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How to Paint on Clothes – Expert Tips for DIY Fabric Painting

Fabric painting is a great way to give worn t-shirts, drab upholstery, or any other dull fabric new life. By mastering the fabric painting technique, you may become your own fashion or interior designer and bring your visions to life. However, suppose you’ve never painted on clothing before! In that case, you’ll want to learn how to paint on fabric so thoroughly before getting started—especially because, unlike a conventional canvas, it’s not always as simple as tossing the thing to the side and starting over if you make a mistake.

Why Paint Fabric?

When it comes to giving an old t-shirt or pair of shorts a new lease of life, a bit of paint may do wonders. You may make stunning designs with brilliant colors. Designs that aren’t available in stores or for mass consumption. Fabric paint can make each outfit individual and special by giving dyes and inks a different impact. Fabric paint can also be used to refresh worn or faded designs. It can assist you in repurposing and recycling old clothing, giving them a new lease on life, delivering sustainable fashion and environmentally responsible clothing at your fingertips.

Fabric Paint vs Dye vs Ink

Fabric Paint

It is a form of paint created to be used on textiles. It’s commonly used to make custom art projects and apply patterns and decorations to fabrics on a commercial basis. Working with this substance is similar to working with regular paint, and various craft outlets stock a variety of fabric paints for various materials and looks. Although fabric dye can be applied like paint to some textiles, this paint is not at all like fabric dye. Fabric paint differs from acrylic paint in that it has a particular binding that helps it adhere to most fabrics; this is one of the ways that fabric paint differs from acrylic paint in that the latter attaches better to clothing.


Dye is a colorant that gives textiles, paper, leather, and other materials a permanent color that is resistant to washing, heat, light, and other conditions that the material is likely to be exposed to. Pigments can be inorganic or organic molecules, whereas dyes are mostly organic substances. Pigments are dyes that are insoluble in the media used, and they produce stronger colors.


Ink is a liquid that contains various pigments or dyes and is used to color a surface to generate an image or text. Then, it is used to draw or write with a pen or brush. In letterpress and lithographic printing, thicker inks in a paste are commonly utilized.

Can you Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric?

During the painting process, acrylic paint flows effortlessly into the fabric. Textile mediums can be used to keep paint on cloth. On fabrics, acrylic paints are usually persistent. Acrylic paint can also be used on fabric without using a medium. Certain acrylic paints are developed exclusively for use on fabrics. However, most acrylic paints are too dense on fabric and therefore must be lightened with a solvent. If you employ a medium that provides acrylic the qualities required to bond to cloth effectively, acrylic paint becomes the best. The cloth will be tight and awkward to handle if you’re not using a medium to dilute the paint.

How to Paint on Fabric Permanently?

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to paint on fabrics permanently.

Step 1: Fabric Preparation

  • Pick your fabric carefully. Washable natural-fiber and natural-blend textiles with cotton/polyester compositions are ideal for fabric painting.
  • Spread the fabric carefully as per your needs on a clean flat surface. Wrinkled fabric will result in a sloppy painting and a dingy appearance.
  • Pin the fabric in place with safety pins or sewing pins. Embed one pin in each corner to keep the fabric from slipping.
  • To avoid shrinkage, launder your fabric after you’ve finished painting.

Step 2: Choosing painting materials

  • Choosing the right painting supplies is really important. Make a list of everything you’ll need when painting clothes.
  • Make a list of the colors you’d want to use to paint your masterpiece. Always inspect your paints for quality before using them on the fabric. Expired or dry paint would look awful on the fabric and may easily wash away. So always choose the best fabric paints that suits your need.
  • Paint Brushes must be of good quality, as damaged brushes may run off rough on the cloth surface, resulting in textured lines.

Step 3: Painting Your Fabric

  • Whenever you want to paint fabric, never start painting your drawing right away. Always begin by sketching with a pencil and then painting the sketch you just created. 
  • When painting your drawing, avoid using the same brush for each color. Using the same brush will result in new color shades in your painting, which you don’t want.
  • To achieve perfection, begin painting gently with smooth and gentle brush strokes.

How to Care for Painted Fabric?

It’s far easier to paint the fabric than maintain the painted fabric. It’s a relief to paint your intended design on cloths successfully, but it’s a big let-down for the artist when the wet painting is ruined. To avoid any damage to the masterpiece, the artist must carefully lay the painted fabric in a safe spot after painting. The painted fabric must be allowed to dry for a reasonable time. The brilliance of the color can fade with time, just like any other clothing item. Thus it’s vital to follow a few guidelines:

  • You must first turn the clothing inside out.
  • Important: Never use fabric softener! Wash the fabric in cold water with a moderate detergent (manual wash or gentle cycle on your washing machine). It will gradually eat away at the paintwork.
  • Lay them flat to dry or hang them up to drip dry after washing (out of direct sunlight).
  • Before ironing, turn the item inside out.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Fabric (Waterproof)?

Fabric seal or fabric medium should be used if you want acrylic paint to settle down permanently. However, employing fabric medium will be far superior. Because of the fabric medium, the garment will be less abrasive and gentler. It also prevents paint from cracking and ensures that color permanently adheres to cloth. On other hand, it prevents acrylic paint from splitting, allowing it to stay on fabric. Wash cloth on a gentle cycle with a fabric softener and hang it to dry to ensure that acrylic paint stays on cloth for as long as possible. Also, make sure to use cold water when washing darker items.

Step 1: Allow for complete drying of paint

You must wait 24 hours for material to dry before proceeding with the heat-set process. Please wait at least 4 days after paint is dry before washing it properly. After that, please give it a thorough wash and proceed with the heat-set process without delay.

Step 2: Apply a sealant to fabric to keep paint from seeping through

Ensure iron isn’t on steam during the heat-set process. It will help if you heat dry paint to adhere to fabric properly. Empty water vessel and turn off steam setting on iron, which may come out automatically. If possible, iron on the incorrect side of fabric rather than the painted side. Alternatively, place a little scrap of material above the painted area. When you use these two choices, iron will not mistakenly scorch the painted surface of material. It will also prevent any shade or color from being transferred to fabric by iron.


Does acrylic paint wash off clothes?

Usually acrylic paint stays long if you use fabric medium and wash it gently with fabric softener. However, if you want to remove acrylic from clothes wash it before it gets dry. Once dried, it gets hard to remove. You can try isopropyl alcohol, ammonia and vinegar. Though they might not completely remove the stains, you can remove to some extent.

What kind of paint can you use to paint fabric?

You can use acrylic paint, oil paint, airbrush paint or oil paint for cloths or fabrics which are proved to give the best results.

Can you use spray paint on fabric?

Yes, you can spray paint on fabric. Any regular spray paint works on fabric, but better choose the paint that is meant for fabric as all are not compatible with textiles.

Does fabric paint wash off?

Fabric paints are usually formulated to be permanent on clothes. If the paint is still wet, you can try washing them off as mentioned above.


Fabric painting is simple and effective. It’s a terrific way to make a one-of-a-kind item or give an old shirt a new lease of life. Acrylic paint can be used on fabric, but the project will look better if you use a fabric medium and heat-set the color after painting. To make acrylics more malleable, you can buy a variety of fabric mediums at your local craft store, or you can make your own with vinegar and glycerine.