Learn how to create inexpensive DIY curtains, pillows, and more by painting fabric. I’m sharing which paints are best for fabric, how to paint fabric so that it remains soft and washable, and 7 of my favorite painted fabric DIY projects.
I believe paint is magical stuff. Paint is such a quick and easy way to transform pretty much anything: plastic, metal, wood, floors, walls, ceilings. And yes, even fabric.
Painting fabric opens up a whole world of DIY possibilities. Instead of searching and searching for exactly the right fabric, you can simply make it yourself!
Painting fabric is such an easy, inexpensive way to update your decor. And surprisingly, painted fabric doesn’t have to feel crunchy, stiff, or frankly, like paint at all.
Over the years I’ve painted curtains, shirts, pillow covers, even a duvet cover. And while there are a few tricks you need to know, for the most part it’s really pretty easy.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of my painted fabric attempts have been a huge success.
One of my first attempts was a pair of painted striped curtains for my son’s nursery. I used primer and two coats of latex paint just like I was painting a wall or a piece of furniture.
I was able to get perfect, crisp straight lines for my stripes and the curtains looked beautiful. But sadly, they felt terrible to the touch – stiff and slick like vinyl, not exactly how you want curtains to feel.
Luckily since they were curtains, nobody ever touched them; still it was a learning experience – painting fabric is definitely not the same as painting walls!
Since that first painted curtain project years ago, I’ve learned a lot about the dos and don’ts of painting fabric and how to paint fabric so it feels as good as it looks.
This post contains affiliate links which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more. Click here to see my full disclosure policy.
The best paints for painting fabric
When you are painting fabric, using the right paint is crucial for good results. There are several good options for fabric paint, each with their own pros and cons.
Acrylic Paint + Fabric Medium
Acrylic craft paints and fabric medium are available at any craft store and you can get acrylic craft paints in pretty much any color you could imagine. They typically come in small bottles and are very inexpensive.
You simply mix together your paint, fabric medium, and water; follow the instructions on your specific fabric medium for the correct amounts of each.
This is my favorite method for most projects because you can use absolutely any color you want, it is inexpensive, and the painted fabric turns out very soft to the touch.
The downside of this method is that the addition of the fabric medium does tend to dilute the color a bit so this method may not be the best if you want very vibrant, saturated colors.
You can also buy paint specifically for fabric. It is basically like buying paint with the fabric medium already added.
I have used fabric paint several times as well and it also gives a nice soft finish.
The major downside to fabric paint is simply that it is available in a very limited range of colors and is usually more expensive.
Most chalk paints are also great for painting fabric. You may need to mix in a little water first to thin the paint. Chalk paints tend to absorb into fabric fibers well rather than simply sitting on top like latex paint or other paints with no fabric medium added.
I have experimented with several types of chalk paint on fabric but haven’t used it for many full projects yet.
Because chalk paint absorbs well into fabric, it is much harder to use in a controlled manner (with a stencil, for stripes, etc.). The paint tends to look more natural like a dye, but it also tends to be more unpredictable and spreads easily. This makes chalk paint a great choice for large projects like painting upholstered furniture.
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, Dixie Belle paint, and DIY paint all come highly recommended for painting upholstery.
You can also use fabric dye to “paint” fabric. I particularly like these simple tie dye sets and have used them several times for various projects.
They give a great, soft, washable finish, but, like chalk paint, dye can be a bit unpredictable. Fabric dyes are great for doing freestyle, abstract designs as well as solid colored fabrics.
Beware though, working with dye can get very messy and the dye can stain your hands as well as your work surface. Wearing gloves and protecting the area where you are working is essential.
Fabric markers are another option if you want a hand-lettered or doodled design for your fabric. These could also work well for stenciling.
Fabric markers are easy to use and easy to control for smaller designs, but run out too quickly for large projects.
Methods for Painting Fabric
There are lots of different methods to painting fabric. My favorite is the most basic – simply use a paintbrush!
But there are also lots of other ways to get creative when painting fabric.
- Use a paintbrush – small artist’s paintbrushes are great for more intricate designs, chip brushes work well for larger areas
- Use stencils to create a design (freezer paper stencils are the absolute best for fabric)
- Use foam stamps to add a design or spell out words
- Use a small foam roller to paint large areas
- Use painter’s tape to create stripes
Favorite Painted Fabric Projects
As I mentioned, I’ve painted fabric quite a few times over the years for all kinds of projects.
I’ve painted an outdoor sofa, an upholstered headboard, a duvet cover, curtains, clothing, and quite a few pillow covers in all kinds of styles and designs from ombre to typography to watercolor.
Below you’ll find my favorites of all of my painted fabric projects. Just click the continue reading button to visit the full post for a step-by-step tutorial, lots of photos, and tips of what to do and what not to do.
How to Paint Fabric: 9 Simple Painted Fabric DIY Projects
Painting fabric is an easy way to create beautiful custom curtains, pillow covers, upholstered furniture, duvet covers, even clothing. These painted fabric projects include a variety of different methods for painting fabric as well as plenty of tips for a successful project.
Turn a plain white duvet cover into a gorgeous one-of-a-kind duvet cover using paint. This world map duvet cover is surprisingly soft and washes well.
