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Custom Embellishment Guide

Whether you need screen printing, digital printing, embroidery, or another embellishment option — you’ll find exactly what you need at Ethix. Our shops employ talented design professionals and craftspeople who can create any design you have in mind.

For any embellishment, we have excellent US and Union facilities providing a range of screen printing and embroidery options. These facilities offer various environmentally conscious choices, such as non-toxic water-based inks or organic cotton embroidery threads.

We look forward to answering your questions about artwork and embellishment possibilities! Contact us early in your planning process to fully utilize our design expertise. 

Screen Printing

Most of our clients have projects that fall within the standard print option. However, this does not mean they choose lousy shirt designs — basic can be pretty exciting!

If you let us help you select a strong color combination and print placement, we can take any shirt idea to the next level. Our art team has years of experience, specifically around T-shirt printing. We can play with different fonts, custom images, and coloration until you have your desired design.

Of course, if you already have an artist you are working with, we can get the final artwork file directly from you and print your prepared design.

When should you pick this option?

  • Your design is 1-6 colors
  • You need the most economical pricing
  • You want to have an eco-friendly ink option
  • You need a union bug printed near your design
  • You are looking for a traditional style of T-shirt

What types of inks are used?

  • Plastisol ink — This is traditionally what is used to print basic T-shirts. The texture feels a bit like plastic because the ink has bonded to the top of the fabric. You can depend on plastisol to give you a close color match, strong opacity (even on dark-colored shirts), and standard design longevity.
  • PVC/Phthalate Free Plastisol — A safer and softer option, phthalate-free inks are new to the screen print industry. They were developed as an alternative to the more toxic regular plastisol, making them feel relatively softer. They cost about 15 – 20% more than standard plastisol prints.
  • Water-Based InkWater-based inks are a great way to achieve soft shirts while being the most environmentally safe- but only if you are printing on a light-colored T-shirt. In order to print water-based inks on dark-colored shirts, you have to use dangerous discharge printing with formaldehyde.

We prefer to let the natural process of the inks “dye” the shirt by setting it into the material. This keeps it healthy for you, the workers, and the planet! If you have more questions, check out the common questions we get about screen printing.

Direct Digital 4-Color Printing

Sometimes you have a design with more colors than you can count and lots of fading and tones that give it complex dimensions. Or maybe you need to print a photo? That’s where direct digital printing fills the screen print gap.

Direct digital printing is the same process as paper printing utilizing the 4 main colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. There are no art separations ensuring a breadth of color achieved only through direct prints.

It is also more environmentally friendly because we use only water-based inks for our process.

When should you pick this option?

  • Your design has 4 to hundreds of colors, or it’s a photo
  • You need to have a reasonable cost option for a small, complex order
  • You want to have an eco-friendly ink option
  • You need a union bug printed near your design
  • You are looking for a traditional or specialty type of T-shirt

Embroidery

An embroidered design is made up of 3 major embroidery types: Fill Stitch, Run Stitch, and Satin Stitch:

  • Run stitches are single lines of stitches primarily used for thin outlines or borders and for connecting individual elements of the design.
  • The Fill Stitch is used for filling in larger areas of the design. Fill stitches can also be used for lettering and large column areas when it is too large to use a satin stitch.
  • Satin stitches are essentially columns of stitches used for making letters, borders, and areas of a design that need columns of stitches. Satin stitch sizes can go from approximately 1/16th of an inch wide to .25 inches wide. Rarely do you want to go wider than .25 inches because of the risk of “picking” the stitches of the finished design.

How Much Does Custom Embroidery Cost?

Embroidery prices depend on the actual number of stitches it takes to duplicate your design, not on the number of colors. Our sales team works directly with our art team for accurate stitch estimates.

Custom Embroidery FAQ:

  • How much is it to embroider my art? There is a one-time set-up fee to digitize custom artwork. Simple text can usually be done for a nominal fee. The final cost is determined by the number of stitches in the embroidery, so each design must be individually quoted.
  • Can my embroidery contain shading, color gradation, or text smaller than .25″ (.375″ w/serifs)? Not with current technologies- if your artwork includes these characteristics, it must be revised before your items can be embroidered. A good test for success is to see if your design could be duplicated with a standard Sharpie Marker.
  • I’m a union local representative. Do you have our logo? We may have your logo or can recreate it, but it’s best to provide your specific artwork for a custom print project.
  • I’m an artist. What guidelines do you have for providing embroidery artwork? Please submit your artwork in Tajima format (.dst file) or digitized for embroidery stitch length, density, color, direction, and type.

Artwork Requirements for Printing and Embroidery

To guarantee quality printing, we need to have quality artwork. The best and most usable artwork is called vector art, which is completely scalable and transfers to screen printing the best. If possible, all artwork must be in Adobe Illustrator as a vector file. This is not a requirement, but it will ensure compatibility with our systems.

All artwork for embroidery will be digitized for an exact stitch count so we can accurately quote your project.

File Formats

  • Adobe Illustrator files that were originally created as vector files and end in .ai
  • Vector files saved as a PDF and end in .pdf (but if there are images embedded, then we need those files, and these files must be high res)
  • Vector files saved as Scalable Vector Graphics and end in .svg (but if there are images embedded, then we need those files, and they must be high res)
  • Vector files saved as Encapsulated Post Script files and end in .eps
  • Vector files in Corel Draw (.cdr) will work as well!

Vector files that are saved as other formats that can work but must be at least 266 dpi:

  • .jpg and .jpeg
  • .psd
  • .gif

Brand Colors

If you have specific brand colors, brand guidelines, or requirements for your logo, send those along. A specific Pantone number for each color will help us match your needed colors properly.

Product Materials

If you are ordering a porous garment, such as a mesh fabric, you may want to keep your design details to a minimum since the material has holes that cannot be printed on. If you are not sure which embellishment option is the best for your project, ask us!

Text Size

If you have text on your design (including custom last names or numbers), you will want to convert that text to an expanded outline. Why? If they are using a font on their computer that we do not have, when Adobe Illustrator opens the file on our computers, the font will not match the original. By converting the text to an expanded outline, the image will open correctly on our computer. For masks, we will need all text at least 12 point or greater. If printing with sublimation, White Text must be a shade of light gray so that it will not fill in.

If you have questions about these other kinds of embellishment processes, please contact us for expert advice:

  • Heat transfer: Hot Split, Cold Peel, Flocking
  • Digitally Printed Garments and Patches
  • Pad Printing
  • Laser Engraving
  • Hot Stamping
  • Garment Debossing & Embossing
  • High Frequency & Sonic Welding