With many different types of machine embroidery fonts available (Truetype, ESA, BX, stitch file fonts, to name a few), it can be confusing to know why and when to use them.

complete guide to fonts

We will help explain what each of these fonts are, the advantages and disadvantages of using them, and give you some recommendations on getting clean, crisp embroidery lettering every time.

Why Embroidery Fonts Matter

It’s hard for me to believe that I started my digitizing (punching) journey 37 years ago. When my first mentor taught me the rules of manually creating embroidery designs, his goal was always two-fold:

  1. Achieve the best visible results possible.
  2. The design must be machine-friendly to optimize production.

Concerning visual quality, he told me repeatedly during my training that the lettering within any design is just as, or even more, important than the actual logo. That statement is so true, you can have the most beautiful logo in the world, but if the text/font within the design looks sloppy, the entire design is ruined.

Back in those days, we had to punch every stitch within a design manually. I have to admit, doing lettering all day every day was tedious and boring. After you’ve digitized the letter 100,000 times, the excitement is gone.

Given my experience, let me be clear that all fonts available for embroidery these days are NOT created equal. 

Understanding why some fonts look good and why others lack quality and appearance can contribute to a few factors. Let me explain…

Stitch File Fonts

The first type of fonts we’ll cover is what I like to call Stitch File Fonts. These are single letter embroidery designs. These fonts/letters have been digitized and converted to embroidery machine formats (such as PES, JEF, XXX, etc.) and are not what we could consider being “keyboard fonts” (that you can type out using your keyboard).

Stitch file fonts have been digitized at a specific size, which means that they’ll run best at the size they were created. 

The more the files/letters are resized (increased or decreased), the more they lose quality.

 Resizing stitch file fonts often leaves the embroiderer unsatisfied with the finished stitch results when sizing adjustments are required. Unless you’re an experienced digitizer, other edits are usually not recommended for these files either as they are finished embroidery designs.

Although some of these fonts can be beautiful, the real downside of using stitch file fonts is that they are not keyboard-based. When using the font to write a text, the letters need to be inputted individually into a software program and arranged manually. This is a very tedious process and a big factor in why embroidery lettering is rarely done this way anymore.

stitch file font

Fonts within Embroidery Software Programs and Machines

A far better option is to use the fonts included within various software programs or built within the embroidery machine. They usually stitch out nicely but work best within the software and machine developers’ suggested sizes. 

These fonts are usually keyboard-based and generally resize better than stitch files.

Plus, creating layouts that include designs and text makes it much more effective and a less time-consuming process.

Often, the fonts that come included within your software are proprietary to that software brand. For example, the built-in fonts that come with Floriani will perform and stitch out well but are exclusive to the specific Floriani software brand. It’s kind of like the native file formats I mentioned in the Understanding Machine Embroidery File Formats article (click here to read more): meaning any embroidery machine can’t read them. 

They are specific to and created within an embroidery software program, and they must later be exported into a machine file format (such as PES, ART, VP3, etc) to be read on a machine.

How To Add New Fonts to Your Embroidery Software

Although the proprietary fonts that come with your software usually work well, adding new fonts to your software can often lead to issues. 

Most software brands don’t allow you to add in additional proprietary fonts (or there is a tiny selection of proprietary font add-ons that are relatively expensive).

Instead, to add new fonts to your software, you usually need to purchase TrueType, BX, or ESA fonts (these are the primary 3). However, none of these fonts are proprietary, but some do work much better than others. Depending on which brand you own, here is the type of font you could add to your software (alongside possible proprietary fonts the brand itself may sell):

Embroidery Software Potential Add-ons
Hatch Embroidery Software ESA & TrueType Fonts
Wilcom E3 & E4 Embroidery Software ESA & TrueType Fonts
Janome V.5 Embroidery Software ESA & TrueType Fonts
Brother PE Design Embroidery Software TrueType Fonts
Floriani Embroidery Software TrueType Fonts
Bernina Embroidery Software TrueType Fonts
Masterworks III Embroidery Software TrueType Fonts
DIME Embroidery Software TrueType Fonts
Premier Plus Embroidery Software TrueType Fonts
Embird Embroidery Software TrueType Fonts
Embrilliance Embroidery Software BX Fonts & TrueType Fonts


Please note: If your software brand is missing from this list or you have more up to date information, please comment it below & we’ll adjust our chart. Thanks in advance!

