Painting on Fabric: How to Keep Your Edges Sharp

For a long time I have admired the fabric painting talents of Judy Coates Perez. Judy’s stitching is also stellar, but her ability to create lifelike imagery on fabric with precision and nuances really stands out. (And, like me, she has a thing for birds.)

fabric painting on wholecloth quilt by judy coates perez
Wholecloth painted quilt by
Judy Coates Perez.

Over the years studying her methods I’ve noticed that a lot of her success painting on fabric is due to practice, patience, and attention to detail. But she has also learned and developed tricks of the trade to give her painted imagery crisp and vivid edges.

In her video tutorial Design, Paint, & Stitch, Judy shows how to create wholecloth painted quilts from start to finish, describing in detail her process and revealing her hints and tips along the way.

Here are her steps for how to paint fabric in a way that keeps your painted shapes sharp:

1. Trace a drawing of your design onto translucent fabric. Using the drawing, trace the outlines of the shapes in the design onto freezer paper, cut them out, and iron 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, paint over the freezer paper masks, making sure to paint from the center of the freezer paper out toward the fabric. This helps keep the paint from seeping under the mask.

3. Let the painted background dry completely before removing the masks.

fabric painting on wholecloth quilt by judy coates perez
When painting on fabric, you can create sharp edges
by using a mask, says Judy Coates Perez.

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

That’s only a fraction of Judy’s painting advice on this video. She also 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 a lot more.

Design, Paint, & Stitch is just one of the full-length video tutorials on painting and surface design available to you with a subscription to Craft Daily. Learn how you can reap the benefits of this new video instruction website now.

P,S, Do you paiint your quilts or other fiber art? Add your tips to Judy’s below.

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Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog