Painting On Fabric: Tips from Judy Coates Perez

When decorating for the Christmas season, I am always drawn to patterns of red and white that remind me of my Scandinavian heritage. But that doesn't mean we ignore my husband's Italian ancestry or traditional motifs of other cultures.

ornament with painting on fabric
Judy Coates Perez used fabric paint to
create this moonlit winter scene.

For example, I always smile when I see the Fiesta Ornaments that Judy Coates Perez makes by painting on fabric, quilting the painted motifs, and then stitching on a frame of embossed craft metal.

In her tutorial in the premiere issue of Quilting Arts Gifts, Judy explains that she was inspired to create these ornaments by Mexican tin ornaments that bear symbolic motifs and are used year-round for decoration.

"I like to hang them on my Christmas tree, where the reflective metal and bright colors delight me," writes Judy. "Your ornaments can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them. For those new to painting, a simple patchwork or appliqué motif can be used. If you are comfortable with a brush, draw and paint your own design to fit in the frame."

Here are Judy's steps for how to paint fabric motifs:

1. For each ornament, cut a piece of white cotton fabric, a piece of backing fabric, and a piece of batting a couple inches larger than the ornament template size. Set aside the backing and batting.

2. Lightly trace the ornament template and your design onto the piece of white cotton fabric with a pencil.

painting on fabric
The painted fabric before quilting
and framing.

3. Paint your design, filling the space that is marked for the window, and extending the paint beyond the marked window opening about 1⁄8"-1⁄4". Quilting will reduce the finished size of the piece, making the painting smaller than the window opening.

4. Paint another color around the painted window area, going beyond the drawn edges of the template shape a good 1⁄4". Let dry.

Judy has these tips for painting on fabric:

  • Before you begin painting, put something down to protect your table surface. Judy keeps dry cleaning bags for this purpose.
  • Judy often uses white plastic lids from dairy product containers as a palette for mixing paint.
  • Have a supply of several small, round-tip brushes of various sizes and a flat brush no more than 1⁄4" wide made for acrylic paints. (Do not use watercolor brushes, they are too soft.)
  • The consistency of fabric paint is usually good straight from the jar. It should be a creamy, smooth consistency. Very little water is usually needed to get your paint to a spreadable consistency. If it is too thick, add a little water at a time by dipping your brush in clean water and mixing it with the paint on the palette. If the paint is too thin, it will bleed on the fabric.

These small ornaments are the perfect way to try fabric painting in a limited way, if you've never tried it before. And if you are adept at painting on fabric, Judy's ornaments make a great canvas for your talent.

You can get Judy's instructions for creating these ornaments, plus many more techniques and projects for holiday and winter gift-giving and décor, in the 2007-2010 Quilting Arts Gifts Collection. Download it today and you'll not only get tutorials for last-minute gifts and projects to make after the holidays, but you'll save 40%.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog