Warm Up to Fabric Painting Techniques

Where I live in New England, it gets dark at about 4:30 p.m. in the depths of winter. So when Daylight Savings Time kicks in and the snowbanks start to melt, I'm itching to get outside and do some fabric painting and dyeing.

fabric painting with sun printing
Sun printing with stencils. (Photo by Pokey Bolton.)

I have always admired Mickey Lawler and her Skydyes fabrics with their ethereal watercolor effects. Mickey and her painting techniques will be making an appearance in an upcoming issue of Quilting Arts, and I don't want to spoil the surprise. (Hint: You might want to save this technique for the beach.) But in the meantime, I have a few other techniques for you to try when spring fever strikes.

One of my new favorite surface design techniques is Jo Fitsell's marbling technique for painting on fabric. Using a few simple ingredients-primarily fluid acrylics, water, and carrageenan–she creates stunning designs. Jo demonstrates the process in her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM "Marbled Fabric Surface Design."

brayers and texture mats for fabric painting
Brayers and textured surfaces you can use with Lisa Kerpoe's fabric painting technique.

Jo's fabric painting technique is a lot of fun and not difficult, but it does require some preparation. If I want to paint fabric more spontaneously, I can always rely on Lisa Kerpoe's brayer technique.

Lisa simply pours paint onto a plate, runs her brayer through it to coat the roller, and rolls the paint onto the fabric. You can achieve different effects and designs with this technique by laying the fabric on a textured surface before painting, or by texturing the roller. You can paint one piece at a time, or paint over a piece of fabric about fat-quarter size, then cut the fabric up after it dries to use in fiber art projects (prayer flags are one of my favorite applications).

Finally, on a warm (preferably windless), sunny day, why not try some sun printing? You'll need transparent paints such as Setacolor by Pebeo (regular fabric paint won't work), some white PFD fabric (fabric that comes without sizing or that you wash before using), a prepared work surface, and found objects that can lie flat.

I learned this tip for success from Pokey Bolton, who loves sun printing: It's best if you can paint in a garage or shed without sunlight and then transfer the painted surface with the found objects into the sunlight for printing. Pokey paints her fabric on a plastic-covered piece of foam core and then takes it out to the driveway or a table for printing.

marbled fabric painting by jo fitsell
Samples of marbled fabric painting
by Jo Fitsell.

You can use just about any found object (spools, dog biscuits, shells, feathers) or take advantage of some of the wonderful stencils with allover patterns on the market. Depending on the design, they can give your fabric a faux batik look.

Fabric painting is such a fun and easy way to create your own unique fabrics. These are just a very few of the many ways you can paint fabric. To learn more about these techniques and discover many others, we have many books and videos from top surface design artists to guide you in the Quilting Daily shop.

P.S. What is your favorite fabric painting technique? Leave your comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

4 thoughts on “Warm Up to Fabric Painting Techniques

  1. Sun printing. “regular fabric paint won’t work”
    Yes it will ! The opaque or high cover fabric paints (the ones that work on dark fabrics) won’t work for sun printing – but any other fabric paint, watered down to the correct consistency, will. Try it and see…..

  2. I like to use crayons, I can draw first with them and then wet them to bring out a deeper colour plus outline things better.
    I have also used the micro wave to dye fabric, very easy.