Acrylic paint is water-based paint made from acrylic polymers, water, pigment, and silicone. This paint is commonly used for arts and crafts because of its versatility. It can be used on a variety of materials and is available in a large range of colors and finishes. 

You can use acrylic paint on any type of fabric. Acrylic paint can be used to create designs on clothing, furniture, and shoes. 

Give your old clothing, shoes, and furniture a new look by painting them with acrylic paint. Acrylic paint can last a long time when applied properly. It is one of the most versatile paints on the market and perfect for your next arts and crafts project! Painting on fabric is easy once you  learn how to do it. 

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric?

Acrylic paint is a great choice for painting on any type of fabric. It is available in a large range of colors and adheres to both natural and synthetic fabrics. Acrylic paints dry faster than oil-based paints. When applied properly, acrylic paint will last on clothing, shoes, and furniture.

To get the best texture and longevity out of your acrylic-painted fabric, you need to mix the paint with a fabric medium. This thins the paint and allows the fabric to absorb it better. It is also a good idea to seal your acrylic paint with heat or chemical sealants. Sealing your paint will permanently adhere the design to your fabric, even if it is washed in the washing machine.

Should Acrylic Paint Be Used on Furniture or Shoes?

Acrylic paint can be used on shoes and upholstered furniture. 

Acrylic Painting on Shoes

Painting a unique design or message on your shoes is a great way to stand out from the crowd and breathe new life into old shoes. Acrylic paint is a great choice for painting shoes. It will last a long time and is easy to apply. 

Before you start painting, determine what type of material your shoes are made out of. Depending on the type of fabric, you may need to do some additional prep work to make sure the acrylic paint will adhere properly. Here are some tips for preparing different types of shoe materials.

  • Leather – apply a deglosser to the shoe before painting
  • Vinyl – use a lacquer thinner to remove the shine from the shoe. Acrylic will not stick to slick surfaces
  • Fabric or canvas – use a fabric medium mixed into the acrylic paint. This will make the paint more flexible and hold up better when you walk or run in the shoe

Once you are done painting your shoe, seal it with a clear aerosol sealant. 

Acrylic Painting on Furniture Upholstery

You can make an old chair look brand-new by painting a contemporary design on the upholstery. Acrylic paint dries quickly and is available in a large range of colors, making it an excellent choice for upholstery paint. 

Acrylic paint adheres to any type of fabric, but it is easier to paint tightly woven upholstery like cotton. Furniture with heavily textured fabrics like corduroy or velvet is hard to paint. You will want to mix a fabric medium in with your acrylic paint before applying it to your furniture. This will allow the paint to flex with the fabric once it is dry. The paint will last longer and won’t flake or chip. 

It will take several coats of acrylic paint to cover the upholstery. It usually takes 4-5. Make sure to apply thin, even layers and allow each coat to dry before starting the next one. 

It is recommended to seal your furniture once you are done painting it. Look for a waterproof, clear upholstery sealer. This will not only protect your paint from wearing off, but it will also protect your furniture from stains and spills. Spray sealant is the easiest and most convenient option for sealing furniture. 

Should You Use A Fabric Medium?

A fabric medium is essential when painting on fabrics with acrylic paint. You want to mix 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts acrylic paint. That will create the perfect texture, thickness, and flexibility for painting on fabric. Fabric mediums that are designed to mix with acrylic paints are called liquid acrylic polymer emulsions. Make sure you select a fabric medium that is made to be mixed with acrylic paint. 

Acrylic paint is naturally thick and dries into a hard surface. This is problematic when painting on fabric. Fabric is flexible and designed to move. T-shirts, jeans, and canvas shoes all crease and bend when worn. Hard paint will crack and flake off when bent. Fabric mediums thin out acrylic paint and make it more flexible. Thinning the paint allows for an easier and better-looking application. Thinner paint absorbs into the fabric instead of drying on top. This leads to longer-lasting designs.

Benefits of Using Fabric Medium

There are several benefits to mixing fabric medium with acrylic paint before applying it to the fabric. 

  1. Fabric medium makes acrylic paint flexible. Once dry it will move with the fabric without creasing, flaking, or cracking.
  2. Acrylic paint will last longer if mixed with fabric medium. Acrylic paint is naturally very thick. Fabrics do not absorb it so it dries on top of the fabric instead of soaking into the weave. Fabric medium thins acrylic paint so it can seep into the fabric. This is what makes acrylic-painted fabric machine-washable.
  3. Fabric medium reduces the amount of acrylic paint you need for a project. By thinning the paint, you get more use out of one bottle. 

