Patches 101: Anatomy of a Quality Patch

  • May 19, 2021

What makes up an incredible patch, anyway?

Is it the materials used to make it – every individual thread, piece of fabric, and backing?

Is it the savvy, eye-catching design that makes heads turn and people ask “where did you get that?”, even when it’s just an unassuming 3×3 patch?

Is it the overall durability, how it manages to look both worn-in and like-new from day 1 to day 1001?

Is it the affordability, the level of quality you’re able to get for less than your signature drink at Starbucks?

Honestly? There isn’t one right answer to that question. A quality patch is more than the sum of its parts. It can elevate an entire piece to a totally new level of style.

If you’re considering selling patches online or decorating custom merch with patches, you simply can’t afford to spend your good $$ on cheap or low-quality patches. Your customers deserve so much better than that!

But it can be difficult to know what to look for as you’re researching different custom patch manufacturers, especially when you can’t see the products in person.

You don’t have to be a patch expert to make sure you’re ordering high-quality patches that will sell well and last forever. You just need to know the basics.

So get your notebook out and put your thinking cap on! Welcome to Patches 101, where you’ll learn all about the anatomy of a quality patch.

The Anatomy of a Quality Patch

A quality patch is made up of good materials, solid backing, smart design, and excellent production – ideally with a 100% satisfaction guarantee to back all of those elements up.

Patch Materials

A patch can go way beyond fabric, needle, and thread. A patch is loosely defined as a piece of fabric (or other material) that can be used to decorate a piece of fabric (or other material). That leaves A LOT of room to play!

Classic patches are usually made with polyester-blend fabric and thread… but there’s a lot more where that came from!

Here are a few other patch materials you can choose from:

  • Chenille
  • Leather
  • PVC
  • Polyester
  • Blend Twill
  • Felt
  • Black Ballistic
  • Wire
  • Nylon
  • Camouflage
  • Reflective
  • Mylar

When it comes to the highest quality patch material you can choose, that really depends on the design of your patch and the style you’re going for.

For example, if you’re looking for a patch to go on a scout uniform, only a traditional fabric-and-thread patch will do – anything else might stick out in a bad way.

But if you’re decorating a plain black backpack, the more pop, the better – lots of textures can make the design more eclectic and more fun.

The patch material you choose will affect not only the overall look of your patch but also the durability. Fabric-and-thread patches have a classic look, but PVC patches or bullion patches will hold up better if you’re planning on affixing them onto a work uniform or a rain jacket. 

It’s possible to have a high-quality patch using any of these fabric types – it’s most important to make sure the craftsmanship is good and the materials match the design and the purpose.

Patch Type

Did you know there are 7 different types of patches? Each type of patch varies in terms of looks, production, style, and durability. The type of patch you choose will also impact the overall quality, cost, and feel of your patch.

Here are the 7 types of custom patches you can create at The/Studio:

  • Custom embroidered patches – custom embroidered patches are made with fabric backing and high-quality threading to achieve that classic 3D patch look. 
  • Custom woven patches – these patches are similar to embroidered patches, but a little less high quality. While they’re still very well made and attractive, they’re thinner and less traditional. Woven patches are better for designs that require high levels of detail or small text since they use a much tighter weave & no texture. They’re also available at a significantly lower cost. 
  • Custom printed patches – these patches involve multicolor screen printing on fabric, allowing for a photorealistic result, with endless color options and a high level of detail. These patches are also available at a comparatively lower cost. 
  • Custom bullion patches – these high-quality patches use sturdy fabric and durable wire stitching for a bold, textured look that’s great for logos and other designs that really need to pop with texture and color.
  • Custom chenille patches – these fluffy patches offer a textured feel and a vintage look, for the type of patches you might see on letterman jackets. 
  • Custom leather patches – leather patches add a classic look to denim, black canvas, or other fabric. Just be sure to find a manufacturer that makes these patches with real, high-quality leather with a variety of color options. 
  • Custom PVC patches – These highly durable, rubberized patches are great for three-dimensional designs that need to withstand any conditions. 

