Are you looking to add that extra flair or try something different to your embroidery projects? Why not add 3D puffy foam to your embroidery designs to literally make your design pop out!


If you’re new to embroidery or digitizing, you may be wondering what exactly foam embroidery is? Foam embroidery (also known as 3D or puff embroidery) is a great way to add dimension to your designs and impress your friends, customers, and even yourself.

Foam embroidery is where your embroidery design or lettering is puffed above the garment by embroidering on or around the foam to elevate your stitches, giving it a 3D effect and feel. Adding 3D foam can be a great way to increase your creativity while embroidering!

This article will cover:

The 3D puff foam used for your embroidery stitch-outs can be made with embroidery foam or crafting foam.

The process may seem intimidating but remember to have fun with it. Embroidery is an art form, and like anything, practice makes perfect.

To help you better understand 3D embroidery foam, keep reading below to find out how and when to use it, what stabilizer we suggest, how to easily make your own 3D foam project, and steps on how to digitize your own custom 3D puffy foam embroidery designs.

How Far You Can Take 3D Puff Foam Embroidery

Back in the early 90’s was the first time I saw 3D Foam hit the market when we ran a contract embroidery house and did customer work for some large licensing manufacturers, so we, of course, had to learn and invent techniques for utilizing foam.

It was one of the most challenging forms of digitizing I’ve ever had to master. It’s not natural to stick a foreign object under an embroidery machine while it’s running. By the time 1997 rolled around, I feel we were one of the best companies about who did work with foam.

So, I did a foam piece that, to this day, I think is one of the best to have ever been created. The commercial industry was also impressed as my Foam Bulldog cap won my first Grand Prize with EMB Magazine in 1998.

Watch this fun video showcasing a three-layer foam bulldog cap that won me my first digitizing Grand Prize with EMB Magazine in 1998.

It’s hard to believe that I digitized that design over 20 years ago! I remember when we ran it on the 24-head Tajima machine it was like embroidery magic when it was done. The reason why?  I used three pieces of 2mm foam and built up the design dimensionally. The eyes are set back right onto the surface material of the hat, then building it up 2mm, then 4mm, and finally up to 6mm which is just the dog’s jowls, brows, and top of his ears. When the design was finished on the machine that was all you saw, and when the foam was torn off the entire dog appeared… embroidery magic!

Two other things I’d like to mention about the process. We only ever did one run on the machine. Only 24 of these hats are in existence. The reason why is, when you put 6mm of a foreign substance under the needle of a machine, it sounds like a rocket ship taking off to the moon. So please take my advice and “DO NOT” try this at home… your machine may not survive!

Second is, this design was done as a panel program. Many years ago, baseball hats were manufactured in North America; sadly, this is no longer the case. At that time, we worked with the manufacturers, so the cap peak and crown were sent to us before they were constructed. Please NEVER try to sew through the peak of a finished hat; this also will break your machine guaranteed!

Did you know there’s now an easier way to create stunning 3D embroidery designs that doesn’t require foam? Click here to learn more about our new 3D Puff Stuff product and make ANY embroidery design demand attention with dimension!


3D Puffy Foam Embroidery Designs

As with many other special embroidery techniques (such as mylarapplique, and in-the-hoop projects), 3D foam embroidery is embroidered specifically to incorporate foam in your design and use it with your embroidery machine.  

Due to the nature of 3D foam, we highly suggest only using foam with embroidery machine designs specifically digitized for their use. This will ensure the safety of your machine and garment. 

When choosing your desired embroidery design, you want to make sure the 3D foam embroidery designs you choose has a perforated border. Make sure you have needle penetrations in all directions of the object so it tears away properly. 

You can think of it like baking cookies. If you have a cookie-cutter that has a little notch out of it when you put it into the dough and pull that dough away, it’s not going to pull away cleanly—same idea with foam embroidery. You have to have a shape that’s cut out around the edge for that crisp, clean look. 

foam embroidery smiley

Please note: 3D puffy foam embroidery should only be incorporated with designs that have been digitized specifically for the foam process. To view our Embroidery Legacy foam designs, click here.

Did you know that there are many 3D puffy foam ESA foam fonts, which are object-based and can also be resized? A 3D font is built into Hatch embroidery software, where it generates the lettering perfectly. You can also easily add more 3D fonts into Hatch in seconds. Do you want 3D fonts that are extremely easy to use and stitch out flawlessly? Give ESA 3D fonts a try by downloading a free 30-day trial of Hatch by clicking here. We’ll also give you an additional $112.90 worth of added embroidery bonuses for downloading the trial directly through us.

esa foam text

What Stabilizer Should I Use for 3D Puffy Foam Embroidery?

This answer depends entirely on what garment you’re embroidering on.

