Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric

Acrylic paint is one of the most widely used art media available to artists. Acrylic paint is a fast-drying, water-based paint. It is easy to work with, inexpensive, and has a variety of uses. Amateurs and artists commonly use it because of its affordability, ease of use, non-flammability, and versatility. Although acrylic paint has been around for ages, it’s a relatively new tool for textile printing. It gives the artist a great deal of versatility in color selection and types of fabric available, but there are some important things you need to know before diving right in. You may find yourself wondering if you can use acrylic paint on fabric at some point.

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on fabric! The technique of painting with acrylic paint is different than fabric paint, but it works just as well. If you love to paint and work with fabric, then this is the right place. Below are the steps to help you learn how to use acrylic paint on fabric and a detailed discussion on can you use acrylic paint on fabric.

Acrylic Paint vs Fabric Paint: What is the Difference

There is a significant difference between fabric paints and acrylic paints. Fabric paints often adhere best to natural surfaces, while acrylic paints can be applied to either natural or synthetic surfaces.

These paints also differ greatly in their composition. The dye or pigment in fabric paint comes in combination with a binder, which makes the dye adhere. Acrylics also contain pigment particles because they float in a transparent liquid.

There are some benefits to using fabric paint. In addition to soaking into the material, it remains permanently adherent once it has been heated and does not fade much with time.

As opposed to acrylic paint, acrylic paint does not penetrate the fabric to dye it. In its place, it adheres to the surface of the fabric, where it dries instantly to form a waterproof coating.

Acrylic paints are not flexible, so they do not lend themselves to wearable art on their own. Their greatest disadvantage is that they are not flexible. Unless you add a special thinning agent known as a fabric medium, they dry stiff and plasticky on top of the substrate.

However, acrylic paints are interesting because they are water-soluble while wet. Upon drying, they create a protective layer that is resistant to moisture. These water-soluble paints can be easily thinned with a medium or even just water since they are water-soluble.

Acrylics offer the advantage of being extremely vibrant, aside from being very easy to work with and relatively affordable. On a fabric surface, acrylics can also be used to create a variety of styles. It is possible to make acrylic look similar to watercolor, oil paint, or even a fun tie-dye.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric?

How to Thicken Acrylic Paint

The possibilities are endless with acrylic paint on fabric – create stenciled t-shirts, wall tapestries, and more! In textile arts, acrylic paints remain a popular choice since they provide a wide range of artistic styles and adhere well to a variety of materials. This type of paint is also excellent for wearable art because of its vibrant colors and durability. A plasticky, water-repellent layer is formed over the fabric after the paint dries. In order to achieve a softer, more flexible texture, a thinning agent is required.

It is easy to blend acrylics if you wish to create your own colors. Acrylics have a water-soluble nature when wet, which supports their ability to thin easily. If you have ever visited an art store and browsed the craft paint aisles, you know how affordable acrylic paint is! Honestly, acrylic paints provide the best choice for textile arts in most cases. In any case, you will find them helpful if you become familiar with the unique characteristics of these paints.

How to Paint on Fabric Permanently

Painting with acrylic paint dries rapidly and becomes a durable, washable film over the fabric. Heat-setting your textile art or applying the sealant to your non-washable design can make acrylics even longer-lasting. It’s no secret to anyone who has washed their jeans after spending a day in the studio that acrylic paint doesn’t wash out! Acrylic paint dries quickly and sets, and that’s all there is to it. In some cases, paint can peel or crack over time if not treated correctly, depending on its thickness.

Wearable textile art can be made permanent by thinning the paint and spreading it evenly and flexibly on the fabric with fabric medium. In addition to making the paint softer, the fabric will also be more comfortable to wear! The added flexibility will keep the garment from cracking and peeling as it is washed repeatedly in the years to come.

The heat-setting of your designs is also a good way to assure permanence. The paint must first be allowed to dry completely before this can be accomplished. Spread a clean tea towel or pressing cloth over the design. Press your iron firmly against the pressing cloth for about 30 seconds while the fabric is on the hottest setting it can handle.

In addition, some types of textile art need to be sealed. The most common sealant or varnish is simply a clear acrylic coating that binds underneath the paint. It gives acrylics a protective coating.

What is a Fabric Medium?

