What is 3-D or Puff Embroidery?

3D embroidery or puff embroidery is a technique that uses foam inserts to "puff up" or create a more three-dimensional design. Puff embroidery is most often used on baseball style caps, as the fabrics used for other apparel, like polo shirts and jackets, is not strong enough to support the 3D embroidery. It can sometimes be applied to heavier materials like thick jackets, some hoodies, and bags.

How is 3D Puff Embroidery Done?

The puff embroidery process has a few additional steps that aren't needed for traditional embroidery, so it takes more time and effort to create.

  • Flat embroidery is added to the item as a foundation to start the process.
  • Foam is cut to the shape of the design and applied to the item to support the extra height of the puff embroidery.
  • An embroidered outline is added to create more stability.
  • Embroidery is applied on top of the foam, creating the puffed effect. Twice the amount of thread is used for 3D vs. flat embroidery since full coverage of the foam is important.
  • Any excess foam is removed.

3D puff embroidery is most commonly done by a commercial-grade machine, but can also be applied by hand.

3D Puff Logo Embroidery Example

Here is an example of a design on a baseball cap which uses the puff embroidery method:

3D Puff Embroidery Cap

When Should 3D Puff Embroidery be Used?

Puff embroidery can be an interesting and unique choice for adding texture and making logos stand out. But as with most things that are cool and unique, it does have its limitations. When considering 3D embroidery, here are a few things to keep in mind that help make the technique most effective:

  • Keep it simple! It's hard to create thin lines or intricate shapes with puff embroidery.
  • Your design should have a well-defined underlay border as well as bold lettering and shapes.
  • Satin stitches should be used over the foam foundation.

Very few logo designs can be embroidered using this method. The best designs for using puff embroidery are very simple ones.  For example, Major League Baseball teams use puff embroidery on their caps. This works well because many of those caps have just a single-letter initial on them.

Most company logos will not transfer well to puff embroidery, unless they are very simple with bold elements. This is because most of the elements that make up company logos are too small to be able to get the foam underneath them during the embroidery process. Logos with small text, thin lines, or other small details do not work well in puff embroidery.

Traditional or flat embroidery is a 2D design made with thread that lays flat on the item you want to add your design or logo on. This is the most common type of embroidery because you  can create detailed, complex designs. If you are looking to embroider a more intricate design, flat embroidery is the best option.

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About Jeff Taxdahl

With over 20 years’ experience in embroidery and business ownership, Thread Logic owners Jeff and Wenda Taxdahl, and the Thread Logic team, know what it takes to make custom logo embroidered apparel that people are proud to wear.