Most of the projects I’ve been doing have been things that can be adapted to any season. This project in particular has limitless applications. I like to have a little bit of Halloween spread throughout my house all year round. I’ve always got bats somewhere on the walls, jack-o-lantern candle holders on the shelves and our seasonal blankets and pillows live on the couch year round. Eventually things need replacing though. This is part one of making a new pillow for my couch. The pillows we have on the couch currently are starting to look super faded and stained, they have lost their appeal. I like having pumpkins on my couch so I am going to paint myself a pumpkin and turn it into a pillow cover. In this post I am going over the painting process and in tomorrow’s post I will make it into a pillow.
Check out part two of this project Here
Fabric painting with acrylic paint
There are a few ways to go about painting on fabric, I decided to go with acrylic paints as it’s what I had on hand and they turn out nicely opaque. You can go to the store and buy individual fabric paint or multi surface paints, although if you already have a set of acrylic paints then the better option is to get a fabric medium. Prices vary by brand, but the most common found online is Golden’s “Fabric Painting Medium”. Golden is a great brand but one of the more expensive ones, so I went for Chroma’s “Jo Sonja Textile Medium”, definitely not the bottom of the line but more affordable. I had actually purchased it for a different project, which took me to quite a few stores until I found one where it was in stock. There must be lots of people getting crafty these days! 🙂
Fabric medium (or textile medium) is a modifier, it’s added to acrylic paint to make it colorfast on fabric. It keeps the paint pliable so it doesn’t crack and helps to bind it to the material. The back of the bottle says the textile medium is only required if what you are painting is going to be washed but it’s more useful than that. The medium thins out the paint so you don’t have to water it down for a nice workable consistency, and it prevents the paint from bleeding into the fabric around it.
It’s very simple to use, each brand might be a little different so the bottle will have instructions on how to use it. You just mix the paint and the medium and start your work, nothing fancy. You do need a certain ratio of medium to paint, the bottle suggests at least 2 parts paint to one part medium but I have varied this quite a bit, even up to 50/50, and didn’t have a problem.
Always start any project with fabric by prewashing and drying it.
I started my project by cutting out the front panel of what would be my pillow. Then I ironed it really well, the smoother it is the easier it will be to paint. Linen is notoriously wrinkly so giving it a good press is absolutely necessary.
When my fabric was ready I taped it to a canvas, you could use a board or even a table (don’t forget a barrier, you don’t want a burnt table after all). It doesn’t need to be super stretched, just held in one place. I used painters tape just like I would if it were a watercolour paper instead of fabric. The tape does not provide a tight hold, just enough to keep it still. Make sure whatever you are taping the fabric onto can get paint on it, as it will seep through. For smaller projects I use an embroidery hoop to secure it in place, but this pillow is too large for that.
With my fabric ready to go I lightly sketched on the design I wanted. Pencil works fine and even erases somewhat if need be but the better option would be disappearing ink, which I have yet to pick up.
The painting process is just like painting anything else with a couple small exceptions. Since the surface you are working on is not primed it absorbs the paint, which is a good thing but also means you end up needing more layers. It is also important to remember to mix in the medium, I have a bad habit of forgetting it if I don’t do it before hand. I mix my colours first, then mix in the medium, and then add an extra pocket of medium in the corner for blending.
The fabric medium is nice to use, it slows the drying time of the paint and makes blending very easy.
Once my painting was done I pulled off the tape and peeled the painting off the canvas. I did this to prevent it from adhering too much to it and to decrease drying time. As you can see, a good amount of paint was transferred through the fabric.
I set my painting aside to dry over night.
The last step is to heat treat the painting. In order for the fabric and textile medium to do their jobs and make the paint permanent, it needs to be heat set. This is done by ironing the painting. I set another piece of fabric over top of my image then, starting on low heat, began to iron. If the heat gets too hot then the colours may start to shift so starting at a low heat and increasing it slowly, while keeping a careful watch, is a good way to prevent big mistakes. If you do notice any shift in the colour just turn down the iron slightly. You could also do this on a test strip if you are worried about damaging your painting, although I haven’t had any problems yet. The painting needs to be ironed on a high heat for 2 minutes. If your paint is dry it shouldn’t transfer at all in this process, though at first it will feel slightly tacky when it’s heated.
Once the painting is completely done, the piece will have a slightly stiffer feeling where the paint is. Wash and wear will help to soften it up. I find even before washing it is not too bad, the paint is flexible and feels a bit like a silkscreen image, though less smooth.
To see what becomes of this painting Check out the next post Here