Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

How about exploring the area of fabric painting a little?

This post is a little experiment. Later this month I'm planning a project where painting fabric could come in hand, so I wanted to see how it works beforehand.

I actually already knew some theory on this topic and was ready for the most of the results I would get, however, some details were unexpected!.

I also have seen various tips and DIYs of fabric painting, and there are certain things I would really like to try, but today I'm doing only a very basic experiment! Starting simple and safe, you know.

And of course, I want to share the results with you :)

To be honest, I already have experience in fabric coloring. One time I bought a piece of linen of what seemed to be a pretty pink color. However, when I looked at it at home once again I realized that it was meh... too pale and dull. Not in a pretty way. So I actually colored the fabric in coffee and got a nice pale beige color.

I also use watercolors to color my ribbons and ribbon embroidery works.

So one could say that I'm not a complete noob... but I definitely didn't go far, haha.

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

So there were 4 things in total I wanted to try, therefore there are 4 pieces of fabric there. The fabric is a simple muslin, by the way. Something I didn't mind spoiling if experiment went awry.

I wanted to check two types of painting: on dry and on wet. And do that with two types of paint: fabric acrylic paint and watercolor.

Disclaimer: I bought both of these paints in a hobby store, these are not professional and probably have mediocre quality. I'm only starting with watercolors and when I only start I tend to not invest much. I prefer doing my first steps knowing that I won't be wasting any expensive materials and actually like to feel free in doing mistakes. The same goes for fabric acrylic paint. I bought it in the spur of the moment because I actually DO have ideas for it but again, don't want to buy anything fancy until I learn enough on something affordable. 

I wonder if it works the same way for you?

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

1) Fabric acrylic paint, on dry.

Here's how the first experiment went.

First, of all, I covered my desk with newspapers because muslin is quite a lightweight and sheer fabric so it would be expected from paint to leak.

I practically didn't use any water when drawing these little shapes, except for washing the brush.

Speaking of which, I'm convinced that my brush was not suitable for the work and that's why I barely could get sharp and defined edges...

Even though, according to instructions, you have to leave the painted fabric at least overnight for the paint to get fully secured, it actually dried out very quickly after applying.

On fabric, colors are just like they are in the tubes – very bright and vibrant. Mixing colors on fabric was actually hard but I have a feeling it has to do more with the cheaper paint I used or maybe with the type of fabric because I've seen videos where artists would throw in extra colors in already painted elements. Maybe you need to do that before the paint dries? In my case, I tried to add a bit of yellow and emerald green inside the leaf but the main color kind of “swallowed” the new ones, hm...

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

2) Fabric acrylic paint, on wet.

When you want to paint a bigger surface you might consider this option. You need to wet your fabric and then apply some paint. Usually, you would be able to spread one brush stroke into a larger spot. So that's what I tried.

After a bit I got impatient and decided to do it in “tie-dye” style. Except that I just crumpled the piece of fabric without any fancy tying and added paint here and there.

In conclusion, the colors looked as bright as in tubes. It was quite easy to spread the paint, however the colors don't really mix, or do it in minimal amount. You can see clearly the spots of red, yellow and green.

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

3) Watercolor, on dry

Now, the catch here is that it is practically impossible to use watercolor completely dry on dry. You have to use even a drop of water. And sometimes that drop of water can be enough to turn even a single brush stroke in one blot.

It was really hard to hold the shape for a heart and a star, and to be honest, I don't even understand how I managed to do that. Because when it came to painting a blue square and a leaf... oof... they didn't hold shape at all!

Adding extra colors to the watercolor leaf was actually easier and more fun. But I suspect that with the new color that I added, I still added even just a bit of water which only assisted in the edges to spread and blot more....

The colors turned out quite pale but that's something I expected, having used them in ribbon coloring before.

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

4) Watercolor, on wet

This one was actually a surprise. Knowing how well watercolor paint spreads and mixes when you add water, I thought painting wet on wet would go effortlessly.

That wasn't the case, though! Surprisingly, when you wet the fabric, take some color and add it to the fabric, it creates a blot but it hardly spreads further. So it becomes just a field of separate blots.

I quickly got tired of adding colors to the fabric when it was lying flat so, once again, I crumpled it in hopes it will speed up the process but alas. Still the same.

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

So here are the 4 results after I left them overnight, then washed with a mild detergent in lukewarm water, and ironed (from the face too).

Neither of the paints bled in the process of washing or ironing but seems like the watercolor pieces paled even more.

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

Fabric painting: paint vs watercolor

To conclude:

  • If you need to paint certain elements with sharp edges choose fabric paint. If you don't mind the edges spreading and blotting you can use watercolor.
  • But even with fabric paint you need a good brush to get crisp edges! :D
  • Fabric paint will keep the same color just like when you applied it. Watercolor will pale.
  • Spreading watercolor in bigger areas will be a struggle... Personally, even if I needed a pale color, I would mix fabric paint and then used it for covering big areas.
  • I believe even if you want to get a “watercolor” look for your work, it will actually be easier to adapt fabric paint for that purpose... mix colors to get necessary shades and tints, add a bit more water to avoid crispy edges. Seems like it will look more “watercolory” that actual watercolors. But that's just my opinion! 

Have you tried fabric painting? Tell about your experience and "insider tips" in the comments! :)


  1. I've heard that ironing watercoloured fabric before washing it will fix the color and keep it from fading as much. Maybe give that a try?

    1. Oh, that's a good insight! Next time, I can try this method too :)

  2. Purchasing discounted mattresses does not mean a person needs to settle for poor quality, there are many fine quality mattresses available. One only needs to comparison shop using online resources, consumer guides, and recommendations from family and friends to select a fine quality reduced price mattress. Volvo mattress


Write what you think! ❤

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.