How to paint on fabric ? Tips tricks and advice

Want to personalize a t-shirt or revamp a bag, a lampshade or an armchair? Fabric painting is a creative and economical way to breathe new life into a garment or textile object. To learn how to paint on fabric, you need to take into account a few essential elements. What type of textile, paint and material to choose? What is the best technique? Follow the leader…

1 – Choose a fabric that is easy to paint

Although all fabrics can theoretically be painted, in reality they do not all react the same way to paint. It is also advisable to do some tests on samples before starting to paint a fabric.

Natural fiber is king

If you want to paint a fabric, the ideal is to choose a natural fiber. Cotton, linen, silk or viscose are the most pleasant to paint. But you can paint on polyester or a 50% cotton-polyester blend with no problem. Certain textiles such as satin – too slippery – should be absolutely avoided. As for thick fabrics, you can paint them provided you choose a sufficiently covering paint.

Preferably a thin, light fabric

If you want to draw patterns, preferably take a tight-weave fabric. It will be easier to make fine and precise patterns on silk for example. You won’t achieve the same degree of accuracy on a highly visible frame. See how to adapt your pattern to the fineness of the fabric. The color fabric is also important. White, light or ecru textiles are easy to paint in various colours. If you want to paint a dark fabric, you will need to add a white background preparation before painting.

2 – Textile paint or medium: which to choose?

We do not paint on fabric as on paper. For a durable achievement, it is better to choose a paint adapted to the support.

Perfect: textile paint

These paints are specially designed for creations on small areas of fabric, such as clothing or a bag. To be avoided for very large surfaces; if you want to make a theater set, for example, these paints packaged in small quantities would cost you far too much. They are ideal for painting all kinds of patterns or texts, with a brush, finger, stencil…

With ordinary paint: the textile medium

This type of product allows you to paint on fabric with a classic acrylic paint. This is the ideal formula if you have a large area to paint, or if you have acrylics to use. Mix the medium with your acrylic paint (in a tube or in a pot) and you can paint any armchair or old jeans. The textile mixture is made with 50% medium and 50% acrylic paint. As it is packaged in different quantities, it is up to you to choose the capacity that suits your project. Satin finishes also exist for upholstery.

NB : Paints and textile mediums can be found in craft stores and in some DIY stores.

3 – How to choose the right textile paint?

Have you opted for textile paint? Very well. But there are different types and you may hesitate for a long time before making your choice. Here are some criteria to consider:

Opaque or transparent paint?

The opacity of the paint is chosen according to the type of drawing you want to make. The transparent paints are easy to apply. They remain light on the fabric and do not transform its texture. Use them on a thin fabric, white or light.

For thick or dark fabric, the opaque paints are more suitable. Their covering power makes it possible to obtain intense and long-lasting colors that are resistant to washing. But they are more difficult to apply and tend to stiffen the fabric.

Three paints, three effects

For a watercolor-like effect, opt for a encre textile. These liquid paints are highly sought after for silk painting. But a diluted paint can also be suitable.

If you want children’s paints, use the finger paints, easy to apply. As they do not run, they can be used easily, both on cotton and synthetic fabric.

Those looking for creative effects can turn to the peintures relief. These paints, by swelling with heat, give your designs and patterns a 3D effect. In the end, they give quite spectacular results: metal, shiny, glitter, phosphorescent…

Choose ad-hoc conditioning

Textile paint is available in different packaging; it’s up to you to see what works best for your way of painting.

  • Usually it comes in liquid form. pot or in a bottle. It must then be poured into a cup, diluted, mixed and applied with a brush (or sponge, stamp or any kind of tool).
  • You can also choose a painting in tube with end piece, with which you will draw quite easily, especially if you are not the king of the brush. Some tubes have a very practical foam tip for stencil painting.
  • Another formula is textile marker. It is rather a felt, opaque or transparent, with which it is particularly easy to form precise contours. You can even fill in some marker designs with fabric paint.
  • Fans of large surfaces will choose without hesitation a textile paint in spray. With a spray can, it is easier to paint a fabric armchair or a puppet decor!