What Type of Acrylic Paint Works Best on Fabric?

As long as you mix fabric medium into your acrylic paint, any brand or type of acrylic paint will apply well to fabric. Here are some of the bestselling kits and brands.

BrandWhat the Kit IncludesPriceDescription
Golden Fluid Acrylics10, 1-ounce bottles$48.00 on AmazonShop Golden Fluid The 10-bottle kit of acrylic paints by Golden Fluid is a great starter kit for fabric painting. The formula easily mixes to create a variety of colors and shades.
Arteza Acrylic Paint Set
14, 120ml bottles$42.00 on AmazonShop Arteza Arteza acrylic paints are vibrant, unique shades. The paints are non-toxic and do not fade. 
Apple Barrel Gloss Paint16, 2-ounce bottles$39.58 on AmazonShop Apple Barrel This acrylic paint set from Apple Barrel offers a variety of bright, pigmented paints. They are easy to clean up and non-toxic. These paints dry to a glossy finish.

How to Use Acrylic Paint

Painted fabric is a work of art. You want it to last a long time. Following simple application steps will ensure the acrylic paint adheres well to the fabric. You will need to gather these materials before you begin to paint.

  • Fabric
  • Fabric or textile medium
  • Acrylic paint
  • Cardboard, disposable dinner plates, or painter’s palette
  • Brushes
  • Iron and ironing board

Step 1: Choose Your Fabric

Acrylic paint will work on any type of fabric. This includes synthetic and natural fibers. It is easiest to paint over fabrics with a tight weave. Loosely woven textiles and texturized textiles are harder to paint. You can still choose fabrics like velvet to paint on, just choose a simple design that doesn’t require small details.

Once your fabric is selected, you want to wash and dry it. Paint will not adhere to dirt or dust. Pre-washing clothes allow the fabric to shrink before painting. If you are painting clothing, iron it.

Step 2: Plan Your Design

Even washable acrylic paint will stain fabric. Outline your design before applying paint. You can use a pencil or fabric chalk to sketch on the fabric. You can also use stencils or painter’s tape for intricate and uniform designs. 

Step 3: Use the Fabric Medium

Mix fabric medium with every shade of acrylic paint you want to use in your design. The formula is 1 part fabric medium and 2 parts acrylic paint. You can mix your paint on thick cardboard, disposable dinner plates, or a paint palette. 

Step 4: Apply Acrylic Paint

Put a piece of cardboard or thick paper behind the fabric you are going to paint. This will prevent paint from bleeding through to the other side. If you are painting upholstery on furniture, this step is not necessary. If you are painting flexible shoes like canvas sneakers, stuff paper into the shoe to keep the sides of the shoe separated.

You want to paint in thin, even layers so that the fabric can absorb the acrylic paint. Use one brush per color so that you don’t have to constantly keep cleaning your brush. It is best to start with the outline of your design or background first. Painting in layers from background to foreground will give you the best definition between colors.

Step 5: Let Dry and Add Additional Coats

Fabric medium thins acrylic paint. This also thins the pigment. You may need to apply multiple coats of paint to get the color you want. Allow the paint to dry in between layers. It is best to let acrylic paint air dry. This can take up to 24 hours. 

Step 6: Seal Your Paint

The final step to painting with acrylic paint on fabric is to seal it. If you painted a piece of clothing, the most effective way to seal the paint is by ironing it. Flip the fabric so the painted side is facing down and will not come in direct contact with the iron. Place a piece of extra fabric on top of your painted fabric. Iron firmly in slow, even motions. Do not steam the fabric.

If you painted fabric on furniture or shoes, it is best to use a chemical sealant. These are available in liquid and spray form. 

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric Without a Medium?

You should NEVER use acrylic paint on fabric without mixing it with a fabric medium first. Acrylic paint is very thick and hard. It does not move or flex once it is dry. It will crack, flake, and peel off fabric if it is painted on without the use of a fabric medium. 

Acrylic paint is inexpensive and available in a variety of colors and finishes. It is ideal for use on most materials including fabric. You can use acrylic paint on clothing, shoes, and furniture. Painted designs will last a long time if applied with fabric medium and sealed properly. Painting fabric is a fun and inexpensive way to create unique fashion and furniture pieces.

Resources & Related Articles

How To Seal Acrylic Paint On Fabric

We Painted Upholstery Fabric and this is what we learned | by Nathalie Hudson | Medium

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Shoes?

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Fabric?

The EASIEST Hack to Use Acrylic Paint On Fabric (So It’s Permanent!)

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