decorating graduation caps

Humorist and speechwriter Robert Orben once joked, “A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.” How times change! Nowadays there are many ways to personalize graduation. In fact, over the last few years, graduation ceremonies with rows of uniform mortarboards have been replaced with a sea of personalized caps that broadcast each student’s individuality.

When the time comes for you or your child to collect a diploma, celebrate the accomplishment with a decorated graduation cap. We’ve gathered instructions and examples to inspire your design.

Easy Techniques for Decorating a Graduation Cap

As school winds to a close, you have enough to do without taking on another project. Thankfully there are many short cuts to creating a personalized graduation cap that won’t impact the quality of the design. If anything, these timesaving techniques will also help improve the look of your custom cap.

Sparkle With Glitter and Rhinestones

If you want a cap with extra wow that doesn’t take a lot of time, break out the glitter. Trace a design with fabric glue, then sprinkle it liberally with glitter. Repeat with additional colors until the entire hat sparkles.

rhinestone grad caps

Photos by Kaia Mayfield, SofiaMarina15 and Janell Oberheu.

If you have more time and patience, you may want to reach for the rhinestones. Outline a design with craft glue, such as your monogram or school logo, then carefully attach the colorful stones to complete the image. You may be able to save time with pre-stick rhinestones that come in various shapes including letters and popular characters.

Use Pre-Made Embellishments

Head over to the scrapbooking section of your local craft store to find pre-made embellishments designed to save time. Scrapbook paper is 12-inches square and can easily be trimmed to fit a standard mortarboard. It comes in a variety of fun styles from colorful chevron patterns to funky animal prints. Glue it to the cap for a quick and easy background.

The scrapbook section will also have other small ornaments you can attach to the cap. Look for themed decorations for travel, careers and personal interests that will add a custom touch to your design.

Save Time With Pre-Cut Letters

Whether you want to emblazon your cap with a short message or your initials, opt for pre-cut letters. You’ll save time and won’t have to worry about perfect handwriting. Letters are available in many different materials: fabric patches, foam, felt, glitter paper, wood and cardboard. If you have access to a personal cutting machine, you can even make your own letters from any font on your computer.

caps with letters

Photos by Brian Ballweg, Zachary Gold and Willson Lee, Adelphi University.

Go Freestyle With Fabric Paint

Gather a rainbow of fabric or puffy paints and draw a piece of art that is completely unique. Freestyle painting gives you the freedom to create anything you can imagine. Draw a picture or write out your favorite quote and decorate as much or as little as you want. Just be sure to plan plenty of time for the art to dry. Puffy paint can take up to 24 hours to dry, so this is not a project you can leave for the night before.

artistic grad caps

Photos by Thu-Hong Nguyen, Janae Smith and Ron Weed.

Graduation Cap Examples and Ideas

With so many easy ways to decorate a cap for graduation, the hardest part may be deciding on the design. Check out these creative ideas for personalized caps to inspire your own custom mortarboard.

Display School Pride

Keep it simple with a straightforward graduation cap that shows off your school pride. Decorate it with school colors, the university initials or an image of the mascot.

school spirit caps

Photos from Forever Pirates.

Custom Caps With Class

Create a cap that commemorates this special day by including unique details about your graduation: the year, the college or the degree attained.

class of grad cap

Photos by Fresno State Alum, Temple University and Whitney Sweesy.

Show Off Your Skills

Personalize your cap with the tools of your trade. Whether you’re a new teacher or are headed to med school, fill your graduation cap with equipment and icons that denote your future career.

grad caps career

Photo by Mickie Pendergast, Donna Gan and Shelly Mckeever.

Reference Pop Culture

Crazy for Dr. Who? Mad about Harry Potter? Whether you’re a Disney fan or a video game master now is the time to share your love with the world. Display your feelings by quoting your favorite line, featuring an inside joke or including a photo of your favorite character.

fan graduation caps

Photos by RadioMars, Alexa CLR and Cheere Mather.

Send a Message

Use your graduation cap to share a special message: display the inspiring quote that helped you make it through till the end, express excitement over your achievement, or say “thanks” to the people who helped you most. For best results, keep it short so that the message remains readable from a distance.

message graduation caps

Photos by Texas State University, Lauren Silverman and Alyssa Pupino.

Express Yourself at Graduation

Decorating a graduation cap is a whimsical way to showcase your individuality. Follow us on Pinterest for more ideas on how to personalize your life with creativity and style.

Featured image by m00by.