Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric: A Guide for Beginners

Have you found yourself asking, “Can you use acrylic paint on fabric?

After all, acrylic paint is a very flexible medium to work with, and you probably have them already, so you don’t need to buy another paint set anymore.

Don’t worry, we hear you. We will answer that question and more. You can treat this is as an acrylic painting guide for fabric.

What Is Fabric Paint?

First off, fabric paint has a different formulation as acrylic paint.

Aptly named, it is a medium made of fabric dye combined with a binder to help it cling to fabrics more efficiently.

Though formulated specifically for fabrics, a lot of people are not aware that they can only use fabric paints on natural fibers and not synthetic ones.

That is the reason we prefer to use acrylic paints for our fabric painting projects.

After all, we don’t want to think about whether the surface we’re working on is natural or not. We just want to get started painting it!

If you do want to use fabric paint here are some of the better brands to use:

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric?

The answer is yes, absolutely! However, you need to prepare it for the process to achieve optimal results.

Top brands we recommend for acrylic paints are:

How to Prepare Acrylic Paint for Fabric Painting

Preparing your acrylic paint for fabric painting isn’t difficult and expensive.

Nonetheless, even if the process of preparing your acrylic paint is simple, you need to have the right supplies: a fabric medium and of course, your acrylic paint.

Some of you might be wondering what a fabric medium is, so let’s talk about it first in detail, before proceeding.

Why Do You Need a Fabric Medium?

The secret in using acrylic paint on fabric lies in the use of a fabric medium.

It’s a formula that you can mix with your paint to make it more suitable for fabric use.

There are different mediums that you can choose from, but we enjoy working with the Martha Stewart Tintable Fabric Medium.

We understand why you might be tempted to skip this entirely and simply start painting, thinking that it won’t really make much difference.

Resist the urge. There’s chemistry in this. You see, acrylic paint wasn’t formulated for fabric. It’s simply not flexible enough.

It’s the same reason why you can’t use acrylic on your skin.

Acrylic hardens when it dries and will flake and crack when bent or folded, and more so when washed.

Aside from that, you’ll find that acrylic paint will be too thick to paint on fabric. You will need to dilute it to be absorbed by your fibers better.

That’s what a fabric medium does. Not only will it dilute your paint to the required consistency, but it will also make the formula more flexible and better absorbed by your fabric.

Thus, you won’t even have to worry about your work washing off come laundry day.

Can You Mix Vinegar With Acrylic Paint for Fabric Painting?

Is there an alternative way to create a fabric medium by just using household ingredients?

Can you really mix vinegar with acrylic paint for fabric painting?

Honestly, vinegar alone won’t work. It will mess up your acrylic paint’s acidity, and you won’t get the results that you want to achieve.

After experimenting with it a bit, though, we have found a formula that makes it better.

How to Prepare a Homemade Fabric Medium

The idea comes from the fact that vinegar is used as a mordant in the traditional method of dyeing fabric.

You need to prepare your acrylic paint, though, before adding vinegar to it, by adding glycerine. This will turn its formula slightly similar to oil paint.

Here’s the formula: mix together one part vinegar, one part glycerine, and two parts water.

For instance, if you have 15ml of vinegar, you’d need 15ml of glycerine, and 30ml of water.

Voila! You now have a homemade fabric medium.

You can now add it to your acrylic paint until you reach the consistency that you want to paint it on fabric.

We usually use this recipe if we want an ink-like consistency, especially if we’re stamping patterns on clothing, bags, or more.

The Procedure

Once you have the necessary materials, follow the steps below:

  • Prepare Your Fabric Paint

Make sure to read the label of your chosen medium to know the proportions according to the product’s manufacturer.

If you do choose to go for the Martha Stewart one, though, we recommend the ratio of one part medium and two parts of your chosen color of acrylic paint.

Should you want to mix your colors around for your planned piece, we recommend prepping it first before adding the medium in.

  • Mix It Thoroughly

Make sure that your solution is well mixed with an even color and no lumps.

Once you have this prepared, we are ready to start painting!


