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Marketers are always looking for ways to make their brand stand out, but many options feel gimmicky or overdone. There are only so many pens and stress balls you can hand out to promote your business without seeming desperate and boring.

Custom embroidery, however, never gets old. Products that have your brand logo, name, and colors embroidered onto them look polished and classy. If you’re looking to give your business a luxe feel and send a message that you’ve invested in your brand, look no further.

But how is embroidery done? What does it cost, and what do you need to know before you send in that order of promotional materials?

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know as a marketer who’s taking it to the next level.


There are so many options for promotional materials out there that you must be wondering why you should choose custom embroidery. It’s a valid question, so we’ll quickly cover why embroidered materials are a great option.

Embroidery Feels High-End

Screen printing is great. Embroidery has limitations that screen printing doesn’t, including coloring. Embroidery, however, delivers a different feel.

When people encounter embroidered products rather than printed, they feel that you’ve invested more money in your brand, are more successful, and have earned a place among bigger brand names.

Brands like Champion and Louis Vuitton have made their brands stand out by using logos that literally popped out from their materials. If you’re looking to impress people and catch their eyes, embroidery is the way to go.

Embroidery Is More Affordable Than It Sounds

Despite the luxury feeling, embroidery is actually not as expensive as you might think. Pricing varies according to the complexity of your design, but generally, you can get a luxury feel for a bargain.

You can usually accomplish an effective embroidery design on a shirt for under $20. The best part is that the more you order, the lower the cost per unit.

Embroidery Allows for More Material Options

Screen printing is very versatile, but there are a lot of materials that you can’t print on. While printing needs a flatter, tightly woven material, embroidery is more flexible.

Embroidery is possible on shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and bags. It can also work on fluffier materials like towels, robes, and blankets.

Lasts longer against wear and washing

Printing is great, but constant wear and washing can ruin the design. The colors in the design will fade or bleed together. It may even start to peel off.

Unlike screen printing, embroidery uses material that you can wash like clothing. The embroidered design will withstand wear and washing the same as the material it’s on. The colors won’t fade or bleed, and the thread will stay strong and taut under normal wear.


So, how does embroidery work? The first thought that comes to many people’s minds about the embroidery process is an older woman sitting in a rocking chair threading a needle through a piece of cloth. This instinct is correct, but we live in the 21st century now.

The embroidery process is now much more streamlined and automated. Instead of slaving over one embroidered item for a week, well-oiled machines process tons of products every day.

For some projects, hand embroidery may still be desirable for the best results. In most cases, however, machine embroidery is more efficient for your money and time.

The Custom Embroidery Machine

The human touch is still needed to make sure your custom embroidery products come out looking great, but the machine does a lot of the work. A custom embroidery machine is computerized to take a file of your design and use thread to make your design a reality.

The machine resembles that of a sewing machine. It has arms that hold the fabric in place tightly while it rapidly punctures the material with a needle that has been threaded. The arms move the materials around to guide the needle punctures in the correct place.

To make the process even quicker, the machine has multiple needles that have already been threaded with your chosen colors. Once the machine has been set up, no intervention is required to move the product or change threads. This efficiency makes machine embroidery much faster and easier than hand embroidery or even sewing with a sewing machine!


The custom embroidery machine is certainly the star of the show, but how does this process get started? Where do you come in, and what’s the role of the embroidery experts you’ve hired to create your products?

Custom embroidery can be done at home, but hiring a trustworthy and experienced company is valuable and worth the investment. It’s not as simple as just buying a machine and letting it do the work. The process is a bit more complicated and requires experience.

From the very beginning of the process, it’s important to do your research and get the advice of professionals. Below are the steps to getting your promotional products to the finish line.

1. Pick Your Design

If you’re a marketer for an established business, it’s likely that you already have a brand logo, tagline, and other promotional designs. If you don’t, it’s important to hire a professional designer. Not only can they help you finalize your brand’s look, but also can help you decide which designs look best on which products.

You should go through several rounds of trials to perfect your branding before you continue.

You’ll want to consider which materials you’re choosing to embroider as well. Embroidery can be as simple or as complicated as you wish, but both can be very effective if done properly. Colors, placement, and messaging are all very important factors in how polished and powerful your product turns out.

A typical placement of embroidery for a shirt is the breast pocket area, but don’t forget that you can place something on the sleeve or back, too. Hats can have a logo on the front, but don’t forget you can put messages on the back as well.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and inspire potential customers with your unique promotional materials.

