The hats used were a Travis Matthews curved bill snapback design. These can typically be found on suppliers like SanMar. In this case it was from the Jacksonville Florida warehouse.
We started with a basic mockup of their current design. We sent it off to our amazing Digitizing team for what we may coin as Puffication. This is creating a special type of stitching that uses commercial craft puff to make elements of the design raised off the cap.
The design we had in mind had to be very specific to the type of cap. The height restrictions were around a maximum height of 2.5" and width around 6". We ended up making the design around 1.75" tall by 5" wide. This gave us plenty of space on the lower half and upper half to properly show the design. Our biggest concern with this design was the small gold star in the letter A. We decided to keep this as a satin element and relatively flat, but separating the parts of the star overlapping for a decorative design. The other elements were perfect for 3D puff as they had some width to them; that accommodated the puff well. We used a 3mm HD white puff sheet under the design. This way it would blend with the white thread.
When doing puff typically embroidery machines speed is lower to help with the deflection of the needle. This is sometimes needed especially utilizing the 3m Super HD puff. It's like the machine is beating into concrete.
The other tip is when selecting puff typically you want to match the thread color. If the hat has a large contrast and puff was seen poking out you can try matching the hat or altering the density of stitching in your digitizing software. We use Wilcom at our Arnold Prints Embroidery Shop.
Our last tip is to use heat to help seal the puff and tighten threads. This creates a smoother finish and also shrinks any remaining puff that might have been sticking out. A hair dryer or commercial heat gun can be utilized. Worse case scenario if none of those are available a common lighter. Just be careful not to heat too long as you can scorch or burn the cap.