Screen Printing on Hats | Everything You Need to Know

Screen printing on hats is similar to printing on polyester, nylon, denim and other fabrics. As the other fabrics have a large area for prints. In the case of hats and caps, only logos and small text are added. Screen printing on caps and other headwear adds value to design and aesthetics.

The following items must be present in the screen-printing workshop before starting the process

  • Hinge Frame Kit
  • Blank Hats
  • Speedball Fabric Ink
  • Cricut Maker
  • Cricut Easy Press Mini to heat set the ink
  • Transfer Tape
  • Hat Platen
  • Clamps to hold the hat in place

How to Screen Print on Hats or Caps (Step-by-Step Guide)

In the following lines, a detailed discussion in the form of a step-by-step guide is available. If you follow these guidelines accurately, improved results will come out.

Step – 1: Design Creation

The first important step is design creation to be printed on a hat or cap. Beginners can use Canva pro and photoshop for designing purposes, while experts work with adobe illustrator. In the case of multicolor design, each color design is printed separately.

Step – 2: Stencil Preparation

After creating the desired design, it’s transferred onto screens or stencils. These screens are manufactured of nylon and polyester. A photo-sensitive emulsion is applied as a coating on the screens and hardened in the presence of light.

Some areas of the stencil remain soft where light is blocked. After exposure to light, the stencil is washed with water, removing the emulsion’s soft, unexposed areas and leaving a stencil with a hardened design.

Step – 3: Prepare the Hat Platen

Now, take the hat or cap platen and clean it thoroughly to eliminate any dirt debris and previous residue of ink. Applying a releasing agent such as spray is recommended to help release the stencil.

Step – 4: Preparing the Hat or Cap Blanks

Before printing, the hat or cap needs to be prepared by cleaning it and ensuring it is free of debris.

Step – 5: Time to Print!

When all the arrangements have been made, it’s time to start screen printing on the hat. Fix the hat or cap blank onto the hat platen and clamp it tightly. Ink is then forced through the stencil onto the hat fabric using a squeegee. If the design has multiple colors, repeat the process of forcing ink for each color.

Step – 6: Curing the Design

Curing the screen print design is the process of ink setting through various methods to make the design permanent on the hat or cap. A few of the following ways are employed depending upon the type of hat material and ink.

Heat Cure: If we use plastisol ink, we must cure it by heating it in a heat press or hair dryer. After a few minutes, the design will dry, and the screen print design becomes permanent on the hat fabric.

Air Dry: Most experts keep the screen-printed headwear in their shops in the open air. The ink set typically takes about 24 hours in case of air drying.

Gas-fired Curing: This method is used to cure water-based and discharge inks. The print is exposed to heat inside a gas-fired dryer.

Also, it is essential to test the curing process to ensure that the ink is fully cured and will not wash off or fade.

Step – 7: Inspection

This final step is to check the screen-printed design or logo on hats. If any mistake or imperfection is found, it can be corrected. After a complete inspection, it can be stored or packed and shipped.

Related: Can You Screen Print on Polyester

What Is Hat Platen and Why Is It Used in Screen Printing of Hats?

A hat platen is an essential part of the screen-printing machine. It is made of wood, plastic, and metallic materials. It’s designed to show a smooth or flat surface, and the cap or hat can fit on the surface.

The platen helps to ensure the hat or cap is securely placed while the ink is applied through a squeegee. This also helps to prevent the hat from moving during the printing process.

The platen can also be heated to help fix the ink on the fabric, making the print more durable. This is called flash curing; it’s a standard method to improve the ink on the headwear.

Suitable Inks for Screen Printing on Hats

Various inks are available in the printing business, such as sublimation printing, DTG, and screen printing. Each technique requires suitable ink to have the best results.

  • The first type is Plastisol, the most commonly used ink while printing on headwear. This is done by suspending PVC particles in a plasticizer, making them opaque and thick. Such ink is employed on a wide variety of fabrics like cotton, polyester, and nylon.
  • The second one is water-based ink which is eco-friendlier than Plastisol. These are manufactured by suspending pigment in water. It gives a soft touch after screen printing on hats. These can be cured in a gas-fired conveyor or a hair dryer.
  • Discharge ink is a special ink used for screen printing on dark-colored hats such as black. This ink works by removing the dye from the hat fabric and printing it.

Challenges in Screen Printing of Caps and Hats

Screen printing is complex compared to other printing techniques. It requires skill, creativity, and patience. A lot of problems are faced by unskilled and less creative people in the screen-printing business. Following are some difficulties you may encounter during screen printing on hats and caps.

  • Alignment: The caps and hats have curved surfaces, making it challenging to align with the stencil and desired design. A hat platen and cap press help hold the headwear in a fixed place to ensure better results.
  • Ink Adhesion: Some caps are made of materials that may not absorb ink well, making it difficult to achieve a consistent print. Pretreatment or using specific inks and stencils can help with adhesion.
  • Ink Thickness: Caps have a small surface area, making it challenging to achieve an even ink thickness across the entire design. This can be overcome by adjusting the screen tension and stencil thickness.
  • Curing: Some caps may require a specific curing process, such as heat or UV curing, to set the ink and ensure that it will not wash off or fade.
  • Durability: Some caps may have a lot of wear and tear, so it’s essential to use high-quality inks and stencils so that the design can withstand the rigors of daily use.