Acrylic paint adheres to fabric with fabric medium. Mixing the formula with paint allows it to stick better to the fabric. Many mediums exist for this. You might want to consider the type of paint you plan on using when selecting a fabric medium. A liquid acrylic polymer emulsion is used to soften acrylic paint, such as an acrylic fabric medium.

Benefits of Fabric Medium

It may be tempting to paint directly on the fabric rather than using the fabric medium, but this would not yield the desired results. The acrylic paint cannot remain intact on natural materials without the use of a medium.

Acrylic paint becomes hard as it dries. It will flake or crack if you fold or bend an acrylic-painted shirt. It may even disappear entirely after washing. Furthermore, too thick of an application may produce an unfavorable finish.

It is possible to resolve all these issues using a fabric medium. The acrylic paint becomes softer and more flexible after being diluted with a fabric medium. As a result of the formula, fabrics are able to absorb it better, and it should not wash off in the machine.

How to Paint Fabric With Acrylic Paint


Ensure you have all of your materials ready before you begin painting. Acrylic paint, paint brushes, sponges,  stencils, water, and stamps are required.

Protecting your work area is also important. The work surface should be covered with newspaper to prevent paint from adhering to porous surfaces. Don’t forget your protective gear!

It is advisable to work in an area with adequate ventilation or to open a window as you work. As acrylic paint dries, it becomes toxic. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, acrylic mediums are also known to release formaldehyde while they are drying. It’s important to work with air when handling potentially hazardous materials.

Step- 1: Choose the Fabric

Finding a fabric that is suitable for your project is the first step. Natural or synthetic fiber can be used as a fabric medium with acrylic paint. Take texture and color into consideration as well.

To make paint colors stand out, choose a plain fabric shade. Check the fabric’s texture before you begin painting, as a rough material may make the job more difficult. Silk and cotton have tight weaves that usually produce rich colors.

Step- 2: Develop the Design

Which way would you like the fabric painted to look? You may need chalk, stencils, or painter’s tape to outline the design. Think about the materials you might need to make it.

Prepare the design you’re going to paint by using a reference photo or practicing it a few times on paper before you begin. You cannot undo mistakes during the process with acrylic paint since it stains fabric.

Step- 3: Prepare the Paint

Add the medium to your acrylic paint before you start painting. Make sure you follow the directions on the medium’s label. There may be some variations among manufacturers. Stir until the color is even and there are no lumps.

Decide which shades you would like to use ahead of time. Before adding the medium to the paint, mix the paint colors. Do not do this if you will be using fabric paint. It is not necessary to mix fabric paints with a medium since they come in that form.

Step- 4: Apply Layers of Paint

It’s time to start painting. Create your design by painting the background in acrylic paint with a brush and layering the colors over each other. Wait a few minutes between layers for them to dry before adding another.

If you are painting something dark or chunky, you should first paint the dark or chunky parts. If you are painting something light, you should paint the background first. People also enjoy applying acrylic paint to fabric with wood printing blocks. To do this, you will need sponges and fabric medium.

Paint and a medium mixture, such as ink, are used to create patterns on a printing block. Use the sponge as a stamp pad and add the paint to it. You should test the colors before you begin by stamping the woodblock into the paint and pressing it lightly into it. Then start stamping!

Step- 5: Let it Dry

Make sure the area is well ventilated and safe for drying. The water-based nature of acrylic paint makes it easy to wash off while still wet. Before washing your work, be sure it is completely dry.

Heat Setting Acrylic Paint on Fabric

heat setting acrylic paint on fabric

It might be worthwhile to heat set your fabric painting after it has been completed. It will last much longer this way, and it will also prevent damage. Using acrylic paint on fabric is generally a relatively straightforward process if you follow all the directions.

You may also heat set the fabric using iron and add fabric medium. It has always worked out perfectly when we have used this option in the past. The following are the basic steps you need to follow:

Step 1: Take Time to Start Heat Set Process

Whenever you paint on a fabric that needs to be washed, you need to heat set it afterward. To remove any creases from a garment, you need to iron it for a longer period of time, the same way you would iron a garment to remove wrinkles.

When you have finished painting your project, we do not recommend ironing it right away.  Make sure your paint has dried properly by waiting at least 24 hours. You should wait at least four to five days before washing your fabric before the heat set.

