How To Paint Fabric

If you learn how to paint fabric, gift giving ideas, interior design layouts and fashion statements will always be plentiful. Fabric painting can be used on clothing, curtains, drapery, T-shirts and tote bags and is an easy way to customize almost anything. All you need is a little imagination.

To paint fabric, you will need:

  • Fabric paint
  • Brushes
  • Foam dauber
  • Stencils
  • Tracing paper
  • Hot iron
  • Newspaper
  1. Prepare the fabric to be painted. The best fabric for painting is 100 percent cotton because of the tight weave of the cotton, but almost any fabric can be painted. Depending on the fabric, it may be necessary to wash it to remove any sizing or anything that will prohibit the paint for adhering. Test the fabric by dropping a few drops of water onto the fabric. If the water beads up, the fabric should be washed and dried without fabric softener. Flatten or press out wrinkles before painting. Place several sheets of newspaper under the fabric and in-between layers. For instance, when painting a shirt, insert the newspaper inside the shirt to keep the paint from bleeding through to the back of the shirt.
  2. Creating the design. Draw out the design on paper first. If you are using a stencil for your design, lay it out on the table to establish the design. Trace the design onto the fabric using tracing paper. Begin applying the fabric paint with a small art brush until the design is complete.
  3. Stenciling. Apply the stencil to the fabric and use tape on the corners to hold it in place. Use a paper plate as a palette and apply a small amount of paint, about the size of a quarter. Use a foam dauber to dab into the paint. Dab the dauber on the plate several times to spread the paint evenly on the foam surface. When stenciling, work with a very dry dauber with very little paint to keep the edges of your stencil design from bleeding. Less is more when stenciling on fabric. Begin dabbing around the outer edge of the shape you are stenciling in a circle. Continue dabbing in a circle around the shape as you move closer to the center. Apply the least amount of paint possible and keep adding a layer of paint until the desired design is achieved.
  4. Set the paint. Let the paint dry completely according to the directions on the label of the paint container. Place the painted article on a flat surface and cover with white paper or paper towels. Use a hot iron to press the painted area. The heat from the iron will set the paint and make it permanent.

Tips & Warnings:

  • Stencils works well for creating a fabric design, especially if drawing is not your field of expertise. In addition, a stencil is a fun and easy way to teach children fabric painting. Stencils can be purchased at any arts and crafts store.
  • The most common mistake a beginner will make is to apply too much paint at one time. Begin with a small amount of paint and outline the shapes of your design. Slowly add more paint to fill in the design. Do not over saturate the fabric.
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