Is it possible to use oil-based paints on fabric, thinned and sprayed with an airbrush?
Country or region: Australia
Message: Is it possible to use oil-based paints on fabric, thinned and sprayed with an airbrush?
There are a couple of problems with using oil paint instead of fabric paint or fiber reactive dye.
One of the problems is that oil paint will be much stiffer, after it dries, than a good soft fabric paint. It will feel scratchy and rough, even though it was diluted before application.
The other issue is the question of how much damage the linseed oil in the oil paint will do to the fabric. This doesn't matter for a short-lived project, such as a temporary costume that you don't plan to keep (or sell), but it does matter for anything that ends up being worth keeping for years, and for any work that you sell.
Oil painting is traditionally done on linen or cotton canvas that has been primed with many layers of rabbit skin glue; now we usually use an acrylic-based gesso for the same purpose. This protective layer prevents the caustic effects of linseed oil from damaging the canvas. Air-brushing thinned oil paint directly onto fabric bypasses this protective layer.
Fabric paints are more suitable for air-brushing fabric, if you want your results to feel nice enough to use in clothing, or if you want to use materials that won't eventually damage your fabric. Since fabric paints are water-based, they should be thinned for airbrushing with water, rather than solvents; this reduces risks to the painter, as well, since it's dangerous to inhale solvents. I recall an art professor's becoming gravely ill with aplastic anemia, when I was in college, as the result of solvent exposure. Even without the solvents, however, it is still very important to wear a dust mask or respirator to avoid inhaling any particles of paint.
Jacquard Products recommends that you thin their fabric paints, such as Dye-Na-Flow or Lumiere, with up to 25% their volume in water, if you are using them for airbrushing. They also manufactures a product called Jacquard Airbrush Ink, which is another acrylic-based fabric paint.
Another option for air-brushing fabric is using fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion MX dyes. The dyes are dissolved in water, filtered through a bit of nylon stocking to be sure there are no undissolved particles, and fixed on the cotton fabric with dissolved soda ash; the soda ash can be used as a pre-soak for the fabric, or, if you're working fairly quickly, mixed with the dye itself. The result, after excess dye is washed out, is a permanent painting that cannot be felt at all on the fabric. Aesthetically, the results of air-brushing fiber reactive dye is much better than the use of paints, since it leaves the hand of the fabric completely soft. However, a difficulty is that not all of the dye bonds to the fabric, so it is necessary to apply it to a darker color intensity than is ultimately desired. For good sources for ordering Jacquard Airbrush Inks or other fabric paints, as well as Procion MX dyes and other fiber reactive dyes, see my page, "Sources for Dyeing Supplies Around the World"; scroll down to the section on Australia.
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Posted: Wednesday - May 30, 2012 at 08:51 AM
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