Can You Use Regular Acrylic Paint on Fabric

Can You Use Regular Acrylic Paint on Fabric? Easy Guide in 2023

Many people often wonder whether acrylic paint can be used on fabric. Fortunately, the answer is a definite yes! Acrylic paint can be applied to various fabrics, including clothing, shoes, pillows, and more.

However, there’s a catch: When using acrylics that are not specifically formulated for fabric painting, the fabric might become stiffer compared to using fabric paint or dye. To overcome this, we have prepared a comprehensive guide to help you through the process.

To achieve the best results when using acrylic paint on fabric, you may need a textile medium, which is a special type of paint thinner designed to help acrylic paint adhere better to fabric. If your acrylic paint is not formulated for fabrics, don’t worry; we have also found the best acrylic paints for fabric to suit your needs.

Now, let’s address some common questions about using acrylic paint on fabric:

1. Can you use acrylic paint on fabric?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on fabric, provided you use a textile medium. The textile medium ensures that the acrylic paint blends seamlessly with the fabric, making it a reliable choice for fabric painting.

2. Is acrylic paint permanent on fabric?

When you use a fabric or textile medium, acrylic paint can become permanent on fabric. The medium acts as a sealant, essentially locking the acrylic paint onto the fabric. However, if you accidentally spill acrylic paint on your clothing, you can quickly wash it out with warm water and soap before it dries.

3. Can you use acrylic paint on fabric without a medium?

While you can use acrylic paint on fabric without a medium, it’s not recommended for fabric that you intend to wear regularly, like a t-shirt. Without a medium, the fabric might become stiff and uncomfortable. For decorative fabric projects meant to be hung up, this may not be an issue, as the thicker texture can be desirable.

4. Does acrylic paint stay on fabric, and can I use it for clothes?

Acrylic paint can permanently stay on clothing. However, you should avoid using washable acrylic paint for fabric projects and separate painted acrylic clothing from regular clothes during the first few washes to prevent any damage.

5. What is the best acrylic paint for fabric?

For the highest quality acrylic fabric paint, I highly recommend the Arteza Fabric Paint Set. If you prefer acrylic paint markers, Crafty Croc offers an excellent option.

6. What’s the difference between fabric paint and acrylic paint?

Some acrylic paints are specially formulated for fabric use, while others may require a medium to achieve the desired consistency for fabric painting. By adding a fabric medium to acrylic paint, you can effectively turn regular acrylic paint into fabric paint.

7. What other kinds of paint can I use on fabric?

Besides acrylic paint, you can also use alcohol-based paints and fabric dye for fabric projects.

8. Is acrylic paint washable?

Acrylic paint can be washed off if it hasn’t dried yet. However, once it has dried, usually within 20-30 minutes, it becomes challenging to wash off. If the paint has fully cured, it won’t wash off at all.

To seal acrylic paint on fabric, using a fabric medium is the most effective method. Alternatively, you can purchase acrylic fabric paint that already contains the textile medium in its formula.

Acrylic Paint on Fabric


For fabric painting, I highly recommend the Arteza Fabric Paint Set. However, if you need more color options, the Crafts 4 All Acrylic Paint Set is a great value with 24 color options and a satin finish. If you prefer acrylic paint markers for more precise designs, the Crafty Croc Acrylic Paint Markers are an excellent choice. If you’re an artist and need premium quality brushes and color options, consider the U.S. Art Supply Fabric Paint set, which comes with premium nylon paint brushes and a mixing wheel.

Tips for Painting with Acrylic Paint on Fabric:

  1. Run your fabric through the washer before painting.
  2. Remove any existing protective coatings from the fabric.
  3. Wear old clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty during the painting process.
  4. Work on a porous surface that won’t absorb the paint and ruin it.
  5. Put down newspaper or plastic on your floor to protect it from spills.
  6. Mix your paint thoroughly before applying it to the fabric.
  7. Use a fabric medium to soften the paint and improve adhesion.

For washing painted fabric, be cautious if you haven’t used a fabric medium. Spot treating, hand washing, and hang drying for the first few washes are recommended to preserve the paint. If possible, wash the painted fabric separately from other clothes to avoid any potential run-off.

Acrylic paint can also be used for screen printing, stenciling, and stamping on fabric.

Now, let’s delve deeper into acrylic paint mediums and their importance when using acrylics on fabric.

