Fabric Painting Tips from Judy Coates Perez


Although I consider myself a mixed-media fiber artist, my media are mostly dry: fabric, fibers, paper, and thread. I do dye fabric. But fabric painting? That’s an area of surface design I haven’t explored much. 


how to paint fabric judy coates perez

When I do decide to try painting on fabric, I will certainly get some tips from experts like Judy Coates Perez. Her painted wholecloth quilts are mesmerizingly beautiful–I especially like her birds!

I’ve noticed that a lot of what makes her painted quilts so rich is her attention to detail, especially the way she keeps the edges of her motifs sharp and distinct.

How to keep the edges of your painted shapes sharp

  1. 1. Judy traces a drawing of her design onto translucent fabric. Using the drawing, she traces the outlines of the shapes in the design onto freezer paper, cuts them out, and irons them onto the fabric over the matching drawn shape, forming a mask. This step also serves to keep the surface under the mask white, so the background color doesn’t show through the painted motifs, altering their color.

2. When painting the background color, Judy paints over the freezer paper masks, making sure to paint from the center of the freezer paper out toward the fabric. This helps keep the fabric paint (or inks) from seeping under the mask.


fabric painting with a mask

3. Judy lets the painted background dry completely before removing the masks.

4. When mixing her paint, Judy uses extender (paint without pigment) as a thinner, avoiding water. It’s too easy to add too much water by accident, which can cause your paint to bleed, blurring the edges of your painted shapes and mixing colors unintentionally.

On her Quilting Arts Workshop video “Design, Paint, and Stitch,” Judy reveals her method for creating a range of shades from one paint color, how to avoid the most common weakness in most people’s shading attempts, how to avoid streaks in large areas of painting, how to conserve paint, the best tools for the job, and more.

If you’re interested in learning how to create a painted wholecloth quilt of any size or want to improve on your skills, I can’t think of a better tutorial than “Design, Paint, & Stitch.”

P.S. Do you have tips for how to paint fabric? Share them with me in the comments section.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

2 thoughts on “Fabric Painting Tips from Judy Coates Perez

  1. I just tought a class on painting a quilt or fabric. I tought my students a totally different way of painting with Paintsticks which are designed to be used on fabric. Rather than applying the stick directly to the fabric or quilt, I had the students create a puddle of paintsticks on a paperplate and then use a good, short brush, pick up the paint off the plate and paint the prequilted fabric. The student thoroughly enjoyed themselves and they all did a magnificant job. This style of painting will allow you to layer paints and shade to obtain depth of the project your are painting.

  2. I digitize designs in my embroidery program to be stiched out as outlines only, similar to Redwork. After stitching the outlines on the embroidery machine, I paint them with txtile paints. I particularly like to use pearl and metalic paints. It is like coloring in a child’s coloring book. The textile paint completely covers the background allowing me to use printed fabric. Using metalic thread for the stitching makes a very elegant design.