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What’s the True Cost of Digitizing?

Here are seven things to evaluate when you're looking at the quality and value of digitized designs

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How important is the price of an individual digitized design to your overall business? Some decorators get so caught up in the cost when really, the price you pay for a digitized design is insignificant. You need to consider the overall value of the digitizing and its impact on your business.

The cost for a flat-rate, left-chest polo or woven shirt design can range from $15-75, and a bigger, much more complicated job for a jacket back or other large items can even rise into the hundreds of dollars.

However, if a digitized design doesn’t run well, has too many trims, too many color changes, or doesn’t look good, then what’s that design worth? Ask yourself the question this way: How much did this poorly digitized design cost me in lost time or lost business?

Here are seven things to evaluate when you’re looking at the quality and value of digitized designs you invest in on behalf of your customers.

1. What’s the artwork quality? It’s ideal if you start with a good, clean design or artwork. However, you’ll receive a whole gamut, from hand-drawn, scanned, and clip art to photos to graphics created in a design program (ideally). If the design contains other small lettering or elements like thin lines that don’t translate well to embroidery, your digitizer will need to adjust the file before punching. Take into account how much extra time your digitizer (or you) will need to spend turning the artwork into a high-quality, efficient embroidery file.

2. Is a sew out provided? A test sew out on a similar fabric and product is required to ensure that your design’s sew-ready before production. That part of the process adds to both the cost and point in time when the job can be started. If you’re outsourcing your digitizing, expect an extra fee and buffer time for possible multiple sew outs and edits.

3. How efficient is the design? No matter how long they’ve been in the business, every digitizer should account for this part of the process. As the design test sews out, the digitizer will watch to ensure it’s efficient and error-free and doesn’t have other issues like excessive thread breaks. Do you notice unnecessary travel, too many jumps, trims, or too many color changes?

4. How’s the quality? Once the design sews out, it’s also important for your digitizer to perform a visual inspection and look for gaps and lumps or over-density. He or she should look at the sew out two ways.

  • First, at arm’s length, be sure everything, including text and other elements, looks clear.
  • Second, close up for jump stitches and other imperfections. You can tell the difference between mediocre and excellent digitizing at this point: Does the garment pucker after sewing? Is the lettering uniform? Do the fills and borders line up with one another?

5. Are the appropriate stitch types and lengths, and underlay used? For example, was a 12mm satin stitch used, or was it converted to fill? A 12mm satin stitch can easily snag. Incorrect stitch lengths can impact your underlay as well. It can stick out from the sides of letters, cause higher densities or coverage inaccuracies. The wrong stitch type for the width, like a satin stitch that’s too large, causes loopy stitches, unnecessary trims, or gaps in the design. Similarly, the wrong underlay can distort the design, especially on different fabric types.

6. Does the design sew correctly for your fabric selection? Stock designs are digitized for average, medium-weight, non-stretchy fabric. However, custom digitizing is often done for multiple, specific fabrics, and product types. That means your digitizer will program the design to sew multiple ways based on your chosen substrate, including underlay type, push-pull compensation, and stitch density.

7. Is the design scaled correctly? If you want to transfer a design to other products or locations, you’ll need to have it resized and test-sewed again. A good digitizer knows that when you resize a design, changing its proportions can affect registration and stitch lengths.

Your focus shouldn’t be on whether cheaper digitizing produces low-quality stitch files or that more expensive digitizing is always your failsafe. Instead, consider that the digitizing fee is just one small factor in the grand scheme of the design’s value and what you deliver to your customer. Partnering with a good digitizer is key to any embroidery firm’s success.

Ed Levy, Hirsch Solutions Inca

Ed Levy

Ed Levy is an industry veteran and director of software technologies at Hirsch Solutions.

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