Yes, you can use acrylic paint on the fabric. But unfortunately, the paint is temporary and will come off on wash. However, using a medium and heat-sealing process, you can make the acrylic paint permanent on the fabric.
Acrylic paints are widely used for DIY projects of wood, plastic, and ceramic. Similarly, the paints can be effectively used on the fabric.
While painting fabric, acrylic requires a medium and heat setting for the best result. You also have to consider the preparation of the fabric and paint.
Again, post-painting care is equally important to make the art last long.
I have included a detailed guide on how to use acrylic paint on a fabric below.
Besides, you will get all the tips and tricks to make the painting experience smooth and worth it.
Why Use Acrylic Paints on Fabric?
Both acrylic and fabric paints can be used to craft designs on clothes. Of course, fabric paints are specially formulated to match the texture of any fabric.
But acrylic paint is thicker than fabric paint. Thus, it’s more durable. Nonetheless, at the same time it may cause uncomfortable stiffness to your nails as well.
Here are some key reasons why acrylic paint is a great option for fabric.
Sticks to Any Surface
Acrylic paint is compatible with almost any surface. You can apply it to glass, wood, plastic, paper, and so on. Fabric paints only work on natural fabrics. But acrylic paints suit both natural and synthetic fabrics.
On top of that, acrylic paint makes the clothes brighter and more vibrant.
Other surfaces like paper or canvas are also great for acrylic paint. But you might face different problems regarding sticking the paint to such surfaces. Store some ideas about why acrylic paint doesn’t stick to canvas sometimes.
Dries Quickly and Lasts Long
It takes less than a few minutes for the acrylic paints to dry. But the colors should be air dried for at least a few hours for the best results.
The lifespan of acrylics on fabrics depends on the paint preparation. For example, mixing a medium with acrylic paint is mandatory.
Otherwise, these paints will not work on fabrics. The painting also requires a heat press for permanent sealing.
It’s Water Resistant and Easy to Maintain
After drying, the acrylic paints become water-resistant. Also, there is no major restriction on washing these paints on the fabrics. Acrylic painted fabric is easy to maintain as well.
You can hand wash the fabric which is safe. But while using a washing machine for the job, make sure you use a gentle cycle and a low heat setting to stay out of any risk.
What Makes an Acrylic Paint Good for Fabric?
More or less, all acrylic paints offer a satisfying outcome but you may struggle with the colors if you purchase low-grade paints.
I always follow 3 things to judge the standard of acrylic paint −
Look for higher pigment count for the best vibrancy. Plus, if you want to lighten the color, using white acrylic in the right portion will do the job.
The rating ranges from 1-8. Try to get the maximum for better outcomes.
Lastly, the acrylic consistency impacts the final texture of the design on the fabric. High flow and Fluid have the most amazing consistency. Perfect for blending, plus, they take less time to dry than average ones.
And, acrylic paint is super fun to play with. You can make a variety of new colours using two or more shades of acrylic paint. For instance, you can make rare colours like beige using acrylic paint!
Now, below are the acrylic types and their effects on fabrics to assist you in making a better decision.
Types of Acrylic Paints for Fabric
Acrylic paints are divided into 4 types depending on consistency and viscosity.
Appearance, texture, and sustainability of the color change as you switch from one acrylic type to another.
- Acrylic Heavy Body
These heavy-body acrylic paints are of thick consistency and rich pigments. Their lightness rating is also high.
The heavy paint offers a vibrant and long-lasting color. But not everyone can handle the strokes due to the chemicals.
It takes an expert brush to draw the perfect finish with this paint. Yet, heavy-body acrylic paint is a popular choice for fabrics. Here the acrylic texture perfectly complements the fabric.
However, light woven fabric like silk ($1-$17.99 per kilometer on average) or cotton ($1.81 per kilometer on average) are most preferable in this case due to the adherence, ease of use and of course durability.
- Acrylic Ink
Like regular inks, the acrylic ink has a similar flowy consistency to watercolor. But unlike watercolor, this ink is rich in pigments and becomes permanent upon drying.