2. Create a File for the Machine

Now that you’ve chosen your design, you’ll need to make sure those designs are ready for the embroidery machine’s computer software. Embroidery machines are powerful, but they also have limitations. The digital file needs to be able to transfer into sewing data for the machine.

For example, typically, designs are 1-3 colors, but big machines can do around 15. It’s important to remember that you won’t be able to access the whole rainbow like you would when printing. Make sure your file includes only a few colors and uses them effectively.

If you were doing this on your own, you would have to either download pre-made designs that were ready for the machine or buy software that could convert files into embroidery machine-ready files. If you hire professionals, they will have this software and the machines that could work with your custom files so that you don’t have to lift a finger.

Professionals invest in machines that can receive files through a USB, and they can manipulate your design if needed throughout the process. It’s important to communicate with your embroidery service and follow all instructions so that your design can be uploaded and is embroidered exactly how you want it.

3. Let the Machine Do the Work

Once the file has been uploaded, your materials are ready to start getting embroidered. A professional would fix your material to a “hoop,” which keeps the material taut and centered for the machine. The hoop also gets moved by the machine so that the needles puncture in the correct place.

The professional needs to check to make sure the material is being embroidered in the right place before the machine is started. They will put the machine on a “trace” mode so that they can make sure the design is correctly placed.

Once everything is ready, the professional turns on the machine and begins the embroidery process.

The embroidery professional will still stand by to make sure the process runs smoothly. Just like with a sewing machine, a bobbin can run out of thread, or something can get caught. In only a few seconds, the professional can fix the problem and continue the process.

The professional will manually remove the finished product from the machine and affix a new one as the process moves along.

4. Quality Control and Finishing Touches

As each embroidered material leaves the machine, the professional will check the design and make a few finishing touches. Embroidering leaves a backing on each material that can be cut away.

Some designs also require the machine to cross over blank space, leaving a loose thread in an undesirable spot. Once the machine is done, the professional will cut away these threads so that the design is exactly how you want it.

The professional will then neatly fold and pack all your promotional materials for you to start using!


When it comes to custom embroidery, you can get a great look for much less than you think. Embroidery also gives a more luxurious feel to your brand, which pays off by impressing current and potential customers.

You can expect to pay on average around $5-10 per unit of baseball caps and $20-30 per unit of shirts.

You should also keep in mind that the larger number of units you order, the lower the cost per unit. This lower unit cost is due to spreading the “makeready” cost over a larger order.

In other words, it costs money to set up the machines with the correct threads and design. The professionals will have to spend a similar amount of time and money to set up all the machines for a small order as they do for a large order. They are willing to spread out this cost over a larger order because they will be able to keep running the machines rather than stopping soon to set up a new order.

So what else will determine the cost of your order?

Number of Colors

As previously mentioned, embroidery machines are limited in color abilities. You will be able to choose several colors if you wish, but the machine will have to switch its thread color every time.

The professionals will also have to manually set up the machines with the thread colors you’ve chosen. All of this work translates into more cost. If you’re looking to keep the cost lower, you should consider one color or keep the colors down to three maximum.

Size of Design

Embroiderers generally factor the number of stitches required into their pricing. This factor takes into account the size of the design. The more thread needed to create the design, the more cost for them to supply it. If you’re looking to keep costs down, you should consider keeping your design small.

Amount of Detail

The amount of detail of your design factors into the pricing, and this includes the number of colors. It also includes how much work the machine will have to do to achieve your design.

If you have a design that will require a lot of crossing stitches over each other or different colors that must be stitched over each other, you will end up paying more.

Type of Item Embroidered

Many embroidery services also allow you to buy materials directly from them to be embroidered. You can also choose to buy materials and then hire a service to embroider them. Some companies may give you a deal for buying directly from them, while others may require you to provide your own.

Some items also may require more work for the professionals and machines to embroider them. Shirts can simply be fixed to a hoop, but less manageable materials will require more expertise and labor.

Design Digitization

Design digitization is usually done only once during the process. When you deliver your design to the service, they are using their own software and labor, so they will bake the cost of this into your order.


Big T Printing and Embroidery is proud to offer custom embroidery services from St. Petersburg and Largo, Florida. If you are ready to step up your marketing game with the luxurious look of embroidered promotional products, we are ready to help with affordable and expert services.

Contact us today to get started on your order!

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