If you want to paint on fabric with acrylic paint you may already have in your are supplies, I have good news! You can definitely put your existing supply acrylic artist paints to good use on fabrics. Not so fast, there are just a few things to know before you get started.

While painting on your fabric with acrylic paint is certainly doable, the results may not be as great as you were hoping. There is a simple solution however, to ensure you get results as good as you would if you were to fabric paint. After all, fabric paint is just a special blend of acrylic paint.

All you need to do is turn that existing stash of acrylics into fabric paint with little bit of Liquitex Fabric Medium or GAC 900 fabric medium. This will give you results much like fabric paint and I’ll explain more on that in a bit. If you are set on using acrylics on fabric without adding fabric medium read on to find out what you can expect.


What Is Fabric Medium? Turn Acrylics Into Fabric Paint

Acrylic fabric medium is a liquid acrylic polymer emulsion that you can mix with acrylic artist paints which offers a very soft feel and the stability to be laundered without damaging the designs. Additionally, when added to acrylic paint, fabric medium improves the work-ability and flow of the paint when applying to fabric.

It can also control the bleeding of colors when they are thinned with water. Some other very useful attributes of fabric medium is the ability to achieve watercolor-like effects on fabric and blending directly on the fabric itself giving the artist more versatility.

Fabric medium will also allow artists to take advantage of an expanded color palette and many different paint techniques beyond paint and brush. I know some artist that add fabric medium to the paints and thinned with a bit of water so they can airbrush fabrics. Since textile paints are somewhat limited in color options you can use the medium to utilize an unlimited number of color recipes you may have for artist acrylics.

Acrylic with Medium vs Acrylic Paint on Fabric

One of the most important effects of fabric medium on acrylic paint is to allow the dried paint to maintain a certain level of flexibility and elasticity. Without medium mixed into the acrylic paint, the paint will typically quite stiff and have a bit of a rough texture depending on the fabrics texture. The medium also makes the dried and set paint a bit more durable since it can flex with the fabric, resisting cracking and peeling.

When deciding whether or not you should go the extra step in acquiring fabric medium just consider the project and whether or not it requires the added durability or workability. Will the fabric you are painting be worn as clothing, or do you intend to paint a piece of fabric that will experience a good bit of wear like furniture?

Acrylic paint without medium is an excellent option for decorative tapestry projects since these pieces are usually on display and not subject to the same wear and tear of clothing and furniture. Really any fabric or tapestry art that you intend on being more of display art than functional items are great candidates for acrylic without medium.


acrylic paint on fabric

Acrylic Paint on Fabric Without Medium

Painting on fabric with acrylic paint is absolutely possible and any artist knows just how well acrylic adheres to fabric. This is why we usually paint with an apron or utilize means of clothing protection as to not ruin our clothes.

I must reiterate that it is always best to mix your acrylic paint in with a medium but if you have neither the means or the convenience to do so there are a few tips that make painting fabric with acrylics a little easier.

Paint Tips for Acrylic on Fabric?

Below are a few tips to give you better results for your fabric painting projects if you are using acrylic paint without a medium. These tips will improve adhesion, workability, and end result of the project.

  1. Use a mild abrasive like sandpaper to very lightly scuff the fabric to improve the adhesion of the paint.
  2. Lightly wet the fabric evenly with a spray bottle for a wet to wet application of the paint providing a more even application.
  3. Thin the paint with a little bit of water before applying. This will also improve application with a more even application.

How Do I Set Acrylic Paint On Fabric?

Heat setting paint after it has been applied to fabric is usually required but if you aren’t using a fabric medium mixed with your acrylic paint, or a textile paint made specifically for fabric then YOU DO NOT NEED TO HEAT-SET IT. There is no benefit to doing so on regular acrylic artist paint.

Now that you have a better understanding of using acrylic paint on fabric, use proper care and extend the life of your newly created art.


Post Paint Fabric Care

Caring for your painted fabric projects is pretty easy. Acrylic paint without a medium is not as durable to laundering so clean your fabric with care. I would recommend spot treating or hand washing the fabric if at all possible and hang drying. If that isn’t possible using the gentle cycle on your washing machine and low heat cycle on your clothes dryer should extend the life of your design as well.

That’s all there is to it. If you can minimize how much you need to wash the fabric it will minimize how much you will degrade the paint and its adhesion by shrinking and expanding the fibers through a repeated wash.


Good Luck!

Now that you have a better understanding of acrylic fabric painting you should be well on your way to creating beautiful designs using the best fabric paints that look great and last a very long time. If you have any questions at all be sure to leave a comment and we will do our best to help out!