Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric? (Perfectly Explained)

Are you looking for a quick, easy & effective DIY solution for the query “can you use acrylic paint on fabric?” then you’ve landed on the right page.

Acrylic paint is one of the most versatile types of paint that you can use, but it also poses some challenges. One question that often comes up is whether or not you can use acrylic paints on fabric.

You can use acrylic paint on the fabric. It will endure on clothes indefinitely. Acrylic, on its own, has a limited lifespan on the material.

For optimum outcomes, you must first prepare the cloth with a medium and then seal the paint with a technique known as heat-setting.

In this article, we’ll cover everything on the query “can you use acrylic paint on fabric?” from what materials are needed to care for finished pieces, so they last for years.

You should also note that you need to make sure your fabric is clean and dry before painting it with acrylics in order to avoid any problems.

It’s important to remember that this type of paint dries quickly, so if you want a more natural look, don’t overwork the material while applying the paint, or it may appear too flat once dry.

What Is Fabric Paint?

Many painters are familiar with the term “acrylic paint,” but what exactly is it? Simply put, acrylic paint is a non-permanent water-based paint that uses pigment.

It usually consists of either synthetic or natural pigments. As for its consistency, acrylic paint can vary from watery to heavily thickened gel-like.

It cannot be diluted with water and sets quickly on the surface of the media, usually within 15 minutes. Although acrylic paint is not permanent like oil paint, it can be mixed with each other (and sometimes even with oils).

It also dries quickly to a matte finish that can still be further modified during drying, such as by blending or washing with a wet brush.

The variety of colors and quality of pigments have been steadily improving, making acrylic paint one of the most popular media among artists.

In addition to being water-based, it is also more economical than oil paints since there is no need for solvents or thinners, so clean-up can be done simply by using water.

In terms of usage, acrylic paint is ideal for use on a wide range of surfaces – from paper to canvas to even wood and stone.

It’s also highly versatile as it can be applied as an opaque layer or as a transparent glaze. In addition, the settling process (the drying time) is much faster than oil paint, and it is even possible to use acrylic paints in the form of sprays.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric?

Are you someone who enjoys painting, drawing, and designing? Then you might be wondering if it is possible to use acrylic paint on fabric.

The answer to your question is yes! You can, in fact, use acrylic paint on fabric, and there are a few different options that allow you to do this.

Before being able to use acrylic paint on the fabric, you should know what type of fabric it is. Also, you should have a firm understanding as to whether the material you want to paint onto needs to be washed afterward.

Fabric comes in all different types, and as long as it can handle being wet, then it will work just fine with acrylic paint.

As a matter of fact, by using acrylic paint, you will have the ability to wash your designs as often as you need without them fading or coming off.

For this reason, it makes an excellent product for painting on clothing items such as t-shirts and sweatshirts as well as on shoes and pillows.

After you’ve finished painting the fabric, it’s a good idea to seal the paint. Heating-set paint with iron produces a smooth finish.

What Type of Acrylic Paint is Best for Fabric?

Regular acrylic paint is not a good choice for fabric. The reason being is it’s water-soluble and will wash out, plus you’ll have to heat set the paint with an iron following the washing.

The best type of acrylic paint for fabrics would be Fabric Acrylic Paint designed especially for working on fabric as well as vinyl, leather, plastic, and paper.

This type of paint is permanent and does not wash out. It’s great because you don’t have to heat-set it with an iron following the washing, just let it dry thoroughly first and then wash as desired.

What is a Fabric Medium?

A fabric medium is any liquid that you can dilute with water and use similarly to paint. Fabric mediums are used in oil painting, but there are also people who use them for mixed media or art quilting projects.

A fabric medium is diluted with water, but the solvent percentage differs depending on what it’s being used for. The solvents of acrylic paint are water and/or alcohol.

When you dilute fabric medium with water, this product becomes stretchy like paint or gel but will dry harder than paint or gel.

Typical uses for fabric mediums include painting on fabric, making resist patterns with it so you can paint over the top of your design later, and stiffening up fabrics.

Acrylic fabric paints, for example, are liquid acrylic polymer emulsions that may be blended with regular acrylic paints to give a softer feel.

Fabric Medium Benefits

The benefits of using acrylic fabric medium are that it’s easy to use, doesn’t require too much equipment, and can be made in different thicknesses.

Acrylic paint isn’t flexible enough to stay on natural materials without the use of a medium. Fabric mediums, on the other hand, are flexible enough to move with your clothing.