So what’s the most high-quality type of patch? Again, that depends on your design and what you think your customers will plan on using them for. When done right, any type of patch is capable of looking and feeling high quality. But the sturdiest, highest quality patches would probably have to be embroidered (if you’re looking for a classic patch), bullion, leather, or PVC patches.

Patch Backing

Though your patch backing may not have much bearing on how your patch looks, it will have a huge effect on the actual and perceived quality.

Patch quality isn’t just about appearances – it’s about actual wearability and durability.

In other words, if your patch falls off when it’s supposed to stay on… that’s a major red flag, one that might make your customers not want to come back to your shop to buy more patches or merch!

Iron-on backing is a classic for a reason – it’s easy to affix anywhere you’d like, but it doesn’t fall off easily. All you need to attach your patch is an iron and a flat surface. (And a certain level of commitment to place your patch there permanently!)

Not crazy about iron-on? Here are a few other patch backing options available:

  • Velcro backing
  • Hook and loop backing
  • Adhesive backing
  • Thin plastic backing
  • Magnetic backing
  • Pins

While iron-on backing is the most popular and traditional patch backing, other patch backing options can be equally high-quality. If you’d prefer to give your customers the flexibility to switch things up and place their patches on different surfaces rather than ironing it on permanently to one spot, definitely look into other backing options. 

Patch Design

The quality of your patch design is mostly up to you… for better or for worse!

It doesn’t matter how high-quality the patch itself is… if it’s ugly, no one’s going to want to rep it. (Let alone buy it!)

The four main elements of good patch design are:

  • Color scheme – if it works for you and your brand, go with bold, contrasting colors to make your patch stand out
  • Simple composition – since patches are small, be sure to keep details to a minimum to keep your patch from looking too cluttered
  • Clear text – if your design includes text, make sure they’re big and clear enough to be legible
  • Right patch type – choose a patch type that best suits your patch design, whether you’re after crisp detail work or a textured look.

If you’re a designer, you might already have the design side of things covered.

But if you’re not a designer, that’s okay, too! You’ll still need to do some serious brainstorming about what you want out of your patch and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve, but you can leave the actual design work to an expert.

If you create your custom patch with The/Studio, you’ll get free expert patch design thrown in with your order, with unlimited revisions.

Learn how to design a great patch here (whether you’re planning on handling the artwork yourself or commissioning someone else to do it!)

Not sure whether your current patch design is high quality? Check out these 50 patch designs for inspo, or ask friends for honest feedback!

Patch Production

All of the above things could be A+, high-quality work…

But if your manufacturer cuts corners, none of the rest of that stuff will matter.

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a customer come to us after receiving patches from a different company that had loose stitching, huge variation between patches, uneven backing, or other quality control issues. 

(We don’t mean to scare you, but it happens all the time… especially when all you have to go off of is a few photos on the internet!)

Here at The/Studio, we pride ourselves in offering incredible quality and on-demand manufacturing. Even with rapid turnaround times and fair pricing, we’ve partnered with some of the best factories in the world to provide beautiful custom patches you’ll be proud to put your own name behind. And with industry-leading customer service and the chance to see a sample before beginning mass production, you’ll be able to address any mistakes that could arise quickly and confidently.

Patch Guarantees

How can you be absolutely SURE you’ll get a quality patch? Go with a manufacturer who provides a 100% quality guarantee. That way, you can place an order without the risk of ending up with products that don’t meet your store’s own quality standard.

ProPatches provides a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all custom products. This means if you happen to feel dissatisfied for any reason, including quality concerns, you’re entitled to receive a full refund or replacement. Either way, you’re covered – either you’ll get your money back should any problems arise, or you’ll end up with a beautifully made product you can’t wait to sell to your customers. (Spoiler alert: it’s gonna be the second one!)

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