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Painting On Fabric

How to Paint on Fabric

Our artist ambassadors Trish Green share with us her great knowledge of painting on fabric using acrylic based pens and paints. Trish has been creating amazing designs onto all different types of fabric for years and here she kindly shares with us her top tips for successful fabric painting. 

Table of Contents

How To Paint On Fabric

4 key points to remember when painting on fabrics

As an artist i paint and draw on a variety of different fabric surfaces ranging from, denim, cotton, canvas, faux leather, faux suede, jute and t shirt materials.
I’m am forever being asked about how permanent the paint or pens are.

I use acrylic paints and paint pens so the answer to that is slightly different and depends on the following key points.

Permeant acrylics

Ive put this list together to help and guide budding artists wanting to paint on fabrics. 

If you follow these points your projects are likely to last a for up to 40 washes. But I’ve experimented and still have T-shirt’s and denim jackets that haven’t faded for over a year.

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Preparation is key, alway make sure the surface your working on is clean and dry.
For denim pockets using masking tape frame the pocket for a clean crisp edge. At this point you can choose to apply a base coat of acrylic paint.
For jackets use a drawing board or thick card and stretch the jacket using fold back or bulldog clips.
For t shirts and cotton bags slightly stretch over a piece of card, using the card to create a barrier between the two layers of fabric.
For faux leather use and alcohol wipe to clean the surface before painting.
For shoes use masking tape to block off any area you don’t want the paint, remove laces and stuff the shoes with newspaper to keep the shape.


The surface your using is important as ultimately acrylic paint is permanent when dry as it sticks to the fibres of the fabrics. 

On tightly woven non stretchy fabric like denim, canvas, jute and faux leather the paint will stick and stay permanent.

For stretchy fabrics like T-shirt’s and stretchy jeans this isn’t the case so acrylic paints and paint pens may fade or crack over time. This is where the mediums come into place.

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As I’ve mentioned stretchy fabric can be slightly more difficult to paint and get a lasting finish, this is where a fabric medium will come in. The fabric medium adds a flexibility to the paint so that the paint sticks to the fibres of the fabric for longer.

The flexibility it creates means it will add longer lasting finish to the paint. There are lots of fabric mediums on the market but i use the golden heat fix medium because it works well to use with different products. In my work i mix between using Zieler acrylic paints and paint pen also sometimes using Posca chalk based pens.


With paint pens due to the nature of the liquid acrylic in some of them they already have the flexibility for example the Zieler paint pens don’t need heat fixing. However with more chalky paint pens like Posca they need to be heat fixed.

With acrylic paint its important that you use the acrylic paints with less water than you would do normally as this will help it stick to the fabrics. Always build up thin layers of paint to avoid thick areas that can crack when dry.

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Heat fix

Heat fixing the product is then done once all paint is dry. Remove all masking tape, boards and clips. Then Using an iron, iron on the reverse side of the paint never directly onto the paint.

For awkward shaped items that can not be ironed instead you can use a hairdryer to apply the heat fix. 

For painting on shoes for extra protection and to avoid scratching in areas with a lot of ware and tear. Use a clear shoe protector spray. I normally suggest this on all faux leather projects and any sports shoes.

I hope you find my tips useful and enjoy all the creative possiblities painting on fabric has to offer. 

Read more help art guides here

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