Bespoke caps never go out of fashion, and most people have several favorite caps and want to add more to their collections.
There are different ways to print on custom hats depending on your requirements and whether you’d like to give it a try at home, want to start a business, or even grow an existing printing company.
Read more to learn about the different processes – and which is the best fit for you.
How Do You Print Something on a Hat?
There are two ways: digital transfer printing with a heat press or screen printing.
Printing on Hats – Printing vs. Embroidery
With embroidery, creating one hat can take 15-20 minutes. If you’re running a hat business, that will significantly affect your profits compared to printing.
Most embroidery machines run an average of 850 stitches per minute, so standard caps take around 15 minutes to make –only four caps per hour.
Cap retailers who use embroidery have to keep ready-made caps in stock to increase their output. This is risky if you’re not up to date with the current trends.
Compare this with custom printing images based purely on customer demand; you’ll never have caps that don’t sell.
Digital printing is easy compared to embroidery. The operator must digitize each design with machine embroidery, turning an image into a thread-based template that the embroidery machine can understand and produce.
Some images are easy to convert, while others are more complex and time-consuming.
Compare this with transfer printing, where simple software resizes the image before printing it ready to go. There is virtually no prep time.
It’s also much easier to pick up the principles of transfer printing, whereas, with an embroidery machine, you’ll need to learn to thread needles correctly and change them when they wear out. The machines need proper maintenance, too.
Digital printing allows you to produce more caps per hour/day and avoids the complexities of transferring an image into a stitch-ready format for the embroidery machine.
With complex designs, the time taken to digitize a picture or logo is not viable for small orders. Of course, you can add a fee, but this might send your customer to another supplier who can print at a cheaper cost and more quickly.
Most businesses use their equipment to offer products other than caps, but with an embroidery machine, you’re limited to what you can stitch on.
Transfer printing can apply an image to almost anything – a versatile technology for an easy startup or business expansion.
How Do You Screen Print a Hat at Home?
You’ll need a few inexpensive pieces of equipment, which we’ll discuss in each stage.
1. Buy a Hat Platen
A platen is a device that converts a cap or hat into a flat surface for printing. And luckily, they’re affordable and easy to acquire online.
It’s also worth investing in a hinge frame kit for the hat platen as this helps the user lift the screen evenly. Otherwise, it’s difficult to lift off without moving or smearing the wet ink.
Adding a hinged frame also allows you to check the hat between coats to accurately build up the right amount of color.
You can use a picture frame of the correct size instead of a platen frame or make your own out of four pieces of wood.
2. Create a Screen
Make or buy a small frame around 4” x 6” in size. Use fine mesh curtain material – it should be almost sheer – stretch it over the frame and staple it on.
You’ll need to treat the mesh with a special screen print emulsion product. Just coat the mesh and let it dry in a dark place.
3. Design your Logo
Print out your logo and create a logo transparency – your local copy shop can help with this.
Place your logo transparency on the dried screen backward, securing it with clear glass. You need to place the screen under strong light; a clear 150-watt light bulb will do the trick. Leave the screen under the light for about 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, turn off the light and run the screen under cool tap water to break down the emulsion. You should see it change color, which means the substance is weakening.
Use the spray nozzle to continue washing the logo area on a very light setting. Place the screen back under the light to dry completely.
4. Cover the Sides of the Frame with Duct Tape
This prevents the ink from running into the corners.
5. And Print!
Choose a five-panel cap; these don’t usually have a center seam. Secure the hat on the platen with spray tack adhesive or clamps.
Place the screen on the hat and add a line to ink to one side. Spread the ink evenly and firmly with two swift strokes using a squidgy. Lift the hinge to check the application of the ink.
When the hat is finished, let the logo dry naturally, and then finish it with a hairdryer or heat gun to seal the image.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Transfer a Picture to a Hat?
Screen printing transfers a picture to a hat and is something you can do at home with basic DIY skills or a few inexpensive items bought online.
The image is turned into a transparency and transferred from a screen onto the hat using special paint. The cap is then held flat in a device called a platen.
Need Help Printing Custom Hats? Shop The/Studio!
Take a look at The/Studio’s range of custom hats. There’s a vast choice; you don’t need to buy in bulk!