What are some of the best decorating methods for caps?

If you plan to sell decorated headwear, a cap press is a wise investment. Some people think cap presses exclusively decorate baseball caps, but that isn’t the case. A cap press can decorate other types of hats, including military hats, skull caps, straw hats, visors, safari hats, and fedoras.   

If decorating with sublimation, try to find a 100 percent polyester hat without any parts that will melt under the heat. Simply select the design, position it on the cap, and follow the directions for sublimating the fabric. A cap press is necessary for sublimation because of the high heat used for sublimation.

For a hat that isn’t 100 percent polyester or has parts that would melt, you can sublimate a design on a 100 percent polyester fabric and attach it to the cap. Patches are often used in this situation. Another option is to sublimate fabric and create an appliqué that attaches to the hat. Once the appliqué is properly sublimated, it can be sewn onto the hat to avoid heat entirely. 

To directly decorate a hat that isn’t 100 percent polyester or can’t withstand high temperatures, screen printing is a good option. Some screen printer equipment manufacturers offer attachments for presses or specially design equipment for screen printing hats. While you can screen print a hat without special attachments, they make the process easier. 

If you don’t have screen printing equipment, you can order screen print transfers. These transfers can be as simple as iron-on graphics, although they may not be durable enough for professional use. Screen print transfers can also be applied with a heat press. Stock numbers or letters are often available, or some companies create these transfers on demand.

If bling is your thing, rhinestones might be up your alley. Rhinestones add glitter and shine and get noticed. As with the other decoration techniques, there are two options for rhinestones. One option is to glue rhinestones directly to the hat. The design is usually imprinted on the hat and then covered with rhinestones to create the finished design. This method can be time consuming but creates one-of-a-kind hats and designs.  

When time is of the essence, another option is premade rhinestone transfers. These transfers come in a variety of sizes, designs, and colors and are placed with a heat press. As with screen print transfers, stock and custom rhinestone transfers are available. This option still allows you to bring the bling without messing with glue or worrying about incorrect placement that ruins the design. 

One decoration option many people don’t consider is direct-to-garment printing. Most people think of direct-to-garment printing as a way to print T-shirts, but it can also print hats. Many direct-to-garment printers can accommodate a cap attachment, which is designed to hold caps in place while printing.   The attachments are also adjustable to print on a variety of hats.  

Another decorating technique is vinyl. Letters cut out of vinyl are useful for personalizing hard hats or helmets. Vinyl can be cut into logos and sealed to the front of a hat with heat, and reflective vinyl stickers make hats visible in low-light situations. As with other decoration techniques, the hats used need to withstand heat. 

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