Monday, October 14, 2013

Fabric Painting Tips

^We all know details, details and details are essential for cosplay.

Having details sewn on or embroidered on to your costume is one heck of a luxury, beautiful and elegant when magnificently executed but a pain on both the wallet and heart when improperly done.

Embroidered details are the best for me, but I do not have a lot of costumes with embroidery for the following reasons:
- embroidery is never cheap
- finding a very skilled person to trust is hard

Belldandy cosplay by jaRoukaSama
Gold parts of the costume were embroidered... NOT cheap... not cheap at all XDD but worth every painful penny hahaha

Other options for adding details to fabric based costumes are:
- cutting and sewing on details
- cutting and sticking on details
- fabric painting
- heat pressing
- silk screening

There are a number of ways but the easiest is to pay someone else to do it for you.
If you don't have the money though, but you have the patience, I highly recommend painting on the details yourself.

Here are some things and tips to help you paint fabric.

What can I use to paint fabric?
Fabric paint or textile paint.
Though some textile paints, get bad over time... Some dry up (and there's no way to check if the container is sealed up), smell bad or the oils have gone to to the surface and the colors are limited and would require mixing to get the specific color you want.
I highly recommend acrylic paint. Acrylic paint come in a wide variety of color, dries fast, easily found and reasonably priced.

Paint markers and permanent markers are also very handy.

What kind of paint should I avoid?
Poster paints have a lot of variety but they do not stick well to fabric.
Oil based paints take a long time to dry and is messier to use, though the color is really pleasing, you need to let each coat dry properly before coating again and requires a lot of patience.

Check to see if the paint you will be using is washable or not, it would be such a shame if everything is washed off after working so hard on it.

Best to use paints specifically for crafts because you don't want your garment to become all stiff. Fabrics need to be able to move and allow you to breathe, so do not use paint for exteriors and hard items and such.

Do NOT BE AFRAID to ask.

More on acrylic paint:
I love using acrylic paints because, I can use them not only in fabrics but for other materials, too. Cheap, lots of variety, dries fast, looks great and for multiple purposes!

There are a lot of kinds of acrylic paints but for fabric painting, I recommend using craft acrylics and acrylic gouache.

They don't need thinning or water either, you can start painting straight away and you can have a really decent looking end product with just one coat. Brush marks not a big problem.

My favorite brand is Reeves, around 100php for a big tube.
Here we have my Xing Cai costume. I used one coat of acrylic paint for everything.

Where to get these paints?
Books stores, crafts store, art supply stores, daiso / saizen, hardwares, do-it-yourself centers.
They are easily found.
If you are in the Philippines, National Bookstore has them. But for more variety, go to art supply stores like Deovir (SM Manila and SM North). OR locate a school known for it's art and architecture courses, you are sure to find decent and cheap art supply stores near.
There are a few good ones near MAPUA and UST.

Can I paint all types of fabrics?
Very smooth and shiny types do not hold paint well.
Expect paint to wash off after one wash with shiny satin, if they don't wash off, they usually flake bit by bit, quiet frustrating.

Cotton based, thick and unwooly fabrics are best. Higher quality satin like duchess satin or the wrong side of satin can hold paint.
Katrina, cotton, twill also great.

Avoid cheap satin.
Anya Alstreim cosplay by my sister
We used cheap satin for her cape.
It was a pain to paint, not because of the large surface that needed painting, but because the paint chipped after a few washing even though I mixed in textile medium...

Best to get a small scrap and test it out first. Paint and the wash, see if comes off first.
Anya Alstreim top for my sister's cosplay
Here we used katrina for the fabric and the same paint as with the cape but because of the difference in fabric, here, we had no problems of chipping at all

Aside from paint what else do I need?
1. Something to mark the fabric and serve as your guide, pencil marks don't wash off easily for certain fabrics or sometimes aren't very visible to serve as guides.
Ball pens, also not good, same as with colored markers.
Marked the areas that needs painting. Here I used blue tailor's chalk.
The one in daiso comes in a pair of blue and red in pencil form. Very convenient.

Color pencils and tailor's chalk are very good though. /thumbs up

2. A flat spacious surface or something to keep the fabric as flat as possible.
I use our dining table and an old magazine behind the fabric and clothes pins / bull clips to secure the fabric.

3. Brushes in different sizes.
For edges, I use small brushes and once I am done, I use a larger brush to fill in the rest.

