Fabric painting is a simple way to print your own fabric. With some paints and a brush, you can conjure up beautiful designs, textures and patterns on your otherwise plain, lackluster fabric. Completely transform it into a work of art.
As a comparative novice at painting, I was apprehensive about publishing this post with some of my fabric paintings; they look as if they are done by a kindergarten student ( I got feedback!). But I steeled my nerve. After all, I love painting and tried a hand at it a long time ago- a lot!. I had this old diary with every single page filled with designs meant to be painted on fabric – I still have it and recently it got a dusting down and here it is – just to prove that I can write this post.
Most of the designs you find on colouring books or embroidery pattern books are good for fabric painting. Check out the posts on embroidery design inspirations and “How to paint on Fabric” for some details on how to start with fabric painting and some important guidelines you should follow while painting as well as after it.
The different techniques you could try with fabric paint are as follows
This is what you do when you want to experiment and you have a steady hand for painting. Take liberal amounts of paint on your brush and paint away. Think about what you mean to create first -having a design in mind will result in a better painting.
Freehand fabric painting is a great way to make borders – some simple vines drawn freehand added with flowers interspersed in between make a good border design.
Simple know-how of shading techniques can give your design some depth. Dark shades first. Back ground images first. Light shades where the light falls. Follow some of these basic rules in shading with fabric painting
Layer the design with more and more lighter shading giving the picture some detailing and dimension.
2 Dot painting
If you have a pencil you can do this easy technique. The back end of the pencil, when dipped in paint, can give you good dots. Google for dot mandala and you get such brilliant designs – get inspired by them and create your own masterpieces
I am using simple earbuds – buy the cheap ones, not branded ones for this work if you do not have this already at home – earbuds get a lot of use in painting other than dot painting – you can take paint from the bottles without messing up brushes, mix color in the painting, clean under fingernails after painting, etc.
If you use an outliner to make these dots , especially an outliner which is metallic you can create a beaded effect. Use gold and silver or other metallic colors and create bead embroidery like look.
3 Outliner painting
This is a method in which you simply do the outline to work the whole design. This can be done with a thin liner brush (00 brush) or an outliner. Outliners are available in black as well as other shades.
A simple way to do Madhubani painting on fabric involves filling colour inside the outliner done in textured 3D outliner.
You can fill the colors inside the design and then do the outline or vice versa. The various glass painting designs are very well suited for this. A simple google search for glass paintings will give you many inspirations for your next project.
4 Spray painting
Fill a small sprayer bottle with colour and splash away or use a straw to blow designs on the fabric. A fun way to randomly paint the design. You can either buy spray fabric paint or add a special additive to paint which will make your paint to sprayable consistency if you want a professional effect.
5 Block Painting
Block painting is done with stamps. You apply paint on stamps and this stamp is imprinted on the fabric.
Vegetable block painting is the easiest way you can do this at home. Who does not have vegetables at home. Simply cut vegetables – patterned vegetables like ladies finger, or carvable vegetables like potato and use as stamps. There are people who make unbelievable paintings this way.
The wooden stamps with intricate designs are great for decorating garments. Checkout this post on block printing for more details.
Learn more on making potato stamps and printing with it here
6 Wet painting
This is a method in which fabric paint is used like water color. A watercolor blends color across the surface – this effect is achieved by using liberal amount of water on the paint and/ or soaking the fabric itself.
You should be prepared for the design not to have a separate outline or definition, if you wet the area near the outline.
The best way out of this spreading is to wet the design only on the inside. Do not wet the area near the outline. This way your colour would not spread (much).
7 Stencil painting
This is, I suppose, the most preferred method of fabric painting. Stencils make fabric painting easy. Simply place ready-made stencils on the fabric and use a brush or sponge to fill in colors. Repeat making similar designs with the same stencil all over. Check out this post on making a stencil yourself for fabric painting and the different stencil techniques you can use.
You can use a masking tape to create a similar effect – apply masking tape on areas where you do not want the paint. Then paint the fabric. Peel away the masking tape after the paint is dry
8 Finger painting
Ok, you do not have brushes and you like to mess with paint. Your fingers can create beautiful art work literally. Just try it, and you will find it very liberating. There is something very childlike in using your fingers to paint away directly on to fabric.
You may have to scrub the paint from under the finger nails – a very frustrating process, believe me.
9 Tie-dye with fabric paint
Ok, there is nothing tie or dye about this technique. It is another form of wet on wet technique but gives a nice tie and dye look
Use a very thin cotton fabric for this method to work.
Soak the fabric liberally. Squeeze to remove water. It should still be wet, but not dripping wet. Fold it two times by the center.
Start applying the paint as in the picture below. Use your fingers to press the paint over to the bottom layers.
Open the fabric immediately. Spread to dry. Do not wash for about one week as in any fabric painting process.
10 One stroke painting
This is a very beautiful technique – even a beginner can easily master this method of fabric painting and create beautiful designs, especially floral ones. Simply load a flat brush with paint and use it in one stroke to paint petals and other designs.
A single color or more shades of colors can be loaded on the brush to create a shaded effect.
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