What are Converted TrueType Embroidery Fonts (TTF)?

TrueType fonts (or TTF for short) are fonts installed in your embroidery software and automatically converted to embroidery designs when used. It’s kind of like your software auto-digitizing lettering files you select.

Many programs, including Hatch and Floriani, will automatically convert a TrueType font to stitches. 

The benefit of using these fonts is the sheer number of them available, but the issue with these is that the quality is a real hit and miss scenario.

The first problem that arises is that letters may not path logically for embroidery. An example would be the letter “t”. Usually, when manually Digitizing the letter “t” you would path it the same way you would write it: the vertical stroke first and then the horizontal. When software programs convert TTFs automatically, they don’t take that into account, and it ends up looking like a telephone pole. The more complex the letter, the more margin for error. Generally speaking, with TTFs, the quality of the lettering depends on the shapes used. Often more narrow serif type fonts will give you better results than block fonts.

In most cases, TTFs were not created with the intent of being used for embroidery. Many fonts are unfriendly in their original form as widths/keystrokes don’t consider the rules of stitches.

In a crunch, they can be a good option but realize that editing is usually required to get embroidery friendly results.

I’d venture to say that I can usually manually digitize the letters quicker than going in after the fact and cleaning up the “auto-digitized” mess.

What are BX Embroidery Fonts?

BX fonts have essentially allowed digitizers to take their created stitch file fonts (or finished embroidery designs) and assign a keystroke (key on the keyboard) to each letter so they can be easily typed out within a proprietary software program.

To give credit where credit is due, the innovation of BX fonts was a good idea. 

The main benefit is that it has allowed digitizers who’ve created fonts to have a user-friendly way of having their customers utilize them.

Many digitizers have used this service, and to be honest, I think that’s the primary problem with this type of embroidery font. Regardless of their experience, anyone can generate and sell a BX Font, which has flooded the market with poorly digitized & auto-digitized BX Fonts. 

To be fair, many digitizers do great work who have converted their fonts to BX, but at the same time, the number of mediocre digitizers who have created BX fonts far outnumbers the good ones. The reality is, regardless of who digitized them, BX fonts are all just stitch files (or finished embroidery designs) that have been assigned a keystroke.

I’ve been asked numerous times if we at the Embroidery Legacy provide the BX format for our fonts? Years ago, I had a developer even ask me to convert my work to the BX format. The answer was and still is no. I don’t provide the BX format; the reason is quite simple:

Any font is only as good as the digitizer who created it; putting my work into a pool of both good and bad digitizers no longer differentiates me and the quality we’ve worked very hard to build our reputation on.

I know the BX format developers recently released a “simulation” of Wilcom’s world-leading object-based ESA font technology within the highest level of their software’s digitizing module… But like I said before, any font is only as good as the digitizer who created them.

What are ESA Embroidery Fonts?

ESA fonts (Embroidery Specific Alphabets) are the most advanced and customizable type of embroidery fonts

Being 100% object-based, they can be resized, re-shaped, and have their digitized properties altered (stitch count, underlay, stitch type, etc.) at the click of a button based on the fabric type you’ll be stitching on.

esa font

Now for the irony, ESA Embroidery Fonts have been around for a very long time and is one reason why Wilcom has been the world leader in the commercial embroidery industry for decades.

I remember creating ESA fonts 27 years ago when I ran our two multi-head factories where we output over 10,000,000 pieces of embroidered goods per year. There were two reasons why I created these fonts back in the commercial days.

  1. I really didn’t want to digitize the same letters repeatedly (as I mentioned earlier, it gets very boring). I also wanted to make sure the fonts I was using would meet the customers and my own expectations; if they didn’t work I could only blame myself.
  2. ESA Fonts have all the same features as Wilcom’s EMB format. This not only means that all the letters are engineered to join the closest point, but they also include Wilcom’s incredible Fabric Assist features & more.

Here’s a quick video explaining ESA embroidery font technology:

Key Features of ESA Embroidery Fonts

Here are some features of ESA fonts that make them stand out from other fonts.

ESA Fonts Join Closest Point

esa Join Closest Point

Fonts that “join the closest point” mean that the files will not generate trims between each letter when running on the machine. This is very important from a production standpoint because it saves you a ton of time. Every unnecessary trim command within a text layout is lost production time, to the extent of 120 stitches for every trim generated on a machine, to be exact. I know that may sound excessive, but if you consider that a machine is going full speed for every trim, then it has to slow down, tie-out, and activate the trimmer. Then the needle moves to the next position, ties-in, and has to ramp back up to full speed. Make sense?

That’s why the stitch counts we see within a design are not always accurate regarding the actual time it takes to run on the machine. For example: If a few text lines consisting of 50 letters and 10 words have a stitch count of 5000 and the machine is running at 500 stitches per minute, you’d assume the designs would take 10 minutes to run. BUT if that design has a trim at every letter, you need to add an additional 6000 stitches (50 x 120 stitches) of run time! That 5000-stitch design has a run time of 11000 stitches, a whopping 22 minutes of run time compared to the original 10!

When you’re running your embroidery as a business, every unnecessary trim has a significant impact on production and the output of units embroidered.

ESA Fonts Can Be Used with Fabric Assist

esa fabric assist terry clothfabric assist leather

Now aside from joining the closest point, the fact that ESA Fonts include Wilcom’s Fabric Assist capabilities differentiates them from all the competition. In the same way that EMB files work (Wilcom’s native file format),

ESA fonts allow you to choose the specific fabric type that the design is running on and automatically alter the underlay, density, and pull compensation for best results. This is literally every embroiderer’s dream come true… Better quality at the click of a button!

ESA Fonts are Easy to Resize

esa font resizing

ESA fonts are truly object-based. Because of this, they’re very friendly when it comes to resizing, especially with increasing size. Although the fonts can be decreased marginally, they can be increased in size almost without limitation.

One of the innovative (but simple) features I implemented when creating my own ESA fonts is that I always put the specific font’s minimum suggested size beside its name, for example, Bones25mm. The number in mm highlights the size that I originally digitized the font in, meaning it is the minimum size at which it would best run. Keep in mind fonts differ depending on the style, complexity, and stroke weights. By including the minimum size in the font name, the user automatically knows how to get the best possible results when embroidering.

Increasing the font size is the fun part! Because they are objects, you can make changes at the click of a button that will change effects as the fonts’ size increases.

You can automatically split stitches when widths go past 7mm.

split stitches 7mm

You can change the stitch types from satins to other stitch types.

changing stitch types

ESA Fonts are Easy to Edit: 100% Node Based

ESA Fonts are completely object-based in regards to editing. All the original node inputs used when creating the font can be adjusted within the Hatch software.

You can move, add, & change nodes. Plus, change and add stitch angles.

hatch move add change nodes

Watch the video below as I show you in this Hatch software tutorial how to successfully master the use of ESA fonts. You’ll pick up some useful tips and tricks and see how easy it is.

Want to try ESA fonts Free?

Now I know I’ve built up ESA fonts a lot… But that’s because they really are a game-changer in the home embroidery industry! In the commercial embroidery industry, ESA fonts are the gold standard. I could go on about ESA fonts all day, but I think you should try them for yourself.

esa fonts

Click here to download a free 30-day free trial of Hatch and see for yourself what makes ESA fonts so special. This full-featured demo has no limits (you can stitch out your creations) and will give you access to over 100 ESA fonts. If you do a lot of embroidery lettering or monogramming, ESA fonts will save you hours of frustration… What do you have to lose?

