Introduction: Canvas Patches With Masking Tape and Fabric Paint

This is my personal method for making patches for my battle jackets. Out of all the ways I've tried, this one gets the best results and is the cleanest. It does require more supplies than a lot of other methods, but to me its worth it. If you can find something here, or something else works better, feel free to give it a try! There are probably a lot of substitutes I haven't thought of.


- Canvas or other mid weight/thick woven fabric

- Fabric paint (you can also buy regular craft paint and mix it with textile medium. I use just white, but black or dark gray is also useful as a base coat, ymmv)

- Masking tape (painters tape will probably also work. The wider the better)

- Craft Knife and blades (having a fresh blade is important, so I buy them online in packs of 120. Honestly its way cheaper that way, so if you're making a lot of patches I would recommend it)

- Credit card/bone folder (the credit card works better, so if you don't already have a bone folder, don't bother)

- Stencil brush (regular paint brushes probably also work. Stiff bristles work better. Those disposable sponge brushes also work)

- Some household items- paper towels, scissors, jar for water (I use the lid for a palette also), hard plastic container for blades, sharpies for marking the masking tape

- Carbon paper and pen (probably the hardest thing to get a hold of on this list. Really, save yourself the trouble and buy it online. I had an impossible time finding it anywhere else. I also usually just use a regular pen for the transfer, but in the pics I use an old clay tool. I learned the pen works better and lets me see the marks I've already made)

Step 1: Apply the Masking Tape

This step is pretty straight forward. Lay down strips of masking tape, overlapping them just a bit. The places where they overlap are a little trickier to cut, so keeping them minimal will prevent frustration later. Any place where the bare fabric shows will get paint on it, so make sure they overlap at least a bit to make sure.

Trim the edges. Or not. I'm not your dad.

Next, get out your credit card or bus pass or fake ID and smooth that shit down. This keeps the tape from peeling up prematurely and getting snagged on your knife.

Step 2: Transfer Your Design

This step is pretty simple if you know how carbon paper works already. Taping down your design makes a big difference and keeps it from shifting. Next, just slip the carbon paper under it, making sure the right side is facing down, and trace around your design. I used a clay ball-tipped tool here, but a regular pen or pencil works just as well and lets you see what you've already traced over.

Optionally, go over the carbon paper marks again with sharpie too keep the marks from wiping off. This isn't totally necessary, but it might help on a bigger design.

I've also sketched directly on the tape with a sharpie, starting with a fine sharpie or sharpie pen and using a regular sharpie to clean it up. I didn't have much success with pencils sadly, but I'm sure there are other ways to transfer designs and draw on the tape that I haven't thought of

Step 3: Cut Out Your Design

This can take some getting used to if you're new to it, but its pretty self explanatory. You want to make sure your blade is fresh for each new patch, and replace it as often as needed. Xacto blades dull really fast, and dull blades can rip the tape and get snagged. Other than that, my only other tip is to move the patch under the knife for smooth curves.

A note about blade disposal: make sure to throw your blades away in a hard plastic container (I used an old gum container here) or wrap them up in tape. It's also general practice to label it as sharps. You dont want to cut yourself taking the trash out, or anyone else along the line.

Then, just peel off the parts you want paint on. I start peeling with the tip of my blade, making sure to cut any parts that might not have gone all the way through.

Step 4: Apply the Paint

The key to getting clean edges is to apply the thinnest layers possible, and let them dry completely in between. Try to get as little paint on the brush as possible, and just lightly dust your stencil with paint. When you get total coverage, let it dry. I used a little handheld fan to speed it up for awhile until it broke :o(. You can do the same, or put it in front of the window, or just leave it. It shouldn't take song to dry anyway, because the layers are so thin. I wouldn't recommend a hair dryer with heat because it would break the adhesive (cold or non heat setting is fine though)

Don't apply a second layer until you can touch the paint without any of it coming off on your finger. I'm pretty careful with this and I only touch the tape, but honestly life is too short so do whatever you want.

I also keep my brush in a jar of water in between so I can keep using it. Its a dedicated stencil brush I picked up in a pack of four. Whatever you have at hand is worth a try though, the thing that matters is that the layers are thin and you tap it downwards (or brush gently) so the tape doesn't peel up.

Step 5: Peel the Tape

This part is pretty hard to mess up, and is SUPER satisfying. Once the paint is dry just go nuts.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Patch!

Heat set it if the instructions on your paint say so, and you're done!

I hope this works for people. There are a lot more ways to make patches like these, but this hits my balance between the complexity of the process and the results you get. I think they look a lot like they're screen printed, but its way easier to just make one of each design and doesnt involve the amount of space and equipment for screen printing.

This is sort of modified from the method that uses label paper, but that was a mess for me. The label absorbed too much moisture and the adhesive wouldn't come off. I also like how thin the masking tape is, it makes it a lot easier to cut.

Have fun and don't get arrested!