Don’t overlook value for money

All packaging combined, the price changes mainly according to the quality of the paint. Some are much more durable than others, and it pays off. Your investment also depends on your project. For an object whose paint must last for a show, there is no need to select a high quality paint. On the other hand, if you paint a garment that will have to face multiple washes, do not hesitate to choose a rather opaque paint and to pay the price for it.

4 – What equipment is still needed?

Got the right fabric and paint? You still have some equipment to provide:

  • Paintbrushes. Choose models with stiff bristles, with shapes adapted to the intended patterns. A flat brush for drawing and painting solid surfaces; a round brush for mixing colors and for painting in small strokes; fine brushes for long strokes and details; pointed brushes for the recesses.
  • sponges, combs, toothbrush, foam brush, rollers, etc. For material effects…
  • Buckets and sticks to make the mixes of the century!
  • A pencil or a chalk for sketches.
  • A drawing board or cardboard as a working support, on which you can stretch the textile.
  • Stencils, if you want to make certain patterns. You can make them yourself or buy your stencils ready made.
  • pins to nanny and sewing, it can be useful.
  • A tarp or something to protect your work plan.
  • A water spray bottle to humiliate the fabric.
  • A blouse or something to protect yourself.
  • A hair dryer (you will see why a little later…)
  • And why not a few ornaments in addition ? Beads, sequins, etc.

5 – Before painting it, prepare your fabric

Whether it is a new fabric or an old one, preparation is essential.

  • Clean the fabric. If you want to paint a garment, machine wash it at 40°C, especially without fabric softener. If it is a new fabric, you will avoid any risk of shrinkage. In addition, the paint penetrates the fibers of a clean textile better. For an armchair or an object that cannot be machine-washed, just vacuum it thoroughly and brush it with love…
  • Let it air dry. Above all, do not go to the dryer! If necessary, that is to say if it is very wrinkled, iron the textile on the reverse before painting it. Better to avoid creases on the area to be painted.

6 – Textile painting in 7 steps

After this preparation phase, the time has come to start painting.

  • Protect your work plan, put on your blouse, let’s go.
  • If you are working on a t-shirt or a fabric that is not too big, stretch your fabric on a piece of cardboard or a board and fix it on the back with pins. The tighter it is, the easier it will be to paint.
  • If you can’t stretch it, place a piece of cardboard, a board or baking paper behind the fabric. This will save you from painting two layers of fabric at the same time, which is not the goal!
  • Draw the pattern on paper, then transfer this pattern to fabric in pencil or with a washable marker. You can then move on to the final drawing with textile paint.
  • Paint drawing using your favorite technique: brush, stamp, stencil, spray, etc. Take your time and concentrate. In watercolor mode, the paint spreads too quickly for your taste? Stop it by drying it with a hair dryer.
  • Let it dry 24 hours leaving the fabric on its board. Wait 72 hours before washing painted fabric.
  • Fix the color. This is not always required; to find out if you have to do it – and how to do it – consult the instructions for the product used.

NB : Did you make a drawing mistake? Or worse: a big stain! Don’t panic, it’s fixed. The instructions will tell you how to erase the paint. Otherwise, dab the excess paint with a cloth soaked in bleach (if the fabric is white) or a mixture of water and alcohol at 90° C for colored fabrics. At worst, you will paste a pretty ornament to hide the big mistake…

7 – How to paint with medium?

Again, take the time to protect your work surface before you start.

  • If you paint an armchair or a textile object, withdraw anything you can: nails, buttons, feet, etc.
  • Make your mix : medium and acrylic paint. The proportions are usually 50-50; check the product instructions anyway, they may vary. Mix until you get a nice homogeneous effect.
  • Moisten the fabric to be painted using a water spray bottle. If you are looking for a watercolor effect, spray a little more water…
  • With a flat brush, paint your fabric following the direction of the fibres. Your pointed brush allows you to paint corners and small details.
  • Let it dry 24 hours.
  • Parties rough can form. Rub them gently with very fine sandpaper.
  • If necessary, pass a second layer of paint, and make a second pass of sandpaper.
  • Go up any removed elements (button, nails, all that…)

You can of course add small ornaments for a total and super original creation! And when it’s all over, don’t forget the essentials: admire and show everyone how beautiful it is and that you made it!

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