Step 2: Heat set your Acrylic Painting on Clothes

Avoid using your iron steam settings when ironing fabric. You will need dry heat for the paint to set. You should turn off your steam settings and empty your water container if your iron switches to steam automatically.

Consider ironing the opposite side of the fabric rather than the side painted with paint. Alternatively, place a clean piece of fabric over the painted portion of your garment. By choosing either of these options, you can ensure your iron will not melt your paint or burn the painted side of your fabric.

Ensure that your ironing board is covered with a clean piece of fabric. The painted side of the ironing board will be facing down as you iron your fabric, which will help protect the board cover from paint colors.

  • Set your iron to medium or hot, depending on the fabric.
  • Move the iron around for a few minutes over the painted area to prevent your fabric from burning.

Step 3: Iron at Least 3 to 5 Minutes

You need to iron for at least 3 to 5 minutes after painting your fabric to ensure the paint has been set properly. Your iron should be set between medium and hot, and you should iron the wrong side of the fabric.

At this point, avoid touching your fabric because it will be quite hot. Furthermore, we suggest ironing smaller sections at a time to keep the paint from getting too hot or too cold. This allows you to move around more quickly.

Acrylic Paint on Fabric Without Medium

Tips on how to use acrylic paint without a medium on fabric are in the following paragraphs. Use these tips to ensure your painted fabric adheres better to the fabric and makes it more flexible.

  • To prepare the fabric for your project, rub its surface gently with medium-grit sandpaper. Your paint will stick much better to the fabric with this preparation.
  • Spray a light layer of water on the entire fabric surface using a spray bottle filled with water. The wet paint adheres to the wet fabric better and produces an even layer.
  • Thinning your paint with water is a good idea before starting. That way, it will be easier to apply.  

Aftercare for Acrylic Painting on Clothes

It is not too difficult to take proper care of your fabric or garment. Remember that it won’t be very stable if you do not use a medium when applying acrylic paint. Make sure the fabric is protected from damage in this case.

We recommend hand washing and allowing the fabric to drip dry whenever possible. Use the gentle cycle on your machine and the low heat setting on the tumble dryer if you need to machine wash. It will extend the lifespan of your fabric and design.

You can extend the life of your fabric by following these tips:

  • Select a gentle press wash and low-temperature setting if you use a washing machine or a tumble dryer.
  • Allow the fabric to drip dry after hand washing if possible.
  • If you want to soak your fabric, don’t use hot water.
  • Make sure to allow your fabric to dry for at least 4 days before washing it.
  • Make sure you spin-dry your clothes at room temperature if you use a dry-cleaning machine. It’s okay to dry-clean suede.
  • The garment or fabric will need to be ironed later, so always iron on the reverse side with a low setting.
  • Avoid cleaning spots.

Pro Tips for using Acrylic Paint on Fabric

  • The fabric medium will need to be added to your paint to adjust its consistency. You will need fabric medium for a soft, stretchable finish and then some distilled water if you need to thin out your paint, but do not thin it too thin.
  • Test your paint mixture on a separate piece of fabric first, as each type of fabric will absorb paint differently.
  • Lay a protective sheet over your work surface to prevent the fabric from adhering to it. The best results can be achieved by inserting a piece of cardboard inside a t-shirt before painting.
  • Suitable fabrics for fabric painting. Flannel, suede, cotton-poly blends, knitted, cotton, leather, corduroy, most synthetics, velveteen, woven, terry cloth, felt, velvet, and silk.
  • If your fabric has been starched or co-polymerized, you must wash it before painting on it. Dry the fabric properly after washing.
  • Additionally, acrylic paint-based fabric markers are available.

Final Words

Acrylic paint is versatile. It can be applied to canvasses, wood, pottery, and metal with equal ease. On the other hand, it can also be applied to fabric, which makes it a powerful medium in your arsenal of arts and crafts supplies.  Acrylic is a water-based paint that dries to the touch quickly, within an hour. It can be applied thick or thin, depending on how much it is diluted with water. After you apply the acrylic paint to the fabric, you can bond it with an iron.

Whether you’re new to acrylic painting or have experience with this versatile medium, the process of painting on fabric will be a satisfying departure from the traditional treatments and materials. This article has been in detailed discussion about “can you use acrylic paint on fabric,” and we hope that this information will be helpful to you shortly.

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