Best Alternatives to Painting Fabric with Acrylics:

1. Fabric Paint

If you prefer not to use acrylic paint, fabric paint is a suitable alternative. Fabric paints are flexible and designed to adhere well to stretchable fabrics.

2. Spray Paint

While commonly used for tough materials like furniture and metal, spray paint can also create cool patterns and designs on clothing or textiles.

3. Fabric Dye

Fabric dye is an alternative for achieving tie-dye patterns or changing the color of a white shirt. You can combine fabric dye with other paints for unique effects.

Fabric medium essentially transforms regular acrylic paint into fabric paint. When mixed with acrylic paint, the fabric medium imparts a softer and more flexible texture, allowing it to blend seamlessly with the fabric.

The decision to use fabric medium depends on whether your painted fabric will be worn as clothing or displayed as art. For decorative tapestry projects meant for hanging, acrylic paint without a medium is a viable option, as the thicker texture may not be an issue.

 Regular Acrylic Paint on Fabric

However, for clothing, shoes, or items experiencing wear and tear, it is essential to mix your acrylic paint with a fabric medium to ensure the paint’s adhesion and flexibility.

Using acrylic paint on fabric without a medium can lead to potential issues, especially for clothing, shoes, or other materials that experience wear and tear. Without a fabric medium, acrylics tend to harden and stiffen the surface they are painted on, which may cause the paint to fade over time.

If you decide to use acrylic paint on fabric without a medium, here are some tips to enhance adhesion, flexibility, and workability:

  1.  Surface treat the fabric by gently sanding it with sandpaper or an abrasive to create a slightly rough texture for better paint adherence.
  2. Wet the fabric before painting to help the paint blend better and prevent it from drying too quickly.
  3. Thin your paint with water before using it on fabric to achieve a less thick consistency, making it easier to work with and reducing stiffness.

However, it’s essential to remember that not all acrylic paints are suitable for fabric use. Acrylics typically harden and stiffen fabric surfaces, which is why using a fabric medium is highly recommended. A fabric medium is a liquid that mixes with the paint, reducing its thickness and giving it properties that adhere better to fabric.

If you’re determined to use acrylics on fabric without adding a fabric medium, be aware of the potential challenges. To improve results, surface treat the fabric, wet the area, and thin the paint. Keep in mind that acrylics may not be the best choice for fabric projects that will undergo regular use and washing.

If you’re uncertain about using acrylic paint on your t-shirt or shoe project, you can consider using gouache paint. Gouache is similar to acrylic paint but has a slightly different texture. The GenCrafts Gouache Paint Set offers a range of beautiful colors suitable for fabric painting.

For a long-lasting and durable finish, heat setting your painted fabric is recommended. This process ensures that the paint adheres well and avoids smudging or washing off. You can heat set your fabric project using an iron or a blow dryer.

Here are the steps to heat setting your fabric project with an iron:

  1. Wait for at least 24 hours after painting to ensure the paint is completely dry. Then wait an additional 4 days before washing the material.
  2. Place the painted side of the fabric facedown on an ironing board or a heat-resistant surface.
  3. Cover the painted area with a scrap of cloth or parchment paper to protect it from direct heat.
  4. Set your iron to a medium heat setting (avoid using steam) and run it over the painted area for a few minutes. Lift the iron as needed to prevent scorching or damaging the fabric and paint.
  5. Keep ironing for around three to five minutes, ensuring the paint is fully dried and set.

Now that you have the tips and steps for using acrylic paint on fabric, you can proceed with your t-shirt project:

  1. Gather your materials, including acrylic paint, acrylic paint markers (if applicable), fabric medium, brushes, and a blank t-shirt.
  2. Prepare and mix your paint with the fabric medium to ensure flexibility and adhesion. Most mediums will require two parts medium with one part paint.
  3. Sketch your design on the fabric using a crayon or any other appropriate tool, keeping the shapes simple and easy to paint over.
  4. Paint your design with the desired colors and allow it to dry.
  5. Finally, follow the heat-setting instructions based on the particular medium or paint you used for your project.

Now you’re fully equipped to paint on fabric with your acrylic paints! Feel free to share your project in the comments section; I’d love to see it. If you want more insights on painting with acrylics, be sure to explore my other articles. Happy painting!

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