Acrylic paint is easy to use, it dries quickly and it is, compared to other paints, quite cheap. You can use acrylic paint on a lot of different surfaces and materials like wood, painting canvas, illustration board, paper, glass and more.
Acrylic paint does work on fabric but it is not the best paint for that particular job. While acrylic paint will stick to fabric initially it will crack and crumble after a while. So acrylic paint is not a permanent solution for painting fabric. Instead, regular Fabric paint should be used.
But, if you still want to draw fabric with acrylic paint then you can do this in two ways.
How to Paint Fabric with Acrylic Paint?
There are two ways you can go about this – you can either use “plain” acrylic paint, or you can turn your acrylic paint into fabric paint using a relatively simple method.
With Plain Acrylic Paint
For the first method – it is possible for you to paint on fabric using acrylic paint. However, it may not turn out exactly how you want it to.
Now back in the eighties, when painting on your T-shirts and jeans became all the rage, acrylic paint didn’t last very long – particularly after a few rounds in the washer and dryer.
Unfortunately, it would dry up and start cracking – essentially destroying the design.
However, it was still good fun and worth it to more than once a person to keep making acrylic paint designs.
With modern technology and methods, this doesn’t happen nearly as much. But it still will not be as good as using a specially made fabric paint – but you can make it work with a little practice and using these techniques.
Step 1 – Wash the Fabric
Your first step should be to wash whatever fabric you intend on using. Not only does this help the acrylic paint adhere cleanly to the fabric, but it also helps prevent any puckering or shrinkage when you wash it again, after painting it.
This will help keep the overall quality of your acrylic paint design longer.
Step 2 – Prepare the Fabric
Second, make sure that you work on a covered surface, while also wearing protective clothing.
Acrylic paint can be easily washed off while it is still wet, but it is almost impossible to remove the stain of the color after it is dry.
If you are painting fabric that has thin layers, such as a T-shirt or even socks, then you should put something between the layers to help keep them dry and prevent the color bleeding between them – such as either plastic or cardboard.
Step 3 – Test the Fabric
Third, before you begin your design test a small area of fabric.
Paint it, allow it to dry, get it wet (stimulate a wash), and then see how it turns out.
That will give you a good indication of how your final product will turn out – perhaps you need to handle it more gently or allow it a longer drying time.
Either way, this is a good method to utilize so you do not end up destroying your fabric.
Lastly, always make sure to mix your acrylic paints evenly – no matter if you are mixing two together to create a new color shade or are mixing them with water.
If you do not take care to mix them evenly, then your color will turn out uneven on the fabric and it just won’t look very nice.
Will Acrylic Paint Wash Off on Fabric?
As stated above, acrylic paint is incredibly difficult to get out of any fabric after it has completely dried.
So your first step should be to try and get your fabric into the wash while the acrylic paint is still wet.
This is the best step you could ever take, no matter what method you try to use. Use paper towel to blot treat any wet acrylic paint to remove it, as soon as possible.
Make sure to be careful while you are blotting the paint away – you do not want to rub the paper towel into the fabric, as that will simply cause the paint to sink further in.
You want to blot gently, just removing the surface wet paint.
If you have any dried parts of the acrylic paint, particularly any that have dried in globs versus smooth layers, then you can use a spoon to scrape it off.
You don’t want any bits hanging off of the fabric when you put it in to wash.
If you want, you could also use a stiff-bristled paintbrush to brush away any smaller bits of dried paint that you can see hasn’t fully adhered to the fabric.
Next, you can use a few different methods to remove the rest of the paint.
The first method is soaking the area in isopropyl alcohol. You want the entire area with the paint completely saturated and soaked in.
Next, you can then use either the spoon, the stiff paintbrush, or even something as simple as a tiny toothpick to gently scrape the paint away from the fabric.
When you start the scraping process, you first want to scrape with the grain of the fabric that you placed the acrylic paint on, and then go against the grain.
You will want to do this method continuously, loosening as much paint as you can.
When you have loosened and remove as much paint as you think you can, you can then put the fabric into the washer and hopefully it will remove the rest of the paint.
The second method involves cold water and ammonia.
Your first step will be to soak the parts of the fabric that contain the acrylic paint that you want to remove, in cool water for at least a minute. This step is important as it should be completely wet – not just damp.
Next, in a medium-sized bowl, mix together a cup of vinegar and ammonia (two cups altogether), along with a generous handful of salt.
Twist the water out of the fabric until it is just damp, not wet, and then use a sponge or cloth to scrub the ammonia-vinegar solution into the fabric.
You can do this as hard as you think it needs until the fabric is free from the acrylic paint stains.
To check to see if the paint has been removed, rinse the fabric with cold water and examine it.
If it is still stained, continue scrubbing with the ammonia-vinegar solution. Repeat the process as many times as necessary.
Wash it afterward.
The third method involves using warm water and dish detergent.
First, you want to turn the fabric inside out and run it under warm water – to remove any paint that you can.
Then you want to place equal parts warm water and dish detergent in a small bowl, and then use a cloth or sponge to blot the paint.
You do not want to rub too hard using this method, because it can push the paint into the fabric and create a large stain if you are not careful.
Use your nails or a toothpick to scrape at any bits of acrylic paint that you can see rising away from the fabric.
Rinse with warm water while the fabric is turned inside out to see if the paint is completely removed. Repeat as necessary.
Is There a Way to Make Acrylic Paint Work on Fabric?
Using acrylic paint on fabric is hard and it takes a lot of practice, as well as preparation, to make it work well.
However, a method that makes it easier for acrylic paint to work with fabric would be to blend it with a fabric medium.
If you cannot afford fabric paint or do not have access to it, this is a great option to help boost up your acrylic paint.
When you add a fabric medium to acrylic paint, what you are doing is improving the flow of the paint, as well as its workability – along with stabilizing the entire mix so that it can be washed without cracking after a few washes.
Essentially, it makes your acrylic paint not only easier to work with but also “toughens it up” so that you don’t have to treat it so gently.
If you painted a T-shirt with plain acrylic paint, then you might have to handwash that T-shirt every time you wore it or it got dirty – which can be time-consuming and prevent you from using it on any other fabrics or clothing items.
What Acrylic Paint Colors Work on Fabric?
Luckily, you can use any acrylic paint colors on fabric – you are only limited by your imagination!
The most important part about using acrylic paint on fabric is not really the colors, but how the paint itself adheres to the fabric.
It has to be a good medium between being thick (so thick that it cannot adhere) and thin (but not so thin that it sinks into the fabric and soaks everything below).
It’s a delicate balance – yet once you get it right, you can create some beautiful designs using your skill and imagination.
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.