What are the top tips for painting fabric when you are a beginner?
I have done my fair share of fabric painting and learned much through trial and error. I love the process of painting on fabric because it really allows you to get the exact color and design you want at a relatively low cost.
I have put together a list of recommendations and products that I use to help you achieve maximum results when attempting to paint or stencil fabric.
Here is what I have learned along the way!
Painting Fabric: The Basics
1. The Paint
The cheapest alternative when painting large surface areas of fabric is latex paint. I recommend a flat paint if you paint it on regular cotton, canvas or woven fabric so that it blends in well with the matte finish of the fabric.
I ended up using a flat gray paint on my striped curtains and you really can’t tell it is paint because the flat paint has the same sheen as the curtain.
2. The Fabric
If you are worried about bleed through and splotches from the back you either have to go with a heavier weight fabric or you have to really saturate your thin fabric so that the back is painted through too to avoid the uneven coverage.
On this birth announcement pillow I used a heavier weight canvas to avoid that issue.
You can purchase a textile medium to mix in the latex paint if you want it to be less stiff. I generally don’t use it on household items like rugs and curtains because I don’t mind it stiffer.
The textile medium does help with stiffness but it does not completely take it away so I find it adds to the cost of the project when it doesn’t make a huge difference.
However, I recommend using a textile medium mixed with latex on clothes or anything that will come in contact with your skin. Stiffness on clothes is not comfy.
Here is a project I used with latex paint and the textile medium!
4. Screen Painting
If you want to avoid the textile medium altogether I love the Simply Screen paints from Plaid for painting small projects. It is meant for screen painting but it is a nice fabric paint to use on any painted fabric project too.
It washes well, stays true to color, and isn’t stiff at all.
Here is a shirt using the Simply Screen paints that I did for Kayla’s third birthday.
If you use a stencil I recommend using a stencil spray or a repositionable spray adhesive to help keep your stencil in place.
This will help to keep your stencil in place when you roll the paint on.
Here is the fabric upholstered headboard I did using a stencil and spray adhesive to hold it in place.
Use a small foam roller when painting a large surface area not a nap roller.
A foam roller dispenses a good amount of paint.
A nap roller dispenses too much and can cause bleeding.
7. Apply One Coat
I recommend only using one coat of paint but maybe just rolling it and pressing it into the fabric to saturate it.
If you are painting a light paint over dark fabric I will let the paint soak in for 2-5 minutes and then roll over it again.
They key is not to let it dry and then paint over it “that doesn’t work”.
Here is a great example of that process.
8. Small Is Better
Work in small sections, maybe a 12″ square piece at a time. It is easier to correct mistakes on a small area.
9. Remove Tape
I also recommend removing your stencil or tape right away (while your paint is still wet) so that you avoid the chance of bleed through.
10. Spray Painting
Spray painting also works well on fabric, but you will get more of a faded coverage rather than a really saturated one unless you really let it soak in and give it multiple coats.
But sometimes that is the look you want.
I did that on an outdoor rug and it turned out just like I wanted it to.
Here is a short list of products that I have used. For sure that similar products will work but this is just the short list of ones I have used personally and can endorse.
- Moshify Jacquard paint
for small projects (there is some on sale at Amazon for as low as $1.65)
- Simply Screen – fun to make small screen-printed projects
- Royal Designs stencils
- Cutting Edge Stencils
- Foam Roller
- 3M ScotchBlue Edge Lock Tape
- Martha Stewart Stencil Adhesive Spray
- Foam Roller
- Martha Stewart Fabric Medium
I hope these little tips help you next time you try a painted fabric project. After publishing my son’s bedroom painted striped curtains a ton of questions were asked so I thought I would share what I know.
How to Prepare the Fabric
Before you apply paint on fabric, you will need to do the following:
- Wash the Fabric: Whatever type of fabric you use, start by washing it with a mild detergent to remove dirt and chemicals. Follow the fabric’s care instructions and let it air dry or tumble dry on a low heat setting.
- Remove Any Stains or Dirt: Treat stubborn stains using appropriate stain removers or gentle fabric cleaners. Blot the stains gently and rinse thoroughly. Allow the fabric to dry completely before proceeding with painting.
- Iron or Stretch: This step will ensure a smooth surface for painting. Iron the fabric on the reverse side to remove wrinkles and creases. Use the appropriate temperature setting for the fabric type. If stretching the fabric, secure it tightly on a frame or embroidery hoop to ensure a taut and smooth fabric surface.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
When you apply paint on fabric, you surely will encounter some issues. Hence, here are what you need to do:
Bleeding, Smudging, or Color Fading
Use a fabric medium or paint fixative to seal the colors, whether light or dark colors, and prevent bleeding. Let the paint dry completely to avoid smudging.
Choose a high-quality type of fabric paint and follow the manufacturer’s instructions or fabric paint product label for heat setting or curing the paint to prevent color fading.
Mistakes or Areas That Didn’t Turn Out as Expected
Blot mistakes with a damp cloth or sponge to remove excess paint on fabric. Paint over the area with a new layer, or use fabric paint markers or acrylic paint for small details. Allow the area to dry completely before making any additional modifications.
Advanced Fabric Painting Techniques and Designs
Now that you have learned the basics of painting clothes or fabric, you might wanna learn some advanced techniques for applying acrylic paint or other types of paints on fabric:
- Resist Dyeing or Batik: Try resist dyeing by using materials that resist the paint, such as wax or fabric paint markers, to create patterns or designs on the fabric. Experiment with batik, a traditional technique involving wax application before painting, for intricate designs.
- Freehand Painting or Stencils: Use a fine paint brush or fabric markers for freehand painting to create detailed patterns, images, or typography directly on your choice of fabric. Secure stencils onto the fabric and apply paint with a sponge or paint brush to achieve a precise and structured beautiful design.
- Incorporate Mixed Media Elements: Add dimension and sparkle to your painted fabric by sewing on beads or sequins. Enhance your designs with embroidery stitches to create fabric texture and interest.
From Blank Canvas to Vibrant Masterpiece
Fabric painting offers a world of creative possibilities for beginners and DIY enthusiasts alike. By following the top tips and recommendations provided, you can achieve beautiful and personalized designs on fabric.
Preparing the fabric properly, troubleshooting common issues, and exploring advanced techniques will help you overcome challenges and unlock your artistic potential. Whether you’re painting on clothes, home decor items, or accessories, fabric painting allows you to unleash your creativity and bring your unique vision to life.
So, grab your brushes, select your favorite acrylic paint colors or color combo, and embark on a colorful journey of painting fabric. Let your imagination soar, and enjoy the process of transforming plain fabric into works of art.