3 Ways to “Watercolor” Fabric Napkins

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The popularity of watercolor and its scope of influence continues to grow. Gone are the days of only finding watercolor on prints adorning walls. Its application expands to include home decor, fashion, and, of course, textiles. The soft blend of colors are beautiful on their own or when combined.

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Today, I’ll be sharing three different methods to achieve the look of watercolor on fabric napkins. The various mediums have slightly different results, yet the technique for applying the color is very similar, depending on the degree of watercolor effect you wish to achieve. Using ink, fabric paint and fabric dye, the following methods are simply guidelines and experimental in nature, but will hopefully inspire you to create your own works of art.

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METHOD 1: FABRIC PAINT

Materials Needed:

  • Cotton, linen or natural fabric napkins
  • Fabric paint
  • Palette
  • No. 6 round brush
  • No. 8 flat brush
  • Spray bottle

 

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1. Pour your desired paint color onto a palette and dilute it with water using a 1:6 paint-to-water ratio.
2. Dip your brush into the watery paint and paint your desired subject (in this example, simple straight lines) on the dry fabric napkin.
3. While the paint stroke is fairly fine at first, it will bleed onto the fibers of the fabric as time elapses.
4. To achieve a deeper bleed, spray the painted line with a few spritzes of water.
5. To create thicker lines, use a flat brush to paint the line and then spray it with water.
6. Lay the napkin flat to dry.
7. Wash in cold water and place in the dryer to dry.

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METHOD 2 – FABRIC DYE

Materials Needed:

  • Cotton, linen or natural fabric napkins
  • Garbage bags to cover surface area
  • Rubber gloves
  • 1 bottle of Rit liquid dye
  • 3-gallon plastic container
  • Large plastic bowl or bucket (large enough to hold 5 cups of liquid)
  • Measuring cups
  • Large spoon for stirring
  • Hanging rack or clothesline
  • Large plastic tray

 

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1. Cover your work surface with plastic.
2. Put on rubber gloves and shake the dye bottle.
3. Fill a 3-gallon plastic container with 2 gallons of very hot water (140 degrees F).
4. Pour ½ cup liquid dye and 4 cups of very hot water into a plastic bowl or bucket and stir well to combine.
5. Pour the dye solution into the large container of hot water; stir well.
6. Wet the portion of the napkin you want to dye (in this example, half of the napkin).
7. Place this portion of fabric in the dye solution for 4 to 6 minutes. (Note: the longer you leave the fabric in the dye, the darker the stain will be.)
8. Remove the napkin from the dye and hold it above the plastic container, allowing any excess solution to drip off for a couple of minutes.
9. Hang the napkin upside down on a clothesline or rack (with a plastic tray placed underneath), allowing the dye to run down away from the dipped area. The moisture of the cloth will help dilute the solution, causing a watercolor ombre effect.
10. Once the napkin has dried, wash it in cold water and hang dry.

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METHOD 3 – INK & FABRIC PAINT

Materials Needed:

  • Cotton, linen or natural fabric napkins
  • Fabric paint
  • Palette
  • Screen-printing or alcohol ink
  • No. 6 round brush
  • Spray bottle

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This particular method mixes both screen-printing ink and fabric paint.

1. Pour your desired screen-printing ink and fabric paint onto a palette and dilute both using a 1:6 ink/paint-to-water ratio.
2. Wet the fabric napkin and paint the desired pattern using both the diluted ink and paint. Note: Since you will be blending two mediums with this method, I recommend you keep the colors in the same color family. (In this example, I used all cool colors.)
3. Hang the fabric upside-down, enabling the ink/paint to run down away from the area you painted. Similar to the first method, this gives the fabric a nice wash or ombre effect.

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Optional: I wanted to experiment painting an abstract flower right onto the fabric and recognize this will take a little more practice and experimentation, as the fabric absorbs and spreads the color fairly quickly.

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This shows you the progression of painting an abstract flower using a No. 6 round brush. In this case, I used ink since the pigments are richer and darker. I kept the lines very loose and organic, and elected to keep the colors monochromatic and in the same family as the background.

Simply dip the brush in the watered down ink and apply it to the fabric in “loose” flower petal shapes, blending a few different colors for the petals. Stipple a new color into the center of the flower, and then paint a stem. Spray the fabric with water and allow the colors to bleed onto each other. Once the napkin is dry, wash it in cold water and hang dry.

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I really enjoy the look of these watercolor napkins and would encourage you to give any of these methods a try and see what you come up with. They are sure to add an artful touch to any table setting.

As always, if you need clarification or have a question, please leave a message below or write to craftberrybush@yahoo.com, and I will respond as soon as I can.

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