Types of Fabric Painting

by Karen Jones

Fabric paints exist in different types, and there are too many ways to use them. You can get paints squeezed directly onto the fabric or spray it with a brush. Moreover, you can use sponges, stamps, and rollers to create designs.

In this guide, you will get in-depth information on different types of fabric painting. Read on to learn more!

Here are the Different Types of Fabric Painting

Here are the Different Types of Fabric Painting
Here are the Different Types of Fabric Painting

Batik Painting

When you apply a batik design to the fabric, you use wax or another unique material to resist medium. Once you paint the fabric, the areas around the design absorb the paint, but the glaze repels it, leaving a pattern.

Sun Painting

Sun painting entails placing masks on a newly-colored or dyed textile, with the fabric under the cover remaining paler than it. One can also use dyes that react to sunlight to photograph the outlines of their masks.

Here are the Different Types of Fabric Painting
Here are the Different Types of Fabric Painting


With stencils, you can mask parts you don’t want painting while applying paint to specific areas of fabric. You can buy ready-made stencils or make your own. To create stenciled designs, utilize a stiff brush with short bristles or spray fabric paint.

Sponge and Stamp Painting

Natural sponges mix well with fabric paint and make interesting patterns. You can make stamps from thick, high-density foam rubber. Sponges allow you to paint fabric with broad strokes. You can find wedge-shaped sponge brushes that give you more control. Traditional ways to apply fabric paint include the use of a potato stamp. This method is often used for simple designs and is a good one for kids.

Painting with a Brush

It is possible to paint on fabric the same way as you can on paper. Smooth surfaces are easier to paint than rough surfaces; stretching the material will reduce the painting’s difficulty.

It can be helpful to sketch your design before painting on the fabric; you can draw directly on the fabric with chalk or dye-safe markers. Dip a brush into your chosen color and paint directly on the fabric.

Types of Paints for Your Fabric

Fabric paint allows you to design clothing, upholstery, or anything made from fabric. The paints are specially formulated so they do not fade and are meant to withstand laundering.

Several types of fabric paint exist, with their advantages and disadvantages. Fabric paints are categorized based on whether they feature alcohol, acrylic, or dyes. To select the ideal paint, you will have to consider the fabric you are dealing with and how you want the fabric to look.

Acrylic Based Paint

Most fabric paints are acrylic-based, which is the most affordable and available in a wide array of colors. This paint can be applied with a brush, liquid spray bottle, or marker.

These fabric paints result from adding pigment to an acrylic polymer, which you emulsify with water to form the paint. The paint dries hard and has an excellent bond to most fabrics. Additionally, it is fade-resistant.

Paint made from acrylics is water-soluble when wet, changing viscosity after adding water with no impact on color saturation. Besides providing consistent results, acrylics paints are user-friendly.

Alcohol-based Paint

Although an alcohol-based pigment is technically an ink, not paint, it is typically used to apply color to fabrics as they soak into the fibers. Unlike acrylic-based fabric paints, they cannot saturate the color.

Alcohol-based pigments achieve good results in light or tie-dye fabrics. On dark fabrics, however, they usually fail to achieve satisfactory results. Fabric decorated in this way is not washable unless you seal it with a protective finish.

Fabric Dye

Contrary to acrylic-based fabric dyes, fabric dyes react with fibers to alter the colors of the fabric by forming a chemical bond. Utilize the dye like you would an alcohol-based ink.

These dyes are usually made specifically for some materials. Using dyes not designed for some fabrics will yield pathetic results.

The application of fabric dyes is a complex process and is often seen in tie-dye or when changing oversized garments. Before the paint is applied, the fabric is typically prepared with a pre-soaking or wash. To set the dye, multiple rinses or heat are required. Note that cleaning up dyed garments is more complicated.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fabric Paint

Many individuals utilize acrylic-based fabric paints for clothing, shoes, or household textiles. If you wish to work with acrylic paints, you should pay attention to the paint’s features before choosing paint for your project. When you understand acrylic’s properties, how it behaves on various fabrics, and how it’s applied, you’ll know what kind of paint to pick for any job.

Here are the considerations for the best fabric paint.

Fabric Type

It is possible to find paints for virtually any fabric, but the fabric’s texture and color determine the consistency and form of paint that has to be used.

