Custom Painted Graduation Cap



cap-shadow-0837-copyA couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of designing and painting this floral graduation cap. This was my first time painting a graduation cap, and I am very pleased with the results. I was nervous yet excited about doing this because I would be painting directly onto the cap instead of painting on paper and attaching it to the cap. So, I took a few preliminary steps to make sure I had things all figured out before actually beginning the painting.

First, I put together a color palette initially using Adobe Illustrator. This has become a habit for me with all of my graphic design projects. Though this project would be crafted by hand, I thought it would be a good starting point to quickly get the creative juices flowing. The grad told me she would like red to be incorporated into the design, so I began looking for photos of bouquets with red flowers in them. I did another search for “red December bouquets” since she would be graduating in December. After finding a bouquet that I loved, I placed it into Illustrator, and begin picking colors for my palette using the eye dropper tool. I also, created a sample grad cap in Illustrator to lay out the type. This helped me with deciding on the composition of the design. After choosing the palette and deciding on the placement of the lettering, I was ready to begin my preliminary sketch.

Preliminary Sketch

I begin by cutting a sheet of watercolor paper into a square. Using watercolor paper isn’t necessary for a preliminary sketch. This is just what I had on hand, so I used it. I rotated the paper to create the diamond shape of the graduation cap, and begin drawing the wording in a cute, script lettering. I wanted the composition of the design to sort of follow the shape of the cap. I sketched very simplified floral shapes. For a consistent design, I used the same 4 floral shapes. I labeled the colors of the floral elements in the preliminary sketch as a visual reminder to help me when I began the painting. The sketch was shown to the grad for approval of the design before I began the painting process.

“Consistency is the thread that ties together elements in a single design.”

coloredpencildrawing-0463The grad loved it, so I moved on to drawing the design on the cap with a white colored pencil. This would serve as a guide for painting. I used a white colored pencil because it was visible on the black cap. I used a paper towel as an eraser for the colored pencil sketch. There was a slight change in the design because I didn’t measure the size of the button on the graduation cap. So I improvised by overlapping “it’s” onto the centered flower. I was most concerned with making the button of the cap portray a floral disc, the center part of the flower. This was one of my favorite elements of the design. Once I had everything sketch onto the cap in its proper place, I was ready to begin the painting process.

Acrylic Gesso

Before painting with acrylic paint, I primed the surface of the cap with Acrylic Gesso. Gesso allows acrylic paint to easily adhere to any surface. Without gesso, the paint would not have smooth, clean lines. I usually purchase Liquitex brand Gesso, but I decided to start the gesso process at night. So, I purchased a 16.9 fl oz bottle of  Daler Rowney Gesso for $9.99 at Walmart. This gesso actually worked really well! I made sure to only apply gesso to the areas I would be painting because gesso is permanent once dry.

Acrylic Gesso on cap


I let the Gesso dry completely over night, and then started painting with color over the gessoed areas the following day. I used a different brand of acrylic paint as well. I love using Liquitex Basic and Heavy Body for my canvas paintings. However, since this was a smaller project and time was of the essence, I decided to try out a less expensive brand of acrylic paint that I purchased as a set of 24 colors. I purchased this set at Michaels.The range of primary and secondary colors in this Artist’s Loft acrylic paint set allowed for different options and less color mixing. The paint colors I used are shown on the left. The brushes and gold metallic paint I used are shown below.


Please leave a comment with any questions you may have.

I am accepting inquiries for custom painted graduation caps. Order yours now!

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