Fabric Painting 101: Lesson One

The first lesson covers fabric and paint basics.  The second lesson will include a supply list.  I planned to combine both topics into one lesson, but it made the post too long.



Textile paints will work on any type of fabric (natural or man-made fibers), as well as wood, paper and other surfaces.  Translucent paint should be used on white or other light colored fabric, but opaque paint will show on dark colors.

 Bleached muslin

  •    Springs – available a quilt shops and fabric chain stores
  •     Roclon – available at Joann Fabrics and other fabric chain stores
  • Quilt Essentials – available at some fabric chain stores 

Country Classic Solids – available at Joann’s  


Cotton Sateen – available at Joann’s and other fabric stores.  This fabric has a sheen to it and a soft hand.  The process that gives the fabric its shimmer tends to mute the colors, so this fabric will not paint as vibrant as some others.       

Southern Belle – available at Joann’s and quilt shops.  This fabric has a 200 thread count and is what commercial fabric producers use for batiks.  Because of the tight weave, it can be difficult to hand stitch.

Pima cotton – Available through mail order.  This also has a tight weave, but not as tight as Southern Belle.

Kona Cotton – available at fabric chain stores and quilt shops.  This fabric is a bit thicker than the others listed and sometimes stiffens when painted.   It’s a good choice for home dec, tote bags, etc.

There are a number of other white fabrics available, and some manufacturers make different grades of the same product.  For example, a fabric chain store and a quilt shop may both carry Springs bleached muslin, but it is not the same quality or the same price.  By trying different fabrics, you can decide which ones produce the results you like and which fabric will work best for your project. 



Paint manufacturers and professional fabric artists have varying opinions on whether or not fabric should be pre-washed.  I typically rinse my fabric in warm water to remove surface dirt and sizing.  If you do pre-wash your fabric do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets.  It is not necessary to scour the fabric (make it prepared for dye (PFD)).



 Types of Paint

1.     Transparent or translucent – these paints only work on light colored fabrics.  Any design already on the fabric will show through. 

2.     Opaque – these paints work on any color of fabric and underlying print will NOT show through.  These paints are designed for full coverage and are thicker. 

3.     Pearlescent    

4.     Metallic – These paints are usually opaque.     

5.     Flourescent 

Paints should be considered translucent unless they are specifically labeled opaque.


Brands of Paint


·       Jacquard  – Available at Michael’s in translucent, metallic and pearlescent.  

·       Setacolor/Pebeo – Available at Michael’s.  These paints are designed for use in sunprinting and salt techniques.  They are more luminous than other fabric paints and look great on silk.


·       Profab – Only available through mail order from Prochem.  These come in all five types with a huge range of colors.  Prochem also develops seasonal palettes.  Their opaque is truly opaque. 


There are other brands of paints on the market.  I have only listed here the ones I have experience with.  Check your local craft store for availability.


             All paints should be heat set per the manufacturer’s instructions.  Generally, paints are heat set by ironing the fabric on the back side for 15-30 seconds per square foot at the maximum heat setting for the type of fabric used.

                                                                                                  copyright Donna Hoskins 2009



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