No 17 – General preparation of a fabric painting project and the necessary equipment

Dear readers of Your Colourful Mind,

Some time has passed since we began our collection of useful guidelines around the fabric painting process, and our knowledge has definitely increased.

After having discussed many aspects of the fabric we choose to paint on (posts 12 and 15),

we today list some general recommendations for the preparation of our fabric painting projects:

First of all: We need some space to work and we need some time!!!

These preconditions are obvious but in our hectic lives often not easy to realize.

Fabric painting is a relaxing activity but you will not be able to calm down and enjoy the creative process if you are sitting at the kitchen table with little space for your fabric supplies and with your hungry children jumping around. In might be better to postpone the painting to a later time. 🙂

And on a very busy day with very little time for yourself it doesn’t make sense to squeeze in some 15 hectic minutes for fabric painting. Again, you better might postpone the activity until you find enough space and time to focus your mind on your fabric painting project.

Fabric painting – Preparation and Equipment

Working area
  • Use a table which is large enough to accommodate the fabric item and the materials and tools to be used.
  • It is ideal if you don’t need the table for other purposes for the duration of your painting project so that you can leave the fabric and your tools lying around during drying periods or creative breaks.
  • Protect the table with some paper or a vinyl tablecloth. You can tape it to keep it from sliding around
Painting station board
  • A painting station board – a piece of strong cardboard – helps to protect the table or the table cloth.
  • But its main functions are
    • allowing you to carry painting projects which are still wet to a suitable drying area,
    • and making it easy to turn around a project so that you can work on it from different angles.
  • If you do a lot of wet painting projects it makes sense to cover the board with vinyl to make it water resistant and easy to clean.
  • If you focus more on direct painting techniques with thick paint, a big enough piece of thick cardboard is sufficient. (My cardboard is big enough to place t-shirts and shirts on it but still small enough for moving it around.)
A second piece of cardboard or wax paper
  • You need a second piece of cardboard or something similar (e.g., old plastic table mats) if you paint on a two-sided piece of fabric, such as a t-shirt or cushion cover.
  • You insert the piece of cardboard or paper into the shirt or the cover to prevent the paint soaking through from the front onto the back side.
  • Some techniques like stamping and stencilling also work better on a lightly padded surface such as a cardboard.
  • If you regularly paint on t-shirts you can cut the two top corners of a big enough cardboard into rounded “shoulders”. Then cover the cardboard with a large plastic bag and tape it tightly to the board.
  • If the cardboard you use is corrugated you can also use it to pin the fabric to keep it in place. (Use safety pins or sewing pins and place one in each corner.
Post 16 - my station board and the old table sets I use to protect the shirt from inside
Post 16 – my station board and the old table mats which I use to protect the shirt from inside
Post 16 - showing the old table sets how I use them in a short-sleeve t-shirt
Post 16 – showing the old table mats and how I use them in a short-sleeve t-shirt
Some cleaning wipes or paper towels
  • Wipes, towels or pieces of old clothes should be easy to reach, in case you spill some paint or to keep your hands clean.
An iron
  • Most fabric paints need heat setting after the painting process,
  • but you should also iron the fabric before you start to get any wrinkles out of your way.
Plastic gloves
  • Gloves are not necessary for all painting projects
  • but they are useful with some of the wet painting or spraying techniques.
Any further guidelines we should add to the list? – Please, send your suggestions by comment or email!

Enjoy your time,

signature - Margot

Click here to sign up to our blog.  –  Make sure that you get a short email-information whenever a new post is published on Your Colourful MindYour Colourful Mind.

8 thoughts on “No 17 – General preparation of a fabric painting project and the necessary equipment”

  1. Christine muir says:

    Lol… That was meant to say that I work on canvas, calico and cotton, not ‘click’ – stupid predictive text ?

  2. Anna Pitt says:

    Hi there, you are really good at compiling guidelines! Any plans to publish guidelines for buying paints and brushes? thank you, Anna

    1. Hi Anna,
      thanks for coming around again. 🙂
      Yes, I will definitely talk about fabric painting materials in detail.
      Currently, the blog is about how we find ideas for our projects and I plan to present some example projects.
      After that, we will discuss the necessary supplies which will include a comparison of paints and brushes.

      1. Christine muir says:

        Hi Margot,
        I need some advice, I paint, then free motion designs on to natural fabrics (canvas click & cotton) . I make all manner of items including fabric post and spectacle sleeves etc and sell quite a bit of my work.
        I have been using fabric paints such as Dylon and seta colour but recently found Derwent Inktense blocks and pencils. Because these were also for use on fabric and stated that they were permanent, I invested in a rather expensive set. I’ve found they do tend to wash out quite a bit even after heat setting which is so disappointing. Also they are only tested for light fastness on the dry blocks and pencils! Strange as they are made to be used with water. I am now worried about using them to work on items I’m going to sell. Have you or anyone else got any experience using this medium??

        1. Hi Christine,
          as I haven’t worked with Derwent blocks or pencils yet I can’t give any recommendation based on personal experience. But I did some research and found this in the Derwent brochure one the internet: “The only rule you need to remember is this: Inktense is permanent when the pigment has dissolved in water and then dried, it will then be safe to wash at 30 degrees. Any pigment that is still dry will be washed out, so make sure your pigment is all wet. For more security with your work you can dilute textile medium with water and use that instead of water. If you use this method you will need not to iron to fix.” (source:
          To feel safe you could give it a new try and make sure that all areas of your painting have been wet once, or/and you could use the recommended combination of textile medium and water.
          Would be great to hear from you how that worked out. And it would be great to present examples of your work here, at Your Colourful Mind. 🙂

          1. Christine muir says:

            Hi Margot, thank you for the reply. I definitely diluted all the medium & made sure it was wet, in fact I prefer taking the colour off the blocks or pencils with a wet brush as it gives a more watercolour appearance so leaving areas ‘dry’ isn’t the problem. I’ve been looking at various other sites and it seems I’m not the only one with this problem ?. I have used the colour with textile medium and it seems to make a difference but it does make the process more ‘faffy’ which is a shame. Also I found out (after buying!) that the colours have a pretty bad reputation for not being lightfast. Not so good when you sell your work, I would not be impressed if an image changed colour or disappeared after I’d paid money for it! So all in all I’m not using them & have bought more setacolour textile paints which I know are permanent, washable and lightfast ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *