If you have some acrylic paint sitting at home and you want to get a little creative, you could try using it to paint on fabric.
While acrylic paint wasn’t necessarily made to paint on fabric and last, there are some ways that you can use acrylic paint as fabric paint. One of the best ways to do so is to use a fabric medium along with the acrylic paint to help it last and be soft on the material.
However, you don’t always need a fabric medium!
How do you turn acrylic paint into fabric paint without a medium? To turn acrylic paint into fabric paint without using a medium, you will need to prepare the fabric first to help the paint stay. You can dilute the acrylic paint with simple glycerol. The glycerol helps the acrylic paint work on fabric better, and last longer.
Below is all you need to know on how to turn acrylic paint into fabric paint without using medium! Happy painting!
What Is Fabric Medium?
Fabric medium is what makes standard acrylic paint suitable for painting on fabric. It helps the paint actually bond to the surface. It is a liquid acrylic polymer emulsion that you mix in with acrylic paint to give the paint a soft feel as well as stability when painted onto the fabric.
Not only does the fabric medium help to soften the paint when it has dried and help it last longer, but it improves the workability of the acrylic paint.
Many artists prefer to use acrylic paints mixed in with fabric medium to allow them to explore different color palettes. Sometimes, the colors available which already have the fabric paints are limited, so being able to use a fabric medium to turn your own acrylics into fabric paint helps to broaden your color choices.
What To Use In Place Of Fabric Medium
If you do not want to use a store-bought fabric medium, you can still use acrylic paint on fabric and have it last longer, be softer, and have the acrylic paint be easier to use.
However, it is important to note that the fabric medium really does work well to create a more usable fabric paint out of acrylic paint and is likely the best option for getting long-term professional results. But if you do not want to use fabric medium, you can mix your acrylic paint with glycerol.
While you can use several substances to mix with acrylic paint, glycerol is the most popular. It is the most commonly used to mix with acrylic, as it is a natural component of acrylic paint and works to make the paint easier to use.
You do need to dilute the glycerol with water before mixing it in with the acrylic paint. A ratio of 1 part glycerol to 5 parts of water is usually a good ratio to follow.
The water helps to stabilize the glycerol as well as helping it mix in with the paint better. After diluting the glycerol with water, slowly add it in bit by bit to the acrylic paint. If you add in too much glycerol, it could ruin the acrylic paint and you won’t be able to use it.
You can start with the ratio of 1 part glycerol diluted with water with 5 parts of paint. You can then use more if you need to.
Glycerol can be toxic, so it is best to not use it if you are painting with children. Look for non-toxic commercial medium options if you are painting with children!
Can I Use Vinegar To Turn Acrylic Paint Into Fabric Paint?
You might have heard that vinegar can be mixed in with acrylic paint to turn it into fabric paint, but this doesn’t really work.
Vinegar is commonly used to help set fabric dyes, but fabric dyes are not the same thing as acrylic paint or even fabric paint. Dyes penetrate deep into the fabric fibers, while paint sits on the top. A binder in acrylic paint helps it stick to the fabric, which is then helped by some heat.
Water-based acrylics are alkaline and can be very sensitive to change. If you add vinegar, which is acidic, to acrylic paint, it could cause the acrylic paint to react negatively.
Stick to diluted glycerol or a fabric medium instead.
Tips For Painting On Fabric With Acrylic Paint (And No Medium)
If you are using acrylic paint without a medium, there are some things you can do to try to get the acrylic paint to be softer and to be easier to work with on fabric.
The below tips will help improve the workability, the adhesion, and the end results of the fabric painting:
- Wet the fabric lightly with a misting spray bottle. The moisture on the fabric will allow for a more even application of the paint.
- You can also use soft sandpaper or another mild abrasive to gently roughen the surface of the fabric. This helps to improve the adhesion of the paint and should help it last longer. Just be sure your fabric is durable enough to take this treatment.
- Before painting, thin the acrylic paint down with water unless the water-glycerol dilution has helped to thin it already. This will allow the application to be more even, and allow the acrylic paint to set on the fabric better.
How To Set Acrylic Paint On Fabric
Once you have painted your fabric and left it to dry, you will need to set the paint on the fabric.
Heat helps to set acrylic paint on fabric, to help it last longer and to keep it colorfast. Heat will also help prevent against damage and breakages.
Here is how to set acrylic paint on fabric without a medium:
Leave To Dry
You need to ensure that the paint is completely dry before trying to heat set it. The paint might seem dry to the touch, but you should wait at least 24 hours before heat-setting the fabric.
Set The Paint
Use an iron to heat set the paint on the fabric. Do not use any steam settings on your iron, as you want dry heat applied to the paint. Empty the water container on your iron and switch off any steam settings.
Iron on the wrong side of your fabric, and avoid ironing directly on the painted side. If this isn’t possible, place a piece of scrap fabric on top of the paint and iron over that. This protects any color transfer and protects the paint from burning.
Run the iron over the painted area moving it around constantly to prevent burns for a few minutes. Remember to use the recommended setting on your iron for the fabric you are using.
Try to iron over the painted area for around 3-5 minutes, with the iron on medium heat. Iron small sections at a time, to ensure that you can move the iron around enough to not let one part cool down too quickly, or let one part get too hot.
Caring For Fabric Painted Without Medium
One of the benefits of using fabric medium is that it allows the acrylic paint to last for longer, and be softer on the fabric. Caring for fabric which has been painted with acrylic paint, but without a medium, takes a little more effort.
Acrylic paint on fabric without a medium is not as durable, so you need to carefully clean the garments without stripping the fabric of the paint. To wash the fabric, either spot treat any problem areas, hand wash it, or use the gentle cycle on the washing machine.
When you have finished painting with the acrylic paint on the fabric, and it has been left to dry, you should place it into the washing machine on a gentle cycle, and then place it into the dryer on low heat. This will help set the color and extend the life of the paint.
There isn’t much else you can do to extend the life and color of the acrylic paint on medium, you just have to be gentle with the fabric and care for it well.
Is Acrylic Paint Permanent on Fabric?
Acrylic paint can be permanent on fabric, especially if it is mixed with a fabric medium.
The fabric medium will prevent the acrylic paint from drying stiff, and will instead give the paint and the fabric a soft, flexible feel. The fabric medium will also allow the acrylic paint and the fabric to be washable.
What is the Difference Between Acrylic Paint and Fabric Paint?
Fabric paint works better on natural fibers, and acrylic paints work well on both natural fibers and synthetic fabrics.
This means that acrylic paint is more versatile than fabric paint, but it does not work as well (as permanently) on fabric as fabric paint does.
Can I Mix Fabric Paint and Acrylic Paint?
You can mix fabric paint and acrylic paint instead of using a fabric medium. You won’t get all the benefits of using fabric medium, but the fabric paint will help to soften the acrylic paint and make it more suitable to be used on fabric.
Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof?
Acrylic paint is waterproof, and if set properly, can offer a waterproof way to paint and decorate fabric. Fabric medium does help to make it more waterproof and longer-lasting.