Digital Decorating:

Make it Pop with Rhinestones

Exploring different placements for rhinestones on shirts, pants, caps and accessories.

By Philip Troyer, Contributing Writer

Using rhinestones arranged as simple words that run the length of the sleeve is a great way to jazz up a Letterman’s jacket.

March 6, 2018

When working with rhinestones, it’s important to remember there are numerous uses and places for this type of apparel-decoration application. They can be used heavily to display a fantastic design, or sparingly to accent a garment or accessory. Let’s delve into rhinestones and the different placements that can help make an impact.

Shirt Applications
When placing rhinestones on shirts, my motto is “the more, the merrier.” Although they make garments heavier, they add sparkle most customers can’t resist. The key is to be unique with regard to placement, focusing on different areas than the norm for these brilliant extras.

For example, try scattering stones at the bottom of the sleeves on a shirt and fading upward. For cotton shirts, you can just fold the sleeve in half and place half of the design at a time. For lighter-weight or some performance shirts, use a Teflon sleeve or pant pillow to ensure the material doesn’t stick to itself.

The faded effect also can be used to make a design more brilliant. Simply take a basic word or phrase and add a faded scatter to it. Include stones that reach far down the shirt. You even can hand-place some stones at the far reaches of the shirt. This hand placement, coupled with the fade, will bring your customers back for more.

Another rhinestone shirt application is a lower-front design. Even when decorating a glitter vinyl shirt, you still can add a small pop of rhinestones to a bottom corner. If you do this consistently, it can become your “signature.”

Also, don’t forget about outlines. We allow customers to bring in garments with completed designs, to which we add a rhinestone outline as an accent. The result is a completely customized garment.

Have you ever seen shirts with a screen-printed design that’s popping out of a front pocket? That idea is even better with a rhinestone design. When pressing the design, remember to increase your heat press’ pressure to compensate for the pocket seam.

Another unique location for rhinestone placement is a shirt collar. I’ve placed small initials, hearts and even some scattered rhinestones on collars. However, remember not to use too much pressure; otherwise, you risk leaving a permanent heat mark. I recommend setting the pressure to 2 or 3 on your heat press. Also, don’t press the entire garment — just the collared area.

Pant Applications
Rhinestone accents on pants are simple to produce and can lead to an extra sale when offered along with shirts or other accessories. In fact, when our customers purchase a rhinestone shirt, we offer the option to have either a small design or a scatter/fade pattern placed on their pants, too.

Remember the aforementioned sleeve fade? It also can be placed on pants. You can use a Teflon pillow for lightweight and heavy items alike, although it’s not necessarily needed for the latter. A well-placed rhinestone heart or monogram pairs nicely with a rhinestone shirt.

Try to avoid placing stones on the back of the pants; they may come off when the wearer sits. The waistband, however, is an excellent place for rhinestones. For example, we have decorated workout pants with a high waistband. On one pair, I used the interchangeable 8″ x 10″ platen to help arrange the scatter of stones. It turned out great and the customer loved it. Even the simplest design, such as a single row of stones outlining a pocket, can make a plain garment come to life.

Heat Applications
Using a heat press to decorate hats with rhinestone designs is a great way to increase your shop’s profitability. While placing the design in the standard central location is preferred by most customers, you also can recommend other unique positions.

You can place rhinestones in rows or scatters — or an entire design — on the bill. When placing rows, remember to compensate for curvature. Use straight rows for the outside lines and direct center of the bill, then add a curved line of stones to give the curved effect. Maybe there’s a design on the center of the hat that could have a scatter emanating down onto the bill. Remember the simple word with the scatter? This same design can be put onto a hat.

Another unique position for rhinestones on hats is on the bill’s underside. For standard hats, there is a 2″ x 2″ area to place a small rhinestone design. If you’d prefer a more widespread design, couple it with glitter or EasyWeed vinyl. When pressing a curved bill, don’t press the design up, as the heat and pressure will flatten the bill or leave a noticeable heat mark. Try taping the design down with Magic Heat Tape and then turn the hat over to press normally on the hat press.

Have you tried pressing a design on the lower back portion of a hat? This is a unique, suitable position for branding. For example, FlexFit hats provide a 1.5″ x 2″ space for placing a small rhinestone design, initials or logo. If the hat features a Velcro closure or a metal grommet, use the portion above the gap for the design. If you have a hat press, the hat will conform to the plate. If not, place a Teflon pillow in the hat and hold it up to the heat press manually.

With enough creativity and imagination, the opportunities for adding rhinestone designs and effects to a garment or product are limitless. More options and opportunities for unique customization repeatedly will bring customers back for more. You’ll get brand-loyal customers who tell all their friends about you and the orders will dramatically increase.

Don’t be afraid to try placing rhinestones anywhere on a product. It could be the boost your business has been awaiting.

Philip Troyer, a native of Sarasota, Florida, manages the storefront at The Rhinestone World. He has been with the company for two years. For more information or to comment on this article, email

Accessory Applications

The following are some unique placement locations for rhinestone designs on customer accessories:

1. Tote Bag Bows: These bows have enough space for a couple of letters, or a star or heart.

2. Tote Bag Straps: Bling out the straps of a tote bag with a scatter, lines or a name.

3. Key Chains: Everyone needs a rhinestone keychain. Jazz up this item with a small design or a customer’s name.

4. Headbands: Cheer moms love rhinestone headbands. Make them personal with a rhinestone name or slogan.

5. Wine Glasses: Put some bling on that glass with a rhinestone decal. Heat press rhinestones into the Bling Anything decal material to make most non-fabric items sparkle.

6. Phone Cases: These products are popular for many customers, especially younger ones. A well-placed name or design on a phone case represents another sale.