and the alphabet used for embroidery. Furthermore, those subtle differences are what make quality embroidery possible and the reason why not all fonts will transition well to embroidery.

Additionally, while some alphabets like Times New Roman will embroider well at a larger size.  However, when the alphabets are reduced to a size required for the type of logo work popular in the corporate world, the quality of the embroidery will be significantly diminished unless dramatic measures are taken to simplify the font. In many cases when reduced as described, the alphabet will no longer resemble the original.

From a technical standpoint the fundamental difference between a True Type font and an Embroidery Alphabet is embroidery alphabets are “stitched representations of typefaces” that have been manually digitized using very specialized techniques to allow for the challenges and vagaries of using stock letters across a wide range of fabric substrates. The main consideration here is “push/pull” compensations and what to do with all of those serifs and transitions from thin to thick line weights so prevalent in many true type fonts. Basically, True Type fonts have nothing to do with embroidery what-so-ever. True Type fonts are essentially line drawings for a set of letters intended for use in print media or display in digital media, not as stitches in fabric. By their very nature True Type fonts do not and cannot compensate for application to fabric.

Several of the higher end embroidery digitizing applications will “convert” true type fonts to alphabets but user beware! This type of auto conversion leaves a great deal to be desired. Unless implemented by a seasoned digitizer with the knowledge for how to compensate for the shortcomings of the conversion process the lettering will be in many cases, entirely useless. There are some instances where True Type fonts cannot be converted to stitching no matter what is done to improve the outcome. It might be oversimplifying to say the following, but some fonts will convert well and some won’t. An experienced digitizer can usually tell which will have a better chance of success than others.

If you have any questions about stock lettering or other digitizing questions please feel free to lease a message here or email me.

Steve Freeman
Managing Partner

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