FAQ's about Fabric Painting



Painting on fabric is easier than ever before! Armed with a couple of great ideas and a surface to paint on, you can change your existing wardrobe in a flash using a wide assortment of fabric dyes, pens, color sprays, and dimensional paints to embellish just about anything! Create a new focal point for your outfit with a hand-painted t-shirt, a pair of jeans, a jacket, or even a cap! It's easy to make an inexpensive apron blank into a thoughtful and creative handmade gift. Or use a cloth bag as your canvas and try your hand at personalizing a bag for every occasion. You don't have to be an artist , even a freehand splash of color will make it your ‘own'. Once you get started, you'll be on your way to the creativity and joy that's in store for you with fabric painting!

Here's a list of some of the most frequently asked questions from fabric painters that can help you get a greater understanding of the fun that awaits. You'll find ingenious tips and techniques to make your work a masterpiece!

What is the best fabric to paint on?
Select washable natural-fiber and natural-blend fabrics. For best results, use 50/50 cotton/polyester blends. Test paint in a hidden area of your garment or yardage to ensure compatibility. Paint colors may vary on colored or textured fabrics.

How do I prepare fabric for painting?
Wash and dry new fabric items and yardage to remove sizing. Do not use fabric softener. Do not skip this step. It is essential! Place shirt board or waxed paper between fabric layers. Pin fabric in place for a smooth working surface.

What is the best way to paint right from a bottle of fabric paint?
Hold the bottle comfortably in the crook of your hand like a pencil so you can move it easily along a pattern as you squeeze out lines of color. Always hold the applicator tip against the fabric, squeeze and drag tip along fabric surface so that paint seeps into fibers. This is what bonds the paint to the fabric. Dimensional designs need ‘flex points' on fabric for durability and movement. Instead of making long continuous lines, make one 3 to 4-inch line at a time, and pick up the tip and start again by placing the tip just past the end of your first line. Repeat until you've created the desired length.

How do I choose brushes for fabric painting?
Choose your brushes by the effect you want to achieve. Flat shaders feature a chiseled edge that makes them ideal for creating a clean edge. Flat shaders are also ideal for creating ‘S' command leaf strokes and for filling in large areas. The liner brush is long or short tapered and is ideal for creating long, flowing lines such as stems, tendrils and scrolls. The scrubber generally features round, tapered bristles ideal for stippling, as well as adding and blending color on fabric.

How do I keep air bubbles from forming as I paint?
First, store the bottle upside-down. Tulip® Dimensional Fabric Paint is equipped with a unique CapStand™ that allows paint to be easily stored upside-down. Next, tap the bottle firmly (tip downward) on hard surface. Flush out bottle by squeezing out a small amount of paint, and wiping tip clean.

What is an easy way to practice fabric painting?
Preprinted paper towels are great for practicing linework.

How do I vary the type of line I can paint with dimensional fabric paint?
To create dimensional lines, hold bottle like a pencil and gently hold tip to the surface, squeezing and moving bottle over fabric. For raised line work, hold bottle at an angle, allowing more paint to escape. For flat line work, hold bottle straight up and down, allowing less paint to escape. To make a comma shape, hold bottle straight up and down and squeeze out a dot of color, pulling it toward you and quickly releasing pressure. Paint will naturally form a graduated tip. A comma can quickly turn into a heart by adding a second comma as a mirror image with tips touching.

What is the best way to transfer a design onto light colored fabric so that it is ready for painting?
Any line art pattern may be slipped under fabric. Use a disappearing ink pen to trace over the lines. For multiple images, move pattern in various places and trace accordingly. Paint over lines and once painted design is completely dry, spritz water over residual lines of disappearing ink to remove.

Can I use charcoal pencil to transfer designs onto light colored fabrics?
Yes. Trace line art pattern using charcoal pencil. For words and lettering, trace mirror image. Carefully position the pattern, charcoal side down, on the fabric. Hold the paper in place and rub over lines to transfer the pattern. Repeat as needed for each motif. Peel back paper to reveal transferred image.

What is the best way to transfer designs onto dark colored fabrics?
Using a chalk pencil and the ‘tulle trick', you can easily transfer any design to dark fabrics. Tape down the line art pattern onto the fabric. Tape tulle netting over the pattern. Trace the pattern onto the tulle with black permanent marker. Position tulle netting in place on the fabric and tape it to secure. Retrace lines with chalk pencil. Remove tulle netting to reveal chalked lines. (You may also use new Tulip® Bright Lines™ Iron-on Transfers, available in a wide variety of designs. These iron-ons can be used on both light and dark fabrics.)

