How to mix, paint and set watercolor on fabric to make beautiful, permanent designs for clothing, pillows, and other projects for your home! You can use this technique for a number of patterns from tie-dye, ombre, or even loose floral motifs.
I am so thrilled to share this beautiful project with you today! Cami is sharing how to watercolor paint on fabric for adding color to fabric for clothing and other home decor projects. This technique can be used to create a number of different designs from ombre, to tie-dye, loose florals, landscapes or seascapes, skies, flags, team colors and more.
Hi! It’s Cami from TIDBITS and it is wonderful to be here again!
If you have seen any of my work, you know I love mostly white spaces, with subtle hints of color (like found in our home here, here and here). However, there is something about Spring time that always makes me crave color, color and more color!
I have to feed this craving, or it gets out of control 😉 So the other day, I busted out my “mommy only” watercolor paints, and discovered a way to watercolor paint on fabric, for amazingly beautiful results! (Especially considering I am no Artist).
I painted and painted on some white fabric samples, and then determined they would make the most beautiful pillow throws for our porch swing.
The kiddos really love them as well.
They are the most satisfying pop of color I’ve enjoyed in a long time!
Types of Fabric to Use for Watercolor
Keep reading here, and I will teach you how to watercolor paint on fabric – and some tricks to the trade I learned along the way. But, don’t feel limited to pillows for this project. There are so many projects you could make that are no-sew.
Go buy some white cloth napkins and color them up! Or a plain white T-shirt from the craft store. Or Tea Towels, or curtains, or burp cloths, or . . . Oh the possibilities!
But if you love the pillows, get painting and then head over to my site here, and I’ll teach you how to sew a simple envelope closure pillow cover, for any size of pillow form.
Alright, let’s get painting!
- Watercolor Paints
- Don’t fret about whether or not they are fabric paints. This was all experimental for me, but it totally worked! I have these watercolor cakes found HERE. I LOVE them! HERE is another set you can get as well.
- These paints are so much better than your kids crayola watercolor paints. The pigment is so strong and a little goes a long way.
- Fabric Medium-
- This stuff makes it so you can use any kind of paint for fabric, if you add this to it. You can buy it HERE.
- 2 Small cups or containers for water.
- Make that 2 Brushes (so you don’t have to constantly wash)
- Something to cover your surface
- I used garbage bags
- White Fabric
- Most kinds of white fabric should work, just be sure it is the appropriate type for your project (my pillow tutorial details the fabric I used, here).
How to Watercolor on Fabric
1. To get started, fill your 2 cups with water, half way. One of the cups will be used to wet your paints (keep as plain water).
In the other cup, you will need to add some of the fabric medium to the water. I wasn’t too specific on proportions here, but for about 1/4 of a cup of water I used approximately an 1/8 cup of fabric medium.
Tip: Having 2 brushes comes in handy here. You would not want to use the brush with the paint medium for dipping in your paints.
2. Next, with your brush nice and wet in the plain water, wet your watercolor paints.
This leaves plenty of pigment on your brush, and you are ready to spread it on your fabric.
3. Paint your fabric.
Tip: The less watered down your paint, the stronger the color. The wetter the paint, the lighter the color and the more it will spread.
4. Once you have painted your fabric as desired with the watercolors, paint over the entire surface again with the water/paint medium mixture.
When you do this, the colors really start to blend together beautifully.
Setting Watercolors with Heat
At this point, your fabric will be very wet. You will need to add heat to set the paint to the fabric.
To heat-set mine, I first threw my samples into the dryer on high heat until they were completely dry. You could also let them air dry and then press them with a hot iron. I actually did both.
It is best to read your instructions for the paint medium you are using, but I was able to wash and dry my fabric at this point with no color loss visible. (Which made me super excited that it worked)!
3 Different Techniques
You’ll want to test your painting methods out before using it for an actual project, but here are the 3 different techniques I used when painting to get the specific looks I achieved for my pillows.
1. For the all blue pillow with somewhat of an ombre effect, I used highly saturated paint (with less water) at the top and kept getting it wetter and wetter as I went down.
Tie Dyed Effect
2. For this multi-colored pillow, I used circular strokes of varying colors. It looked kind of funny to me until I soaked it with the wet fabric medium and dried it. Then the colors all blended wonderfully.
Muted + Well Blended Effect
3. This last technique was a game changer. I decided to soak my fabric with water first. This made it so when I painted, the paint spread easily and blended all together. This was really fun to try, and I really like the results. I think this would also work great for an ombre look.
I would love to hear if you give this a try! It was really so much fun, and I plan to let my kids try this on their own projects.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.