How To Do Fabric Painting

Fabric painting
Fabric painting can be a fun and beautiful craft. You can use it to add designs and color to clothing including t-shirts, pants, jeans, and jackets. In addition to that you can decorate bags and totes, pillows, lamp shades, and any other fabric item you wish to add color to.

Step 1

Wash and dry your fabric. Whenever working with fabric it is a good idea to wash and dry it. This will let the fabric shrink if it is going to shrink and will clean any dirt, dust, or chemicals from it, preparing it for use.

Step 2

Choose your paints and painting method. You have a lot of choices when it comes to paints and painting methods these days. Each has an advantage and gives a different look.

  • Fabric paint tubes-Fabric paints come ready to use in a tube nowadays. You can simply take these and gently squeeze the paint onto the fabric. This can give you a slightly raised image and can allow for a lot of design options using the tip. Fabric paint tubes come in a huge variety of sizes, colors, and even finishes. You can choose pearly colors, neons, glow in the dark, and even sparkly colors that contain glitter. The only downside is that if you squeeze too hard you will get a blob of paint. These can also get clogged and are difficult to clean. If you aren't going to use them often then choose smaller sizes so they don't get clogged as quickly. These are good for young children, especially if they don't mind making a mistake. 
  • Fabric paint pens-There are now a variety of fabric paint pens that allow you to draw on the fabric and let it stay. These are fun and usually easy to use. However it sometimes takes a lot of shaking and trial to get them going. They come in a wide range of colors, but aren't always easy to find in the color you want at the store you are at. 
  • Paint pots and brushes-While not as common that have tips for painting with, you can find fabric paints in small pots or containers. You can then use a brush to fill in your picture or to paint your fabric. This works best for adults with good controld of a brush or young children who will love painting a mess! This can be messier, but gives you more control. 
  • Making your own fabric paints-Several companies offer a fabric medium that can be mixed into their acrylic, craft, or all purpose paints. This will make it so that the paint will stay on the fabric. You can then use their paints to mix with it and create all the colors you wish. You use a brush to apply it. 
  • Mixing your options-It is most fun when you can mix your options giving you a wide range of style. You can do this by picking up a couple of special fabric pens, some paint brushes, and the tubes of paint. You can squirt the paint onto a paper plate to mix colors and to use a paint brush for application. 

Step 3

Choosing your design. You have a few options when choosing your design. You can free hand it (paint without any design laid out before you). This is good for really artsy types, children, and those doing abstract pieces or simple designs. You can gently pencil your piece on if you are good enough at drawing. Your last option, and the one that is easiest for everyone is to use iron on transfer. You will want to get a transfer pen (usually pink colored though sometimes blue). Carefully trace over a simple lined picture. You can use clip art or purchase a book of transfers (make sure you aren't violating a copyright, especially if you are looking to sell the pictures). You also need to remember that it will iron on backwards so make sure your lettering is adjusted accordingly.

Step 4

Apply your design. For iron on transfer, apply your design by placing the drawn lines directly onto your fabric in the place of your choice. Gently press a hot iron on top making sure that you aren't moving the pattern (which will get you multiple pictures).

Step 5

Protect the back. If you are painting a shirt, bag, or other object with a front and a back, place several layers of paper or a layer of cardboard between the front and the back. This will protect the back in case of the paint bleeding through. If you don't do this you may accidently glue your two layers together!

Step 6

Paint your object. Go slow while painting your piece. There are a couple of different options for painting a good piece and you can choose the way that is best for you.

  • Corner on down-One great option is to start in the top corner opposite your dominant hand (the left corner for right handed people). This will keep your hand out of the way of the wet paint. This works well if you have a lot of time to work on the piece or if the piece is smaller. 
  • One color at a time-If you have a very large piece or a small amount of time to work on things one color at a time might be the way to go. This lets you keep things simple. Carefully apply your sections of color. Avoid getting your hand in it. Let it dry thoroughly between colors so as to avoid smearing the paint. 

Step 7

Once finished allow to dry. It is a good idea to let your piece dry at least 24 hours. It is an even better idea to give it 48 hours to make sure that it is thoroughly dry and set.

Step 8

Wash and dry. Before wearing, using, or gifting your new creation it is a good idea to wash and dry it. This will make sure everything is clean and set beforehand.


Painting fabric can be a very fun pasttime. You can make your own t-shirts, decorate more serious shirts, add color to pillow cases and covers, decorate jackets and bags and have a fun time doing it all. Don't worry if you make a few mistakes starting out. This is a craft in which practice really does make for huge improvements! Have fun and get crafty.

 

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