If you’re embroidering 3D foam onto hats, I would suggest using a tear-away stabilizer. Because it’s a hat and doesn’t have much flexibility, it’s easiest to tear the stabilizer away (hence the name). Hats are also generally not laundered much, which helps with the longevity of the foam. The less you wash, the greater the lifespan of the foam.

If you’re using 3D foam on any wearable item, I would suggest using cutaway mesh. As I always say, “if you wear it, don’t tear it.” I would use no show mesh, so you don’t see it through the garment. 

If you’d like to learn more about different stabilizers, when and where to use them, check out our Complete Guide to Machine Embroidery Stabilizers by clicking here.

How to Embroider 3D Puff Foam: Steps & Overview

  1. Run the regular embroidered elements first -With “foam” designs, you need to run the regular embroidered elements first; all Embroidery Legacy designs are created with this in mind.
  2. Stop the machine -Once all regular embroidery colors are completed, your color information sheet will give you a suggested thread color and say the word “foam” after it. When reaching this color change, the design should move to the top of the design, and you should stop your machine.
  3. Lay the foam -At this point, you will lay the foam down within the areas to be embroidered. (Always try to use the same color thread and foam whenever possible).
  4. Sew the tack-down stitches -The first stitches to be placed down are “tack-down” stitches to secure the foam to the fabric.
  5. Continue sewing –Then, the design will proceed to finish all the areas to be done in foam.
  6. Remove the foam -Now you’re ready to pull the foam off, it should tear away easily with designs that have been digitized properly.
  7. Done! –You now know how to do foam embroidery.

Learn the Secrets, Tips & Tricks Behind 14 Popular Embroidery Techniques

If you’re like most embroiderers, you love to get creative and make projects but know there is still so much more you can do with your machine. Perhaps you don’t know what all is possible, or you’re nervous about trying new techniques, such as using foam in your designs

Either way, you’re not alone. We’ve heard this a ton. Thankfully, our new and improved Fun Effects Embroidery Course will take you by the hand and show you how to easily expand your embroidery world, and have fun doing it! 

If you’re ready to learn some new eye-catching embroidery techniques that’ll make your future projects stand out & impress, this course is for you! This course includes follow-along video tutorials, printable PDFs, and beautiful embroidery designs to follow along with so you can sew each technique yourself. The best part? You can do it at your own pace & time!

Ready to learn 14 popular techniques to skyrocket your creative potential with machine embroidery? Check out our Fun Effects Embroidery Course.

How To Make Your Own 3D Embroidery Foam Tutorial: Wedding Tag Embroidery Design


Now that you know the steps involved in embroidering 3d puff designs, follow the tutorial instructions listed below to create your very own beautiful 3D foam embroidery wedding tag! The theory application listed here can be applied to other 3D foam embroidery designs. You got this!

More of a visual learner? We’ve got you covered. Watch our Youtube tutorial here.

Supplies Needed For 3D Foam Wedding Tag

3d foam supplies
  • 5 x 7 hoop
  • 3D foam wedding tag embroidery design 
  • Wet & gone stabilizer
  • Ribbon
  • 3D foam
  • Satin fabric backed with fusible no show mesh
  • Thread
  • Prewound bobbins in colors similar to the thread used
  • 6″ dual-edge curved scissors (recommended but not necessary, any scissor will work)

3D Foam Embroidery Wedding Tag Tutorial:

Step 1: Hoop your wet and gone stabilizer.

hooping stabilizer

Step 2: Load your first colored bobbin, and place your hoop in your machine.

bobbin in machinehooping in machine

Step 3: Run your heart placement stitch.

run placement stitch

Step 4: Fold your fabric in half; and make sure the shiny side is faces up on both sides.

fold fabric in halffabric shiny side up

Step 5: Run your tack down stitch over the fabric.

tack down stitch

Step 6: Remove your hoop from the machine. Cut any excess material using your dual-edge curve scissors.
Be careful not to cut the stabilizer.

cut excess materialheart applique

Step 7: Fold a piece of ribbon and place it at the top of the heart. Put a piece of tape near the middle of the ribbon to keep it in place.

tape ribbon

Step 8: Put your hoop back in your machine and tack down your ribbon.

tack down ribbon

Step 9: Cut away any excess ribbon. Clean and trim the ribbon tails on the back of the design.

clean ribbon trim

Step 10: Place your hoop back on the machine and embroider the bride and groom lace design.

machine lace

Step 11: Switch your bobbin color with the same thread color you want to use for the heart’s outline.

switch bobbin

Step 12: Place your 3D foam on top of the design and run the tack down and satin stitch. Remove the outside foam.

foam on embroideryembroidery foam placementheart foam embroideryremoving outside foam

Step 13: Remove your hoop from the machine and remove the foam.

remove foam from embroidery

Step 14: Cut the excess stabilizer.

cutting excess stabilizerfoam embroidery design

Step 15: Remove the wet and gone stabilizer by placing it in warm water. Let it lay to dry.

soaking stabilizer in waterrinsing stabilizer designdrying embroidery designdrying with towel

Step 16: Finished! You’ve created your own beautiful 3D foam embroidery wedding tag.

