Fabric Painting Techniques (10 Easy Beginner level methods)

A guide to some easy to do fabric painting techniques that create unique designs on your clothes

Fabric painting is a simple way to print your own fabric.  You can conjure up beautiful designs, textures, and patterns on your otherwise plain, lackluster fabric with some paints and a brush. 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 like 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.

simple fabric painting techniques

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.

how to paint on fabric

The different techniques you could try with fabric paint are as follows

1.Freehand painting

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.

flower painting on fabric

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.

fabric painting techniques

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

Dot painting on fabric

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.

using ear bud to paint on fabric

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.

outline painting

A simple way to do Madhubani painting on fabric involves filling colour inside the outliner done in textured 3D outliner.

outline painting with outliners

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.

filling the design with color inside

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.

block printing on fabric with fabric paint

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.

fabric printing with potato blocks

The wooden stamps with intricate designs are great for decorating garments. Checkout this post on block printing for more details.

block printing diy

Learn more on making potato stamps and printing with it here

potato stamps

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.

fabric painting technique for beginners

You should be prepared for the design not to have a separate outline or definition, if you wet the area near the outline.

fabric painting technique for beginners

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.

how to make stencils

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 hands can create beautiful art work literally. Just try it, and you will find it very liberating. There is something very childlike in using your hands to paint away directly on to fabric.

You may have to scrub the paint from under the nails – a very frustrating process, believe me.

finger painting

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

tie dye effect with fabric painting techniques

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.

fold the fabric

Start applying the paint as in the picture below. Use your forefinger to press the paint over to the bottom layers.

apply the paint on top of the folded fabric

Open the fabric immediately. Spread to dry. Do not wash for about one week as in any fabric painting process.

Related posts : How to dye clothes – a simple tutorial; How to tie-dye ; 10 easy tie-dye designs

10. One stroke painting

one stroke painting on fabric

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.

Related posts : How to make fabric painting permanent – 5 methods

10 ways to draw and paint a rose

rose painting

6 Best methods to {Transfer Photos/Pictures/Images to Fabric} at home

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

20 thoughts on “Fabric Painting Techniques (10 Easy Beginner level methods)”

  1. I have been painting with acrylic paints from the craft store such as Delta Ceramcoat by Delta, Americana by Decoart and Lumiere by Jacquard for over 30 years on Fabric. I have found you first need to wash the item first without softner and then dry it without softner. Then you get can paint it. But you need to let it dry for at least 24 hours before you wash it. When you paint on anything other than white you should layer a couple of layers of white paint on your fabric…because the colors will show up better. Always use the same amount of TEXTILE MEDIUM with your paint because it will permanent that way. Also you either HEAT set it in the dryer for 20 minutes on high or iron it on the reverse side of the fabric. I make these for X-mas gifts for my family. I hand paint on sweat shirts I purchase in Februrary.

  2. Please tell me what I did wrong. I painted a denim jack with a galaxy-scape on it. I painted the dark sky all over and let that dry for a whole day, then went back in and painted my stars and my clouds. I mixed acrylic paint with textile medium and set the entire painting with heat after it was done drying. I then washed it on a gentle cycle. Most of the top layer (clouds, stars) washed/flaked off. Is this because there were too many layers?

  3. Thanks for making it sound so encouraging… I have been using paints in multiple forms but truly like your article for the simplicity and illustrations.
    Will try your Tie and dye look 🙂 and outline painting on a stole.

  4. Your work is beautiful and you have a lot of variety. I am hoping you may have some great suggestions I can use?

    I used to use Artex Paints a long time ago. Long, long time ago!!!! Are they still around? Maybe under a different name? I want to paint on some pillow cases for my sweet grandchildren and I bought fabric paints in a tube. I am actually looking for some simple cartoon characters and such.

    I appreciate your time and look forward to your reply.

    Thank you,
    Marie Smith

    • Hi Marie
      Thank you so much for the appreciative comment
      On Artex paints, I do not think that brand produces the fabric paints anymore – a google search shows up vintage listings of the paint on etsy.
      There is a brand Arteza.com and they sell craft supplies including fabric paints – are they a sister brand ? I don’t know
      Hope you have a great time starting your painting again
      Best wishes

  5. hello
    am looking for some brief notes concerning fabric designing
    for example
    tie and dye
    screen printing
    and others
    am looking forward to hear from u
    thank u

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