No 52 – Series: Fabric Painting Supplies – Fabric paints – Overview, Part 1

Do we have to buy special fabric paints? What’s about acrylic paints?    ? ? ?

Dear friends of Your Colourful Mind,

The more we know about the different fabric paints and their specific features, the greater are our chances to combine them successfully with different fabric painting techniques and tools.

That’s the reason why we will spend some time to learn more about fabric paints. To do so, we’ll discuss

Three posts about Fabric Paints:
  • Fabric paints, Part 1: Which types of paint can we use for fabric painting? Which are the differences? – TODAY
  • Fabric paints, Part 2 (Post No 55): What’s the relationship between different fabric painting techniques and paints? Which characteristics of fabric paints are especially important?
  • Fabric paints, Part 3 (Post No 57): Can/Should we mix paints? How can we take care of our paints?


Today, we focus on Part 1:

Which types of paint can we use for fabric painting? Which are the differences?

Paints usable on fabric can be chosen from a variety of options:

  • Acrylic paints (in combination with a fabric medium)
  • Fabric paints (in bottles, pots or tubes)
  • Special fabric paints such as markers, liners, sprays

We now concentrate on the first two groups of paint, acrylic and fabric paints.

The discussion of the special fabric paints will follow at a later point in time.

Acrylic paints

Any acrylic paint can be applied on fabric; although some brands are better suited than others.

Acrylic paints on their own are not very flexible and they remain stiff. If used on fabric, they might even crack after drying and finally peeling off the fabric.

Acrylic paint can be turned into fabric paint if an additive, a fabric medium, is added:
  • It dilutes and thins the paint, – it helps to turn it into a true fabric paint.
  • It makes the paint softer and allows it to go on smoothly on the fabric, and to dry without stiffening the fabric.
  • And it extends the time it takes the paint to dry. This gives us more painting time but also means that we might have longer waiting times in between if our projects include the application of several layers of paint.
Mixing acrylic paint with fabric medium

Most acrylic mediums will come with some instructions from the manufacturer which we can follow when mixing the medium with acrylic paint.

But it is actually not so important to follow the advice very strictly. The required consistency of the paint depends on the project we are working on. If we need thinner paint we add more fabric medium, if we need thicker paint we add less.

The manufacturer’s directions on the medium’s label regarding the time the fabric needs to dry and regarding the need of heat setting (most acrylic-medium mixtures require that the painted fabric be heat-set) should be followed.


Fabric paints

All fabric paints that come from a jar, bottle or tube are water-based acrylics. This means we can mix and dilute them with water.

Differently to dyes, fabric paints do not bond chemically with the fabric and do not seep through into the fibres.

Instead, fabric paints are specially formulated paints containing glue-like additives which helps the colour pigments to adhere to the fabric. Similar to a glue, the paints stick to the surface of the fabric or, if applied with some pressure or in a very thin/liquid consistence,  soak in and coat the fibres.


Which paints should we choose for our fabric painting projects?

Fabric paints come in a variety of brands and different styles and consistencies, which means that each delivers different results.

Usually, the painting technique determines the paint’s necessary characteristics, such as consistency; thus a good knowledge of the different brands is very helpful.

Unfortunately, the label and product information not always deliver clear descriptions of the paint’s ingredients and behaviour.

If you wish to start with fabric painting, you need a at least a few paints which you can use for your first experiments.

One basic question is whether you want to use acrylic paints or special fabric paints.

If you have an existing acrylic paint collection from other painting projects, the answer is easy: stick, at least for the moment, with your existing paints set, add a textile medium and start experimenting.

If you start (fabric) painting from scratch, try to get as much information about fabric paints as possible. Ask fellow painting friends or other experts for advice, search the Internet or let the salesperson in a craft shop assist you.

Based on the gathered information you might wish to buy a starter or sampler kit from one special fabric paint company.

Another option could be to buy a few paints from different manufacturers and then play around and get a feeling for each of them and of how they perform in different projects.

Then, after some time working with fabric or acrylic paints, you will become an expert yourself and able to give advice to other fabric painting beginners! 🙂

What’s about you? Which paints do you use for your fabric painting projects? Do you have preferences?

Share your experiences with us: Fill in the comment-form below or send your email to

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Have fun with your fabric painting projects, and share images of the results with us!

signature - Margot





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