3d foam wedding embroidery

How To Digitize 3D Puffy Foam Machine Embroidery Designs

Digitizing 3d puff foam embroidery designs is quite different from digitizing regular embroidery designs as you’re adding another physical medium to the mix (foam) instead of just fabric and thread.
Using foam to create stunning 3-D effects on garments is visually appealing, but brace yourself for some potential frustration along the way.

If you were hoping I would explain all the properties of foam embroidery and give you a foolproof formula to digitize foam flawlessly, you might as well save your energy for a better cause.
To me, “Foam” is the four-letter “F” word of the embroidery industry. Much like its literary equivalent, it should not be used lightly and only when you really deem it necessary. Remember that if you know little, little is expected of you. If you know much (or claim to), much is expected of you.

Well, be prepared for one of the biggest learning curves in digitizing that you will ever experience. True, it can create novel 3D effects on caps and other substrates, but getting eye-pleasing results can be quite a challenge, one that requires you to consider thread angles, tension, and density, among other issues.

There are a few things to do when digitizing 3D foam embroidery. Finding a good source for foam that stitches well is your first priority. When I first started 3D foam embroidery designs, we were going through so much of the stuff I started sourcing it myself. The end result was a “not open to the public” craft warehouse outlet where I bought foam by the case, at a fraction of the price. When I first found them, I received some strange looks of curiosity as I cleared out their entire inventory.

Next, evaluate your designs and troubleshoot your artwork before you begin digitizing. This step will save you a lot of grief. Foam works best on large columned objects and text. Give your customer realistic expectations of what elements can be done in foam and what element should use regular stitching.

Like any technique in digitizing, it’s only by making repetitive mistakes that skills are refined. Only with foam, you need to add more than the usual frustration into the equation! If I’m speaking to a group regarding foam, I tell them that you better be prepared to digitize the design and then edit it at least two or three times before you’re happy with the results. You should also charge more for foam digitizing, taking into account the extra time involved; we do!

The following brief step-by-step foam application – on a cap, in this example – should help get you started in understanding this potentially tricky process. So as you follow along, keep in mind that my approach for embroidering foam isn’t the only way, nor is it necessarily the best way; it’s just my way.

Step By Step How To Digitize 3D Puff Embroidery

Ok, let’s get down to business. We will walk you through a relatively simple design –a logo for a restaurant called “Zeyda’s” which has both regular and foam embroidered elements.

P.S. Looking for the most effective way to learn 3D foam digitizing and start creating your own 3D foam-friendly designs? Our 3D foam embroidery digitizing lesson will teach you John Deer’s award-winning stress-free digitizing formulas & blueprints!

zeyda 3d foam

Step 1.  Digitize the regular embroidered elements of the design first, laying down the filled areas and the white lettering as you normally would. Once you finish these elements, program a stop at the top of your embroidered field. This allows you to lay down the foam while the sewing head is out of the way. If you were insistent on trying to do finished hats, you would program your stop toward the peak of the cap, so the sewing heads are out of the way. 

3d foam digitizing regular

Step 2. Before placing the foam down, give it a quick shot of adhesive spray to lessen movement when tacking down. Remember foam comes in a wide variety of colors; try to match your foam and thread colors as closely as possible. 

3d foam adhesive spray

Step 3. Using a manual stitch, I will usually tack down the design moving inside out. In regards to the “Zeyda’s” logo, I loosely ran a manual stitch on the “d” and “s” to stabilize the foam elements before actually starting the “Z.” 

3d foam stabilizing

Step 4. Once you tack down the “Z” you need to carefully apply underlay about .2mm away from the outside column. The value of the underlay should be set to 1mm; this will help perforate the foam before the column stitching goes down.

3d foam larger columns

Step 5. With foam, you not only have to worry about the primary column, but you also need to “cut” the ends of your columns. This will give you a clean cut when you remove the foam. Digitizing your “ends” should be done before you start your columns. 

Step 6. Density is the key to clean foam. Everybody’s software talks slightly different language values, so I’ll try to address it by percentage. If your normal value were 100%, the foam would require 50-40% density, over double the amount of normally needed stitches. A couple of other key things to watch out for are; shorts stitches may need to be modified (increasing the amount of stitches and elongating the short stitches, so there is enough density and coverage in your corners). Overlap your columns where they meet. Foam tends to gap, showing large bits of foam if you don’t overlap. Add a little more than your average pull compensation; foam generally looks and runs better on larger columns.

