Daily Life

How to Decorate a Graduation Cap

A cap and gown mark you as one of the students completing their educational journey. It intentionally makes you blend into the crowd, showing that you’re one of a group, not an individual. If that doesn’t sit right with you, you might be contemplating ways to decorate your cap to distinguish yourself on the big day.

In this guide, we’ll help you figure out if cap decoration is right for you. If it is, there are plenty of things to consider when it comes to choosing the style of decorations and using materials that will hold up best.

Can You Decorate Your Graduation Cap?

Before you start your DIY project, it’s important to check what your school’s policy is for graduation. Policies can vary quite a bit, and some students have been removed from their graduation ceremonies for breaking the rules.

While the school can’t stop a qualified student from graduating, they can prevent you from walking at the ceremony. This could disappoint family members who came to support you and get pictures of the event.

Some schools intentionally wait to distribute graduation attire until the day of the event to prevent students from damaging or losing them. Decoration could be considered damage by the school administration, unfortunately.

Some rules may allow some decoration, but prohibit others. Some schools may allow 2D decorations but will stop you if you have any raised additions to your cap.

Checking in advance can help prevent frustration and wasted effort, so always read the school’s guidelines on graduation attire and conduct. If you’re in doubt, ask in advance so you don’t get pulled out of your ceremony.

Decorating Rented Graduation Caps

Many schools rent their graduation gowns, meaning you don’t own them. This can also affect your decoration options. A rented cap has to go back to the company in the same condition that you received it in. This means any decoration has to be easy to remove. Double-sided tape is your best option for decor that can come off at the end of the day.

Choose a Theme for Your Cap

Once you’ve cleared it with the school, you can start planning your cap’s design. There are a few different directions you can choose to take your design.

Personal Expression

You can decorate your cap in a way that expresses your personality, interests, and hopes for the future. You could even put your name on your cap so that relatives sitting behind you can spot you in the crowd of waiting students.

Choose your favorite color, the color of your graduation dress, an animal or plant that symbolizes you, or other visual cues that make it clear who you are as a person.

School Nostalgia

Choose significant moments or achievements from your school career to highlight on your cap. Perhaps use some photos of your best friends or create a collage of your fondest memories from the past four years. Subtle inside jokes that only your closest friends will understand will make them smile throughout the ceremony.

Look to the Future

If you’re graduating high school and moving on to college, or moving from a BA to an MA program, you might highlight the name of your upcoming college on your cap. You could also print images of your future career or hopes for your life outside of the academic world.

Whether your goal is to travel the world or be a doctor, a carpenter, or a parent, you can choose images that represent where you envision yourself in the coming years.


Some students take this moment in the spotlight to draw attention to a cause that they feel passionate about.  For example, college graduates have been seen marking their caps with the amount of debt they have taken on in an attempt to raise awareness about the predatory nature of student loans.

You could take a similar tact. You might paint a URL on your cap or even print out a QR code directing people to a site that supports a cause such as environmentalism or human rights.

Best Materials to Decorate a Graduation Cap

Graduation caps, or mortarboards as they’re sometimes called, are flat on top and usually made of a material like polyester that’s easy to clean. Decorating them doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, you probably already have many of the materials you need at home.


For decorating your graduation cap, we recommend using a thicker paper like cardstock. It’s the same kind of paper used for scrapbooking, thicker and more rigid than notebook or printer paper.

If you’re renting your cap and gown, you can build all of your decor on a piece of cardstock that’s the same size as the cap and use double-sided tape to adhere it to the cap before your ceremony.

Paper of different colors, textures, and even glitter can be used to create letters and shapes that you can use to create words or scenes on your cap. Scissors and freehand stenciling might be enough to achieve your vision, but stencils and special cutters are also available to cut particular shapes.


In the case of a cap you purchase for graduation, you can make your decorations a little more permanent. Hot glue is the best option for getting things stuck and keeping them that way, even plastic-based objects.

White glue can get messy as it’s absorbed into the material of the cap, so you may end up using a lot of it with mixed results. We don’t recommend glue sticks for adhering things to your cap, but it’s fine for sticking paper pieces to each other.

As we’ve mentioned before, double-sided tape is the best option for sticking things to a cap that needs to return to normal in the end.

3D Objects

If you have the chance to go crazy and decorate your cap any way you want, you can play with 3D elements.

Fake flowers, moss, and foliage are fun options that you can easily find at the craft store. You can create a border or a nature scene on your cap.

You can also use hot glue to adhere small plastic figures of whatever you choose. Tiny dinosaurs, guitar charms, a plastic cheeseburger — anything that expresses something you want to say. Buttons, badges, and patches can also be added to the mix.

Just be sure not to choose anything too heavy, since it will strain your neck to have all that weight on top of your head all day. Keeping the weight evenly distributed across the cap will also help to prevent neck aches and help keep your cap from slouching down on one side.

Toss a Custom Cap in the Air

Despite the limitations many schools place on graduation attire, more and more students are taking the opportunity to do something unique with their mortarboards.

After checking your school’s policy, you can choose the kind of message you want your cap to send and craft it. After all, you now have the chance to decide what post-graduate life looks like for you, starting with your graduation cap. Using a few simple materials and your imagination, you can express yourself at a time when tradition dictates you should blend into the crowd.

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