DIY Painted Graduation Cap

MainI FINALLY graduated from college a couple of weeks ago. While the senioritis was settling in the weeks before graduation, I spent hours on Pinterest gathering inspiration for what my graduation cap could look like. The trend of decorating your cap has been getting steadily more popular, but as a graphic design major, it is practically a requirement. I’ve never been the kind of person who is for copying someone else’s design, so while I was finding a lot of caps that I thought were incredible: witty, adorable, beautiful, (you name it, Pinterest had it) I never found exactly what I was looking for.

If you’ve ever tried shopping with me, you know I can be incredibly indecisive. It took me a long time to realize that none of these would be right because they weren’t me. I decided to draw inspiration from a few hand painted grad caps I found online, and I went to the drawing board. I chose a scripture near to my heart; one I felt that God had shown me to give me strength in the trying times of my last few semesters of college. “God is within her, she will not fall.” Psalms 46:5. With those words on my mind, I sketched a few different versions before I picked the right one. (Indecisive, remember?)


I decided to paint my design onto a fancy piece of heavy weight black cardstock instead of my cap. This was almost entirely because you only get one cap, and I was afraid of blowing it, but it also made it easier to move around. I had also heard horror stories from my fellow seniors about the fabric on the cap soaking in paint like a sponge. I trimmed the piece of cardstock to fit the cap, and then cut out a hole in the middle with an x-acto knife for the tassel to come through. I lightly sketched the words of my final design with a pencil, leaving room for the flowers I would later freehand. You want to pick a pencil that you know will erase well and a have good quality eraser on standby for any mistakes. You don’t want the eraser marks visible ruining your finished masterpiece. If you are doing a quote, like I did, you may want to consider using a ruler to mark out straight, level lines for your letters to follow. If you don’t you may find yourself with a wobbly finished product.


Once all of that legwork was done, I started the simultaneously stressful and relaxing activity of painting out my design. I used acrylic paints because they dry opaque with 1-3 coats and I was looking for that pop of color against the black cap. I more or less followed the guidelines of my pencil-sketched words. I let that dry and then added another coat to make the white paint pop. Once that was dry, I went back in to paint the various flowers in the white space. I didn’t really have a plan for the flowers. I painted all of my favorites in a painterly, artistic way to avoid any flawed looking flowers. After I was satisfied that the flowers had the right vibrancy (it took a little finesse with different colors and coats of paint) I filled in the rest of the negative space with vines and leaves connecting the flowers. This was also freehand. I didn’t even know I was going to do it when I started. I added a few shades of green, whites, and purples to get the shading and highlights I wanted on these and left it to dry. The last thing to do was add in the scripture location and my graduation year in small handwriting along the edges. After the entire thing was completely dry (I gave it 2 hours to be certain) I went over the design with my eraser to get rid of any stray pencil marks. I ended up with a clean look that I was very happy with. I think I had one of the best caps that morning, but I may be a little biased!

flower close up


I found the process cathartic. It was a very good way to internally say goodbye to the past four years. I wasn’t one of the weepy students who viewed college as the best four years of their life. I have been ready to be a graduate and get my real life started for at least the last year, probably more. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy college. I did. I grew and learned a few pretty important lessons. While I sat in my room painting my cap the night before graduation (yes, I’m a procrastinator) I was able to think about those memories and remind myself how grateful I’ve been for the experience. Now that college is over, my cap is painted, and my degree is hanging on my wall, I’m ready for the next adventure.


Let us know what you came up with for your grad cap!

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