9 Tips For Fabric Painting

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Wearable art and hand painted decorator items are big in the craft world right now.

Technology has really improved and reduced the cost of fabric paints, so if you’re looking for a new way to express yourself, try fabric painting for a change of pace.

Add colorful embellishments to t-shirts, a denim vest or add decorating punch to your living room with hand-painted pillows, wall hangings or curtains.

Hand painted accessories and clothing are great as gifts and it’s also a project your kids can enjoy.

1. What Fabric Is Best For Painting?

Synthetic fabrics may not absorb paint evenly, so it’s best to stick with natural fibers. Use 100 percent cotton, silk or rayon for best results. However, give anything a try. Just paint up a sample of the fabric to test it for suitability before committing to a large project with an unknown fiber.

2. What Kind Of Fabric Weave Is Suitable For Painting?

The weave of your fabric is important. If you plan to do detail work, the threads should be tightly woven so the line work shows up well. A finely woven fabric also keeps the paint on the surface, so you colors will be vibrant and bright. A loosely woven fabric allows the pigment to seep into the fibers and loses intensity when it dries.

3. Why Should I Wash Fabric Before Painting?

There are two good reasons for prewashing fabric before painting. First, if the item will be laundered, the fabric will be pre-shrunk. This is particularly necessary for items where size is important.

Second, many fabrics have sizing added to the completed cloth to give it a crisp look. This sizing may affect the way paint adheres to the fibers. If a drop of water beads up on the surface of the fabric you’re considering, it means that the cloth may have sizing. Your paint will bead up as well and won’t be as effective. Give it a quick wash and dry, but don’t use any fabric softener or dryer sheets.

4. Is It Necessary To Iron The Fabric?

Well, of course you need to iron the fabric to get rid of wrinkles. Taking the extra time to iron the surface flat makes your life a whole lot easier when you’re trying to get your design laid in just right.

5. Do I Need To Wet The Fabric Before Painting?

You’ll need to experiment with your fabric to see how the paint works with the fibers of the cloth. If you want the paints to flow together like a watercolor, you should moisten the fabric lightly. However, too much water will allow the pigment to seep into the fibers and will dilute the intensity of the colors, so use water sparingly.

For crisp highlights and detail work, the fabric should be dry. Any moisture in the cloth encourages the paint or marker to seep and spread out.

6. Can I Use Stencils On Fabric?

Stencils are a great way to cover a lot of area in a short time, and fabric paints work great with stencils. Your stencil will work best if the surface is lightly padded, so lay an old towel underneath your fabric.

A piece of cardboard as an underlayment is another option, but it’s a little stiffer. Try both methods to see which works best for you.

7. How Do I Protect The Back Of My Item?

If you’re painting a t-shirt, pillow cover or a canvas tote, you need to make sure the paint doesn’t seep through to the other side of the item. You can insert a square of cardboard between the layers, a thick pad of newspaper or even piece of plastic to keep the paint from leaking through to the back.

8. How Do I Make The Paint Permanent?

Most fabric paints can be heat treated to make them permanent. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for specific directions. Before heat setting your project, you should allow the paint to air dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours. Once the fabric is completely dry, you can heat set it for permanence. There are a couple ways to do this.

Use an iron to set your paint. If you want to make sure the paint doesn’t end up on the sole of your iron, you can prevent a mess in two ways.

Lay the cloth with the paint side down on the ironing board and iron the back side of the painting. Place a scrap of cloth under the painting to keep the ironing board cover stain-free.

Place the cloth with the paint side facing up and cover it with a pressing cloth before ironing it. Either way will ensure the paint is set and won’t wash off.

For large projects, you may be able to use your dryer. Set the heat to high and tumble for 30 minutes. Before trying this method of heat setting, paint a scrap of the fabric and set it using this method. Then, wash the sample. If your dryer has a high enough setting, the paint shouldn’t wash out.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the length of time and heat required to ensure that your painting is properly set and cured.

9. How Do I Work With Dark Fabrics?

You can use bleach to remove color from a dark fabric, much in the same way you use paint on light fabric. This is called discharging, and is a fun and somewhat unpredictable way of decorating dark fabrics.

Don’t us a good brush to apply bleach, as it will quickly degrade the bristles. If you’re messy, wear gloves to keep the bleach off your skin.

To stop the bleaching action, wash the fabric. If you leave the full-strength bleach on the fabric too long, it will degrade the fabric and you’ll wind up with a bleached design that’s embellished with holes.

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