I’m sure you’ve seen those cool spray-painted fabric projects on Pinterest and Instagram. But can you do that without ruining your fabric?
The answer is yes! You can spray paint on fabric. And you can use lots of other products on fabric, like acrylic paint, dye, and ink. If it will stick to fabric (and most things will if you’re patient), it’s worth a shot. I’ve even used nail polish on fabric before (all that was left was some slight staining after washing). And if you know the right technique, it is surprisingly easy to do.
There are many different ways to paint fabric, and each method has its own set of pros and cons. One popular way to paint fabric is by using spray paint. So, how do you do it? Keep reading to find out!
What Fabrics Can Be Spray Painted?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of spraying paint, let’s talk about what fabrics can be spray painted because not every fabric is suitable for this type of paint job. Here are some guidelines:
Wear and Tear
Avoid spray paint on fabrics that go through a lot of wear and tear during everyday use, like upholstery and curtains.
Opacity of Paint
There are different types of spray paint with varying degrees of opacity (how transparent or opaque the color is). For most fabrics, we recommend using non-transparent spray paints. Non-transparent colors will not be see-through when painted onto fabric, whereas semi-transparent and transparent sprays may allow you to see the fabric color on the other side.
That being said, spray paint is an extremely effective way to paint fabrics that are not typically painted with paints or dyes (e.g., some types of cloth napkins), so it’s worth a shot even if your fabric isn’t suitable for traditional painting techniques.
Not suitable for 100% cotton is not recommended (however, it is possible if you use a darker color and let it dry overnight)
Spray paint on polycotton-mix fabrics is one of the best ways to paint fabrics that you want to wash. Always use a water-based acrylic paint mix (e.g., Jacquard Airbrush Colors or FolkArt Home Decor Chalk ). That way, your project can be washed as usual.
Spray paint is not recommended on wool. If you want to try it out, test a small piece of fabric (hidden from view) before using it on your project.
No. Just, no. We know you’ve seen those amazing projects on Pinterest and Instagram, but do not attempt to paint silk! The results will be awful and never fully dry. And we’re all about experimenting with spray paint! Trust us—we’ve tried it.
Can You Use Regular Spray Paint on T-Shirts?
The short answer is yes, but the long answer is not without some pretty big caveats. You can use spray paint on fabric (and most things), and it will dry and sit on the surface of whatever you’re spraying. However, it may not stay there indefinitely. It doesn’t matter if you buy an expensive brand name or a cheaper off-brand. If the paint is made to stick on fabric, it will always wash away with water.
You can get more use from regular spray paint if you let it dry for 24 hours before washing, but that doesn’t give you much time to work with your project or keep it looking perfect. The best way to make sure your paint job lasts is to seal it in with heat.
How to Paint Spray Paint Fabric: Step by Step
1. What You Need
An old t-shirt or another piece of fabric to test on A plastic container A lid with a hole in the top for your spray nozzle Fabric paint of your choice Spray paint Acrylic craft sealer An iron
2. Prepare Your Fabric & Cover Surfaces
Layout an old t-shirt or another piece of fabric to test on and cover your work surface.
3. Prepare Your Spray Bottle
Cut a hole in the top of your plastic container large enough for the spray nozzle from your can of paint. Use whatever you have lying around if you don’t want to use a container, but make sure it’s at least as big as the nozzle, or your paint will get everywhere.
4. Mix Your Paint
Mix your fabric paint according to the package directions. Ensure it is mixed well and not overly watery or clumpy (if it’s lumpy, you can add a tiny bit of water and mix again). Keep in mind that you want the consistency to be thick enough so it won’t run or drip after spraying, but if it’s too thick, your paint will come out in spurts, and you won’t get a smooth layer.
5. Spray Paint Your Fabric
Spray the paint on your fabric by holding the nozzle about an inch above your project and covering it evenly with a light to medium coat of paint (you don’t want so much paint that it runs, but you also don’t want it to be see-through).
6. Let Your Fabric Dry
Let your fabric dry for about 10 minutes before handling. Then let it sit for 30-40 minutes if possible (if you can wait longer than an hour without messing with it too much, that’s ideal).
7. Seal Your Spray Paint Fabric
Spray a fine mist over your fabric until it is completely covered with acrylic craft sealer. You don’t have to worry about being neat. Just make sure you get good coverage on every part of the surface. Then set your iron to its lowest heat setting and iron the area your project is. Use an old towel or piece of scrap fabric on top of your project to protect it while you’re ironing (make sure the towel doesn’t stick to the spray paint).
8. Let Your Project Dry
You can let your project dry flat or hang it up if you prefer. Let it dry completely before handling (this can take anywhere from 2-24 hours, depending on how thick your paint layers are).
9. Enjoy Your New Spray Paint Fabric Project!
Once your project has dried completely, you can wear or use it as you originally intended. It will sit the same as before, but you’ll know that it’s permanent once washed (and if you’re not happy with the results, you can strip it and try again).
If all of this seems too much work for a one-time project, you can also use fabric spray paint to stencil patterns and designs on your clothing. Just make sure you don’t wash it (or dry clean it) until after you’ve finished your project, so you don’t accidentally ruin your paint job.
How to Protect Your Fabric with a Sealer First
The best way to protect your fabric from spray paint is by using an acrylic sealer. This will keep your paint in place after each step so that you won’t have to worry about it being ruined during washing or ironing.
Don’t Go Cheap on the Paint.
If you want your paint to stick to your fabric, you must use a good acrylic sealer. The cheapest option is Design Master from Walmart. If it costs less than $5 for a can, don’t bother buying it. Design Master doesn’t dry very quickly and tends not to adhere well to the fabric. This type of paint is just colored glue, so you may as well use Elmer’s instead.
Don’t Use Iron-On Vinyl Fabric Paint.
Some people believe that this type of paint will stick to your fabric without searing it in place. This isn’t the case. When an iron passes over heat-transfer vinyl, it melts the glue behind it and sticks the design. If you try to heat-seal this type of paint, it will just smear into your fabric.
Can You Spray Paint Clothes?
Yes, you can use spray paint on clothes. You just need to seal it in with heat after spraying.
Although there’s no specific kind of spray paint that is made for clothing, you’ll get the best results by using acrylic fabric paint and a heat-sealing iron. Using regular spray paint and iron will work as well.
What Not to Do When Spray Painting Clothes
Before we jump into how you can do it, let’s talk about some mistakes people often make.
Don’t Iron It!
This is a big no-no. Never iron your painted fabric before washing it. The heat from the iron will cause your paint to peel off and leave a mess behind.
Don’t Use Regular Spray Paint
This is something that you don’t want to do. It will not last through the wear and tear of everyday life, it won’t stick to your fabric without searing it in place, and it’s just a big waste of time. It’s more work than it’s worth, so just skip this step.
Don’t Wash It Until After You’re Done Painting.
It’s important to give your paint time to adhere to the fabric, but you don’t want it to sit for so long that it dries out completely before you can stick it in the wash. If this happens, your project will be ruined. Even if you put something through the wash immediately after painting it, you risk smearing the paint.
And if your fabric is anything other than cotton, it may not even come out. You can always turn it inside out to avoid this problem. If you see that your stencil isn’t sticking properly to the surface of your fabric, let it dry and try again before running your project through the wash.
Can Curtains Be Spray Painted?
Yes, you can spray paint your curtains. Again, you just need to seal the fabric with heat after it dries and before washing it. If you’re spray-painting a sheer curtain, then this isn’t very practical. It’s usually best to stick with acrylic fabric paint for this project or use a different type of paint that will stick to the fabric without searing it in place.
Does Spray Paint Wash off Clothes?
Spray paint is formulated to stick to pretty much any surface, and it isn’t water-soluble. The risk of it washing off your clothing is minimal as long as you let it dry before exposing it to water.
However, there’s always the chance that small amounts of paint will transfer from your clothes to other surfaces or materials if they come into contact. If you don’t want this to happen, you need to seal your project with heat after it dries.
Best Spray Paint for Fabric
Tulip ColorShot Instant Fabric Color
It comes in various colors and is specifically designed for use on fabric. It’s quick-drying, odorless, and has a matte finish. This type of paint will adhere to any fabric, even sheer curtains.
This is a good paint for beginners because it is easy to use and quick-drying. It has a matte finish, which may not be desirable depending on what sort of look you’re going for. This type of fabric paint also tends to crack when exposed to high heat (such as iron).
Dupli-Color Vinyl and Fabric Coating
This is another example of a fast-drying, matte coating that you can use on fabric. It’s just colored glue, so it shouldn’t crack when exposed to high heat.
Dupli-Color Vinyl and Fabric Coating comes in several colors, but not as many as Tulip ColorShot Instant Fabric Color. It will adhere to anything from sheer curtains to leather, but it is smelly.