How to stencil on fabric with perfect, crisp stencil lines plus how to make your own freezer paper stencils to create custom shirts, pillow covers, and more.
How to update your outdoor furniture cushions using paint. Including an honest assessment of the results.
Turn plain white IKEA curtains into gorgeous designer ombre curtains.
How to create fabulous pillows using fabric scraps, alphabet stamps, and paint. These pillows are fast and easy to make.
This one-of-a-kind DIY upholstered headboard is simple to create with a hand-lettered design and fabric markers.
My honest review of Rustoleum's outdoor fabric spray paint including a tutorial for how to use it, all the pros and cons, and how it compares to other outdoor fabric paint options.
How to create custom onesies and t-shirts in any design you want using paint. No special cutting machine required!
These DIY watercolor pillows are fast and easy to make using simple acrylic craft paints and paint medium.
I’d love for you to pin this post on Pinterest!
Love the idea. I used chalk paint once but fabric color changed after three days, it turned dark filthy blue from cerulean blue , I do not what went wrong but is there a way to keep the paint from cracking on fabric.
Hope to hear back from you
Oh no! I’m not sure what went wrong with your chalk painted fabric but it definitely should not change color days later! There are a few things you can do to make sure paint doesn’t crack on fabric. Spraying the fabric with a bit of water before you paint can help keep it soft. Also, if you are using craft paints or another paint, be sure to mix in a bit of fabric medium. Good luck!
Sue Nagy suna says
Great information. What is the ratio of paint to fabric medium?
I would check the instructions of the fabric medium you are using, but a typical ratio would be 2 parts paint to 1 part fabric medium.
Vinda puresca says
Please tell me what kind of paint I will use to paint tshirts and dress. The things I need for my diy shirt painting. Thank you!
It really depends on what kind of look you are going for. If I were you, I would either use a fabric paint that is labeled as being soft like this one from amazon: https://amzn.to/31YBd75. Or a combination of acrylic craft paint and fabric medium. Good luck!
Paula Greger says
Great advice! My one and only attempt at painting fabric (although I plan to do it again) turned out “alright”. I used chalk paint, diluted down 50/50 with water, wet the fabric before I started and painted 4 thin coats. Sanded with 400 grit sandpaper between each coat then waxed it. The finished product came out like soft vinyl. It’s fine because I was transforming an old piano bench (that had a brown stain on the fabric) to be used as a new bench for a vanity I had just chalk painted. Each coat was allowed to dry thouroughly before moving to the next coat; somehow I think it was the wax. Any thoughts?
That sounds like a great project! I am also thinking the wax may have been the problem. Wax is great for protecting the paint, but definitely gives the fabric a stiffer, vinyl type feel. I’m not sure the solution to this problem – how to seal chalk painted fabric without it becoming stiff but I am going to look into it!
Roberta Mc Gregor says
I need to know the waiting time before washing fabric
There may be washing time instructions on your fabric medium. But if there isn’t, I would just wait until the fabric is completely dry to the touch.
Deb Foerch says
Could you please tell me how & what paint I would use to paint my not the color I would like it to be loveseat. It is mauve with tiny blue dots. I tried fabric spray paint. It did not cover at ALL. I have a denim loveseat cover on it,but they never fit right. I would like to make it look like blue denim.
Could you help me?
If I were you, I would try a dark blue chalk paint – the brands Dixie Belle Paint, Annie Sloan, and DIY Paint are all good for painting upholstery. I would use a color several shades darker than the color you are hoping to achieve, because it generally is lighter on fabric, especially if you are add any water or fabric medium. Since you are painting a darkish color with a bit of a pattern, you may not be able to cover it completely, but it is worth a try. When I was in a similar circumstance, I painted a few different colors of the underside of one of the cushions to test them and see which worked best. Good luck!
I’m wanting to paint a sheet to go over my body pillow. The sheet is black, I have acrylic and fabric paint. When it’s time finished being painted do I wash it? Or wait until its bedding day and wash then? Thank you
I would wash it when it is finished – it’s probably best to was it in cold water and air dry just to be safe.
Tammera Saglimbene says
Hi, I have very nice light ocean blue curtains. Some are not velvet, but close and the others look like a heavy linen material. I want to paint them black. What are your suggestions regarding that? They have the silver eyelets of them as well. Thanks for your help!
If you want them to be entirely black, it might be easiest to try dyeing them first. That will probably give the most even color. If dyeing isn’t an option, Jacquard fabric paint would probably be a good option but you would need quite a bit of it to do multiple curtains – https://amzn.to/3G6TuTO Good luck!
Hi Carrie I would like to paint tea towels for giftz,what paints do you recommend since they will be used constantly…
Just found your blog great ideas.
I would just use craft paint mixed with craft medium. It holds up really well, is inexpensive, and the color selection can’t be beat!
Hello Carrie, I’ve read through all your fabric paint tutorials and feel like I’ve formulated a plan for my next project. Thank you! I’m curious if you have any additional tips for me. I am planning on painting an old rug with the paint+ fabric medium + water technique. I have a pair of old runners that were given to me second hand that I plan to use on my stairs (a high traffic area). Any tips would be so welcome. Thank you!
I haven’t painted a rug specifically, but I think your plan sounds good. I would probably also spray it with ScotchGuard once the paint has dried to help protect it. Good luck!