Of course, aside from that, you’ll need your acrylic paints.

How to Paint Fabric With Acrylic

With your paint now ready, we can finally move on to the fun part: Painting!

Just follow our quick guide below:

1. Choose Your Fabric

Since we’re using acrylic paint with a fabric medium, there’s no need to worry about whether its fibers are natural or synthetic.

We do recommend taking its color and texture into consideration.

You’d want something plain for your colors to pop, and you don’t want a rough texture that might make the task of painting harder.

2. Decide on Your Design

We recommend using a reference photo for this project, or better yet, practice painting your chosen design on a separate surface first.

Remember, once you’ve painted something there, that will leave a stain forever, so you’d want to minimize your mistakes as much as possible.

3. Outline Your Design

Once you’ve decided on the image that you want to paint, create a rough outline of it in the fabric that you want to paint with chalk.

In this way, you can still erase it and make easy adjustments if needed.

4. Build Your Layers

This is where painting really begins!

Start with your background and layer the colors on top of each other until you achieve the image that you want to paint.

We recommend painting darker, chunkier parts first, and details and highlights last.

Awesome! You’ve just finished your first fabric painting project, but what if you want to create a patterned fabric?

Do you need to paint each element by hand? No, you don’t. Instead, you can make a pattern.

can you use acrylic paint on fabric

How to Create a Patterned Fabric With Acrylic Paint

For you to create a good patterned fabric using your acrylic paint, we recommend following this guide:

Materials Needed

You only need the following a printing block (preferably wood), a clean sponge, a brush, your fabric, and of course, your acrylic paint and fabric medium mixture.

As we mentioned above, you will need your paint mix to be in an ink-like consistency.

The Procedure

Follow the first step from the previous guide, but you don’t need to decide on the design anymore since you already have your printing block.

That said, you do need to mark where you want to stamp them on with your chalk.

You can use a ruler to measure the distance between the elements for a more uniform look.

Once decided, we can now start the stamping process.

First, brush paint over the clean sponge. We will use this as an ink pad.

Then, press the printing block on it and perform a test stamp on a separate surface.

You want your colors to be evenly distributed throughout the block to create a solid image of your design.

You can make sure of this by brushing your “ink pad” carefully, making sure that you can cover the area that your stamp will touch.

At this point, the only remaining thing that you need to do is to stamp away.

More Tips on How to Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric

To obtain better results, here are even more tips that you can keep in mind before you paint or stamp your fabric using acrylic paint:

1. Wash Your Fabric First

We cannot stress this enough. Washing the fabric first can assure your fabric won’t suddenly shrink anymore, which sometimes happens after initial washing.

It will also remove any dust and other particles on your fabric that you won’t want to adhere to the wet paint as it dries.

2. Iron the Fabric

Ironing your fabric will make its surface smoother and more manageable to paint on.

Trust us, you don’t want to paint on wrinkled fabric since you won’t be able to achieve the design that you want.

You’ll be wasting your time, materials, and effort.

3. Test Your Paint First, if You Can

Can you get a small swatch of the fabric that you plan to paint on? Great!

You can test whether or not your paint and medium mixture work on it as expected.

4. Allow Your Work to Dry Completely Before Washing

Acrylic paint is a water-based medium, which means it can get easily washed off with water granted that it’s still wet.

While that’s convenient in getting out splatters from your favorite jumpsuit, you don’t want that to happen to your project.

Here’s a pro tip: heat-set your work to ensure longevity.

Let’s Talk About Heat Setting

The question is, what is heat setting, and how do you do that?

Heat setting is a method of applying heat into the fabric to make sure the textile’s fibers properly absorb your fabric paint.

You can treat it like a sealing method that provides a protective finish to your piece.

It is very easy to do. All you need is a dry iron and a pressing cloth.

The first thing you need to do is place your pressing cloth on top of your painted design after it has already dried.

Then, iron on top of it with your dry iron for 10 seconds, and you’re done.

Just make sure that you were able to heat set the whole painted area for good measure.

Recommended Post-Painting Fabric Care

Don’t think that heat setting your project will make it invulnerable to natural wear and tear.

