Hello and welcome! I thought that today we’d talk about painting on cloth.

Let’s start with cotton, the most commonly fabric people paint. The best to use are 100% cotton, and as tightly knit or woven (knit, as in tee shirt) and as bright a white as you can get. If you use the cheap stuff, (loosely knit or woven) then your paint will tend to bleed through before it’s dry, and you’ll lose color intensity. I’d hate to have you put effort into your work of art and then be disappointed in the result because of a poor quality cotton. This was my practice project for my friend from Bellingham Catering.

The first thing to do is to wash the fabric before painting on it in order to remove any sizing that might have been added. Sizing can prevent the paint from sticking to the surface. Also, this shrinks your piece before you use it. If you normally wash your cottons on cold, wash on warm. If you normally wash on warm, wash on hot. This is a safety measure to assure that your blank has shrunk as much as it’s going to before you start. Dry one level hotter than normal, too. Oh, and whatever you do, do NOT add fabric softener or throw one of those sheet things into the dryer. We’re trying to get rid of chemicals, not add them back.

Next, iron your cotton well. You don’t want any wrinkles to interfere with your design. Speaking of paint, I highly recommend that anyone unfamiliar with fabric painting use actual fabric paints. These can be acquired at most hobby shops. If you choose to use acrylics, there are mediums and such that must be added to the paint (read the labels next to the display) that are required in order to make them fabric compatible.


Place your cloth (or stuff the inside of the tee shirt) with something that will prevent your paint from bleeding through. You can use a piece of plastic, a chunk of cardboard box, or even a small stack of old newspaper. Make sure your surface is smooth before you begin.

Now, to begin to apply your design. Are you going to stamp? Are you going to stencil? Are you going to use a brush? Are you going to free hand, or are you going to lightly sketch your design onto the surface before you begin? This is where the real artistry begins!

After your piece is done, and has dried for at least 24 hours, it’s time to “set” the paint (check manufacturer’s directions). Usually, this is done by ironing it for a few minutes, on the back side, with a protective cloth on the front side (just in case). Be as sure as you can be that the paint is dry before you try to set the paint!

That’s it! Don’t you feel accomplished?