How do I add shake-on glitter to a fabric painted project?
Shake-on glitter is great for adding an instant touch of sparkle. First, transfer your pattern to fabric using desired method. Paint as desired. Sprinkle glitter onto wet paint. Let dry for 24 hours. Do not wash for 72 hours.

How to I create a combed effect with fabric paint?
The combing technique results in raised ridges of color that take on different patterns, including zigzags, spirals, swirls and crosshatching. Here's how: Working in small sections, brush a generous amount of paint onto fabric. Immediately remove paint with combing tool, combing through paint in short strokes in different directions to create a variegated look. Wipe off paint with a paper towel as it builds up on tool. The thickness of the paint application determines the thickness of the ridges. Repeated combing over the same area will muddy colors. To avoid this, work from top to bottom or left to right, combing only once or twice over a single area.

What is the best way to set embellishments with fabric paint?
You can easily set rhinestones, buttons and charms with fabric paint, instead of glue. Choose your paint to match the fabric or the color of the stone; or choose contrasting colors for added depth in design. Squeeze a bead of paint about the same size as the rhinestone onto surface. Place stone on top of paint. Gently tap rhinestone into paint so that the paint comes up around edges to form a setting. Let dry flat. Remember, designs with embellishments take longer to dry, so be sure and allow for plenty of drying time.

I've seen ‘splattering' on lots of projects; how do I do it?
Splattering in one or more colors is an instant and fun way to create a colorful background or is a great look by itself! Cut open plastic trash bags and spread over work surface. Insert paper towels in garment openings to protect inside of fabric from paint. Mix equal amounts of paint and water to light cream consistency. Mix thoroughly with brush. Add water as needed to adjust consistency. Hold brush on bottom third between thumb and middle finger with index finger extended. Tap firmly. Use index finger to tap brush, while snapping wrist downward to ‘snap' paint from brush. Splatter fabric with one color, or for variety, create stripes. Position foil strips across garment. Splatter on areas between foil. Use same foil strips to cover previously painted fabric, and splatter remaining areas with second color

How do I work with compressed sponges on fabric?
Compressed sponges are fun and easy to use. The surface of a compressed sponge is flat and firm enough that you can easily trace or draw a design onto it. Cut out the shape with scissors, place it in water and watch it expand! Squeeze desired paint colors in a zigzag onto foil. Press sponge into desired color to ensure an even coat of paint. Press painted side of sponge onto fabric, using even pressure. For an additional accent, outline sponged images with dimensional paint. This technique looks best on white or light-colored fabric.

How do I create a sponged background on fabric? 
Use sea sponges to create a sponged background on fabric. With their different textures, sea sponges are ideal for creating beautiful blended and layered effects. Here's how: Squeeze desired paint colors and a small amount of water onto foil. Wet sponge; squeeze out excess water. Gently press sponge into one paint color.
Dab sponge on paper towel to remove excess paint. Gently press loaded sponge onto fabric in a random pattern. Add a second color randomly in open areas, overlapping to soften. Blot excess paint on paper towel between colors to prevent muddying. Add a third color randomly in open areas. Remember, it's easier to add color than to take color away, so be sure and dab off an adequate amount of paint. It helps to practice first on a scrap piece of fabric.

What is paper printing and how do you do it with fabric paint?
Create a new look in hand-stamped designs with only paper and simple line art! Use the line art from iron-on transfers, coloring books or other printed material. Place blank paper over design and trace over the lines with dimensional paint. Larger, open designs work best so that paint colors won't run together. Position painted side of paper in desired location on fabric. Holding the paper to secure, gently press down over each painted line to transfer paint to the fabric. Carefully peel back pattern to reveal printed image. To make multiple patterns, photocopy your design.

What's the best way to use oversized foam or rubber stamps on fabric?
Oversized stamps give you a clean consistent design from image to image. Squeeze desired paint color onto foil. Tap sponge into paint and sponge evenly to coat stamping surface. Avoid overloading. Press painted stamp onto fabric, applying pressure evenly on all areas of stamp. Lift stamp straight up to reveal stamped image. Re-paint stamp to make additional images. Try using more than one color to create visual interest. If stamp builds up with paint, clean the stamp with soapy water, let dry and continue.