The best fabrics for fabric painting are strong, even weave, like denim, silk, and cotton-polyester blends. The colors are more vibrant when painted against white material or pale shades. You should paint dark fabrics with lighter colors or special-effect paints, such as glitter paints or paints with three-dimensional or puffy effects.

Transparency and Consistency

You can choose your project’s best paint depending on its color and fabric type. A lot of fabric paints are transparent, while others are opaque. Due to their thickness, opaque fabric paints aren’t absorbed by the fabric, and they are ideal for dark-colored fabrics. For fabrics with light-colored yarns, use either opaque or transparent colors, but opaque colors will stand out more.

With water and other additives, acrylic fabric paints become more transparent and thinner in viscosity. Note that the manufacturer usually recommends thin inks and dyes with additives.


You can get fabric paint in spray, liquid, or markers.

Liquid: Many liquid fabric paints come in bottles that come in many different colors. Some bottles have nozzles that allow the paint to be applied directly to fabrics with the tip.

Fabric paint: Apply fabric paint with a paintbrush or dilute it for use in an airbrush system. Liquid paint looks best when the block is printed or silk-screened. Additives can alter the consistency of fabric paint, especially when silk screening.

Spray paints: Paints for fabric look and act like regular spray paint cans, but they’re specially designed to be used on fabric. Use them to cover large areas, not to make small, detailed applications. Make sure to use these paints on upholstery or stenciled surfaces.

Use markers or pens to create fine details. Although alcohol and acrylic-based markers are easy to use, they cannot cover many fabric areas. Consider them for drawing or inking. They are not made to cover large areas or deposit super-saturated colors.


Artists can apply paints and inks to textiles differently, depending on the paint and the fabric.

The best way to incorporate acrylic-based liquid paint into fabrics is to apply it with a brush. Squeeze it on a palette and apply it with a craft brush to the prepared fabric.

With the narrow tip applicator on tubes of dimensional paint, you can apply the paint, which dries to a raised, puffy finish. These paints are perfect for tracing shapes or writing on fabric.

Airbrushes are mostly used for covering large areas but can occasionally be used for fine details. Liquid fabric paint is altered with an additive to change its consistency.

Fabric Medium

Additives such as fabric mediums make acrylic paints adhere to fabrics, hold their shape longer, and penetrate the fabric evenly. It enhances the adhesion among fabrics, and it extends the workability of the paint.  It also improves the flexibility of dry paints and reduces stiffness, and it is ideal for acrylic-based paint. Additionally, it can convert all acrylic-based paints into fabric paints.

Tips for Using Fabric Paints

It’s Advisable to Use Acrylic Fabric Paint

Most fabric paint is made from acrylic polymers, bonded with colors, and emulsified to make paint durable. Although alcohol-based paints exist, they tend to have a lighter finish and more porous than acrylic.

Consider the fabric paint’s transparency and consistency. The paint you choose will depend on your project, such as how opaque or transparent you desire the paint to be or how thick or thin you want the paint to be. Dark fabrics usually need a more opaque paint, and furniture typically requires a thicker finish.

Utilize Liquid Fabric Paint for Larger Surfaces

Looking for paint that covers a wide surface? Check out liquid fabric paint in acrylic form. This paint can be saturated with various finishes, allowing it to cover big art canvases and furniture pieces.

Consider Fabric Markers for a More Detailed Approach

With fabric markers, you have greater control when painting a specific area, and this is why they’re best used on clothing and small designs.

Use “puff” Paint for a Three-dimensional Look.

This paint dries in a raised finish, making it a great choice to try with kids. With all fabric paints, practice your design first before adding it to a final surface—it’s sometimes hard to tell how puff paint will appear once it is dry.

Set the Fabric Paint with Heat

If you intend to paint fabric, be sure to check beforehand if the fabric you’re using can be heated until the paint is permanently attached. By doing this, you can ensure that your design will be more durable than without it.

About Karen Jones

Karen Jones has always been a writer at heart. As a freelance writer and social media marketing consultant for the last decade, she's honed her skills in crafting catchy and interesting articles that reel in readers. She also enjoys traveling, which is where she gets most of her ideas for her writing. In fact, if you can't find Karen around her friends and family, it's likely because she's holed up in her home office working on refining her writing composition and printing press!

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