How to Make Acrylic Paints Permanent on Fabric

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Paint fabric to create one-of-a-kind clothing and home décor.
Paint fabric to create one-of-a-kind clothing and home décor. (Image: seahorse fabric image by Katrina Miller from Fotolia.com)

Painting fabric is an easy way to spice up clothing and home décor. Many brands of fabric paint exist, but most don’t offer a wide range of color choices beyond the basic color wheel. A better paint option for a wider range of colors is acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium. Painting fabric with acrylic paint alone will leave the fabric stiff and uncomfortable to wear, and the paint will crack. Mixing a textile medium into the acrylic paint will create a washable, permanent fabric paint that will leave fabric flexible and won't crack, bleed or run.

Things You'll Need

  • Textile medium
  • Stirrer
  • Measuring spoons/cups
  • Soap
  • Cardboard
  • Waxed paper
  • Paint brushes
  • Stencils
  • Sponges
  • Iron

Select the colors of paint you would like to use on your fabric. (Prewashed and dried 50/50 cotton-blend fabric is best.) Acrylic paint and textile medium come in 2- or 8-oz. bottles. Shake the bottles of paint and textile medium well.

Acrylic paints come in a plethora of colors.
Acrylic paints come in a plethora of colors. (Image: tub of yellow paint image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com)

Mix one part textile medium to two parts acrylic paint.

Accurately measure your paint and textile medium.
Accurately measure your paint and textile medium. (Image: vintage measuring cups image by Scott Williams from Fotolia.com)

Thoroughly mix the acrylic paint and textile medium together with a stirrer until the white of the textile medium has disappeared.

Mix the acrylic paint and textile medium well.
Mix the acrylic paint and textile medium well. (Image: paint pots image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com)

Wash your stirrer and any measuring spoons/cups you might have used immediately with soap and water.

Insert a piece of cardboard covered with waxed paper inside your clothing or under your fabric and start decorating with the paint you just made. Use paintbrushes, stencils, sponges, your fingers, or anything else you want, to give your clothing a one-of-a-kind look.

Painting clothes allows you creative freedom.
Painting clothes allows you creative freedom. (Image: Fabric image by cacheman from Fotolia.com)

Air-dry your clothing or fabric for at least 24 hours.

Be sure to let the paint on your clothes dry thoroughly.
Be sure to let the paint on your clothes dry thoroughly. (Image: air dry image by Patricia Mesanko from Fotolia.com)

Heat set the paint before wearing or washing. Turn your iron onto the cotton setting, and turn your garment inside out. Lay a scrap piece of fabric or an old T-shirt over the painted area. Press your iron down firmly over the painted area for 20 seconds, lift and move to next area to avoid scorching. Do not slide the iron around. Be sure to iron the entire painted area.

Be sure to heat set the painted area completely.
Be sure to heat set the painted area completely. (Image: ironing work image by Lovrencg from Fotolia.com)

Tips & Warnings

  • When washing your newly painted garment, turn the clothing inside out and wash in cold water. Do not bleach.
  • To make the fabric paint more durable, iron both the inside and outside of the painted area. Be sure to cover the painted area with a piece of fabric before ironing.
  • Wear an old T-shirt or smock so you don't get your permanent fabric paint on the clothes you're wearing.
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