Make Your Own Fabric Paint




About: I am a Mad Scientist and IT gal with a passion for projects. I love figuring out puzzles, solving problems, and finding out new ways to get things done!

Fabric paint is a useful tool for customizing clothing, sheets, bags, and much more. If you're like me, you don't want to be limited by just the colors at the store, you want much more! Most fabric paints only work on a single type of fabric, and that can make it difficult to find what you want.

This Instructable will show you how to make your own custom fabric paint. You can customize it by color, fabric type, etc. to make a paint that will work for whatever you need!

Here is What You Will Need:

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Acrylic Medium (Liquitex mediums work great, I used a transparent gloss medium)
  • Container with Tight Fitting Lid
  • Fabric for Testing (You want something the same or similar to what you will use your paint on)
  • Iron / Ironing Board
  • Foam brush (Paint brushes work well in a pinch, but I've found foam brushes work better)

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Step 1: Mixing Your Paint

The biggest difference between normal fabric paint and acrylic paint is that acrylic paint is much thicker, which can cause flaking of the paint and an uncomfortable stiffness to the fabric. While you could thin it down with water or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, this can cause it to seep through the fabric instead of staying on the outside.

The easiest way to make a fabric paint from a basic acrylic paint is to thin it using an acrylic medium. I used a transparent Liquitex gloss medium which works well for light colored fabrics. If you want to use your paint for darker colors, it would be better to use an opaque gloss or matte medium.

Mix equal portions of your acrylic paint and your acrylic medium to thin out the acrylic paint to the appropriate thickness.

Step 2: Testing Your Paint

Now, not all acrylic paints are the same, and depending on what fabric you are using it on the paint might need to be thinner or thicker to get the correct look.

Test your paint using swatches of the same or similar fabric to what you plan on using your fabric paint on. As you can see, my paint shows up much more vividly on a light colored fabric.

If your paint soaks through the fabric, you may need more acrylic paint in it. If it dries to an uncomfortable stiffness, then it may need more of the acrylic medium.

I usually heat-set and wash my test sample before tweaking the fabric paint, as it may change the feel of the fabric. For me, the painted fabric usually gets a lot softer after heat-setting and washing.

Step 3: Heat-Setting Your Paint

Once the paint has completely dried, you can heat-set it by ironing it (set your iron on a medium temperature) for 4-5 minutes. Do not use steam.

Once it is heat set, wash your fabric with the same detergent you plan on using on painted items. For my samples, I usually just throw them in with a load of laundry of the same type, but you can also wash it by hand.

I've found that tumble-drying rather than hanging to dry also helps to soften the paint and make it feel more comfortable.

If you find your paint is still too thick after heat-setting and washing your sample, then add a bit more medium and test it again.

Step 4: Use Your Paint!

Congratulations! You just made your own fabric paint. There are now countless colors that you can make now that you are not limited to the colors at the store. Customize your clothes, pillows, etc. in a whole new way!

I started out by just creating a basic heart t-shirt, but the possibilities are endless!

If you enjoyed this Instructable, or found it useful, please check out my others, and don't forget to vote for this one in the contests!

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    13 Discussions


    Question 4 months ago on Step 3

    Are there any alternatives to the acrylic mediums used? I don't have acsess to them so i need an alternative :)

    1 answer

    Answer 4 months ago

    That is hard because it needs to be thinned but not TOO thin, and you don't want to dilute the color.

    A drop or two of isopropyl at a time may work for thinning enough for this project, but beware - too much isopropyl can make it bleed into the fabrics and/or crack and come off easier.


    Question 4 months ago

    I want to change the color of some off white lace curtains to more white. Can I soak them in a whitewash bath of textile medium and white acrylic paint to achieve that? Will they be stiff?


    1 year ago

    Could I use an acrylic retarder as well?


    1 year ago

    what do you recommend for canvas shoes .... acrylic paint + medium or off the shelf fabric paint?? have you done any work on shoes?? What paint brands do you recommend


    2 years ago

    Could I use poster paint for this and just water it down ?


    2 years ago

    There are mediums specifically for fabric, have you tried those with this method yet?


    3 years ago

    I had so much fun reading these easy to follow instructions and imagining so many things I could renew by painting--like some inexpensive IKEA drapes!!! Thank you The Procrastibaker!!!! Will let you know how the drapes turn out!!!!


    3 years ago

    Is it possible to use just a pigment, such as this: (yes, I know I'm ambitious) for the color? I suppose I should look for a tutorial on making custom acrylic paint and then use it for this, but if you could answer here it would be a lot easier. Also as the pigment I want to use changes color with heat, I'll need to find out whether the heat setting will mess with its, uh, thermochromatic-ness. I'm hoping to project I'd like to use use this for by July this year, but there are a lot of variables I need to work out first.

    I've used it in the past for t-shirts, and I have a few almost 6 years old and holding strong, but as I mentioned all acrylics are different.

    From what I have found, if it wears comfortably, it washes comfortably. Also, if you do a sample swatch, run it through the wash like you would anything you plan on using the paint on in the future. The great thing about this paint is that you can tweak it to work for nearly all fabrics!