Care Instructions for Screen-Printed Hats or Caps

To ensure that screen-printed hats or caps last as long as possible, it’s essential to follow the proper care instructions.

Here are some general guidelines for caring for screen-printed headwear:

Read the care instructions on the tag attached to the hat. Most screen-printed hats can be washed in cold water but should not be put in the dryer. Instead, they should be laid flat to dry. If the cap is made of a delicate fabric, such as wool or cashmere, it should be dry cleaned.

Avoid excessive sunlight, as prolonged sun exposure can cause the ink to fade. Store the hats or caps in a cool, dry place, and avoid leaving them in direct sunlight for extended periods.

Handle with care to avoid bending or crushing the hat’s brim, as this can damage the hat’s structure and design.

Clean stains immediately when the hat or cap gets stained. Try to clean it as soon as possible to prevent the stain from setting in.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or detergents, as harsh bleach and other chemicals can ruin the design and fabric of headwear.

If necessary, iron the hat on a low heat setting and avoid ironing the design directly.

It’s recommended to check the care instructions before washing or cleaning the hat or cap to ensure that it’s done correctly.

How to Clean Screen-Printed Trucker Hat?

Here are a few tips for cleaning a screen-printed trucker hat:

  • Brush off any dirt or debris using a soft-bristled brush. This is a good option for removing loose dirt or dust from the hat.
  • Spot clean with mild detergent and water. Dampen a cloth or sponge with a small amount of mild detergent and water, and gently rub the soiled area. Rinse the hat thoroughly and allow it to dry. Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the print or fabric of the hat.
  • Hand washes the hat in cold water, using a mild detergent if necessary. Be gentle and avoid wringing or twisting the cap, which can damage the print or fabric.
  • Allow the hat to air dry. Avoid using a dryer or iron, as the heat can cause the print to crack or peel
  • Use a specialized cleaner specifically designed for cleaning screen-printed garments. These cleaners are gentle on the print and can help remove stains or marks without damaging the print.

Related: How to Wash and Dry Screen-Printed T-Shirts

The Best Technique to Decorate Hats: Screen Printing Vs. Embroidery Vs. Heat Press

Screen printing, embroidery, and heat transfer are all popular methods of decorating hats, but each has unique advantages and disadvantages.

Screen printing is a popular method for decorating hats because it is inexpensive and can produce large quantities of screen-printed hats with a consistent design. It is best suited for printing simple designs with one or two colors and curing ultimately to resist fading and washing off.

Embroidery is an expensive method but provides a premium look compared to screen printing on hats. It is also more durable and can create a more detailed and professional look. It is best suited for designs with multiple colors and intricate details.

In the case of heat transfer, a pre-printed design is transferred onto a hat using heat and pressure. It’s a cost-effective way to produce small quantities of hats with a detailed design.

It’s best suited for full-color designs and logos. However, the print quality could be better than the other two methods, and the print may crack or peel over time.

Screen printing is an excellent option for producing large quantities of hats with simple designs. Ultimately, the choice of method will depend on the design, quantity, and budget of the project

Final Thoughts

Screen printing on headwear is similar to screen printing shirts, jackets, and other fabrics. But, in the case of hats such as trucker hat needs a lot of effort, grip over skill, and patience.

Single and multicolor prints can be achieved in screen printing by taking the print of each color design separately.

Curing is the most crucial step in screen printing as it decides the final quality of the design. If the curing of the screen print on the hat is not proper, it will wash off and fade out.

While cleaning and washing the screen-printed hats, the care instructions must be followed. Otherwise, you will ruin the hat’s screen print design and fabric.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will my logo fit on the cap?

The maximum size for the logo on the hat is 2.25″ x 4.5″, and the minimum height is 0.25″. Screen printing of the logo also depends upon the position. We can screen print on the back of a cap if it is one color and simple text.

Can all caps be screen printed?

No, all types of hats or caps cannot be screen printed. Most of the time, 5-panel seamless caps are preferred.

How many colors can I have printed on caps?

Two colors. Generally, a cap style owes two colors to be screen printed. But shirts can have four color screen print variations.

Why should you try screen printing hats when other methods may be easier?

Screen printing is cost-effective compared t other printing techniques in bulk orders. A screen-printing machine can be employed with different attachments for printing on the hats. In contrast, embroidery and sublimation require significant capital for printing on hats or caps.

Can You Screen Print on A Beanie?

Yes, it is possible to screen print on a beanie. Beanies are made of knit fabric, a suitable surface to screen print on. However, screen printing on a beanie can be challenging compared to a flat surface, as the print needs to be aligned correctly on the curved surface of the beanie, and the ink may absorb unevenly.

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