The most important thing to consider when designing for embroidery is the material or fabric that you will be embroidering on. The rigidity of that fabric will dictate how intricate the embroidery can be without damaging it. The more intricate the design, the more times the needle will puncture the material, essentially weakening it further.
It's also important to keep in mind that an embroidered design has its limitations in terms of how detailed it can be. Your design will be vectorized and then converted into a stitch file that will tell the embroidery machine where to stich and in what sequence. The size of the design will determine the level of detail that is possible on an embroidery project. Elements such as text is not typically legible if smaller than 1/8 of an inch (4 mm) tall.
Another thing to keep in mind is the density of your design. The more filled in your design is, the stiffer it will become once it's stitched onto the garment. Reducing the flexibility of the garment and changing the way it drapes on the body when worn.
Foam Trucker Hats – These types of hats are one of the easiest to embroider because the foam offers plenty of structure without too much resistance to the embroidery needle while running. The foam also adds a more 3-D texture to the finished product as the foam puckers and bloats in the places with more or less tension in the embroidery thread. The foam however, is not going to withstand too many punctures in the same area before the foam begins to tear. Another benefit to foam trucker hats is the larger decoration area. While most hats have about a two inch vertical allowance for embroidery, the high profile silhouette of a foam trucker allows for slightly taller designs up to a half-inch taller. The maximum width for an embroidered design on a hat is usually about five inches.
"Dad" Hats – These low profile, unstructured types of hats have increased in popularity over the last decade as the go-to for custom embroidery. They can be a casual, yet classy baseball cap made of cotton canvas or similar materials. The lack of structure and plastic buckram material behind the front panel makes them very easy to embroider and the fabric is usually robust enough to handle any intricacy of design without jeopardizing the fabric itself.
Structured Hats – This more classic style of baseball cap, whether it is a snapback or fitted style, can be one of the more difficult to embroider due to the plastic buckram material behind the front panel that is there to provide the domed structure. Most of these types of hats are mass-produced and embroidered before the hat is constructed. This is why when you buy a retail quality baseball cap, you cannot see the back of the embroidered design on the inside of the hat. This is not to say it is impossible, just much more difficult to embroider larger complex designs without a higher rate of damages as the plastic buckram can sometimes break the embroidery needle.
Low Profile Structured Caps – Low profile structured caps are by far the most difficult to embroider due to the more pronounced curvature of the front panel. The stiff pre-shaped front panel does not usually lay flat against the needle plate on the embroidery machine and is prone to needle deflections. This is when the needle in a sense ricochets off the plastic buckram when moving at a high rate of speed. The normal embroidery speed of the needles are usually between 750 and 850 RPM. That means the needle is stitching at almost 3.5 stitches per second! So if something gets in the way of than needle moving smoothly, it can have disastrous results.
You can see the difference in these hats side by side showing the difference in height and the angle of the curve as it relates to the bill. Since the bill of the hat is rigid, it doesn't allow for much manipulation when loading it onto the machine and maintains a more sever angle against the needle plate.
Again, this doesn't mean we cannot embroider on these types of hats, only that the size and placement may be limited. When decorating these types of hats, it's best to choose smaller, simpler designs.