Guide on How to Paint on Fabric, a tutorial by The Sewing Korner

If you have old t-shirts, upholstery, or even left-over pieces of fabric you don’t want to waste, painting the fabric is a great way to add some oomph to every one of those things. Learning how to paint on fabric is much easier than you think, and it’s a lot of fun as well. Hand painting fabric can be done even by people with no experience. Learning how to paint on fabric permanently doesn’t require many special materials or tools.

Even if you’re not an arts-and-crafts enthusiast, painting on fabric is a great skill because it can bring some of the items in your home back to life. Hand painting fabric is easy and gives you lots of options with color and texture, so it’s easy to personalize these items and make them your own.

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    Why Learn How to Paint on Fabric?

    Most people have a creative need, and if you don’t sew, crochet, or knit, painting fabric can help give you a creative outlet so that you can express yourself in an artistic way. The main advantage of painting fabric is that it is incredibly easy. If you mess up, you don’t have to worry about losing too much money because most of the paints you’ll use are very inexpensive.

    Think of it like this – when you learn all about fabric painting, you can become an artist and an interior decorator at the same time. There’s no end to the number of things you can do with this talent. Everyone is interested in making their home look good, and it’s much easier to do this when you have a plan and the know-how to make it happen. Now let’s get to the good part. If you’re interested in learning how to paint on fabric, here is how you do it.

    1. Preparing Your Fabric

    When it comes to hand painting fabric, keep in mind that fabrics with a natural blend and natural fibers always work best. Look for blends that are half-cotton and half-polyester for the very best results, and always place the fabric in the washing machine and dryer before going any further.

    When you wash the fabric, use a standard washing powder, but never use any type of fabric softener. It changes the texture of the fabric and can make it more difficult to work with, which is not what you want. It can also make it impossible for the paint to remain permanently.

    2. Use a Barrier in Between the Fabric Layers

    Once your fabric is clean and dry, take something like a piece of cardboard or even wax paper and place it between the two layers of the fabric. You’ll do this so the paint doesn’t bleed through the fabric. Then, go ahead and take a straight pin or safety pin and tack the fabric in the right place.

    For the best results, place a pin in all of the corners so that the material doesn’t shift as you’re working with it, which is something it tends to do.

    3. Consider Your Paints Carefully

    To give you the most possibilities, consider getting two types of paints. First, you’ll want to use regular fabric paint that comes in a bottle for your lines to be very precise and textured. When you use the paints, hold them like you would a pencil, but apply only gentle pressure for the process.

    Tulip Dimensional Fabric Pack
    Dimensional Fabric Pack of 20 – 75Oz  bottles. This Paint is Non-Toxic and Permanent 3D Paint.

    In addition, always touch the fabric with the bottle tip to make sure the paint sticks to the fabric.

    The second type of paint you should buy is paint that you’ll use with a paint brush. Mixing different colors is much easier whenever you have a paint brush, and the best brush to use is based on what you hope to accomplish. For example:

    • To make long strokes, use a long- or short-tapered liner brush.
    • To blend colors together and use rough, short strokes, use a scrubber brush with bristles that are tapered.
    • For filling in bigger spaces or making clean lines, use a flat brush that has a chiseled edge.
    Magicfly Permanent Soft Fabric Paint Set
    Permanent fabric & textile paint set with 30 bottles (60ml) including Classic, Neon & Metallic colors and 3 brushes, for making your creation vivid and carrying out your project freely.

    Another suggestion concerning your paints is this: if you’re learning how to paint on fabric permanently, just choose permanent paints instead of paints that will wash out as soon as you place the item in the washing machine.

    And before we go any further, you should also remember that there are two basic types of paint that you’ll use when learning how to paint on fabric permanently or otherwise. The first is paint that remains on the top of the fabric, which results in a more opaque look. The second is paint that will go through the fibers of the fabric, which results in a more translucent look.

    4. Decide What You Want to Draw

    At this point in the process, you’ll need to know what you wish to draw. To make hand painting fabric a little easier, practice your drawing with a pencil and some paper first. Try different color arrangements to see how the design will look on the fabric, and you can even use your practice drawing and transfer it onto the fabric with either a pencil made of white chalk or disappearing ink.

    Most people, however, simply draw something on the fabric by hand. You can practice beforehand, of course, especially if you’re not the world’s best artist, but it’s not a necessity. Whatever you decide to do, just know that this is an inexpensive hobby and therefore you can start all over whenever you wish.

    One more tip: you can create a very nice watercolor look by mixing your paints with just a little water until it is similar in thickness to basic writing ink. For this look, try using a brush that is fairly thin, then use a horizontal motion when you paint with the brush. When you’re done, take a spray bottle of water and spray lightly on the fabric so that colors will bleed slightly.

