Throw your hat into the summer headwear ring with these DTF and vinyl cap decorating techniques from Xpres and Target Transfers

Andy Rogers, marketing manager at Target Transfers, recommends using thicker vinyl on caps as this is the most profitable option.

“By adding a more dimensional look and feel to your designs, the perceived value of using this finish compared to normal HTV could be £5 or more per hat. But your material cost will only be around 20p extra per hat,” he explains.

Andy says that the biggest mistake decorators make is giving up after attempting to print two or three hats.

“When you first start printing hats it will take you time to get used to decorating over seams or leaving enough time before you peel the carrier from the vinyl.” He suggests that you take at least a couple of hours to get used to, and comfortable with, fusing onto hats.

Customers are demanding bold, dimensional finishes, Andy reports. “The UK hat market is following in the footsteps of the much larger US hat market from a style perspective.”

With big growth expected for 2023 and with US hat retail chains setting up on the high street, Andy’s advice is to be prepared to offer your customers bold finishes on headwear products.

According to Emily Crane, product development assistant at Xpres, there are many positives to printing caps using the direct-to-film (DTF) process. She explains that it enables full-colour prints, no weeding is required, the transfer has a ‘thin’ feel once applied and in place, and the cap can be bent or stretched without any distortion or cracking of the transfer.

There are some points to take into consideration, however, the first of which is that the print area needs to be smooth with no ridges. Also, a cap press is needed to achieve even pressure, plus it’s a two-press process with a cold peel, which can be a little time-consuming. Finally, it can be hard to position the film as it doesn’t have a tacky backing.

That said, the process is straightforward and enables printers to apply detailed, full-colour prints to caps with minimal fuss.


(1) Cut your design. We used Stahls’ High Build 3D – with dimensional vinyl, we recommend using a high-quality vinyl cutter, like the Graphtec CE7000-60 used here, as the advanced motor can handle the thicker vinyl and cut the corners with more accuracy than a craft cutter. The blade had a cutting angle of 45° and a speed of 30cm/s

(2) Weed your vinyl. When using chunky vinyl, try to stick to bold imagery. As well as being much easier to weed it will make more impact as a design. For the best results on hats, I also recommend having a maximum design size of 6cm high

(3) Once you’ve weeded your vinyl, it’s time to choose the hat. With an advanced application machine like the Hotronix 360 IQ Hat Press used here, you can now fuse onto any hat type, with any number of panels, including six-panel styles

(4) Set your heat press up. Because high-build vinyl is 10 times thicker than a standard flex or stretch vinyl, you are going to need both upper and lower heat. By incorporating lower heat into the process, you can get closer to the vinyl adhesive by fusing from the inside of the hat

(5) For high-build 3D we recommend setting the top platen to between 120-140°C and the bottom platen to 160°C. Pressure should be medium and the fuse time 45 seconds, using the thinnest foam pad that comes with the machine

(6) The peel. This is where people become unstuck (no pun intended). Because hats retain the heat for longer than a T-shirt or hoodie, and because you are fusing both the top and bottom of the hat, you must wait much longer before peeling on cold peel products. The vinyl must be completely cold, which could take a few minutes


(1) Within the design software (we used CorelDraw), finalise and size the design and export it in EPS or PDF format

(2) We used the Roland BN-20D DTF printer with Kodak DTF film. Open Roland’s software VersaWorks and add the EPS to the job list, and duplicate. Two prints are needed: one to print CMYK and one to print white over the top

(3) Once the job has been sent and finished printing, lift the pinch roller lever and wind the roll of film forward to allow room for the print to be cut off with a pair of scissors

(4) While the ink is still wet, apply the Kodak Hotmelt adhesive powder. There are different methods of doing this, however we recommend using our powder tray. Place the sheet of film with the wet print face up in the tray and gently shake the powder in the box to generously cover the design. Once the print is covered, lift the film out of the box and shake or flick away any excess Hotmelt powder

(5) Next, cure the Hotmelt powder and print. We used the Schulze KN-800 tunnel dryer. When the powder is melted correctly it will have a glossy, orange-peel appearance. Once cured, carefully remove the sheet from the dryer

(6) Cut loosely around the design and then position the transfer in place on the cap and use heat tape to secure in place

(7) We used the Sefa Clam Cap Press to heat press the front panel of the cap. Position the cap on the press, cover with a silicone sheet and press the cap with light/medium pressure at 160°C for 15 seconds

(8) Carefully remove the cap from the press, allow it to cool down then gently peel the film. Then, position the cap back on the press, cover with a silicone sheet and repress for a further 15 seconds

(9) The DTF-printed cap