Do you know how to turn acrylic paint into fabric paint? It’s easy and we’ll show you why it’s awesome and how to do it!
I don’t think making custom T-shirts will ever go out of style in the crafting world. There are just so many fun things to do. And then add to that other reasons to customize fabric, quilting, sewing, bag making, even Halloween costumes, and there are about a million uses for fabric paint in the crafting world.
And unfortunately, for reasons I will never understand, fabric paint is both fairly expensive, and it usually comes it fairly small bottles. Why? And why do a lot of fabric paints only have a teeny tiny applicator tip like the old-school “puffy paint” we used in the 90’s? Am I aging myself? It’s called “dimensional fabric paint” now which certainly sounds much more sophisticated, ha!
Anyway, I’m here to tell you that there’s not really a need to purchase an entirely new set of supplies if you want to do some fabric painting. No matter what fabric you’re painting, you can learn how to turn acrylic paint into fabric paint in no time for a lot less money and with unlimited color options!
What is fabric paint?
Fabric paint is a type of acrylic paint that is specifically formulated for use on fabric. It has more flexibility than other kinds of paint so the fabric won’t feel stiff after it’s painted. And it’s formulated to allow the fabric to be washed and worn.
Fabric paint is most often used to color small to medium size areas of color. If you wanted to color larger areas or an entire piece of fabric, fabric dye may be the more appropriate choice.
Why should I turn acrylic paint into fabric paint?
- Acrylic craft paint is often cheaper than fabric paint.
- Acrylic paint comes in more colors than fabric paint so you have more options.
- You may already have lots of acrylic paint at home.
- Why not? It’s fun to experiment!
Tips and Tricks for Painting Fabric
- Wash and dry your fabric the same way you will when you use it before you start.
- Do not use fabric softener.
- Iron your fabric for a super smooth, wrinkle-free painting surface.
- Protect your work surface as paint may bleed through.
- If you are painting something with more than one layer like a T-shirt, put something between the layers (tinfoil, freezer paper, cardboard etc. ) to keep the paint from bleeding through.
- Sketch designs with a disappearing ink fabric pen before you start painting.
- Wear a smock or painting clothes that you don’t care about.
- If you are mixing colors, mix up more than you think you will need so you don’t run out.
- When the paint is dry, set the fabric paint according to the instructions on the products you’ve used.
How To Turn Acrylic Paint into Fabric Paint
The easiest way to turn acrylic paint into fabric paint is by adding fabric medium or textile medium.
What is textile medium?
Textile medium is a liquid that you mix with acrylic paint that allows the paint to be thinner, more soft and flexible and permanent on fabrics. Nowadays a lot of acrylic paint companies make their own textile or fabric medium to add to their paints. I have tried the Delta version and the Liquitex and they’re great, but FolkArt and other companies make it now too!
How to mix acrylic paint and textile medium
Follow the directions on your textile or fabric medium but in most cases, you simply mix equal parts of your acrylic craft paint and the fabric medium. Stir well and that’s it! This honestly could not possibly be easier.
I like to mix my acrylic paint and fabric medium together in a small container with a lid like a baby food jar. That way, I can save the fabric paint for later in case I want to use it for another project or if my fabric paint dries and I need to add another coat or touch up any areas. This tip is particularly helpful if you have mixed a custom color.
If your new fabric paint still seems a little thick, you can add a bit more fabric medium. Or because both of these products are water based, you can a tiny bit of water to thin the fabric paint.
Then apply paint to your clean, dry, ironed fabric (don’t forget that step that we discussed in the tips & tricks section) with a brush, a q-tip, a foam brush or any other regular painting tool that you like.
How long does fabric paint take to dry?
Fabric paint dries fairly quickly, only a little slower than regular acrylic craft paint. HOWEVER, most textile mediums will have a certain amount of time that they recommend letting your project sit before you set it and/or wash it, to allow the paint to fully cure. Make sure to read the label of the product you use for those instructions.
How do you set fabric paint?
Follow the directions for dry time and setting on the textile medium that you use. Most often this involves letting the paint sit for a while (often 48-72 hours) and then “setting” the paint with a dry iron, being sure to cover the painted area with a pressing cloth to protect both the paint and your iron. Then, in most cases, you can lauder as usual.
How do you clean up fabric paint?
Cleanup with soap and water just like regular acrylic paint. Piece of cake. But like acrylic paint, remember, fabric paint WILL not come out of your clothing. So, wear a smock!
The next question I will get asked is:
Can you turn acrylic paint into fabric paint without fabric medium?
This is a really good question and I have a possibly controversial answer. Let me start by asking you if you have ever gotten acrylic paint on your clothes and you didn’t notice until it dried? And then have you ever tried to get it out? It’s basically impossible, right?
If you are painting something where you don’t care if the painted section is nice and soft and flexible, you can absolutely just paint on fabric with straight acrylic craft paint. I would do this for something like a Halloween costume that will probably be worn once and is unlikely to be laundered over and over. A pair of fabric shoes would be perfect as well. This would also work for more artistic uses like adding paint on top of fabric in a collage or mixed media project. Then, go ahead and just use that acrylic paint on your fabric!
I would not use acrylic paint without fabric medium on anything that you want to gift, keep, wear repeatedly or wash repeatedly. The fabric medium is important to make the item durable and comfortable to wear or touch.
How else can you turn acrylic paint into fabric paint?
The internet tells me there are two other ways to turn acrylic paint into fabric paint with materials you might have at home. Let me preface this by saying, I really love to only give you tips and tricks that I know work and I have not tried either of these methods, so proceed at your own risk!
The glycerine method:
This method involves making your own textile medium by combining one part white vinegar, one part vegetable glycerin and two parts water together. So that’s 25% vinegar, 25% glycerin and 50% water. That creates a homemade “fabric medium”. Then you mix that in equal parts with your acrylic paint as described above. Heat set with a pressing cloth and a dry iron when it is dry.
Why use this method? Well, if you already have those ingredients at home it might save you money. Or you might not be able to find textile medium where you live. Or you might just want to experiment?
The glue and shaving cream method:
This method creates a thicker fabric paint that is a dupe for “dimensional paint” or “puffy paint”. Mix 3 Tablespoons of shaving cream with 1 Tablespoon of regular school glue. Then add acrylic craft paint to color. Apply to the fabric as desired and allow to thoroughly dry at least 24 hours. Heat set with a pressing cloth and dry iron.
Why use this method? This one one would be a fun one to do with kids. As always protect your work surfaces and make sure they are head to toe covered in smocks.
If you liked this, you may also like some of my other posts…
- Use Leftover Vinyl Scraps for These Creative Craft Project Ideas - September 21, 2023
- Dr. Frankenstein’s Stitched Hat Knitting Pattern - September 19, 2023
- The Best Basic Embroidery Tools and Materials You NEED To Get Started - September 14, 2023