They can also be used on different materials like wood, paper, and metal. Each material requires a specific fabric medium that is compatible with its surface (foil fabric medium for metal, watercolor fabric medium for papers.)

Acrylic paints are often mixed with a fabric medium to make them more pliable, thinner, and softer. The paint becomes more absorbent thanks to the formula, and it will no longer come off in the wash.

Keep Reading: Comprehensive Comparison On Satin Vs Gloss

How To Make Homemade Fabric Medium

One of the benefits of fabric mediums is that you can make your own with supplies from around the house. Most household items contain water, so all you really need to add to them for use as a medium is glycerin or some kind of glue (like PVA glue).

Glycerin is a commonly used ingredient in DIY beauty products–it is a clear, odorless, and syrupy liquid that people add to water to make it thicker.

You can also use glycerin in your homemade fabric medium mixtures without diluting them with water first. Glycerin is known to help keep the paint on clothes longer than usual, so artists usually add it when making their own paint.

Glycerin is flammable, though, so it’s best to create your own fabric mediums in a well-ventilated area unless you want to risk inhaling the fumes that come off of it.

For example, if you mix one part glycerin with eight parts water, then this mixture becomes thicker than normal because glycerin is so thick on its own.

You could also use one part PVA glue to eight parts water if you wanted your fabric medium to be even thicker than glycerin alone.

To make a homemade fabric medium, first, try adding these ingredients directly to the paint that you’d like to use it with.

This will allow you to test the mixture and see how it works. Once you know what formula you prefer, then multiply that ratio and put it into a jar for future use.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Fabric Without a Medium?

It’s possible to use acrylic paints on fabric without a medium, but it will not last as long. Acrylics must be diluted with something, or they’ll dry quickly and crack.

Adding a fabric medium can help soften acrylic paint and give it some flexibility, but once the fabric medium dries, the paint will become stiff again.

It’s possible to paint on fabric without a fabric medium–just like it’s possible to draw with charcoal on paper and not need a spray bottle.

However, the drawing will smudge if you touch it or try to wash it off. Acrylic paintings work the same way because acrylic paint must be used with some sort of fabric medium.

Fabric paint is another option to use without fabric medium. You might also try rubbing the surface of the cloth with medium-grit sandpaper or spritzing it with water from a spray bottle before painting to assist the paint to adhere better.

Do You Need to Prep the Fabric Before Painting?

You’ll need to pre-wash your fabric before painting on it, but you can choose whether or not to iron it first. It all depends on what type of design you’re going for.

If you want a wrinkly look, then don’t iron anything. If you want a smooth surface, then go ahead and use the ironing board.

If you’re using paint that’s meant for fabric, then it won’t dye your material the way acrylics would. Acrylic paint seeps into the natural fibers of clothing, so if you tried to wear a t-shirt right after painting on its design with acrylics, the color would seep onto your skin and leave an interesting mark.

With fabric paint, you can wear your finished product right after painting on it. It won’t seep into the material and ruin it because the paint is meant to be used with fabrics.

Acrylics will likely ruin a finely detailed or intricately patterned piece of clothing if you use them without a proper medium.

While it’s possible to use acrylic paints without a fabric medium, it won’t last as long. Acrylics must be diluted with something in order to create a softer, more flexible surface.

A fabric medium can help you achieve this effect because it usually contains glycerin or glue, but if you prefer not to use additives, then try using about one part PVA glue to eight parts water instead.

How to Paint Fabric With Acrylic Paint

Use a brush, pen, pencil, or something else to draw your design onto the fabric. Then find a well-ventilated area to work in. Some people like to use their garage or a balcony, and others prefer the outdoors. Read this guide on removing paint by rubbing alcohol.

Never try to paint on fabric when you’re indoors and near an open window because acrylic paint smells pretty bad. When dry, acrylic paint is odorless, so it’s important not to worry about making your house smell funny while painting outside.

Choose The Right Fabric

The first step is to get a proper fabric for your work.

Acrylic paint can be used on most fabrics. However, it won’t stick too well to lighter-weight fabrics like chiffon or on some silks.

It might seem that cotton is the perfect fabric for painting on because it’s pretty common and easy to work with, but acrylic paint may not stick very well on dark colors of cotton. If you want an even color on darker fabric, try layering the paint or using a different fabric like linen or hemp.

Acrylic paint is perfect for painting on degradé fabrics because of its transparency. When painted onto a dark-colored background, it creates a nice effect where the colors gradually fade from dark to light.

However, be careful when trying to create a gradient with too many colors. This might result in blotches or uneven fades where some parts have different paint densities.