Moreover, acrylic ink has water-resistant properties. Unlike the other paints, this ink does not get hard rock after drying.
This is because of the mentioned benefits; acrylic ink is a viable choice to paint fabrics.
In this case, you should get a slightly heavy cotton fabric for best results. The ink will sit properly yet will stay over years.
- Acrylic Soft Body
Soft-body acrylic paint has an in-between viscosity of ink and a heavy body. This acrylic type is perfect for covering a large fabric area due to its creamy consistency.
You will get a smooth, leveled paint surface with a minimum brush stroke. Because of the thickness difference, the soft body acrylic has a lesser texture than the heavy body.
Yet, the easy-to-manage quality and the flowy property have made this soft acrylic preferable for painting fabrics.
- Student Grade/Professional Grade
Student/professional grade acrylic paints fall between soft and heavy body consistency. You can brush the colors easily, and the textures are also good on fabrics.
While student-grade acrylics are cheap, professional ones are costly. But the professional grades contain more pigmentation, and the finishing is easier to manipulate.
Most fabric works fine with this acrylic. But it’s always suggested not to choose the extremely thin or tissue type fabric. Regular fabric would cost around a dollar.
However, a student-grade acrylic will do just fine if you are just practicing the fabric paintings.
The Right Way to Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric
Unlike fabric paints, you cannot directly put acrylic paints on the fabric. They have different consistency, and chemicals, thus they don’t mix well. Instead, you need to prepare the fabric and the paints for the process.
Find the detailed procedure of acrylic painting on a fabric below.
Acrylic painting on fabric requires a minimum of supplies. In fact, you can start the process with only the fabric, paint, medium, and a brush.
But yes, to pull off the best result, you must collect the supplies mentioned below−
- Acrylic paints
- Fabric medium
- Printing blocks (if needed)
- Painting brush
- Measuring cups
Now that you have all the supplies, let’s start with the process.
Step 1: Handpicking the Fabric
Acrylic paints are compatible with both natural and synthetic fabrics. Also, the paint can adhere to any surface.
Yet, for a better result, a soft textured fabric is preferable. Rough fabrics absorb the color quickly. Again, the bumps on the surface make painting difficult.
On the other hand, the tight weave of cotton and silk provides a smooth surface to slide the brush. Besides the texture, consider the fabric color too.
A plain shade will make the bright colors pop out. But, of course, you can experiment with abstract art on vibrant fabric and matte acrylic paints.
Step 2: Fabric Preparation
We prepare the surface by sandpaper blasting when painting on wood or plastic, or in one word, any other mediums than fabric. The condition is not different for fabric.
But of course, we will wash the cloth instead of sandblasting it.
After-painting-wash can stretch or shrink the clothes.
But washing the fabric beforehand minimizes such risks. Also, proper cleaning removes dirt from the fabric’s surface and allows it to maintain its original form.
Ironing the fabric is also mandatory. You can’t work on wrinkled and creased surfaces.
Step 3: Design Outline
Once the fabric is ready, draft your expected design on the fabric. Before drawing on the main surface, practice the outline on paper several times.
It will reduce your chance of making a mistake and staining the cloth.
Using a pencil to draw the design is okay. Pencil marks are visible on fabrics.
But sometimes, removing them becomes a challenge. Hence, go for a lightweight and water-soluble pencil to draw the outlines on the fabric.
The whole task will become easier if you go with a printing block. Moreover, the wooden brick is pre-crafted into the desired design.
You just have to stamp it on the fabric to get the outline. That’s not all; the printing blocks are perfect if you want to complete a bulk.
But drawing with a pencil is preferable when creating your own piece.
Step 4: Proper Acrylic Paint Mixture
The same acrylic paint for woods, ceramics, and plastics also works for fabrics. Anyhow, the cheaper acrylics also work fine on the fabric.
When choosing acrylic colors, consider the fabric shade. Again, buy glossy, matte, vibrant, metallic, glittery, etc., acrylic paints, depending on your expected finishing.
