This is a great question that is often asked by our clients. It is fairly simple to answer when you understand the process of embroidery.
Just like you and I, the embroidery machine has its own language. Depending upon the make and model of the embroidery machine will depend on the file that you need. For example, the Tajima embroidery machine performs well with a DST file. A melco, uses an EXP file. Even home embroidery machines have a file extension that works best for their machine. Whatever embroidery machine you have, you will need a specific file that can talk to the machine and tell it where to put the needle, what color of threads to use, when to change colors, when to trim and even what type of stitches to produce.
A jpeg, ai (illustrator), png, or tiff file, does not come close to having the embroidery machine understand what it wants. You can provide artwork to your embroidery shop, but it will do nothing to help the machine stitchout an embroidery design. In most cases, the artwork is used as a template to provide a digitized file that will work. Once the file is digitized it is then sampled and sewn out several times to ensure it stitches out well, prior to providing the customer with an embroidery proof before production.
At our shop, typically a left chest design or hat design is around $85 for a one time digitized file. An average left chest or hat design will contain around 5,000 to 10,000+ stitches. In many cases depending on the type of garment, if the garments are not customer supplied, and if the quantity is above 24, the digitizing fee is waived. A full jacket back digitized file, will depend on the size, and how intricate the design is. You could easily pay around $250 – $350 for a set-up on a jacket back design.
Now, why can’t you just resize a left chest design to be a full back? Or vise versa? Unlike a jpeg or vector artwork, you can’t just resize a left chest for a full back. The number of stitches will always remain the same. Therefore, if you had a small left chest, and wanted to make it 10 times the size, the finished design would appear like it was missing something, the density would not be there and it actually would appear to be a very sad looking embroidery design. On the same note, if you took a big jacket back and tried to make it a lot smaller, the design would pucker, and you would definitely have a lot of thread breaking, and it would also appear to be a bad looking design. In other words, you will need to digitize your file to the size that you would like it to be.
Here’s another tip with digitized files. In the event, you are leaving one embroidery shop, to have something produced at a different embroidery shop, remember your “embroidery” file is your file if you paid the digitizing fee, so don’t feel that you can’t ask to have it. In most cases, embroidery companies don’t have an issue with giving the file to the client. If the digitizing was never charged, there may be a fee to have that design released.
Now you know why your jpeg or artwork doesn’t meet the grade when it comes to embroidery production. It doesn’t speak the language. Next time you place an embroidery order that isn’t a reorder, and you have to provide artwork to get your logo digitized, you’ll know why there is a charge for set-up. It’s not just an extra charge that is slapped on your invoice. There is a process to embroidery, and a reason behind the fee. When you know, you grow, right?