Embroidery Fonts for Monogramming

esa monogram

Monograms are letters that are combined and stitched close together. They often reflect someone’s initials and are a great way to personalize a gift or embellish your clothing.

Most embroidery font types, such as Stitch Types, BX, converted True Type, and ESA, can be inserted within a monogram border embroidery design. This is one of the simplest ways to create a monogram.

However, to really make monograms pop, it is best when letters are specially adjusted in look or size for whether they are placed in the middle, right or left side of the monogram. This requires each letter to be digitized 3 times for center, left, and right placement.

For best results, we recommend using embroidery software with a monogramming module such as Hatch (click here for a free 30-day trial). Depending on your software, you can also have automatic designs, and borders added to your monograms.

ESA Embroidery Fonts For Monogramming

Hatch software makes it extremely easy to create custom monograms using its monogramming tool. Every font you have loaded into your Hatch software can be used in the software’s monogram feature. You can type any letters you want, select the style, size, and crop to your preference. Any look you want to achieve with your monograms can be made or changed at the click of a button. Your options are limitless.

Where Do I Find Quality Fonts?

TrueType (TTF) Fonts

These files can be found almost anywhere online. Keep in mind that the fonts are later converted to stitch files, and because of this, the results greatly depend on the specific font you’re trying to convert.

BX Fonts

These fonts can also be found on many websites. The key to remember with these fonts is that the font’s quality will vary vastly depending on who digitized them.

Here’s a tip for you: Just because you bought a BX font from one website and it stitched out well doesn’t mean that others from that site always will too. I’ve seen many online companies use multiple digitizers or source through various companies when listing fonts or designs on their site. For this reason, the quality may not be consistent. Look for the name of the person who digitized a specific BX font that worked well for you, and try to stick with them or other digitizers who you know are reputable.

With both of the options above, it’s often kind of like playing embroidery roulette… You might get a winner, or well… a lemon.

ESA Machine Fonts

These fonts are harder to come by than the other two font types listed above but are a lot more consistent in quality.

Why? Because of how advanced they are, creating true object-based ESA fonts takes a very experienced digitizer to be accomplished correctly. They can’t merely be auto digitized or thrown together and assigned a keystroke like some other fonts.

For this reason, the old proverb, necessity is the mother of invention rings true once again!

A couple of years ago, when I was invited to become an official Hatch Reseller, I was excited to share a true Wilcom platform with the home embroidery market. Then I remembered how I used to create ESA files in the old days and realized the opportunity to share ESA technology within the home market.

So, I’ve been very busy over the last two years creating the embroidery industry’s largest independent database of professionally digitized ESA Fonts (we now have over 750+). Each one of these fonts has a 100% quality guarantee. If you’d like to see the ESA fonts we offer at Embroidery Legacy, simply click here now.

Conclusion: ESA Embroidery Fonts Are A Game-Changer

There are many different types of embroidery fonts out there. Generally speaking, unless you’re using a software brand that can run ESA fonts, the fonts that come pre-loaded in your embroidery software or machine will give you better results over buying additional fonts to add to your software (especially if these additional fonts are TrueType or BX fonts).

Now, if you’re a “fonty” person, do a lot of monogramming, or want cleaner, crisper lettering, ESA font technology is a real game-changer. ESA fonts are extremely customizable and go far beyond the limitations of other font types available.

The best part is if you’ve never tried ESA fonts, YOU GET A CHANCE TO PLAY! Not only can you try a free full featured 30-day Hatch trial (click here), but you can also play with the 101 ESA fonts that’ll come built into the software with your free trial!

If you want to browse through the world’s largest selection of ESA embroidery fonts with the most affordable prices, check out our Embroidery Legacy ESA Machine Fonts here.

Remember…regarding anything embroidery related, the proof is always in the stitching.