    If you want to make a design that has a textured look, take a combing tool and comb the design in small sections, making sure the wrong colors don’t get combed together. After your design is complete, let it dry for a full 24 hours, and don’t wash the fabric for at least 72 hours.

    5. Making Your Design a Little on the Fancy Side

    When you’re learning how to paint on fabric, you often want to make your designs a little fancier, and you should know that you don’t exactly have to be an advanced sewer or artist to get this done. For some interesting suggestions, follow these simple tips:

    • Add some buttons or rhinestones for a more 3D look.
    • Dab some color on the fabric with a sponge and some of your paint.
    • Add glitter while the paint is wet for a unique look once it dries.

    You can use your creativity and invent some designs and embellishments of your own. If you have no ideas of your own, just visit a craft store and you’ll be exposed to plenty of them just by going up and down the aisles. You can also ask the people who work there for further suggestions.

    How to Paint on Fabric Permanently: Types of Paint You Can Use

    Many people wonder what types of paint you should use for painting on fabric. For the best results, you should use either a fabric paint or an acrylic paint. Never use the paints that say “washable” because they will wash right out of the fabric the first time you put it in the washing machine.

    With both acrylic and fabric paint, you get a nice look and a simple way to paint your fabric. Both of these paint types are similar, so you’ll get great results with both of them. If there is going to be a lot of detailed work, you should choose fabric markers, which allow for much more control over the design.

    FolkArt Brush on Fabric Acrylic Paint 
    This fabric acrylic paint set includes 8 – 2 oz bottles of fabric craft paint. The colors in this set:  Wicker White, Licorice, Engine Red, Lemon Custard, Fresh Foliage, Magenta, Brilliant Blue, and Pure Orange.

    Hand Painting Fabric: Tips to Make It Easier

    If you’re going to paint any fabric with personalized designs, it’s really not a difficult task. That being said, if this is your first time painting on fabric, you might feel like you need a little assistance. To help you out when you’re learning how to paint on fabric, follow these tips every time:

    1. Feel Free to Iron the Fabric When Preparing It

    You already know that you need to pre-wash your fabric before designing it, sans any type of softeners or starches. If you like, you can also iron the fabric to get out any wrinkles, and feel free to use a lint roller as well to get rid of all types of debris that might be found on the fabric.

    2. Always Protect Your Furniture or Design Piece

    If you decide to paint fabric on your furniture or a specific object, make sure you protect it from the paint job. You can use painter’s tape and block off sections of your metal or wood so that paint never gets on it. Even better, keep a wet washcloth nearby so you can wipe paint off of metal or wood quickly. For the best results, do this while the paint is still wet.

    3. Read the Directions Thoroughly

    Regardless of the type of paint you use, read the directions thoroughly before you begin painting. Paint brands usually tell you what you can and cannot use that specific paint on, so if it recommends not using it on a particular fabric, you have to follow that instruction to the letter.

    4. The Cardboard Is Very Important

    We mentioned earlier that cardboard or something similar needs to be placed in between the layers of your fabric. This is especially important when decorating something such as a tote bag or even a t-shirt. If you’re just using one piece of fabric, such as one section of a pillowcase, you might not need this step, but it’s good if you do it anyway just to be on the safe side.

    5. Paint in Sections

    When you paint your design, start at the top and work your way down, and paint in sections so that nothing is overlooked. Use very thin layers of paint because you can always go over the sections again if you want them to be darker. Also, always paint in the same direction.

    6. Consider “Sealing” in the Paint

    After your design is dry and has been sitting there at least 72 hours, you can go ahead and seal in the design. To do this, place a sheet made out of cotton over the fabric and iron it with a very hot iron. As an alternative, you can also blow-dry the design using a hot setting.

    Some people also have their fabric out in the sun for several hours, which does the same thing. If you “seal” in the paint, it’s much less likely to chip or fade when you put it in the washer.

    If you’re interested in learning how to paint on fabric permanently, it’s a lot easier than you think. In fact, the tips mentioned above are all you need to know before starting a project. From now on, you can keep your fabric scraps and make all sorts of things with them, thanks to these recommendations.

    In Summary

    Learning how to paint on fabric is a great addition to your other skills and can turn you into an arts-and-crafts expert in no time. In fact, all you really have to do is find the right fabric and the right paints, and the rest is simple. And don’t believe that just because you’re not a good artist that you won’t be able to create masterpieces of your own. That simply isn’t true.

    You can get a lot of suggestions from craft books and even online, because when it comes to hand painting fabric, there are a lot of great ideas out there. You can make pillows, drawings to frame and put on your wall, and even homemade patches to repair the holes in your jeans. Learning how to paint on fabric permanently is an inexpensive hobby that is also a lot of fun.

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