When there is a sale at some (or any) craftshop, I go into all ‘shopaholic’ mode. I have a cupboard full of paints and paraphernalia to prove this. And recently I got these cute acrylic paints set in 24 colors that I exhausted painting on pots and pans and ran out of ideas – so back to fabric again. This is how I converted the acrylic paints to work as fabric paint.
When painting on fabric what you usually want are bold, striking colors that will last through countless washes and wear. And this is possible with good quality fabric paints. Acrylic paints mixed with fabric medium do the same thing.
At this point, using acrylic paint is very economical, for me. I already have all the shades I want for half the price of fabric paints. I just need a fabric medium to make it all happen.
You may ask, why do I need another medium ? It is paint after all.
The problem with using acrylic paint is that your acrylic painted work may crack or peel when the fabric is stretched or worn. Acrylic on its own on fabric can feel hard and rigid, altering the texture and the fabric’s feel.
Fabric medium is a special additive that helps acrylic paint to bond with fabric and makes the paint more flexible and more durable. It is a clear, liquid substance usually available wherever craft paint is sold.
In this article I will cover:
How to mix the Fabric Medium
I wing it when I mix the acrylic paint with the medium – I just know enough to stop where the paint flows but still holds its own.
You can mix it up on your palette just before you start the work. No palette? No problem. The lid of an old takeout container would do. The goal here is to get that perfect, slightly runny consistency, which will glide onto the fabric, but not that runny that it will glide past your design.
The Ideal Consistency for mixing paint & medium
What is the consistency you’re aiming for with your fabric paint? If it pools too much when you tilt your palette, it’s too thin. If it barely moves, too thick. Adjust as needed; this isn’t a one-and-done situation. The beauty of acrylics is their flexibility. Too thick? Add more medium. Too runny? More paint will thicken it up.
Work the acrylic paint in thin layers; it’s easier to add more than to fix a too-thick application.
Alternatives to fabric medium
If you absolutely refuse to get the fabric medium here is one solution – Mix a teaspoon of fabric softener with your acrylic paint. It can make the paint more pliable when you work.
But it may not work the same way that the medium does. The fabric medium helps the acrylic paint adhere strongly to fabric but I don’t know if the fabric softener is meant to do that. I have seen it said to use a bit of glycerol in place of fabric medium. This seems to be a better suggestion than the fabric softener.
Whatever medium you use, it should keep your paint flexible and prevent cracking or peeling. Test on a scrap fabric piece to experiment. In my opinion, If you have an accessory or something that doesnot require washing, you can use acrylic paint as such or with these softening agents. If your final product will have to be frequently washed, do not skimp on using a tried and tested commercial medium.
How to make your acrylic paint stick on fabric, wash after wash.
When using acrylic paint mixed with fabric medium, you do not have to do anything extra than the usuall caveats you have when fabric painting
Choose a fabric that’s not too stretchy. Cotton or a cotton blend works well.
Wash and dry your fabric before painting. This will help to remove any dirt or oils that could prevent the paint from adhering properly. Pre-washing the fabric removes sizing and the paint will stick on the fabric better.
Work on a clean, flat surface. Prevent your acrylic paint from bleeding through the fabric by placing a piece of cardboard inside the clothing or textile you’re about to paint.
Use a variety of brushes and sponges to create different fabric painting effects.
Allow the paint to dry completely between coats.
Heat set the paint with an iron or hair dryer afterwards to make it more durable. Use the warm iron on the back of the painting to heat-set the paint
Do not wash the garment or fabric for atleast one full day or preferably a couple of days. This will ensure that your fabric painted artwork will withstand the test of time and the washing inside the washing machine.
And always check for colorfastness, bleeding, and how the dried paint handles stretching on your project and note it down. This will help you make changes to the consistency and proportion of how much paint and medium you are using.
So now you can repaint and remake those bandanas, personalize your pouches, and give those jeans jacket a new look with your creative fabric painted designs.
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