Most people prefer to use cotton fabric for painting because it’s inexpensive and usually easy to find at stores like Walmart, Target, Michael’s, etc.

It can also be made into most forms of clothing, so it can be used to create clothes, costumes, accessories, etc. A good alternative to cotton is linen.

It’s more expensive than cotton, but it has an incredibly sturdy texture that won’t tear easily. Plus, it absorbs paint better than cotton does, and the colors can be just as vibrant when layered with one another.

Plot A Design

Now it’s time to choose a design for your work. Most people who paint on fabric print out a picture from the internet or use their own drawing to paint from.

It should be noted that acrylic paints work best when painted directly onto paper because of their somewhat thick texture. There is no need to worry about transferring the image onto the fabric because acrylic paint can be easily applied to paper.

However, if you want to use your own drawing, it’s important to remember that acrylic paint will take time to dry. This makes it incredibly difficult to paint on fabric because the moment you touch the picture with wet paint, it would all smudge and mess up your hard work.

Get Ready With Fabric Paint

Make sure you have all your supplies handy.

Acrylic paint can be purchased at most art stores or online. The prices will vary depending on the size of the paints and how much you need to buy.

Prepare your acrylic paint by mixing it in the medium before you begin painting. Medium is sold separately, but it’s highly recommended because it helps the acrylic paint stick better to the fabric.

To mix your paints, add one part medium to two parts paint in an empty dish or bowl. Mix them together with a disposable brush or popsicle stick until you get a paste-like texture.

Then separate the mixture into containers for the colors you need. Make sure to use disposable things like brushes and sticks because acrylic paint can leave permanent stains if it gets on something it shouldn’t.

Also, layout enough newspaper or plastic covering for the work area so that any spilled paint doesn’t stick onto surfaces where it could be impossible to remove without damaging the wood itself.

Now it’s time to spread the paint onto the fabric.

Try To Paint In Layers

This is where it can get a bit tricky.

Acrylic paint for fabric is easy to apply, but it’s hard to control when you’re trying to make each layer even. It takes practice before one can easily create layers without the paint getting too thick or thin in some areas.

To begin, spread one layer of paint onto the fabric with a brush. Make the layer as even as possible and try to cover up any white spots or marks left from the material’s texture.

Let the paint dry for about five minutes before adding another layer on top of it. If you want, you can add more layers after letting each one dry completely.

Just be careful that the paint doesn’t get too thick, or the colors might not blend properly where one layer ends and another starts.

You can start painting the dark or chunky parts of the project first, or you may start with the background. Some people love to use a wood printing block to paint on fabric in a design using acrylics. A sponge and fabric medium are required for this technique.

Be patient with your work because acrylic paint takes time to dry, so you can’t rush it. However, if you accidentally smudge paint onto unwanted areas of the fabric while it’s drying, let it sit for about 30 minutes before trying to wipe off any excess.

Before you know it, your paint will be dry and ready for display!

Lastly, Let It Dry

No matter what type of paint you use, it’s essential to let the project dry completely before taking it anywhere.

Acrylic paints for fabric take plenty of to dry entirely and should be left in an undisturbed area while it sets into the fabric. Once that time has passed, you can hang or frame your piece and enjoy.

However, the drying time will vary depending on how thickly it was applied. Also, one should bear in mind that acrylic paints are made to stick onto the paper rather than fabric, so using them on fabric generally requires additives or specialty products which may make the paint less fiddly to use.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Fabric

After you’ve finished with your painting, it’s time to seal the piece.

Acrylic paint for fabric does not require sealing like most other types of paint because it is explicitly designed to stick onto fabrics.

However, if you want to protect the art from fading or staining in the future, there are a few things you can do. Heat-setting acrylic paint on cloth is how you seal it.

Heat-setting is the process of using an iron to shape the paint into the fabric.

Start by turning on your iron and letting it heat up for a few minutes so that it’s warm but not super hot. Then, lay a piece of cotton cloth over a blotting paper or other press cloth.

Lay the painting face down onto the cloth, and carefully slide a piece of ironing board paper in between the painting and the heated surface of the iron.

Use a hot setting with little steam on your iron to heat-set the paint.

Iron over the whole area for 20 seconds, then uses a clean cotton cloth to press down over any areas that might not have been heated enough.

You might need to repeat this step until the paint feels completely set into the fabric. Once your painting is finished and dried, you can add a top coat of polyurethane to protect it from damage.

