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Home » Textile Processes » Fabric Painting

Fabric Painting

Fabric Painting Through the process of fabric painting, different fabrics such as apparel fabrics or home furnishing fabrics can be given a crafty look. In fact, it can also be used for embellishing finished garments such as t-shirt, pants, jeans, and jackets as also many other products like bags, pillows, or anything made up of fabrics just by adding designs and colors to them.

The Basic Process of Fabric Painting
There are many techniques through which fabric painting is done. However, before moving on to these different techniques of textile painting, it is better to know the basic process of fabric painting.
  • Fabric Pens StampFabric is first of all washed and dried. This allows the fabric shrink if it is going to shrink at all. Also, it cleans any dirt, dust, or textile finishing chemicals from it.
  • Paints are chosen from among a variety of options available. There are fabric paint tubes, fabric paint pens, paint pots and brushes, that can be used based on the painting method chosen. They can be either used in isolation or can even be mixed and used on a single fabric to give dramatic effects to the fabric design.
  • Designs are then chosen according to one's interest. Some people prefer free hand designs which allows them to paint without any design laid out beforehand. Some others draw the designs with pencils on the fabric to be painted. Yet others use iron on transfer method. In this method, they use a pink or a blue colored transfer pen to trace over a simple lined picture. The design is then applied by placing the drawn lines directly onto the fabric and gently pressing a hot iron on top.
  • The fabric is then painted through different techniques like stamping, reverse stamping, screen painting and others that have been described later in this article.
  • After fabric painting is finished, it is allowed to dry ranging from at least 24 hours to 72 hours so that it is thoroughly dry and set.
  • The finished item is then again washed and dried.
Fabric Painting Techniques
There are different fabric painting techniques for embellishing a fabric or a garment. Some of these textile painting techniques are enumerated as below.

Reverse Stamping
Fabric Stamp PaintingThrough this technique, many simple yet unique designs can be painted on a fabric. The resultant fabric gives an appearance similar to that of batik fabrics. The extender base is the main ingredient of reverse stamping technique. Extender Base is a non pigmented ink, added to standard ink for making it transparent. The other materials needed are fabric paints, stamps, paintbrushes and washed & dried unbleached fabric, preferably from among cotton fabrics.

Reverse Stamping is a "wet" technique, in which the brush is used to paint a coat of extender base onto the fabric. The layer of extender base is not very thick. One or more colors are applied onto the layer of extender base while it is still wet. Now the brush strokes are gently smoothed with finger tips to allow the colors to mix with each other, or the brush strokes are left as they are so as to make them visible on the material. Sometimes, stamps or other items like a crushed piece of paper, sponge, a fork, finger, etc. are also used to remove the layer of paint while the surface is still wet. It gives the fabric a batik like effect. The paint is allowed to dry thoroughly before heat setting.

Printing with Stamps
Any kind of purchased or self made stamp, even linocuts, can be used for such painting. Other materials needed are fabric paint, paintbrush, stamping pad, and fabric preferably unbleached cotton or calico which is a plain white cotton cloth, heavier than muslin fabric. A thin layer of paint is applied onto the stamping pad with the paint brush. Colors can also be blend on the stamping pad. The stamp is then tapped lightly on the paint on the stamping pad so as to cover it wholly with paint. Then the stamp is placed onto the fabric to transfer the stamp design with color on it. Stamping pads can be used multiple times by storing them after rinsing in cold or luke warm water.

Screen Printing Technique
Screen Printed Fabric PaintingThe material needed for fabric painting through screen printing include a ready-to-print screen, a squeegee, fabric paint, fabric, and a printing table having a soft surface. The table can be covered with a blanket and then with a plastic sheet to give it a soft surface. The screen is placed in a face down position on the fabric. Fabric Paint is placed across the top portion of the screen above the design. The frame is hold in position with one hand while placing the squeegee between the top of the frame and the paint. The squeegee is pulled down firmly to the bottom of the screen. If thick fabric like duck fabric is used, the paint may be needed to pull down more than once so as to get a good print. On thin fabrics, the process done once is enough. The screen is then carefully lifted from the fabric. The design can be repeated but care has to be taken that the front side of the screen which is placed on the fabric does not have any paint on it.

Fabric Painting StencilsScratching is similar to reverse stamping and the extender base is again the main material here. However, instead of removing the paint using a stamp, one can draw into or scratch directly onto the fabric with the help of a knitting needle or the back of a paintbrush or some other item having pointed tip. Poplin fabric is a great choice for this technique apart from unbleached cotton. The brush strokes are much more visible on poplin which gives a beautiful effect to the fabric painting.

These and many other techniques can be used alone or by mixing with each other such as stamp and stencils can be used alone or together to give unique effect to the painted fabrics; scraping can be used along with scratching; and many other techniques can be invented as per one's requirement and imagination. Fabric painting is basically a creative work and it can't be limited by any one technique.

Considerations for Fabric Painting
There are certain points that should be kept in mind while preparing the fabric for the process of fabric painting. Some of these basic considerations have been mentioned below.
  • Fabric Painting ClothingAlways try to select washable natural fiber and natural blended fabrics. Fifty- fifty cotton-polyester blends are the best for doing fabric painting. Rayon fabrics and silk fabrics also give good results. It is best to try a sample square to check the results on these fabrics.
  • Always iron the fabric well before starting fabric painting. If doing it on clothing then always ensure that you get wrinkle free clothing for the purpose. Wrinkles can destroy the design beyond repair.
  • Always test paint in a hidden area of the fabric piece or the apparel to be painted in order to ensure its compatibility with the paints. Paint colors may give different appearance on colored or textured fabrics for example a paint may look lighter on cotton fabric but the same color may look dark on cotton fabric textures such as denim fabric.
  • Always wash and dry new fabric items in order to remove the sizing chemicals. The sizing added during textile manufacture prevents the paint from adhering to the fabric surface. Never skip this step and also do not use fabric softeners. You need to bring the fabrics in their natural state and do not need to add further chemicals to them.
  • There are different ways to transfer a design onto light colored fabrics and dark colored fabrics. When using light colored fabrics, slip the art pattern under the fabric and use a disappearing ink pen to trace over the lines. If transferring multiple images then move pattern in various places and trace accordingly. Paint over the lines and when the painted design is wholly dry, spray quickly some water over residual lines of disappearing ink to remove.
  • To transfer designs onto dark colored fabrics, use a chalk pencil and tulle netting made of tulle fabric. For it, tape down the line art pattern onto the fabric and then tape the tulle netting over the pattern. Trace the pattern onto the tulle with the help of black permanent marker. Now position the tulle netting in place on the fabric and tape it to secure. Retrace the lines with a chalk pencil. Finally remove the tulle netting to reveal the lines made with chalk.
  • It's also important to take care of the fabric painted pieces in the proper way. If the clothing or fabric can be machine washed as per the care instructions then turn it inside out and use warm water on gentle cycle with a mild detergent in a warm rinse. Cold water sometimes lead the fabric paint to crack. Line dry. Never opt for dry cleaning nor use harsh detergents, and bleaching chemicals.