4. Reference pictures
Even with the design marked out on the material, it still helps to have reference pictures nearby ready to check every now and then.
Reference on the standby /winks

5. Scrap paper and cloth
For testing and just in case of an accidents.

6. Stable cup with water
To help thin the paint if it is too thick, and to keep the brushes soft/clean while not in use.

7. Alcohol and cotton buds/ q-tips
If and when you do make a mistake, quickly dip a cotton bud/ q-tip in some alcohol and rub against the erroneous area. Do this before the paint dries. /winks
Well if it's a small mistake, it would work but if you make a large error, just pray no one notices. hahahaha

8. Large plain handkerchief and clothes iron

Tips on painting fabric:
1. Test the material first

2. Paint by sections and allow about 30 minutes or more in between coats.
Best to watch a series while painting, paint then rest and let dry while watching one episode, paint and rest while watching, repeat until done.

3. If you are having a snack, make sure to wash your hands before continuing to paint, otherwise, you'd accidentally stain the material.

4. Start painting from the farthest end, you get better along the way. You'd be glad that you got better in the more visible parts :)

5. Best to start with the outlines then fill the middle parts later on.
You can also see here that I have my trusty old magazine behind the garment, kept in place by clothes pins hehehe
Outlines first then fill in the middle later

6. About 3 coats usually does the trick, gets rid of brush marks, but for acrylic paint, one coat would be enough.

7. When you are done and happy, let paint dry for about an hour then grab a large plain hanky and clothes iron.
Heat set everything.
Cover the painted parts with the hanky and go over with the iron.
Turn garment inside out and go over with the iron too.
Heat setting makes paint last longer on fabric

8. Never rush, take your time.
The more drying time in between, the better.

9. Secure the material and paint in a flat clean surface.

10. Always make sure that you have clean hands.

11. No need to mix water with the paint, but keep water and cloth/ paper nearby to clean the brushes every now and then.

12. If you want to be extra safe, find some fabric/textile medium and mix it in equal parts with your paint. But mostly, if you'd be painting cotton based fabrics and using acrylic paints, adding in fabric medium or textile medium doesn't make much of a difference.

Painted and done Xing Cai costume from Dynasty Warriors
I used dark green acrylic paint for the base and a lighter green paint marker for the finer details.
The dress is made of duchess satin, btw

There you have it!
That is pretty much everything I know about painting details on fabric based costumes.
I hope that helped and if you have any more questions, feel free to ask!
Leave a comment or send me a message in my facebook page: jaRoukaSama

thanks for reading!
 jaa! visit me again, ne!
     arigatou! (*^3^)/~


  1. Very helpful. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Hi! Do you know where I can buy Textile Medium? I went to DEOVIR today and they seem to be out of smaller bottles. I haven't used textile medium before and I'm afraid that if I bought a bottle which costs 700php it would just go to waste. Thanks.

    1. hello! try do-it-yourself stores like ace and handy man.

      may i know what time of fabric you would be painting?
      if its cotton based then you wouldnt need any textile medium.

      also if youd be using acrylics then textile medium is unnecessary

      cheers! <3

  3. Hi there, thanks for sharing. Can this item be washable?

    1. hello! based on experience, after some washing, colors fade and sometimes parts fall off. but it depends on the fabric you paint, generally they can be washed and stay on quite well provided you do paint and heat set properly

  4. Replies
    1. yes! they can! just be careful not too put on too many layers as it can make the chiffon thick and stiff. best to find fabric acrylic or mix in fabric medium ;D

  5. Where can we buy fabric medium?

    1. you can usually find them near the paints and acrylics. craft stores and DIY centers.

  6. halloo im really interested in this fabric painting...
    i found some other brand (instead of Reeves), like Louvre, Marie's, Artists', and Pentel...
    all of this brand has acrylic paint...
    which one is works best for acrylic paint? im new to this... and needs a lot of guidance to do this^^ thank youu... :D

    1. hello! sorry for the late reply. as I said, reeves is my favorite but I have found that brands arent really a big thing, as long as it says its acrylic paint then you are good to go. ;D

  7. This is very helpful! Thank you! But I have a question.. Is the acrylic paint best for jeans or I'll buy fabric/textile? I wanted to make DIY short pants.. Would it be good and will not wash off? Hope for your response! TIA. :)

    1. hello! sorry for the late reply. I have painted denim before. I have used acrylic paint they stay on pretty long but they will fade eventually. Good luck!