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Screen Printing Hats

When you think of screen printing you typically think of t-shirts. However, here at Bolt we will screen print sweatshirts, sweatpants, bags and hats as well! We want to make sure we are providing you with as many options as you’d like, so screen printing on these items basically comes as second nature at this point.

Today we’d like to talk about screen printing on hats, what that process is like and how we make it look as awesome as it does! Embroidery on hats is probably the most common method of hat designs, but there is a market that prefers screen printing on these products instead. This can especially be true when looking at local sports teams, different souvenir shops and even some promotional items.

A perk of screen printing on hats versus embroidery is that finer artwork and finer details can be made noticeable. But hats like trucker hats and baseball caps can pose their own unique challenges to achieving the client’s wishes.

The Cap

One of the main reasons people won’t want to deal with screen printing on hats is because of the perception of it being such a huge hurdle to overcome. Hats can often be seen as “less desirable” simply because of the special equipment that may be required to make it work. Yet all it takes to make this work is going to be investing in the machinery to screen print on hats and making the commitment to learn how to become a pro at this technology. Once you start this process, you will quickly learn that screen printing on hats has very little difference in comparison to screen printing on shirts.

Another issue that screen printers can run into when printing on hats is the center seam that is found on the front of the baseball caps. Recently this has been less of an issue because of the rise in trucker hat popularity, especially since these trucker hats can often be found with pretty attractive price points.

No matter your level of experience with screen printing, you can probably agree with us that screen printing is an art and a skill. Any just like with any skill, it takes practice to become a master with the various variables screen printing has. You need to consider sizes of platens, sizes of shirts, hats, bags, you even have to consider the center of the product you are printing on and the material it is made out of to optimize the product’s results. Once you have these factors answered and spoken for, you begin to move onto an entirely new set of potential problems.


Assuming that you’ve screen printed before, you know that darker colored shirts and garments mean that it needs an underbase for the design to be seen and actually pop out. It requires the use of high-opacity inks or like we’re talking about here, underbases. This layer is what we call a flood layer, and it typically is a white or lighter color that is used as the base coloring/primer so the actual design can be visible on the garment.

Whichever method is being used, the underbase will still need to be flash cured before any other colors are going to be printed over it. The reason for this is because it allows for that underbase to be sealed properly and prevents the darker surface from showing through the artwork. It is also likely you will need to apply the underbase twice in order to create a proper opaque background on the garment.

Now if you decide to not do this and think that just printing the design with high-opacity ink will be enough, take this as your warning that the results will look dull and the design won’t feel as soft. This is all because having an underbase allows for you to use a lower mesh count on the base levels while switching to a higher count mesh for the design itself.

Another thing to take note of is when using a white underbase, it is going to require an extra screen for that garment. A neat secret for this process is to slightly choke the art so the white doesn’t peek out from underneath the actual design. Without proper choking, the white layer is going to be visible as layers start building up.

It is also important to keep note that choking does not mean reducing the size of the original image, but rather to make the design’s outline a tad thinner/skinnier. When you do this it allows the top color to appear brighter and then fade into the dark background causing the illusion of a perfect border. Afterall, the best type of underbase is the one you can’t see after you’ve finished printing. Once the underbase has dried, you are ready to move on with your screen printing just as you would normally.

Artwork Requirements

Suitable artwork for hats can be more challenging than a t-shirt especially since the spatial area is limited and the curved surface can cause distortions. If you work with a design that uses shapes like circles, you may want to consider consulting your graphic designer to see if your circle is going to print as an oval.

There is also a few general guidelines for printing on hats:

  1. Designs should be no more than 5″ x 2.5″ for foam-front trucker hats (5 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall)

  2. Lettering must be at least 10-12 point size and converted to a shape instead of a font

  3. All lines need to be at least 1 point thick

  4. Keep the positioning of the design in mind, because a poorly placed design can come off as very disturbing if it is out of balance with the rest of the hat

Here at BOLT Screen Printing we pride ourselves in creating quality custom apparel that brings your vision to life. We have assembled a team of professionals, who strive to understand your goals and assist you with out of the box advertising and branding techniques. We combine our knowledge of all things apparel with your project goals in order to provide killer gear and a stress-free experience.

With an ambition to create premium quality vintage threads, Bolt was born. From our passion of creating the best clothing for our clothing store Opolis and our customers expressing the desire to see their designs on our high-quality apparel we knew the next step would be to open Bolt. After being in the industry for over 13 years, we've perfected the process of turning amazing ideas into even better results. Contact us today by emailing us at our NEW email, or give us a call at 405-493-9557!

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