Tulip ColorShot Upholstery Fabric Spray Paint
This specifically states on the label that it is for upholstery use. It comes in various colors and can be used on fabric, vinyl, or leather.
The main advantage of this type of paint is its large color selection. However, it’s not good for sheer curtains because you still need to use the iron to set it.
Rust-Oleum Vinyl and Fabric Paint
This paint comes in various colors and can be used on fabric, vinyl, or leather. It’s specifically designed to last through the wear and tear of everyday life, such as washing and ironing. Like Tulip ColorShot Upholstery Fabric Spray Paint, it doesn’t require searing to stick.
This paint comes in the most colors of any fabric paint we looked into, which means it’s better for people who like to experiment. It has a matte finish, but it is quick-drying and contains no odor. However, you still need to use an iron to set it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Care for Spray Painted Fabrics?
If you’ve successfully sealed your fabric using heat, then it should last indefinitely. However, the crackle effect is likely to be diminished over time as the paint chips off. If you want to try reviving this effect, apply more heat and let it cool before washing it again.
Will Spray Paint Crack On Fabric?
Yes, spray paint is likely to crack on fabric. This is especially common with acrylic paints. If you want your project to last through multiple washing items, then it’s best to use something like Tulip ColorShot Upholstery Fabric Spray Paint or Dupli-Color Vinyl and Fabric Coating.
Will You Be Able To Iron On Fabric Spray Paint?
Yes, if you’ve used a paint that doesn’t require searing, then you’ll be able to iron it. However, some paints may damage the fabric over time due to heat exposure. If you want your project to last through multiple pieces of washing, then it’s best to use something like Tulip ColorShot Upholstery Fabric Spray Paint or Dupli-Color Vinyl and Fabric Coating.
How to Remove Spray Paint From Fabrics?
Removing spray paint from fabrics is fairly straightforward. All you need to do is saturate the paint with one of the following compounds: mineral spirits, hot pepper sauce, citrus cleaner, orange oil remover, rubbing alcohol, or nail polish remover. Then let it sit for 20 minutes before saturating it again and rinsing thoroughly with water. If the paint remains, repeat this process until it’s gone.
How Long Does Spray Paint Take to Dry on Fabric?
This depends on the type of fabric you use and how thickly you apply the paint. Sometimes, it can take several hours to dry completely on some fabrics, so you need to plan before going ahead with your project.
How Long Will Spray Paint Stain Fabric?
Most spray paints don’t leave stains on fabric but always test a small area first for staining purposes. Also, keep in mind that you can’t remove the paint completely if it does leave a stain. Instead, treat it as an oil stain by rubbing alcohol or orange oil remover to get rid of it.
How Long Will Spray Painted Fabric Last?
This depends on the type of fabric you use and how thickly you apply the paint. If you use a fabric prone to fading, the paint may weaken over time. Finally, some paints may crack over time if exposed to too much heat.
How Do You Keep Paint From Cracking On Fabric?
To keep paint from cracking on the fabric, you need to make sure that it has good adhesion. Further, it should be heat set with an iron after it dries. You also need to seal your project using one of the following compounds: spray enamel, clear acrylic spray, or embroidery floss sealant.
Will Spray Paint Make Fabric Stiff?
Yes, spray paint can make the fabric stiffer. If that’s a concern for your project, then you’ll need to seal it with either an acrylic spray or embroidery floss sealant after it dries.
How Does Heat Effect Fabric Spray Paint?
If you use heat on material containing fabric, you have to move quickly to set the paint. Most paints require heat settings to last longer and prevent cracks from forming over time.
What Kind Of Spray Paint Is Permanent On Fabric?
Most spray paints aren’t considered permanent, so they may fade over time. However, some paint brands can last through repeated washings and exposure to sun and heat.
Does spray paint on fabric fade?
Yes, spray paint on fabric will fade over time. That’s why you should seal it with something like clear acrylic spray or embroidery floss sealant after spraying it to prevent the paint from fading.
As you can see, there isn’t anything special that you need to do when spraying paint on fabrics. Just be sure to read the instructions for your specific fabric and spray paint first. Further, consider using a heat setting compound if you’ll be exposing your project to a lot of heat or if it’s prone to fading. Finally, consider sealing your project to prevent paint from cracking or fading. If you do all of these things, your spray-painted fabric projects should last for a long time.
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