Later, you must mix this color with a proper medium to thin the consistency. Some artists prefer glycerin as their diluent.
Using a medium makes the hardy acrylic finishing fabric soft. Also, you get more control over the brush strokes.
However, if you plan to paint a non-washable fabric, you need no medium.
Be very careful when mixing the acrylic paint and the medium. You need to add two parts of the acrylic paints for one part of the medium.
Use the measuring cup to avoid any mistakes.
Finish this preparation by stirring the mixture thoroughly. Make sure the color solution is even without any lumps or bubbles.
Step 5: Paint Layer By Layer
Artists often use printing blocks to stamp the whole design on the fabric. You must first brush the acrylic paints on the block in such a case.
Then you can stamp the whole design on your desired surface.
Filling the outline with a brush stroke is also a popular method. But it takes more time than stamping with a print block.
Finally, you can adopt sponging to paint the fabric with acrylics too.
For this method, brush the acrylic paints on the sponge and convert it into an ink pad. Next, sponge inside the outlines to fill the space with colors.
In any case, make sure the fabric surface is stretched even when painting. Creases or wrinkles will ruin the painted design.
In case, you use acrylic paint on canvas, make sure you know how many layers of acrylic paint should be on the canvas.
Step 6: Dry and Seal
Finally, allow enough time to dry the paintings on the fabric. Air drying for a few hours is always better than blow drying the painting.
Don’t use the fabric right away. Wet paintings can come off easily. Also, wait for weeks before washing the painted fabric.
Step 7: Setting the Paint
Heating the fabric will seal the color permanently on the surface. You can do it by ironing the painting with the help of a pressing cloth.
How Do You Fix Ruined Acrylic Paint on Fabric?
The result might not be satisfactory for some reasons. Below are the common issues you may face with acrylic paints and their fixes−
Issue 1: Acrylic Colors Look Dull
The acrylic colors on your fabric look dull because you have mixed too much medium. Here, the fabric medium works as a diluent.
Hence, adding this in bulk will make the color appear lifeless.
Fix: How to Brighten Your Colors
Follow the proportion rules when mixing fabric medium with acrylic paint. A 1:2 ratio of medium and paint is recommended.
Issue 2: The Paint Is Not Permanent
Using a medium allows the fabric to absorb the paints more effectively. As a result, the paints become permanent.
Besides the medium, acrylic paints require protective sealing for longevity. Without the seal, the paint can come off after several washes.
Fix: How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Fabric
Heat setting is more popular to provide a protective seal on the acrylic paint. A pressing cloth and a dry iron are enough to proceed with this fix.
However, this troubleshooting is not for fabric paints.
- Cover the acrylic painted design with the pressing cloth. Flip the cloth upside down to avoid color dripping on the iron or board.
- Heat your iron in a medium-hot setting.
- Iron the fabric on top of the pressing cloth. Hold the iron for 10 seconds on each section, pause and then move to another portion.
Cover the entire painting this way, and your acrylic colors will be sealed on the fabric.
Issue 3: Acrylic Paint Does Not Feel Like Fabric But a Rock
The acrylic paint on the fabric should feel soft even after drying. Otherwise, what is the point of choosing acrylic paint over fabric paint?
Well, this problem arises when the medium percentage needs to be more appropriate in the mixture.
Fix: How to Soften Acrylic Paint on Fabric
Be careful when mixing the fabric medium with the acrylic paint. The ideal ratio for medium and paint is 1:2.
Again, the ratio for a vinegar, glycerin, and paint mixture stands at 1:1:2.
Do You Need a Medium for Using Acrylic Paint on Fabric? − Possible Alternatives
Fabric medium is mandatory when working on a washable fabric with acrylic paints. The thick medium dilutes the acrylic paint consistency.
Hence, the paint is not more manageable and suitable for the fabric.
Advantages of Mixing Fabric Medium With Acrylic Paint
Though the fabric medium is opaque white, it becomes transparent when dried. So, the medium has no major effect on messing up the acrylic color.
