Choosing a Good Paint for Fabric
When you begin to paint on fabric, there are three important things to remember: read the directions on your paint, pay attention to permanence, and choose the right paint for the task. Remember that when you start to paint on fabric, it is easiest to use clothing that is 100% cotton or a high cotton blend, clothing that has been washed and dried without the use of a fabric softener, and place a soft painting board inside the clothing (old cut up pizza boxes work well).
Using fabric paint is the easiest way to decorate your clothing when you start to experiment with this craft. Fabric paint can be a versatile tool allowing you great flexibility in your painting by first going through with a base coat then while the cloth is still wet, paint in your highlights. With fabric paint, it is important to read the directions to correctly apply and cure your art. Most fabric paints must be heat set before they are machine washable. These paints can typically be mixed to create new colors, but mixing fabric paints should always be done by brand. Mixing the paints of two different manufactures could result in the consistency of the fabric paint changing.
Acrylic tends to work just as well or better than cheap fabric paints, but isn't as soft or durable as a good quality fabric paint, and has the advantage of being both cheap and something most crafters already have. Also, there will be times when you just arenít able to mix the color you need with your fabric paint, and when thatís the case, the best thing to do is to move on to acrylic paint. Once you have found (or mixed) the color you are looking for in acrylic, you need to add a fabric medium. The fabric medium should be mixed in equal parts to the acrylic paint you wish to use. Doing this reduces the stiffness of using undiluted acrylic paint to allow for even application as well as removing the need to abrasively scrub the fabric for the acrylic to adhere correctly. The shirt stenciling article has more detail on using acrylic paint and a fabric medium.
Great for changing the color of large sections of fabric, dyes do have their share of problems when used to create designs. Dye colors tend to fade a few shades on first rinse, and attempts to mix colors together often results in a mud colored soup. Also, dyes tend to run within the fabric, making crisp well-defined lines harder. Despite these drawbacks, some designs are well-suited to a dye. You can tie-dye, drizzle the dye onto your fabric, or paint with a brush after the dye has been thickened.
To paint on silk or a fabric with a low cotton percentage, it is best to use silk paints to achieve a vibrant shimmering image. The area of the cloth you wish to paint should be pulled tight, preferably in a frame to prevent the fabric from snagging. The best way to apply silk paint in this manner is to use a fine brush or an airbrush to control the amount of paint used. Silk paint on silk will never be as durable as dyes, and often a finished pieced cannot be laundered at all.