Questions about acrylic paint "dyeing" on fabric

Name: April


GAC 900: acrylic polymer for clothing artists

GAC 900: Acrylic Polymer for Clothing Artists

Blend with acrylic colors to produce fabric paints. When heat-set properly, it offers a very soft hand and laundering stability. Caution - provide adequate ventilation when using GAC 900 as the heat-setting releases low levels of formaldehyde.


Delta ceramcoat textile mediumir?t=dyeblog-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000XZTD28

Delta Ceramcoat Clear Textile Medium 



Textile medium

Chromacryl Textile Medium

This medium is essential in order to use Chromacryl as a textile paint. Mix 1 part of medium with 2 parts paint to make a printing ink or painting medium. When Textile Medium is used, Chromacryl Acrylics have excellent bonding properties with most fabrics. Heat set the fabric in a normal manner after the design is completely dry, using a hot iron.



Jacquard dye-na-flow fabric colors

Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow Fabric Colors

Dye-Na-Flow is a free-flowing transparent textile paint made to simulate dye. Great on any untreated natural or synthetic fiber.


Country or region: USA

Message: Hi Paula. Love this website. I am very entry level at fabric dying, but love the challenge. Have you much experience with acrylic paint dying on fabric? Can I dilute the paint with water for a watercolor affect? Will the paint last through laundering, or should I use something to preserve the color?

Painting fabric with acrylics always gives very different results than dyeing. The paint is made of tiny solid particles which are not actually dissolved in the water in the paint. As the water in the paint dries, the remaining water in the fabric moves, causing the tiny particles of pigment to collect in parts of the fabric. It's quite a different effect from what you get with dyes. 

If you paint on soft fabric, such as clothing or a sheet (a very different experience from painting gessoed canvas), using ordinary artists acrylics, diluted to thinness, the results will be reasonably permanent even when washed, if you are carefully to thoroughly saturate the fabric with the diluted paint, and allow it to dry for a very long time before washing it for the first time. However, you can really feel the acrylic paint, after it dries. It is always at least a little stiff and scratchy, no matter how much you dilute it. A thinner acrylic paint such as Liquitex Soft Body colors works better than a thicker acrylic paint, but it's not ideal.

What you can do, if you want a softer result that does not wear off as readily, is either mix your acrylic paint with a special medium called fabric medium, or buy fabric paint pre-mixed with the fabric medium already in it.

Good choices for turning your acrylic paints to fabric paints include Liquitex Fabric Medium, Golden GAC 900 Fabric Medium, or any other brand of acrylic paint additive specifically labeled "fabric medium" or "textile medium". There are many different brands, of various thicknesses, most of which I have never even tried. There is Delta Ceramcoat textile medium, FolkArt Acrylic Textile Medium, Martha Stewart Crafts Tintable Fabric Medium, Jo Sonja's Textile Medium, and so forth. Each of these products will turn acrylic paint into a much improved fabric paint, which will be softer and more wear-resistant than acrylic paints straight from the tube. They will vary in thickness and feel; once you settle on one product you may want to keep using that brand. It can often be difficult to find a fabric medium in your local crafts store, so you might not have many choices unless you order online.

Fabric paints are a convenient alternative to mixing your own fabric paint by combining acrylic paint with fabric medium, and some give special effects you won't easily obtain by mixing your own. You can often find a good quality fabric paint in a local crafts store, or you can order from a source such as Dharma Trading Company, which carries a wide range of different brands, often including larger containers which are more economical. The labels give hints as to whether a particular fabric paint is thick or thin. Some types sit on top of the fabric, while others soak in. You are not going to want "slick" or "puffy" paint. My favorite fabric paint for a watercolor effect is Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow; similar products are SetaSilk and Setacolor Transparent. Dye-Na-Flow is very thin, designed to flow smoothly, almost like dye. You can dilute it with up to 25% water to make it even thinner, or, for paler colors, you can dilute with Jacquard Neopaque Extender, which acts as additional binder. This is important because, if you dilute your paint or medium with too much water, you will end up with an inadequate amount of acrylic binder to glue the pigment to the fabric, resulting in poorer resistance to washing. Jacquard Neopaque Extender is similar to Fabric Medium or Textile Medium, but it is a thinner, easier-flowing formula than most.

Some brands of fabric medium, perhaps all, and most fabric paints, will require heat-setting after they dry, in order to became as permanent as possible. Heat-setting fabric paints is entirely different from steam-setting fabric dyes: you must use a dry heat, rather than steam, to heat-set acrylic paints. Be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions for heat-setting, which should be on the label on the jar of fabric medium. In most cases this will require either ironing the fabric, after the paint has dried completely, using a hot iron, or drying it for a certain period of time in a hot commercial clothes dryer (even though the paint must already dry before you put it in the dryer). Note that home clothes dryers are much less satisfactory for heat-setting than laundromat clothes dryers, because the home models do not get nearly as hot (this, of course makes them kinder to clothing). Do not wash any painting you've made with fabric medium or fabric paint until after you have either heat-set it or let it dry for an extended period of time, perhaps as long as a month. In some cases a fabric paint that should be heat set will become satisfactorily permanent to washing after it has been allowed to dry for over a month, even without heat-setting, but you must not rely on this to be true unless you have tested it with the specific brand and dilution of the materials you are using. When you do a big piece, daub some of your fabric paint on similar scrap fabric so that you can test-wash it later.

You can avoid heat-setting altogether, even with products that should be heat-set, if you mix the fabric paint immediately before use with an acrylic catalyst, such as Jacquard Airfix or Versatex "No Heat" Fixative. After you air-dry a painting made with a fabric paint that has been mixed with one of these fixatives, it will be permanent, without heat-setting. If you use one brand of no-heat fixative with a different brand of fabric paint, you must be sure to test to make sure that the combination works together.

No matter what sort of fabric paint you use, home-made or ready-mixed, be careful with it when you wash it. Always turn a hand-painted garment inside-out before laundering. The same rule applies to any sort of printed t-shirt you buy. Turning garments inside out makes a big difference in how long a printed design will last when washed repeatedly.

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Posted: Saturday - February 09, 2013 at 11:49 AM          

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