Using Fabric Paint

Kate Miller-Wilson
Fabric Paint

From spray-on paints to fabric stenciling products, there are many types of fabric paints on the market. Each type has a different process for use as well as different projects to which it is suited. Understanding the options can help you choose the best type of paint for your needs and apply the paint properly to get ideal results.

Spray-On Fabric Paint

One of the easiest fabric paints to use is the spray-on variety, such as Simply Spray Fabric Paint. These paints create a soft, shaded color and set immediately without heat. You can use stencils for sharper lines or just use the spray free-hand for a faded effect. This type of paint won't cover a dark fabric with a lighter color, but it works well to cover light fabric with any shade of paint. Spray-on fabric paint retails for about $8 to $15 per can, depending on the brand.

How to Use It

This type of paint is easy to use, although it can be messy:

  1. Set up your project in a well-ventilated area, and consider wearing a painting mask to keep from inhaling vapors. Wear old clothing and cover surrounding surfaces to protect from overspray.
  2. If you're using stencils or tape, apply these items to your project first. Cover any areas of the project that you don't want painted.
  3. Holding the can of paint about eight inches from the surface of your fabric, begin spraying in light, even strokes. Recoat as needed for more even coverage.
  4. Allow the fabric to dry thoroughly, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Great for These Projects

You can use spray fabric paint for just about any project, including the following:

  • Spray designs on bedding for a unique home decor look.
  • Create pillows, shower curtains, and slipcovers that are one-of-a-kind. Some brands also allow you to spray upholstery.
  • Make beautiful stenciled t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and tote bags.
  • Spray an apron for a fun gift.

Dimensional Fabric Paint

Dimensional fabric paint, such as the classic Tulip Puffy Paint, offers a fun way to create designs you can see and feel. As you apply the paint, it dries with a raised texture. This type of paint has been around for decades and comes in a wide variety of colors, textures, and styles. It's also inexpensive; you can buy a set of puffy fabric paints for under $10.

How to Use It

Using dimensional fabric paint is easy, which makes this a great type of paint to use in projects with kids:

  1. Decide on a design and mark the design on your fabric.
  2. Uncap the paint and trace a narrow line over the design, applying even pressure to the bottle or tube as you go.
  3. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly according the manufacturer's instructions.

Great for These Projects

Dimensional fabric paint is perfect for many projects, including the following:

  • Create designs on kids' t-shirts and sweatshirts.
  • Decorate backpacks, tote bags, and reusable shopping bags.
  • Make team shirts for an event or competition.
  • Add embellishments to casual holiday placemats.

Stenciling Fabric Paint

Although you can use liquid fabric paint for stenciling it has some drawbacks, such as bleeding away from your design or seeping under you stencil. Cream-based paints made especially for stenciling, such as Delta Home Stencil Paint, have a texture that is ideal for this type of project. Prices vary depending on the brand, but you can expect to spend around $10 for a multi-color pack.

How to Use It

Using stencil fabric paint is easy. Here's how you do it:

  1. Choose a stencil and apply it to your fabric using tape or adhesive.
  2. Dip a stencil pouncer, a round foam piece on the end of a stick, into the paint. Wipe off any excess.
  3. Carefully daub the paint over the area you are stenciling. Don't smear. Continue applying paint until you have the desired coverage.
  4. Allow the project to dry before removing your stencil.

Great for These Projects

Stenciling is one of the most versatile ways for using fabric paints. Try it on some of the following projects:

  • Create unique baby gifts by stenciling animals on onesies, blankets, diaper bags, and more.
  • Freshen up your home decor with stenciled pillows, bedding, dish towels, and other items.
  • Apply stenciled designs to t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, and even jeans.

Brush-On Fabric Paint

This classic kind of fabric paint is great for making freehand designs using a paintbrush. Available in a nearly endless array of colors, brush-on paint is the choice for many fabric artists. A two-ounce bottle of brush-on paint like FolkArt Fabric Paint typically costs about two or three dollars.

How to Use It

To use this type of paint, follow these steps:

  1. Pour some of the paint into an open container or dish. Choose a brush in the size you want.
  2. Dip the brush in the paint and create the design. Allow each color to dry slightly before applying other colors.
  3. Allow the project to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Some types of paint may require heat setting. Check the instructions to be sure.

Great for These Projects

Try brush-on fabric paints with these projects:

  • Paint an image or multi-colored picture on a sweatshirt or t-shirt.
  • Apply painted designs to table linens like runners, placemats, napkins, and tablecloths.
  • Make a unique apron.
  • Paint home decor items like slipcovers, pillows, bedspreads, and more.

Bead-Style Fabric Paint

Bead-style fabric paint, such as Tulip Beads in a Bottle, allows you to create designs on fabric in the shape of rounded beads. The paint is quite thick and easily forms rounded bead shapes. You can select where you want the beads to go. Typically, this type of fabric paint is quite inexpensive, ranging from about $9 to $20, depending on the number of tubes included and the brand name.

How to Use It

Bead-style fabric paint is simple and fun to apply. Here's how you do it:

  1. Decide on a pattern for your paint beads ahead of time and use a fabric pencil to mark your design.
  2. Uncap the paint bottle or tube and gently squeeze a small amount of the paint in the desired spot.
  3. Keeping the tube in the same spot, stop squeezing and allow the paint to stop flowing. This will prevent strings of paint from ending up on other portions of your design.
  4. Move on to the next spot and repeat.
  5. Allow the paint to dry according to the package directions.

Great for These Projects

You can use this type of paint for a variety of projects, including the following:

  • Add beaded designs to patterned fabric by highlighting portions of the pattern.
  • Create a necklace effect on a t-shirt or top by decorating around the neckline.
  • Enhance the pockets on jeans.
  • Give jackets, tops, hats, and other apparel a studded look by outlining seams with paint beads.

Where to Buy Fabric Paint

You can find fabric paint at your local craft store or hobby shop, or you can shop online from one of these retailers:

  • Michaels has a great selection of dimensional fabric paints in every color you can imagine. You'll also find stencils and other tools.
  • Dick Blick Art Materials is another trusted shopping resource with a variety of fabric paints, brushes, stencils, paintable items, and more. They offer every type of fabric paint you may need.
  • AC Moore has hundreds of different fabric paints of all types, as well as paintable items, project ideas, tools, and more.
  • DecoArt offers glitter fabric paint, dimensional paint, pearlized paints, top coats, and almost every other type and color of paint you can imagine.

Ensure the Success of Your Project

With all the types of fabric paint available there's sure to be a product that's perfect for your needs. Knowing how to use the paint and which type of paint to choose is essential to the success of your unique project.

Using Fabric Paint