Here are tips on how to care for your painted fabric and prolong its life:

1. Minimize Its Washing

We understand that this can be difficult to achieve with wearable art, but this step is simply the best way to extend the integrity of your finished project.

After all, washing stretches the fabric and rubs its fibers, resulting in your paint slowly flaking off little by little.

2. Wash It Gently

If you do need to wash your project, we recommend using the gentle cycle of your washing machine, or better yet, handwash it.

In this way, you can minimize the handling of the painted area.

3. Allow It to Hang Dry

Don’t throw your piece into a dryer regardless of how low the setting is. Instead, we recommend hanging it out to dry.

This procedure will prevent the painted surface from being subjected to even more stress as needed.

By keeping the tips that we have shared in mind, we’re sure that your project will last for a long time!

Fabric Painting Summary

Can you use acrylic paint on fabric? By itself, no. We don’t recommend it. With a fabric medium? Definitely yes.

You can purchase a fabric medium or make one of your own using household ingredients such as vinegar and glycerine.

It will allow the formula of your acrylic paint to be more pliable even after it has dried.

You can always hand-paint your chosen design directly to your chosen fabric with the acrylic and fabric medium mixture, starting with your background colors and slowly building your layers until you reach the upper layers of your project’s details.

Or you can use a printing block and stamp the design to your fabric instead, by applying your paint to a sponge and using it as an ink pad.

Lastly, heat setting your work will prolong its life, but nothing beats careful maintenance and care to preserve the beauty of your piece!

FAQ About Acrylic Paint on Fabric

1) What type of fabric is best to use with acrylic paint?

 The best fabrics to use with acrylic paint are those made from natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, or silk. These fabrics have a tighter weave and are more absorbent, allowing the paint to adhere better and last longer. Avoid using synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or nylon, as they are less absorbent and can cause the paint to crack or peel over time.

2) Can you use acrylic paint on dark-colored fabric?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on dark-colored fabric, but you may need to apply a base coat of white or a lighter color to make the acrylic paint stand out. It’s also important to use fabric medium with your acrylic paint to ensure it adheres properly to the fabric and doesn’t crack or peel over time.

3) How can you make acrylic paint permanent on fabric?

To make acrylic paint permanent on fabric, you need to heat-set it. After the paint has dried, place a cloth over the painted area and iron it for 5-10 minutes on a high heat setting. This will help to set the paint and make it more resistant to washing and fading. You can also add a fabric medium to the paint before applying it to the fabric, which will help to make it more flexible and durable.

8 thoughts on “Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric: A Guide for Beginners”

  1. There are so many vinegars out there. What kind? I am ‘assuming’ white vinegar but I don’t want to make the wrong assumption.

  2. This is a awesome. I’ve done my test swatches using your homemade medium recipe and am now in progress painting my outdoor furniture cushions and a rug inside using the paint pouring method (because while I am definitely no artist, with a lot of care I can make paint pouring look good or paint over my failures until I get it right).

    To increase the opacity I added talcum powder which thickened the paint but still bonded it to the material really well without any cracking or peeling. I’d heard about adding cornflour to cheap acrylic paint to turn it into a more high end, richer paint and also to turn acrylic paint into chalk paint but I find talcum or baby powder is more finely milled and seems to work better.

    When I finish I’m happy to send you photos to show how well I think it worked although your opinion may greatly differ which is definitely ok too. 😃

  3. Thank so much! This article was really helpful to me. I’m doing a project for school, and it would have been totally ruined, because I didn’t know that you had to use fabric medium with acrylic paint! Thank you for saving my project!

  4. I bought a hand painted T. Beautiful black cotton with bright abstract design. I chose from the window display and was sold one from a drawer inside.
    Guess what! Not as nice. Thin paint. Maybe even different proportions.
    I want to add more paint to make it more opaque. Possible? How?
    Thank you.

  5. Can acrylic paint truly adhere well to fabric without compromising its texture or longevity? Has anyone experimented with this technique, and what were the results in terms of durability and color retention?

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