Start a Cap Printing Business
Cap printing is the process of printing images, logos etc. onto caps (peak/baseball caps, trucker hats and even beanies). Start your own business offering this service.
It is often hard to enter the market as a small business with little capital, but focusing on a smaller subset of the larger market will allow you to start out with less money, smaller space and even position yourself as a specialist. Also, a lot of printers don’t like to print caps as printing onto already made up caps requires a special jig and screen for screen-printing and for heat transfer printing it requires a cap heat press.
How to print onto caps
Broadly speaking there are three popular ways to decorate caps: Screen-printing, heat transfer and embroidery.
A cap that is already manufactured can be screen-printed onto using a cap jig and flexible screen that bends to fit inside the jig and folds to fit around the contours of the cap. This technique is often used in the promotional industry.
Fashion clients will often bring you the flat panels to print before the cap is made up (stitched together), this is as easy to screen-print as any flat surface and also allows the print to run into the seams – a popular technique used by clothing labels. High-density ink is a great option for this purpose as it gives the printed image an embossed look.
Screen-printing also gives you a lot of exotic options for special effect printing and all you have to do is change the ink. Popular inks for this purpose include puff inks, puff inks with (heat transfer) foil, metallic ink, glitter ink, colour change ink, discharge ink, shimmer/crystalina ink, suede ink, glow in the dark and reflective.
Heat Transfer Printing
There are a few heat transfer printing types used to print caps:
Digital heat transfer printing: Inkjet heat transfer printing, Laser heat transfer printing & Sublimation heat transfer printing (polyester caps)
Screen printing heat transfer printing
Transfer vinyl such as videoflex and foil transfers (this is cut to shape using a vinyl cutter).
Inkjet, laser and sublimation heat transfer printing is often used in the promotional industry as its cheap and fast.
Screen-printing heat transfers is a bit more interesting and are sometimes used in the fashion industry, here an image is printed in reverse (often using plastisol puff transfer inks as it has a nice effect) onto hot-peel transfer paper and that image is then applied to the cap using a heat press.
All heat transfer follows the same process:
Design image on computer
Print image in reverse/mirror onto transfer paper
Apply to cap using heat source (often a heat press)
Yes, you can use a flat heat press to press caps just like any heat source like an iron will do but I don’t like it as results can be inconsistent which is a no-no for commercial clients.
Embroidery if you are not familiar with the subject, the image is digitized and then fed to an embroidery machine where it is stitched using threads. This is a popular technique as it avoids some of the messiness of screen-printing and is permanent. But not everyone wants their design to be stitched. But it is very popular and you should invest in a machine as soon as you can as you can even embroider onto beanies. Embroidery and screen-printing can also be used together for sophisticated designs.
Mass-produced promotional & fashion
Also see – Make and Sell Custom Trucker Caps which deals with once-off customised caps