All the medium does is influence the acrylic paint properties on the fabric. The noteworthy benefits of fabric medium are stated below−
- It makes the acrylic paints flexible for the fabric’s texture.
- Acrylic paints become hard when completely dried. As a result, it can come off as flakes.
- Using a medium softens the hard paint texture and eliminates the risks of chipping the paint away.
- Applying a thick acrylic paint leads to an unfavorable finish. Diluting the paints with a medium makes coloring more manageable.
- The medium influences the fabric to absorb the paints better. Thus, the paint does not come off when washed.
The Best Fabric Medium Alternative for Acrylic Paint
A mixture of vinegar and glycerin in the acrylic paint offers the same commercial fabric medium effect. But don’t use only vinegar as it will make the solution acidic.
The perfect formula for this DIY fabric medium goes like this −
- 1 part of vinegar
- 2 parts of acrylic paints
- 1 part of glycerin
Hence, add 15 mL of vintage and 15 mL of glycerin in 30 mL of acrylic paint for a better result.
How to Acrylic Paint the Fabric Sneakers?
Here is the easiest process to get your sneakers painted with minimum steps −
Step 1: Wash and dry the sneakers before starting to paint.
Step 2: Draw the design outline on the shoes.
Step 3: Tape off the unnecessary areas to avoid color splashing.
Step 4: Mix the paint with a medium if necessary. For non-washable surfaces, you do not have to use the fabric medium.
Step 5: Take a soft bristle brush and evenly layer the paints on the shoe surface.
Step 6: Allow the color to dry off on the sneakers for at least 2 – 4 days.
Step-7: You can use a heat setting to seal the paintings.
Watch this video on customizing sneakers with acrylic paints for visual details.
Can You Make Acrylic Paint Last Long on Fabric? − A Brief Guide for Aftercare
Yes, you can make the paint last longer on fabric. But the preparation steps of the fabric and paints are important to gain permanent paint. However, you have to equally consider the aftercare to increase the longevity of the art.
Here is how the post-painting fabric care is done −
- Frequent washes destroy the integrity of the art. So, minimize the washing of the fabric.
- Switch the gentle cycle when cleaning the painted fabric on the washing machine. However, a hand wash is preferable.
- Use cool water instead of hot water when washing the fabric.
- Air drying is more suitable for the painted fabric.
- Heat the iron on a low-hot setting. Always iron on the reverse side of the painting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Fabric paint is formulated to use on clothes. But acrylic paints also last long on fabrics if mixed with the appropriate medium.
Fabrics absorb the acrylic paint pigments when wet. But the paint becomes water-resistant and permanent as soon as it dries. However, the acrylics will chip off in the long run if not mixed with a medium.
Using a fabric medium allows the acrylic paint to stay permanently on the fabric. Heat sealing the paints provides a protective layer and increases the paint’s lifespan.
Acrylic paints are flexible on any surface texture. Hence, you can use the paint on cotton, silk, suede, velvet, corduroy, and any type of fabric.
Acrylic paints on fabrics are perfectly washable if you have added a medium to the paint mixture. Heat setting the paint offers more flexibility on washing.
The acrylic paints dry on the fabric within a few minutes. But for the best result, allow the paints to dry for 24 hours or a few days.
Spraying acrylic paint on the fabric is definitely possible but requires extensive care. You have to mix the paint and medium in a spray bottle. The mixture consistency needs to be thin enough to allow spraying on the textile.
So, can you use acrylic paint on the fabric? Yes, you can.
Though fabric paints are formulated for clothes, acrylic paint does a wonderful job on the fabrics too.
In fact, acrylic paints have a few advantages over fabric paints. For example, acrylic paints are compatible with both natural and synthetic fabrics.
These colors have better adherence and impart a vibrant finish.
Acrylic paints become permanent when dry on the fabrics. But the colors can flake off after several washes.
Using a fabric medium and heat sealing later can eliminate the risk of painting chipping off.