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Beginner's handbook

Custom Embroidered Hats – the Guide to Creating a Design and Embroidery File

By Reading Time: 6 minutes

You know what’s beautiful? A crisp, concise bold message on a cap, the accessory that pulls your entire look together.

There’s no denying that a classic, sleek snapback hat brings an entirely new level of badassery to a look, and certainly will add character to your product range.

We’ll go through the entire process from beginning to end – of choosing an embroidery-friendly design, how you can create the design file itself, what to avoid, and how to create a mockup image.

Principles of embroidery-friendly design

Or rather, how to design a super cool custom embroidery hat.

Many store owners make the same mistake, over and over again. They take one of their designs (that maybe worked really well on t-shirts), and they try to put it on hats.

Big mistake.


Embroidery is an entirely different beast compared to garment printing. For that reason, it requires an entirely different approach to creating a successful design. Here are some key elements to keep in consideration to designing your custom hat embroidery designs.

As always, keep in mind that your designs have to follow our Acceptable Content Guidelines.


A simple, minimalistic design can have a striking impact. Simple designs are easy to embroider and have a finished look with nice, tight lines. For example, a basic design with minimal details can look striking with a white thread against a black cap.

It’s best to avoid small, detailed designs, as those are difficult to embroider. For flat embroidery, the minimum thickness for shapes is 0.05″ and the max is 0.5″. For 3D puff, the minimum thickness is 0.2″ and the maximum is 0.5″. There should also be a space of at least 0.5″ between multiple 3D objects.

The main point? Use minimalist, bold designs with thick lines.

Limited colors


Image courtesy of

When using embroidery tactics, the number of thread colors you use will impact the quality of the hat.

If you choose to use multiple colors, make sure that they’re large enough details to be able to sew well. Like these letters and forms in the hat above.

Keep in mind that there’s a limit to how many thread colors you can use. We offer 15 different colors, but you’re limited to 2 colors for 3D puff, 4 for flat embroidery, and 6 for a mix of partial and 3D puff.

Flat embroidery, 3D puff, or both?


You can choose to print your design using flat embroidery, 3D puff embroidery, or a mix of both (image courtesy of Rhinodillo Designs).

3D puff embroidery is when you see the raised embroidery threads. In the image above, it’s the white embroidery. It costs an extra $1.50 if you decide on this option.

Flat embroidery is when the thread lays flat on the hat. In the image above, it’s the red thread.

Partial 3D puff, however, is when a combination of both flat and 3D puff are used in one hat.




Image courtesy of

A good hat design has a good balance.

One rule of thumb is to have your design focused on the middle bottom, and have it span out from there. Centering your design is a must, as most people don’t want to seem lopsided when wearing their hats.

Side embroidery

For a really polished look, you can add a small logo of yours on the side of the cap. Ideally, you would add either a small logo, your company initials, or something else that’s small and can fit in the side space. You can also only use flat embroidery for sides – no 3D puff.

It’s available on both sides of the cap, or just one. Or you can also skip the front embroidery altogether and just design a cap with side embroidery. Here’s how the pricing breaks down:

  • Just one side (no front embroidery): base price
  • Both sides (no front embroidery): base price +$3
  • Front and one side: base price +$3
  • Front and both sides: base price +$6

How to create an embroidery file

Embroidery sewing machines “read” designs entirely differently than printing machines. For that reason, creating an embroidery file is an entirely different system.


Before the embroidery process can begin, we need to convert your file into a format that our embroidery machines can read. This process is called digitization.

Submit your design to Printful in .jpg or .png format, and we’ll digitize it for a one-time fee of $8.95. But note that each style of embroidery requires a separate digitized file. So if you submit one design for 3D puff and later want the same design for flat embroidery, you’ll have digitize that too.

Embroidery area

The size of your design will be based on the available embroidery area of the hat you choose. Some hats have a higher profile and therefore can print a higher design. Whereas there are low profile hats, like the 5-panel hats, which have a lower available height.

5 panel hats with a low profile

5-panel hats with a low profile

Here are the size dimensions for printing on caps and beanies:


You can take a look at all of our hats here. The price you see includes the embroidery, just remember that 3D puff and side logos cost a little extra!

Use our mockup and embroidery file generator

How do you create your embroidery file? Use our generator! Printful has developed the first-ever mockup and embroidery file generator, which will make your life a whole lot easier if you’re into hats.


It’s a pretty nifty tool – give it a spin here!

And finally, we suggest watching our embroidery design tutorial video below and checking out our guidelines page here.

How to order a custom embroidery hat

Before you place an order with Printful you’ll have to create an account first. You can go here to make an individual order, or here to start your store and make an order.

  1. Go to your Printful Dashboard and click “New order” in the top right corner.
  2. Choose “sample order”. Those will get you 20% off and free shipping.
  3. Choose your product. In this case, it will be hats.
  4. Choose your model.
  5. Choose your color.
  6. Upload the design you’ve created. Here you can drag it around, size it, and position it the way you like. Pay attention to the DPI – make sure it shows as “good”!
  7. Select if you want it to be all flat embroidery, 3D puff embroidery, or partial 3D puff.
  8. Choose your thread colors.
  9. In the notes, write which colors of the design you’d like done in which type of stitching (flat or 3D).
  10. And if you used a font, add what type it is (although we recommend converting your fonts to outlines).
  11. Click “submit”

On the next page, you’ll be taken to the order confirmation page. Your order will have a $8.95 digitization fee. The digitized file will then appear in your library, and you’ll be able to make future orders with no repeated digitization costs.

Rock them around the city

Now that you’ve made your order, all that’s left to do is to wait for your custom embroidery cap to arrive in the mail. Once you’ve checked the quality, we’re sure you’ll have no qualms about putting it up for sale on your own online store. Read more about starting your own online garment store here.

Have you tried out embroidery? What do you think? Anything we left out?

This post was originally published on July 13, 2016. 


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  1. Maria

    Hi Julia,

    Thanks for stunning hat designs. Embossing 3d embroidery makes hats very attractive, especially the hat with 3d puff and side logo. You spice-up a simple hat in elegant style.

    Keep the good work!


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