t-shirt - fabric painting design

No 5 – Fabric painting techniques – A broad overview

Dear visitor
at Your Colourful Mind, your fabric painting meeting point.
This is the first post of a series about different techniques and materials which can be used for painting on fabric.

Today we focus on a very rough overview of different techniques, coming posts will describe in more detail how to use different materials and tools to achieve different design effects.

What is fabric painting?

Fabric painting is the process through which something made up of fabrics is embellished by adding colours and designs to it. It allows us to become our own fashion or interior designer.

We can paint on apparel fabrics and home furnishing fabrics, on finished garments such as t-shirts or jeans, or on other products made of fabric such as pillows, bags, etc.

We can design newly bought items or add some new life to older garments and fabrics which need a fresh look.

Techniques of fabric painting

It is not possible to list all different techniques of fabric painting because there are infinite ways to combine and use different painting materials and tools.

Actually, choosing the technique and the painting equipment is itself already a creative activity. It can be further refined by experimenting and by inventing new ways of using different materials and processes to get the paint applied on the fabric.

How can we classify fabric painting techniques? – Here are some suggestions:
According to the paint used:

We classify fabric paints into different groups, such as

  • Special textile paints (mostly water-based)
  • and acrylic paints appropriate for fabrics

(Paints produced for the application on other materials should not be used, they might crack later or make the texture stiff.)

  • Thick paints and thin paints

(Thin paints let the colours bleed together, thick paints prevent the colour bleeding.)

  • Opaque and transparent paints

(Opaque paints cover what is underneath, transparent paints let it show through.)

According to the application tool used:

Fabric painting techniques can be differentiated based on the paint application tool, such as

  • paint brushes
  • fabric sprays
  • textile markers/pens

The different paints and application tools can be used in isolation or can be mixed and used on a single fabric to give special effects to the design.

Here are some examples:

Post 5 - textile markers - different colours
post 5 – painted with textile markers – different colours
Post 5 - painted with paint brushes - different colours - thick paint
post 5 – painted with paint brushes – different colours – thick paint
Post 5 - circles drawn with textile marker - painted with brushes, thick paint - then sprayed
post 5 – circles drawn with textile marker – colours applied with brushes, thick paint – then sprayed
According to the amount of water used in the process

we can differentiate between

  • dry techniques

(“direct painting”: without dampening the fabric or diluting the paint; the colour remains thick and intense and exactly at the place where it was put)

  • and wet techniques

(“colourwashing”: blending colours and paling colours by dampening the fabric and using thin or with water diluted paints).

According to additional designing tools used:

There is a choice of additional designing tools we can use in the painting process, e.g.

  • stencils,
  • stamps

This is an example of the use of “natural” stencils:

Post 5 - sprayed - natural leaves used as stencils
post 5 – sprayed – natural leaves used as stencils
According to additional techniques used during the process:

It is also possible to influence and change the results of a technique by applying additional techniques during the process, such as

  • scrunching
  • wrapping
  • salting


Fabric painting is a creative activity and the painter’s ideas determine the design: he decides which different pattern and colours are to be painted on the fabric.

But the final result of the painting process is not only dependent on the painter’s ideas and capabilities, it is also very much determined and influenced by the materials, tools and techniques he decides to apply.

The opportunities are endless and the results of any fabric painting project are always unique:

each project ends up with a one-of-a-kind piece of (hopefully) wearable or usable art.

Your questions and suggestions will help to find and offer the right answers :), – please send your comments or emails.

And I am very happy to present YOUR fabric painting designs on Your Colourful Mind!

Please send images of your work by email, margot@your-colourful-mind.com, and also give some information on the background of your project, the materials and equipment you used and the insights your got.



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