Step 7. Repeat these steps for each letter or element until all your foam areas are done. As you can see, there are many more steps, and precise execution of underlay and columns are critical. The digitizing process alone is more labor extensive than regular digitizing; never mind your editing sessions afterward.

Finalizing the Foam

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! As you can see, there are many more steps than regular embroidery requires, and precise execution of underlay and columns is critical. The digitizing process alone is more labor-intensive than regular digitizing; never mind your editing sessions afterward.

Tearing off and finishing your foam is also a matter of preference. We would steam the panels before tearing off the foam. I’ve also heard of companies using heat guns to try and shrink the foam slightly. Both these methods can only help promote finished quality, so give them a try. Once the foam was torn off we would have a team of people using pointed but slightly blunt objects to push in the foam wherever needed. Foam seems to have a mind of its own; it never comes out the same twice.

3d foam removing foam

One of the most frequent complaints I receive is that there may be a lot of looping on the finished product. A couple of possible solutions if you are experiencing these problems are; your underlay is to close the edge of your column and that your machines need to have the top and bobbin tensions increased. That is the beauty of doing large foam runs; it usually takes about three or four runs to get the bugs worked out. Tensions need to be a little tighter than your usual embroidery to allow for the mass of the foam between the needle bar and the needle plate. Switching back and forth for small runs has the potential of producing a lot of damaged goods.

After digitizing their first foam design for them, the most frequent comment from customers is, “If I had known how much work it was, I would have charged more.”

To those of you that I haven’t scared off, working with foam can be very creative and profitable if you are willing to get past the learning curve. There is something to be said for having a reputation for doing a difficult technique well; you can charge for it! If you do it properly, it doesn’t need to be a loss leader and can get business in your door that you might not have otherwise seen.

In our 3D foam embroidery digitizing lesson, you’ll learn the process from production to creation -almost like we’ll be holding your hand! We’ll provide you with specific properties and theories to create foam-friendly designs, taking all the guesswork out of the equation. John will also show you his formula, which will become your blueprint for adding dimension to apparel. After this lesson, you’ll be creating clean results and be proud to show off your work! If you’re ready to create designs that demand attention with dimension, click here to learn more now.

Introducing Puff Stuff! 3D Embroidery WithOut The Foam

Patch with 3D embroidery Puff Stuff
Crown 3D embroidery puff stuff withwithout

Want to create 3D designs that have the appeal of 3D foam designs, but without the extra effort?

Introducing Embroidery Legacy’sPuff Stuff”! – Make ANY Embroidery Design Grab Attention with Dimension! No foam, software, or design adjustments required.

Puff Stuff is a game-changer as it can be placed under any embroidery design like a topper. Yes, you read that right, ANY design. Usually, when buying or creating embroidery designs specifically digitized for puffy foam, the stitch count is almost doubled, and there are more jumps and trims than when using standard designs. Using Puff Stuff on your regular designs will still give your embroidery dimension while also using less run time on your machine. Win, win!  

Puff Stuff is great for smaller lettering or to accent finer details as it can be used with a variety of stitch types and lengths. Unlike foam, there are no limits with Puff Stuff. 

Things can’t be this easy, can they? Using Puff Stuff is actually super simple! Simply place it underneath your design, embroider, rinse it under warm water, and let it dry. When it’s finished, your embroidery is elevated, and you now have 3D embroidery without the foam.

Click the video below to watch a live demo and have all your Puff Stuff questions answered

Conclusion: Create Designs With Dimension That Demand Attention

Using puffy embroidery foam is a great way to elevate your stitches, giving your design a 3D effect and feel. Remember when using 3D foam embroidery designs to only use those digitized explicitly for this use to ensure safety for your machine and garment.

Our how-to-use 3D foam embroidery tutorial should give you a look at how easy it is to use foam within your designs. This technique is a quick and easy way to add appeal to your garments!

Want to digitize your own custom 3D foam embroidery designs? Although we’ve gone over briefly how to digitize using the foam technique, we want you to have the best results, and watching our 3D Foam Embroidery Digitizing Lesson will do just that! Click here to learn my special formulas & blueprints for the perfect outcome that will take out all the guesswork, turning frustration into excitement!

Or to still get 3D dimensional embroidery results without having to make adjustments, don’t forget to try our game-changer product Puff Stuff! Click here to access this game-changer product. 

Hopefully this tutorial has helped you better understand a bit more about embroidering with foam. Remember to have fun learning this new embroidery technique. If you haven’t already, go try stitching out your foam design!

Let me know if this tutorial helped or if you have any questions below!