Does Acrylic Paint Work On Fabric?

Painting your clothes is a great way to turn otherwise dull and boring articles into vibrant works of art. In fact, some of the world’s best modern artists and fashion designers regularly paint and sell clothing for triple the price of the original article of clothing!

If you’re new to fabric painting, then you may be wondering whether or not you can use acrylic paint on fabric or not.

Yes, acrylic paint works on fabric. In fact, acrylic paint is not only the easiest way to paint fabric, but it’s also the best way to paint fabric. The process is relatively simple, and painting fabric isn’t all that different from painting a canvas.

As long as you’re patient and follow all of the steps, you can turn your closet into a hanging art gallery! 

In today’s post, I’m going to explain everything that you need to know about painting fabrics with acrylic paint. I’ll show you exactly what type of acrylic paint to use, what fabrics you can paint, and most importantly, how to keep your painted fabric from cracking! It’s time to get creative. 

Painting Fabric With Acrylic: What You Need To Know

One of my favorite hobbies that I picked up with my free time during Quarantine was painting my old clothes. Frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t go out and buy new threads and tired of wearing the same old stuff week after week, I decided that I was going to break the rules and make my own style. I have absolutely no idea how to sew or stitch, so the next best thing was painting the fabric. 

I jumped in headfirst and didn’t really do too much research on how to go about it. As a result, my first couple of pieces turned out worse than expected. The paint was smeared and cracked. It looked liked a toddler did it. So, I decided to actually do my research and try it again. The next time was a complete success, and I managed to paint a replica of the Mona Lisa on the back of a plain black T-shirt. 

Here’s everything that you need to know about how to paint fabric with acrylic paint and repurpose some of your old clothes. 

What Fabrics Can I Paint With Acrylic Paint? 

You can paint any fabric with acrylic paint! The only difference between fabrics is that some have more space between threads (such as denim), while others provide a nice smooth surface that makes painting a bit easier (such as polyester or cotton). 

The only fabric that I would caution against painting is stretch fabric. This is because the excessive stretching can cause the paint to crack apart and look unsightly, no matter how good the paint you used is or how well you stuck to the famous “golden ratio.” 

At first, I was cautious and stuck to painting my fine-thread t-shirts. This gave me a nice smooth surface to paint on and helped me stay in the lines. As I gained confidence, though, I started to experiment with a number of different fabrics. So far, my favorite fabric to paint is denim, and I’ve completed a number of denim jackets and pants. 

What Type of Acrylic Paint Should I Use On Fabric? 

I strongly suggest using high-quality acrylic paint on your fabric. Even if you have to pay extra for a tube of it, it’s well worth the extra money as you’ll have a fully wearable work of art at the end of your project. 

Using low-quality acrylic paint will result in a dull color and will usually cause your paint to crack within a few days. Low-quality acrylic paint typically has higher water content and lower amounts of pigment, which can also result in the paint bleeding outside of the lines and blurring the edges. 

Higher-quality acrylic paints have lower water content and contain a higher percentage of pigment. This results in far better color quality and will decrease the chance of the paint cracking. 

What’s The Difference Between Acrylic Paint And Fabric Paint? 

Fabric paint is a decent alternative to acrylic paint. However, it’s a lot more expensive. Also, fabric paint doesn’t usually give you the same variety of colors that you’ll get by using high-quality acrylic paint. As long as you mix your acrylic paint with a fabric medium, then you’ll typically get better results than using fabric paint by itself. 

Do I Need To Use A Fabric Medium With My Acrylic Paint? 

Yes! The fabric medium is an opaque liquid that dries clear. The main goal of the medium is to help your acrylic paint bond to the fabric. It prevents cracking and allows your painted clothing to be washed in the future. 

How Do You Prevent The Acrylic Paint From Cracking Once It’s Dry? 

One of the biggest issues that people run into after painting their clothes is that it cracks and peels, often looking worse than if you had never painted it in the first place. Here are some helpful tips that you can employ to ensure that your fabric doesn’t crack in the future. 

Use A Fabric Medium

Using a fabric medium with acrylic paint is a must. This ensures that your paint will properly bond to the fabric, prevents cracking, and helps the paint survive the heat-setting process. 

Give It Time To Cure

After you finish painting the fabric, make sure you give it 24 hours to dry and cure. You want your paint to be completely dry before you start the heat-setting process. 

Avoid Cold Temperatures

While the paint is curing, you should avoid cold temperatures at all costs. The cold can cause the paint to contract as it dries. This typically results in severe cracking and can ruin the integrity of the paint, even if you did use a fabric medium. 

Heat-Setting Your Painted Fabric

The final step to completing your fabric painting is to heat-set it. As long as you used a fabric medium with the acrylic and gave it enough time to cure, then this is a relatively simple and straightforward process. Essentially, heat-setting ensures that the paint forms an unbreakable bond with the fabric so that you can wash it, sit on it, and put it under other stress without cracking. 

To heat cure your painted fabric, start by laying a piece of cloth or fabric on top of the painted surface. Then, find your iron and set it to the right temperature for the fabric you’re using. Make sure that you don’t use any steam settings. Next, run the iron back and forth over the painted surface (with the fabric in between the iron and the paint for protection) for about 3 minutes. 

That’s it! You’re all finished. Once you do it a few times, it will come like second nature to you, and it’s a great way to pass the time, repurpose old clothes, or bring new life back to thrift items.