How can I use real or silk leaves in my fabric painted designs?
An easy way to achieve the look of nature is with fresh leaves. Squeeze out two or three complimentary paint colors onto foil. Place leaf, vein side up, on foil. Paint leaf with all colors, overlapping slightly. Carefully place painted side of leaf on fabric and cover with a paper towel. Press over entire leaf area, applying even pressure. Lift paper towel and leaf to reveal stamped image. Repeat steps for added images, using a fresh leaf each time. Embellish leaf with dimensional paint as desired.

I've heard you can use fabric paints to create a batik look. How is it done?
Use Tulip® Matte™ Dimensional Fabric Paint as a ‘resist' to create the subtle decorating looks so popular today. Cut stencil and peel. Position stencil on fabric and press firmly into place to prevent paint seeping under the edge. We recommend that you dab on desired Tulip Matte colors, but any fabric paint finish will be acceptable. Peel off stencil. Let dry. Choose 3 colors of Ultra Soft™ Tulip paint. Using plastic cups, thin colors with water to ink consistency. Brush the lightest color randomly over and around the stenciled motif. Repeat with second darkest color. Fill in remaining areas with the darkest color.

I have seen watercolor painting with fabric paints. Is it difficult to do? How is it done?
A watercolor look on fabric results in a distinctively subtle effect often seen in today's popular looks, and is ideal for floral designs. A watercolor wash is often used as a soft background … or is attractive by itself. The intensity of color depends on the ratio of water to paint and the thickness of the fabric. Mix desired paint color and water to ink consistency. The amount of water can be varied to achieve desired intensity of color. Load brush with this watercolor wash and paint random stripes horizontally, moving brush from side to side. Holding spray bottle approximately 8-12-inches away from fabric, spritz water on fabric, making sure it is evenly saturated. Clean the brush between paint colors, swishing it through water and blotting on a paper towel. Load brush again with a different paint color, paint and spritz as before.  Repeat the process again to add a third paint color. If necessary, spritz again to accelerate the spread of paint. For best results, use equal parts paint and water. Do not use less water than paint. Paint colors generally dry lighter than how they appear wet. Paint becomes more difficult to spread as it dries. Use a hair dryer to quickly prevent paint from spreading further.

How long does it take for fabric paint to dry?
That depends on how thick the paint is. For a typical application of Tulip® Dimensional Fabric Paint, allow 24 hours to dry and 72 hours to cure completely before washing.

Do fabric paints need heat setting?
No, most fabric paints, including Tulip® and Scribbles® brand fabric paints do not require heat setting.

What is the best way to care for fabric painted pieces?
For garments, refer to the care instructions. If painted on yardage, refer to the fabric bolt. If the garment or fabric can be machine washed, turn inside out and use warm water on gentle cycle with a mild detergent and fabric softener in a warm rinse. Cold water may cause fabric paint to crack. Line dry. Do not dry clean. Do not use harsh detergents or bleach.

If I make a mistake with fabric paint, what should I do?
While paint is still wet, apply rubbing alcohol or use wet wipes containing alcohol. (This may change the color of some fabrics; test on a hidden spot first.) If you can't remove paint, embellish your blunder! Use a little artistic license to add some originally to the design! Or, attach embellishments such as rhinestones, mirrored appliqués, ribbons, jewels, metal studs or beads to the area.

How do I remove paint from cloth after it dries?
Sometimes fabric paint will peel off a fabric, depending on the fabric content. If it does not peel off, use acetone to remove, working on a test patch first.

How do I remove fabric paint from hair or skin?
Under normal conditions, fabric paint will peel off skin. If not, repeated washings with a mild soap will remove fabric paint from skin. Repeated washings with a mild shampoo will remove fabric paint from hair.

Why won't fabric paint stick to the fabric I want to paint?
First, make sure you have removed sizing by machine washing and drying your fabric or garment without fabric softener. Next, when painting, be sure to touch the tip of the bottle to the fabric, making a better bond.

How do I unclog the tip of my fabric paint bottle?
Remove the tip, rinse in warm water and poke a T-pin down through the hole making an opening wide enough for the paint to flow through. If you simply poke a pin through the tip, without removing the clog, the clog will find its way to the tip again. You may also use Aleene's® CleanAway to unclog fabric painting tips.

We hope these questions and answers take some of the mystery out of fabric painting and provide some inspiration to take on a couple of projects of your own. Happy painting!

Click here for some project ideas using fabric painting techniques.