fabric painting - jeans - pepped up with paint brush

No 12 – Choosing the fabric for your fabric painting project

Dear visitors at Your Colourful Mind,
Last week I listed the different factors that influence the outcome of our fabric painting projects:
We ourselves are an important factor

because we bring our individual personality and our personal attitudes and capabilities into the process. Two different people will always create different designs and painting results even if they use the same techniques and the same paints and tools on the same fabrics.

The other four important elements of the fabric painting process are
  • the kind of fabric we choose,
  • the complexity and feasibility of our design idea,
  • the paints and the tools we use,
  • the techniques we decide to apply.
This and the next post focus on the basic material of our fabric painting process, – the fabric:
  • Today we discuss how to find the appropriate fabric,
  • next time (see Post 15) we list some guidelines about the preparation of the fabric before we start the painting process, and about its treatment before we finish the project.

Choosing the fabric – the type of fabric material

  • It is possible to paint on all types of fabric but the results will vary.
  • Use washable natural fibre and natural blended fabrics. Tightly woven cotton and fifty-fifty cotton-polyester blends work best. Denim can also be painted.
  • Silk fabrics and rayon fabrics are also usable.
  • Loosely woven fabric is not suitable. (The paint will seep through the threads and the colours will be less intense. And it is more difficult to paint details on a loosely woven fabric.)
  • It is a good idea to test the paint in a small hidden area of the fabric to ensure that paint and fabric are compatible and that the effects are as wanted. (Paint colours can give different appearances on different fabrics, e.g., a chosen paint might look lighter on one kind of fabric but darker on another.)
  • Light-coloured fabrics leave more design options and also allow the easy application of different techniques and paints.

Choosing the fabric – the kind of fabric item

  • There is a broad range of different fabrics such as apparel fabrics or home furnishing fabrics that can be given a new or crafty look. The focus here is on apparel fabrics.
  • It is possible to go out and buy some new garments for each fabric painting project. And it is necessary to do so if you, for example, intend to create something special for a friend, because then you surely want to get and use exactly the style and size of garment that suits your friend.
  • But it might also be a good idea to start collecting all kinds of suitable fabric items and to store them with your painting materials. This makes sure that you have sufficient fabric supplies available from which you can choose whenever you feel like fabric painting. (It could be in the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep. :))
  • If you mostly create new designs for your own wardrobe, organizing new supplies is easy because you know your taste and size. In this case, you can use the sales season to buy some of your favourite garments at reduced prices on stock.
  • If you have just started your fabric painting activities you shouldn’t risk damaging your favourite garments and you shouldn’t take your sister’s expensive blouse or shirt for your first projects. 🙂
  • For practicing purposes, it make sense to choose some unloved/rarely worn or old/stained clothes from your closet. Then it’s not a disaster if the fabric painting project goes wrong. And it is especially satisfying if it goes fine: It’s a nice feeling to know you gave new life and a fresh outlook to old and neglected clothes. They regain worth and you will wear them with pride again. 🙂

Here are two examples:

fabric painting - t-shirt - some thick strokes with brush
Post 12 – fabric painting – t-shirt – thick paint with brush – free hand

I always hated this T-Shirt and it barely survived nearly forgotten at the bottom of my wardrobe. I took it out when I needed some material for my first fabric painting attempts. It didn’t become a fashion trendsetter, but it got a nice new look and I like it now! And wear it!

fabric painting - jeans - pepped up with paint brush
Post 12 – fabric painting – jeans – free hand with paint brush, thick paint

This pair of jeans had really been worn out! But I couldn’t throw it away and decided to pep it up. The result will not help me to win the Nobel-prize but it’s looking brighter now and it is no longer an old pair of jeans, – to me it’s now my very special pair of jeans.

  • There is another way to avoid expensive damages at the beginning of your fabric painting career, or to try out a new untested technique without much risk. Buy some useful but low-priced fabric items such as plain tea towels, white or light-coloured aprons or cushion covers, or some simple fabric bags. These are all objects which are easy to paint on. And you can make use of the final results of your painting projects even if they don’t come out as perfect as planned. You always can use them as little personal presents or surprises for a friend. (Find some examples in posts No 7 and No 10.)
Which kind of fabrics DO YOU use for your fabric painting projects?

Do you paint on your own garments to pep them up? Or do you buy new clothes for your projects? Or do you paint on other fabric items such as kitchen clothes or fabric napkins?

Have a really nice weekend,

signature - Margot

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9 thoughts on “No 12 – Choosing the fabric for your fabric painting project”

  1. AnitaTodd says:

    I bought some fabric spray, used them to change color of a dress and an old skirt. Looks great now, thanks. I’ll send an email and images

  2. Hey Margot,

    a fantastic “meeting point”!!! started reading… got on reading…
    I have just been working with silk- you know— the very classical thing.

    Right time to experience something new – which colours would be best to start with? to “create” a cotton-wool t-shirt in a new design? it has to be a white one, or?

    Thanx, soon back,

    1. Hi Beth,
      yes, definitely, you should start fabric painting on T-shirts and other clothing items! It’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s productive: You end up with a completely unique garment! And, yes, start with a white T-shirt because light-coloured fabrics leave more design options and also allow the easy application of different techniques and paints. Buy some fabric paints or fabric sprays to start with.
      Have fun! And share your design with us, – send photos to margot@your-colourful-mind.com.

  3. Hi Margot,

    the “old’ now new jeans look great.

    Best Ferdie

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