Tips For Using Fabric Paints

This post may contain affiliate links. I may make a commission if you purchase through them. :)

The craft craze is growing like wildfire.

Everyone wants to feel creative, and dipping a toe into the craft pond is a fun way to express yourself.

Maybe you’re not into painting a masterpiece, but using paint to decorate household items, clothing and accessories is a craft whose time and materials has come into its own. Today there are tons of paints, supplies and tools to make fabric painting fast, easy and inexpensive.

Whether you want to embellish a shirt, add a pop of color to a ready-made throw pillow or decorate a patio rug, there are easy, safe Fabric Paints and all the materials you need to complete your project at a local craft shop. To get started, you only need a few basic tools and a nice selection of colors to begin creating your own personal home décor products.

Which Fabrics Are Best For Painting?

Your best bet for successful fabric painting is natural fibers or synthetic blends that are at least 50 percent natural fibers. Synthetic fabrics don’t absorb the paint as well as naturals such as linen, cotton or jute.

How Is The Fabric Prepared For Painting?

Fabrics contain sizing that coats the fibers. This must be removed for the paint to absorb properly. Wash and dry fabric or garments before painting, but don’t use fabric softener, as this will prevent paint from adhering to the surface. If you’re painting a garment, place a piece of cardboard or wax paper between the layers, so the paint won’t seep through.

Use pins to secure the fabric flat to the protective cardboard layer to prevent wrinkles and bunching while you’re painting.

What Kind Of Paint Is Used For Fabric Painting?

You can use standard Acrylic Paints, or you can buy Fabric Paints that are specially formulated for use with cloth. Depending on the final use of your painted fabric, the softness or flexibility of the painted area can be important.

If you’re decorating a tote bag, throw pillow or floor mat, a hardened paint surface is fine. Use acrylic paint like Dick Blick, Golden or Liquitex for these surfaces. You may thin the paint with water, or you can purchase fabric medium to add to standard acrylic paint.

However, if you’re painting a garment like a shirt or scarf the paint must be soft and flexible. That’s where specialty fabric paints like Pebeo, FolkArt or DecoArt Fabric Paint come in handy. They’re formulated to remain soft, so they won’t be rough or abrasive if the fabric touches skin.

What Kind Of Tools Are Used For Fabric Painting?

There’s several ways to paint fabric. You can use standard paintbrushes, sponges, rollers or you can apply paint using a squeeze bottle.


The effect you want to achieve will make a difference in your application. If you’re painting on a coarse fabric, a stiff brush with short bristles allows you to work the paint into the fibers. A stiff bristle brush also makes it easy to do a dry brush effect.

If you’re working with soft, fine fabric and want a loose, watercolor appearance, use a soft brush. Thinning the paint with water or medium allows the pigment to flow. You can also moisten the fabric to encourage a loose, painterly effect. Don’t drench the fabric, as water will dilute the intensity of the colors.


Using a sponge, you can create a soft, diffused appearance to your paint. Sponges are good for larger areas, and a sea sponge will give you lovely, random areas of light and dark applications of paint.

Sponges are also useful when using stencils. Make sure that you don’t overload your sponge with paint, or you’ll wind up with thick, goopy blotches. To load a sponge for stenciling, lightly tap the sponge into your mixed paint, and then tap it on paper toweling to remove excess pigment before painting.


A sponge roller is perfect for painting large areas of fabric. If you’re creating an allover design with a large stencil, tape the stencil in place and begin rolling on the paint just as you would if you were painting a wall. However, don’t overload your roller with paint. You may need to do a couple of applications to achieve the correct coverage.

Squeeze Bottles

With a squeeze bottle, you can control the flow of paint and create fine line work. Almost like drawing, you can use the bottle method to write, outline or squirt random drops of paint. Squeeze bottles are convenient, as you have an unlimited amount of paint and don’t need to reload constantly.

The tip size of the bottles can vary in diameter, so you can choose bottles with fine tips for detail work or bigger tips to apply a larger amount of paint.

Fabric Paint Pens

Fabric Paint Pens are available in a wide variety of colors, tip widths and specialty effects. They’re very versatile and easy to use. If you can use a pencil, you can use a paint pen.

Many paint manufacturers produce paint pens, and you’ll have a huge variety of colors and specialty effects to consider. Tulip, Plaid, Marvy, Pentel and Sharpie are just a few of the brands you’ll find in your local craft store.

Using a paint pen is as simple as writing your name. With a variety of tip widths, you can create a wide variety of effects. Changing the angle of your pen is the best way to adjust the width of your paint stroke. Don’t press down to widen the line, as this will only damage the point.

Use constant motion when you’re painting with a paint pen. If you stop or hesitate, the paint will continue to seep into the fabric and you’ll have an unsightly blob.

Painting on fabric is an easy craft for everyone. Children will enjoy creating their own designer fashions. They’ll be the hit of the playground. Teens can personalize accessories and create custom décor for their room. If you’re looking for an easy gift for a friend or relative, let your imagination go wild with a personalized tote bag, table runner or pillow. Fabric painting is fast, inexpensive and fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *