How To Turn Acrylic Paint Into Fabric Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

Painting fabric can be a fun way to customize clothing, accessories, and home decor. But did you know you can use acrylic craft paint to paint on fabric instead of buying special fabric paints? Acrylic paint works amazingly well on fabric if you make a few small tweaks to turn it into a fabric-friendly paint.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about turning regular acrylic paint into fabric paint.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: To turn acrylic paint into fabric paint, mix a fabric/textile medium or softener into the acrylic paint before applying it to the fabric. The medium or softener will make the paint more flexible and washable when dry.

In the rest of this 3000 word guide, you’ll learn all about choosing the right acrylic paints and additives, prepping your fabric, techniques for applying the acrylic paint, how to properly set the paint, and how to care for your finished acrylic painted fabric project.

Choosing Paints and Additives

When it comes to turning acrylic paint into fabric paint, selecting the right paints and additives is crucial. Here are some factors to consider:

Pick acrylic craft paints labeled ‘fabric’ or ‘textile’

When choosing acrylic craft paints to use on fabric, it’s important to select paints that are specifically labeled for fabric or textile use. These paints are specially formulated to adhere to fabric fibers and withstand washing without fading or cracking.

Look for these labels when shopping for acrylic paints to ensure the best results for your fabric painting project.

Choose a fabric medium or softener

In addition to using fabric-specific acrylic paints, you can further enhance the durability and flexibility of the paint by adding a fabric medium or softener. Fabric mediums are mix-ins that help the paint adhere to the fabric and prevent it from becoming stiff.

They also improve the elasticity of the paint, allowing it to move and stretch with the fabric. Fabric softeners, on the other hand, can be used to make the paint more pliable and comfortable on the fabric, especially for wearable items such as clothing or accessories.

Consider specialty acrylic paint additives

In some cases, you may want to experiment with specialty acrylic paint additives to achieve specific effects or properties in your fabric paint. For example, there are additives available that can give your fabric paint a metallic or glittery finish, create a puffy or textured effect, or even make it glow in the dark.

These additives can add a unique touch to your fabric painting projects and allow you to explore different creative possibilities.

Remember to always follow the instructions provided by the paint and additive manufacturers to ensure the best results. It’s also a good idea to test your chosen paints and additives on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying them to your entire project.

This way, you can check for any adverse reactions or color changes that may occur.

If you’re unsure about which paints or additives to use, you can consult art supply stores or online resources for more information. The website The Spruce Crafts offers a comprehensive guide to choosing the right acrylic paints for fabric painting, with tips and recommendations from experts in the field.

Preparing the Fabric

Before you can start turning acrylic paint into fabric paint, it’s important to properly prepare the fabric. This will ensure that the paint adheres well and lasts longer on the fabric surface. Here are some essential steps to follow:

Wash and dry the fabric

The first step is to wash the fabric to remove any dirt, oil, or sizing that may be present. Use a mild detergent and follow the fabric’s care instructions. Once washed, make sure to dry the fabric thoroughly before applying any paint.

Moisture can interfere with the paint’s adhesion and cause it to crack or peel.

Stiffen thin or stretchy fabrics

If you’re working with thin or stretchy fabrics, it’s a good idea to stiffen them before painting. This will help prevent the paint from bleeding or spreading unevenly. There are several ways to stiffen fabrics, such as using fabric stiffeners or mixing equal parts of white glue and water to create a fabric stiffening solution.

Apply the stiffener to the fabric according to the product instructions or by evenly brushing on the glue mixture and allowing it to dry completely.

Apply a fabric primer

To further enhance the paint’s adhesion and durability, applying a fabric primer is recommended. A fabric primer creates a smooth and even surface for the paint to adhere to, resulting in better color vibrancy and longevity. You can find fabric primers in most craft stores or online.

Apply the primer to the fabric using a brush or sponge, and allow it to dry completely before applying the acrylic paint.

Remember, proper fabric preparation is crucial for achieving the best results when turning acrylic paint into fabric paint. Taking the time to wash, stiffen (if necessary), and apply a fabric primer will ensure that your painted fabric creations look great and stay vibrant for a long time.

Paint Application Techniques

When it comes to turning acrylic paint into fabric paint, there are several application techniques you can try. Each technique offers a unique way to create beautiful designs on your fabric. Let’s explore some of the most popular techniques:

Brushing and Rolling

Brushing and rolling is a classic technique used for applying fabric paint. It involves using a brush or roller to evenly distribute the paint onto the fabric. This technique allows for precise control and can be used to create both intricate details and broad strokes.

It is ideal for larger fabric surfaces or when you want to cover a larger area quickly and efficiently.


Sponging is a fun and creative technique that can add texture and depth to your fabric designs. It involves dabbing or stippling the paint onto the fabric using a sponge. You can experiment with different sponge sizes and textures to achieve different effects.

Sponging is great for creating a soft, blended look or for adding interesting patterns and designs to your fabric.


Stamping is a popular technique that allows you to easily create repetitive patterns on your fabric. It involves using a stamp or stencil to transfer the paint onto the fabric. You can use pre-made stamps or create your own designs using materials like foam or rubber.

Stamping is a great technique for adding intricate details or creating a uniform pattern across your fabric.


Stenciling is another technique that can help you achieve precise and detailed designs on your fabric. It involves using a stencil to guide the application of paint onto the fabric. You can use pre-made stencils or create your own using materials like cardboard or plastic.

Stenciling allows for clean lines and sharp edges, making it perfect for creating bold designs or adding text to your fabric.

Freehand painting

If you’re feeling confident in your artistic abilities, freehand painting is a great technique to try. It involves using a brush or other applicator to directly paint onto the fabric without any guides or stencils.

Freehand painting allows for complete creative freedom, allowing you to create unique and personalized designs on your fabric. It’s a great way to showcase your artistic skills and add a personal touch to your creations.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques and find what works best for you. Whether you choose to brush, sponge, stamp, stencil, or paint freehand, turning acrylic paint into fabric paint opens up a world of possibilities for creating stunning designs on your fabric.

Setting the Paint

After you have finished painting your fabric with acrylic paint, it is important to set the paint to ensure its longevity and durability. This step will help to prevent the paint from washing off or fading over time.

There are several methods you can use to set the paint, including heat setting, air drying, and oven drying.

Heat setting

Heat setting is a popular method for setting acrylic paint on fabric. To heat set the paint, you will need an iron and a clean cloth. Start by turning your iron to the highest setting suitable for your fabric.

Place the clean cloth over the painted area and press the iron onto the cloth for about 20-30 seconds. The heat will help to set the paint and make it more resistant to washing and fading.

Air drying

If you prefer a more natural approach, you can choose to air dry your painted fabric. Simply allow your fabric to dry completely in a well-ventilated area. This method may take longer compared to heat setting, but it is a great option for those who want to avoid using heat or do not have access to an iron.

Oven drying

Oven drying is another effective method for setting acrylic paint on fabric. Preheat your oven to a low temperature, around 300°F (150°C). Place your painted fabric on a baking sheet and place it in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the fabric to prevent it from burning.

Once the fabric has dried, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely before using or washing.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint bottle, as different brands may have specific recommendations for setting their acrylic paint on fabric. Additionally, it is important to wash your painted fabric inside out and with mild detergent to help preserve the paint’s vibrancy and longevity.

For more detailed instructions and tips on turning acrylic paint into fabric paint, you can visit websites like The Spruce Crafts or FaveCrafts.

Caring for the Finished Project

Once you have successfully turned acrylic paint into fabric paint and completed your project, it is important to take proper care of it to ensure its longevity and durability. Here are some essential tips on how to care for your finished project:

Let paint fully cure before first wash

Before subjecting your fabric to its first wash, it is crucial to allow the paint to fully cure. Curing time can vary depending on the type of paint and the manufacturer’s instructions. In general, it is recommended to wait at least 24 hours before washing your painted fabric.

This will allow the paint to fully adhere to the fabric fibers and become more resistant to fading or washing out.

Wash gently by hand

When it comes to washing your fabric with acrylic paint, it is best to opt for gentle hand washing rather than machine washing. This will help preserve the vibrancy of the paint and prevent any damage that could occur due to agitation in the washing machine.

Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and a mild detergent, then gently agitate the fabric to remove any dirt or stains. Rinse thoroughly and lay flat to dry.

Dry cleaning depends on the paint

Whether or not you can dry clean your painted fabric depends on the type of paint used. Some fabric paints are suitable for dry cleaning, while others may not hold up well under the harsh chemicals used in the dry cleaning process.

It is important to check the manufacturer’s instructions or do a test patch before taking your painted fabric to the dry cleaner. If dry cleaning is not recommended, stick to gentle hand washing to keep your project looking its best.

Remember, proper care and maintenance of your painted fabric will help ensure that your hard work and creativity will last for a long time. So follow these guidelines and enjoy your beautifully painted fabric creations!


Turning acrylic paint into fabric paint is an easy, fun craft project! With some simple preparation of the paint and fabric, you can create beautiful, customized fabric pieces. When choosing paints and additives, look for acrylics labeled for fabric use and mix in a fabric medium or softener.

Prep the fabric by washing, priming, and stabilizing stretchy material. Then apply the paint in your desired designs using brushes, sponges, stamps, stencils or freehand painting. Heat setting or air drying will finalize the paint.

Keeping the finished project out of the washer until the paint fully cures and then washing gently by hand will keep your acrylic paint looking great on the fabric.

With this comprehensive guide to making and using acrylic fabric paint, you’ll be ready to create stunning painted apparel, accessories and home decor items. Let your creativity run wild on fabric with acrylics!

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