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Woven patch cap (Image courtesy Burly Vinson, Snappiesco.com)

The Pros and Cons of Various Patch Caps

We have many options for the types of patches we can use, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Whether attempting a vintage look or pushing the boundaries with an updated take on the theme, the decoration method we choose greatly affects the impression of the finished piece. With that in mind, here are the pros and cons of common hat patch styles. 

Embroidery

With the classic style that customers expect, the embroidered emblem harkens back to those giveaway caps of yesteryear. 

Pros: The vintage look is a natural fit and the dimension and shine of embroidery creates welcome visual interest, even with single-color designs. 

Cons: Like all embroidery, smooth gradients, fine details, and small text can cause problems. Even when outsourcing, depending on the patch supplier, digitizing fees may apply. 

Sublimation

This full-color process creates photorealistic, durable images on polyester. A favorite fiber used with extreme regularity both in pre-edged patch blanks and for appliqué materials. 

Pros: If you have a heat press, you can order transfers from a supplier and sublimate your pieces. Moreover, if you are looking to add a full-color digital printing process to your shop, sublimation has one of the smallest financial bars to entry. 

Cons: It only prints on polyester, and though you can print on some light colors, getting a full gamut of colors is only possible on white. With patches, you can easily print the entire surface to look like any color you need behind your main image, but color matching can be difficult. 

Woven

This technology that most of us associate with woven clothing labels is actually capable of producing finely detailed multi-colored emblems, ripe for attachment to your favorite headwear. 

Pros: Extremely fine detail is possible. And, unlike printing, the image does have some surface texture. 

Cons: Woven emblems are very flat, despite appearing less so than prints. They are much flatter than embroidery and have none of the benefits of multiple stitch angles. Woven patches also need to be outsourced. Where you might have the equipment for many of the other processes, these machines are much rarer and depending on the company creating your patches, you can wait anywhere from 10 days on an urgent rush to 22 days on a standard turnaround time. 

D2

D2 (direct-to-garment) gives us a look comparable to screen printing with the relative ease of the digital processing. It allows us to print on non-polyester and, depending on the printer, dark colored substrates. 

Pros: Digital production makes the design phase much easier and less costly, allowing you to print fine detail and full color on a wide variety of background materials. 

Cons: If you aren’t already a D2 printer, it’s one of the most expensive methods on this list. Though D2 shares the flat nature of sublimation, the look of a D2 or screen-printed piece can sometimes come off as “cheap” to certain clients. Adding a stitched edge or other effect can mitigate this, but some clients simply won’t accept the look in this context.

Find the full article "All Patched Up: Creating the Popular Patch Cap" in Printwear's July issue. To ensure that you can access this and other industry focused pieces, subscribe today!