Can You Use Spray Paint On Fabric? (Explained)

White shirts and shoes are a great canvas for the fashionably creative.

Whether you are making something for fun or representing an event, learning how to color your basic whites or creams is a fun way to express yourself!

It is hard to know what kind of materials to use on your clothes, though, so make sure you use a test shirt or cheap shoes in order to practice.

Can fabric be spray painted?

Acrylic-based paint, alcohol-based ink, and fabric dyes can be used to spray onto fabric such as T-shirts or shoes in order to add some color to your outfit. Make sure you are fully aware of your fabric and its washing needs before applying color.

In this article, we will help you by outlining some tips and tricks to getting your painting done right!

What Type of Paint Should I Use on Fabric?

While you can use regular spray paints on fabric and shirts, not all are compatible with textiles.

The difference between fabric paint and other paints is the non-toxic ingredients that make it safe for close contact with the human body, such as clothing.

So, if you want peace of mind when you work on your fabric, use paint meant for fabric.

There are a lot of fabric paints on the market, but they all have their respective applications. Likewise, results may vary from one kind to another.

Let us go through the most common ones:

Acrylic-Based Paint

Acrylic-based paints are the most common type of paint for fabric.

You can get it from arts and craft shops.

You can also use it on different applicators such as airbrushes, paint markers, and aerosol cans, among others.

Alcohol-Based Ink

Alcohol-based ink is best used for non-porous fabrics.

The nature of alcohol ink allows the pigments to bond better with the surface.

It is also an uncommon choice for painting fabric, as fabrics are usually porous.

Fabric Dyes

Fabric dyes are applied like acrylic-based fabric paints, but the colors it produces are like alcohol-based inks.

Note that you may need to dip your fabric in hot water for the application of the dye, and may shrink.

You can also use it with a spray bottle, but more often than not will produce inconsistent results.

Which is Best for Your Projects?

Among the three listed, acrylic-based paint is the most recommended for fabric painting.

Given its ubiquitously available, you won’t have a hard time getting one. It is also not as expensive as heat transfer and sublimation. 

Before you go to Walmart or Amazon to buy fabric paint, you should also check how it affects the texture of your fabric.

Unless you plan to give the fabric a whole new feel, choose a type of fabric paint that maintains the texture of your fabric. 

What’s the Best Spray Paint for Fabric?

While there are a ton of options when it comes to fabric spray paints, the Simply Spray Fabric Spray paint emerges as a must-have product when it comes to quality.

(Please see reference links below for more information)

Testimonials for Simply Spray Fabric Spray Paint:

According to Melissa of The Happier Home blog, the Simply Spray Fabric Spray paint did wonders on her sofa cushion. From a dirty white hue, she turned her grime magnet into a denim blue sofa cushion.

In Ashley Poskin’s article on Apartment Therapy, she also recommended this brand. She noted that the paint did not alter the texture of the material and gave it a sturdier feel.

Her newly painted upholstery felt brand new as if it did not age.

Materials, Fabrics, and Fibers

If you intend to paint a larger surface, such as car seat covers or large upholstery, use spray-on fabric dye instead.

Note that fabric spray paint does not yield good results on certain materials for clothing. For one, synthetic fabrics such as polyester, do not absorb paint well.

Your chances of ruining polyester are high. While some fabric paints work on polyester, the dye has better chances of producing more pleasing results.

To help you decide on the fabric to use, choose tightly woven fabrics as they absorb the paint better than loosely woven fabrics.

Likewise, fabric spray paint will not work on leather, as the latter cannot absorb the paint properly.

If you plan to work on leather, it would be better to use leather dye instead.

How Durable is the Paint After Proper Application?

To ensure that your design lasts, dry the painted area for 72 hours before washing.

When washing, do not use fabric conditioner, as this will ruin the paint. You should also hand wash your fabric instead of using a washing machine, to prevent damage to the design.

After washing, there will be a slight fade in color, but if applied correctly will still be vibrant.

5 Other Things to Consider in Fabric Painting:

You have chosen your paint and fabric for your design.

But a good fabric painted design also relies on good techniques for it to look good.

Here are some tips to consider, as prepared by Dolly Mae on the Craft and Leisure website:

1. Pre-Washing

You may need to pre-wash your fabric before painting.

To check if your fabric needs to be washed, put a few drops of water on the cloth to be painted and see if it beads up. If it does, you need to pre-wash it before proceeding with painting.

When pre-washing, do not add fabric conditioner.

This is to reduce the number of chemicals in the fabric before painting. It may affect your paint later on.

2. Ironing

Iron the fabric before painting.

Having wrinkles on your fabric will only ruin your paint.

3. Application & Paint

Dampen the fabric a little to let the paint flow onto it. Make sure it is not soaking, as this would produce smudges.

If you are painting a shirt, put a few sheets of newspaper or cardboard inside to prevent the paint from seeping on to the other side.

Do a test paint on the fabric you intend to paint. This is to make sure you get the best results.

You may not get the color you want with one coat. Be prepared to do several coats. Let each coat dry before proceeding to the next coat.

4. Technique

Spray the paint in one continuous motion.

If you stop during a coat of color, it can produce splatters, which may not look good on your fabric. Spraying continuously for one coat will also produce consistent shades of your chosen color.

If you are working with aerosol fabric paint, spray in a well-ventilated area.

Even with non-toxic ingredients, the paint can still emit fumes harmful to those with weak lungs.

5. Heat Setting & Protection

You can also protect your design by heat setting it.

This adds an extra layer of protection to the paint by ironing the design once it dries up.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Reverse your fabric so that the underside will touch the iron
  2. Set your iron to no-steam and medium heat.
  3. If you are working on delicate fabric, set the heat lower
  4. Run the iron around the painted area continuously for 3—5 minutes

You must keep the iron moving, or else the fabric might get burned.

Final Tips and Tricks!

If you have some acrylic paint and you don’t want it to go to waste, you can consider mixing fabric medium to the paint to make it suitable for painting on fabric.

All you have to do is mix one (1) part fabric medium with two (2) parts acrylic paint, and you’re ready to go.

If you have an airbrush, you can use this mixture with it to make the paint application cleaner and precise.

That’s it!

You now have learned the essentials of painting on fabric and how to protect the design you have painted.

As long as you follow the guides stated above, you will be able to breathe new life into your wardrobe or any fabric that has become boring over time!

Until then, happy painting!


How To Spray Paint Fabric 

How To Turn Any Acrylic Paint Into Fabric Paint 

The Best Fabric Paint For Crafters: Buyer’s Guide 2020 

We Tried 3 Fabric Paints On Upholstery and Here’s What Happened 

Add a Blast of Color with Fabric Spray Paint 

10 Practical Tips for Fabric Painting 

Does Acrylic Paint Work on Fabric?