Make sure that the paint has properly cured for at least 24 hours before applying any additional coats, or it may peel off.

How to Soften Fabric After Painting

After using acrylic paint on the fabric, you may find that it has dried and hardened into a stiff and rough texture. Another option is to mix your acrylic paint with a textile medium to eliminate any rough materials.

Sealing the piece of art with heat will help to lock in the acrylic paints and make them harder to dye fabric softener for the project.

Acrylic paint is used in many different types of fabric mediums. One part to two parts acrylic paint is usually required. Heat setting the paints with iron also aids in their softening.

Post-Painting Fabric Care

Now that your project is all finished up, you want to keep it looking as pretty as possible for as long as possible.

One rule of thumb with post-painting fabric care is the darker the piece, the less light and water exposure it needs. Because dark colors absorb sunlight and moisture more quickly, they can fade or become damaged faster than lighter pieces.

On the other hand, light-colored fabrics need to be protected from sunlight and water damage with waterproofing agents that protect against UV rays, heat, and dampness.

Here are some helpful hints for caring for your painted fabric and keeping it looking great:

Minimize Its Washing

Of course, painting on fabric and sealing it with heat is going to make the piece less washable than your average cotton shirt or linen napkin.

Thorough washing in warm water can indeed damage paints for fabrics. So when you do need to cleanse the art, be gentle and use a very mild detergent like baby shampoo or dish soap.

If you have a particularly stained section, soak it in soapy water before scrubbing or rinsing it with very soft bristles.

You can also try the “hand washing in the sink” method, which is ideal for delicate decorations like lace table runners and trims. Using only your hands and some soap, gently rub over the stained areas until they are clean enough for your liking. Rinse the fabric with cold water, then lay it flat to dry on a towel.

Wash It Gently

Hot water can damage acrylic paints when machine washing fabrics. However, even the gentlest of hand washes in lukewarm water will probably fade your colors and ruin your painting.

To be on the safe side, you’ll want to add a mild detergent to the wash or use a special pre-treatment product explicitly formulated for delicate paintings.

Hand wash your fabrics with baby shampoo or dish soap, rub gently over stained spots, then rinse with cold water until the suds are gone. Lay the pieces flat to air dry on a clean towel; don’t wring or twist them out.

Allow It to Hang Dry

Hang it on a line using the fold as the center of your design. This is often best for designs with large, blank portions. Make sure to allow plenty of room between pieces, so they do not tangle during drying or when folded.

Also, be aware of the natural forces of gravity when choosing this method. A design on a shirt will require a different approach than one on a heavy blanket.

Do not hang dry on a balcony railing or clothesline, as the paint may drip. Either place the item flat and allow it to air dry or use a clothes dryer set on the lowest heat setting.

After Care Tips for Acrylic Paint on Fabric

Keep in mind that most fabric paint will not stand up to heavy washing. A sturdy needle and thread can minimize the stress on the design, however.

If you want a shirt or other item to have a longer life span, hand wash it in cold water and mild soap. Scrub stains with an old toothbrush first for best results.

Do not fold or crush the design while it is wet, as this could remove areas of paint. When dry, you can store the item flat in a drawer for longevity. You might also find this guide helpful on reviews of paint strippers.

When the design has dried completely, iron on a cotton setting with steam and a light touch to prevent paint from being removed from both the fabric and your iron.

If the paint is slightly faded, you can touch it up with a fabric marker. You should completely avoid washing your newly painted fabric for at least 3-4 days; along with it, try to wash it as little as possible.

Not feeling crafty? You can purchase an acrylic paint kit for fabrics that comes with everything you need to create your own designs at home! They are available online and in stores.

Final Verdict

The answer is yes! Acrylic paint can be used on fabric with a good amount of success, but it does require some special care to ensure that the paint doesn’t peel off or rub away.

We hope with the help of our above-given article, we have solved your query on “can you use acrylic paint on fabric?” and it will help you find details of after-care tips for acrylic paint on fabric.

Acrylic is also suitable for fabric, and the finished product will be enhanced if you use a fabric medium with the paint and heat-set to seal the color after application.

Fabric mediums are readily available at your local craft shop to make acrylics more pliable; alternatively, you may utilize vinegar and glycerine to create your own fabric medium.

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Shelley Stevenson

Shelly Stevenson is the full-time editor responsible for painting, flooring, bathrooms & home climate coverage at StyDomIo. She is a home improvement expert with an eye for design and the skills to get the work done. She knows what turns a house into a home and has the advice and ideas to make upgrades easy and fun.

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