Paint a hat to embellish it with a custom design or to change its color completely. While the painting is a fairly straightforward process, the type of paint used depends upon what the hat is made of and the look you wish to achieve; for instance, acrylic craft paints are ideal for a design on the front of a baseball cap, but are too thick to completely change the color of a straw hat. When possible, test your selected paint on a material similar to your hat to get a feel for the application technique and paint consistency.
Soft, sturdy hats such as baseball caps and fabric fedoras readily accept fabric paints for custom-decorated designs, including flags, cartoon animals and insects. Turn regular acrylic craft paint into fabric paint by mixing it with textile medium, using the proportions suggested by the manufacturer, if you don't have access to a fabric paint. Create designs such as stripes by applying strips of painter's tape as borders for the paint, or freehand your designs with an artist's brush. Several layers of paint may be required to achieve the desired results, especially if the hat is a bold or dark color. Paint a base coat of white under a bold color, if desired, to ensure the color shows as desired.
Perky Puffy Paints
Puffy fabric paints stick to all sorts of fabric-based hats; the less fuzzy the hat, the better the details show up, as is the case with any type of paint. Puffy paint applies straight out of the bottle, as if drawing the design on with a pen, so it is best for painting detailed shapes such as lettering, rather than covering large areas. Paint the outline of your design first to create a border, then fill in the colors with additional puffy paint or standard fabric paint. Open the puffy-paint bottle and dip in a small artist's brush to paint medium-sized areas more quickly than using the applicator tip on the bottle.
Spray paint is perfect for airy mesh-style hats such as trucker's caps, straw caps and woven cowboy hats. Create a reverse-stencil design by cutting out a shape -- a flower or peace sign, for instance -- out of masking tape applied to the hat. Spray over the entire hat, then peel away the tape to reveal your design. Spray paint the hat outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in fumes. Prop it up on an empty coffee can to spray the entire outside of the hat thoroughly; skip painting the inside, as the paint may rub off or interact with sweat. Fabric-based spray paints may also be used, but test them on scrap fabric first; some brands are watery and provide translucent, rather than opaque, coverage.
Choosing the Best Hat for the Job
Not all hats pair well with paints -- knit winter hats flex a bit much or may be too textured or fuzzy to show off a painted design well. Hats with a low level of texture show off details best. Choose a clean hat for best results with paint; otherwise, grime, grease or debris may hinder the paint.