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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Make Custom Patches from Zero

Beginner's handbook

How to Make Custom Patches from Zero

How to Make Custom Patches from Zero
Agnese Zimele

By Agnese Zimele

7 min read

A few years ago, embroidered patches were merely a blast from the past, a thing only travelers and vintage lovers add to their jackets and other clothing. Recently, however, they’ve made a comeback by providing a unique way of personalization and upgrading.

Custom embroidery patches are now gaining popularity and attracting the attention of many businesses and fashionable individuals due to their versatility, durability, and ease of use. You, too, can jump on the bandwagon and expand your wardrobe or store offer with this simple yet highly engaging accessory.

If you have no idea how to make custom patches, don’t worry. This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of the business so you can start designing your own patches even today.

How to make custom patches: A step-by-step guide

The process of creating custom patches is easier than you think. It doesn’t require any stitching or sewing on your part. And what if I told you that you don’t even need an embroidery machine to create them?

Yes, partnering with a print-on-demand and dropshipping company like Printful lets you leave manufacturing, inventory management, and product delivery to the pros. However, you must still follow a few important steps to get the perfect patch.

1. Define your style and aesthetic

So, you’ve decided to enter the custom patch business. Before diving into the actual design process, think about what customers you’d like to serve and how your patches will stand out. In other words, define your brand and your signature stylistic features.

Embroidered patches are the classic and most commonly used patch type with thick, textured threading and fabric foundation. They work well with various styles and colors, so it’s up to you to decide which niche you want to tackle. Do you want to create patches for hikers, seasoned bikers, sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, or maybe business logos and souvenirs for different places?

a collage of patches

Source: Pinterest

If you’re completely out of ideas, browse Pinterest or Etsy for inspiration. You could look at the current offering for different keywords like “nature patches” or “funny patches,” depending on your chosen theme. You may also explore Patch Collection for the ultimate selection of numerous patch styles.

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2. Check out our embroidery guidelines

Once you have a vision of how you want your custom patch collection to look like, it’s time to dig deeper into the technical aspects of embroidered patches. Each embroidery technique (i.e., flat embroidery or 3D puff embroidery) requires certain standards, and not meeting them can destroy your design in the finished patch.

To make sure all your patches turn out in good shape, Printful suggests following these embroidery guidelines:

  • Go for big letters and thick font—small, thin lines make text and other intricate elements illegible

  • Stay away from gradient and textured graphics—these details are hard to reproduce in embroidery and may seem off in the finished work

  • Turn photos into graphic images—only solid shapes and colors can make it on the patch

  • Avoid neon and metallic colors—don’t expect miracles; just like gradients, these colors can’t be achieved even with unlimited color embroidery

  • Remove unnecessary background color and set an outline—that'll help your final product appear cleaner and you won’t exceed the max stitch count of 15,000

If you’re still unsure whether your design is good to go, use design file templates under File guidelines on the embroidered patches catalog page.

a patch and flower patch

Source: Etsy

By following these simple guidelines, you can be sure that your custom patches will be manufactured as desired and you’ll avoid any potential issues during the production.

Pro tip: Learn more about perfecting your custom embroidery patches and check examples with the most common issues in our embroidery file guide.

3. Create your patch design

Now that you have your signature style and target market figured out and have all the technical requirements at hand, you’re ready to design your custom patches.

For every patch, you first need to consider three things: fabric color, embroidery outline color, and shape. With Printful, you can create your embroidered patches on either a black or white background and in five different shapes: rectangle, heart, square, oval, and circular. Each of them is also in a different size.

Think again about where your custom patches will most likely be placed. Consider creating the same design in several shapes and sizes, as patches for caps should be smaller than the ones that could go on jackets or backpacks.

a screen shot of a patch

Source: Printful Design Maker

To create your design files, start by sketching your ideas on Canva, Photoshop, or other design software. You may also go straight to Printful’s Design Maker, as it has hundreds of ready-to-use graphics and clipart for custom embroidery that you can put on your patches and preview in the process.

If you decide to create your design files elsewhere, save them as vector files. Once you upload them to the Design Maker, they’ll go through digitization and will be converted into a format that our embroidery machines understand (for a one-time fee).

When designing, focus on clarity and simplicity to make sure your chosen text and illustrations translate well, even on a small patch. Choose your color palette carefully—do you want to go for minimalism and elegance with a few classy colors? Or do you want your colorful and vibrant design to catch the eye from afar?

Regardless of which way you choose, don’t be afraid to go through several iterations until you get visually appealing patches that capture the attention and reflect your intended message.

a boom box with a cassette tape and a cassette player on the ground

Source: Patch Collection

4. Make an order

You have your patch designs finalized. Now, it’s time to bring them to life and make the order. You can move to checkout straight from the Printful Design Maker, or save your final templates and order them later. In any case, you’ll need a Printful account to save your designs and purchase the patches.

If you’re designing for a group of friends, a club, or a special event, consider ordering several custom patches at once. Bulk orders of at least 25 items get a discount. You can also create a personalized gift and get the patches delivered to a different address.

In case you want to sell custom patches, start by ordering a few samples to see what the embroidery looks like in real life and whether you need to make any adjustments to the finished patch. Printful gives a 20% sample order discount to encourage you to test out the product before putting it up for sale.

If you’re fully satisfied with how your custom patch has turned out, you can also order an entire batch with as many pieces as you like—there are no order minimums. And if you want to sell your patches as they are, you can quickly and easily connect your online store to Printful, whether it’s on Etsy, Amazon, or your own website.

screens screenshot of a step by step store

Source: Printful

5. Keep your new patches in place

After you’ve received your patches and they’re all in good order, it’s crucial to understand how to attach them safely and correctly to your desired items and put them into action.

Printful offers iron-on patches, so the first and most important rule is to choose a fabric that’s at least as heavy as the patch. Use materials like denim and cotton as a base to get the best results.

Then, lay your item on a flat surface and iron the place where you’ll want to attach your patch. Choose the hottest setting the fabric can tolerate. After that, place the patch on the heated area with the adhesive side facing down, put a thin garment over the patch, and press the iron down firmly for about 25 seconds on each side.

Finally, remove the heat and allow the patch to cool down. If the edges still lift up a bit, repeat the process once more or secure the patch even more securely by sewing it to the fabric. Full adhesiveness is achieved in 48 hours.

Remember to wash the item as rarely as possible. Frequent washing may cause the patch to come off bit by bit. If washing is really a must, hand-wash it in cold water only.

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Closing remarks

Custom embroidery patches provide an exciting business opportunity and a possibility for your own personality to stand out. And with print-on-demand services available, it's now easier than ever to have your own designs shining proudly on your favorite items and customer clothing.

Invest your time in defining your style, understanding the specific embroidery guidelines, and testing out different shapes, colors, and design elements. Don’t be afraid of trial and error, and unleash your creativity—you’ll get captivating patches in no time.  


By Agnese Zimele on Jun. 24, 2024

Agnese Zimele

Guest author

Agnese is a seasoned content specialist with a passion for running and traveling. She discovered her love for writing in high school and has helped multiple brands and individuals craft their stories ever since.

Agnese is a seasoned content specialist with a passion for running and traveling. She discovered her love for writing in high school and has helped multiple brands and individuals craft their stories ever since.