Navigating the Challenges of “Thick” Designs in Embroidery Digitizing Services

Embroidery digitizing services often face inquiries about dealing with “thick” designs, commonly known as “bulletproof embroidery.” This term refers to designs that result in puckering and excessive bulk. In this article, we will delve into the causes of these issues and provide comprehensive solutions to achieve optimal embroidery outcomes.

I. Density and Goldilocks: Striking the Right Balance

Embroidery is an embellishment that not only appears on the fabric surface but also penetrates it. Every stitch, except the first and last, passes through the fabric, displacing its fibers. Densely woven fabrics, such as denim, act like a full bathtub, and adding thread between the weave can push the fibers apart. The more stitches per square inch, the larger the “body mass” of the embroidery, resulting in increased displacement. Fabrics with more space between the weaves offer better resistance to bulkiness and puckering.

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II. Understanding the Factors Contributing to Design Density:

To create designs with the desired coverage and avoid excessive thickness, it is crucial to consider the following factors:

a. Short Stitches: Shorter stitches can lead to higher stitch counts and increased density, but they do not necessarily provide better coverage.

b. Closely Spaced Rows of Stitches: When rows of stitches are densely packed, it contributes to the overall density of the design.

c. Multiple Layers of Stitches: Stacking stitches may be necessary in small areas, while larger areas typically require a “void” under the upper layer to avoid unsightly gaps.

d. Thread Weight: The choice of thread weight also affects the perceived density of the design. While using a heavier thread, such as 30wt, can provide better coverage, it can also increase fabric displacement, thickness, and overall puckering.

III. Effective Solutions to Reduce Density and Enhance Embroidery Results:
a. Use a Special Utility to Reduce Overall Density:

Consider utilizing digitizing software tools like Density Repair Kit (DRK) from Embrilliance. DRK allows you to adjust the density of designs without requiring specialized skills or knowledge. It provides a straightforward method to reduce density and improve embroidery outcomes.

b. Employ the Resize Trick to Reduce Density:

If your resizing program allows you to turn the stitch processor on or off, try the following technique:

1. Note the design’s original stitch count and dimensions.

2. With the stitch processor turned off, enlarge the design by approximately 10%. This spreads out the stitches.

3. Save the file and open the saved file (for some programs like Embrilliance and Embroidery Works).

4. Turn the stitch processor back on and shrink the design back to its original size. This process reduces the stitch count and overall density.

5. Save the modified design under a new name to preserve the original.

6. Test sew the design to evaluate the density improvements. If necessary, repeat the process with the original design, adjusting the amount of enlargement.

c. Experiment with Thinner Thread:

Most stock designs are digitized for 40wt polyester or rayon embroidery thread, but you can try using thinner threads to reduce design bulk. Explore 60wt embroidery threads offered by companies like Sulky and Wonderfil. Although the color range may be limited, thinner threads can reduce perceived density and minimize design thickness.

d. Seek Assistance from the Digitizer:

If the design was custom digitized, it is advisable to contact the digitizer and explain the issues you are facing. Experienced digitizers can make appropriate adjustments to the design’s density based on your target fabric. Keep in mind that customization digitizing services may incur additional costs.

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e. Consider Choosing a Different Design:

While a design may appear perfect for your project, it may not be suitable for the fabric type or digitized optimally. Poorly digitized designs are unlikely to yield satisfactory results, even with excessive stabilizer usage. Explore alternative designs that are better suited to your specific fabric and project requirements.

f. Explore Different Fabric Options:

If you encounter difficulties reducing design density, you can try switching to a different fabric. Tightly woven fabrics tend to amplify bulkiness, so selecting a lighter fabric can help mitigate the issue.

g. Select the Correct Stabilizer:

Using the correct stabilizer is crucial for achieving smooth, pucker-free embroidery. Rather than adding more stabilizer, focus on using the appropriate type and quantity. Rely on recommended stabilizer guidelines provided by manufacturers and industry experts to ensure optimal results.


Navigating the challenges posed by “thick” designs in embroidery digitizing services requires a comprehensive understanding of design density and its impact on fabric. By considering factors such as stitch length, stitch density, and thread weight, as well as utilizing specialized tools and seeking professional digitizing assistance when needed, embroiderers can achieve high-quality results. Remember, achieving optimal embroidery outcomes involves a balance between design density, fabric selection, and proper stabilization techniques.