Painting with Acrylics

Acrylic paints are the BOMB! And if you haven’t introduced yourself to them, do so.  I am not talking about the acrylic paint in the tubes used for fine art, but the paint in the 4 oz “pots.”  There are a number of brands, Folk Art, Delta, Anita’s, Martha Stewart…and there are a number of different types.  Some are treated for outdoor, some for plastic, wood, glass etc.  Today, I will try and help you wade through the ins and outs of acrylic paint with an eye ultimately on using it to color fabric.

Unique characteristics of acrylic paint

1.            Will not blend.  Although you can combine two colors with some success, anything more tends to just turn grey.  This is why there are so many colors to select from.

2.            It is non-toxic so children can paint with it, so long as you get the regular pots (glass paint, outdoor, and a few others are exceptions to the rule).

3.            The liquid consistency is suitable for stamping, painting with paint brushes, dipping, flicking, it lends itself to a number of techniques and crafts without alteration.

4.            The density is great, I have rarely needed more than two coats for any project and often times one is sufficient.

5.            The paint goes on light and dries dark.

6.            Completely washes out if cleaned in warm soapy water within 5 to 10 minutes of use.  Therefore, to keep your brushes and stamps etc. clean, after each use, rinse them out.  Even if you are not finished using them. There aren’t too many things you can use to get the acrylic out once it is set in. In fact, I don’t know of anything.  Mineral spirits and turpentine have not worked for me. 

7.            If you are using the same brush for different paints, make sure you thoroughly rinse out the brush between each use.  You will not get exciting new colors, so much as grey streaks.

8.            You cannot paint wet on top of acrylic, you have to wait for one color to dry before moving on to the next.

9.            Acrylic paint dries very quickly.  It's great for those of us with attention deficit.  Most of the time you can get your project painted and finished the same day.

10.          Color will not fade.  I have a wooden coat rack I painted 15 years ago, and it still looks the same.  Because I didn’t varnish the rack and left it with a matte finish, there has been some wear, but no fading. 

11.          Paint dries to a matte finish.  I have found it better to get the paint with the matte finish and then apply a gloss finish.  Gloss acrylic paint doesn’t seem to be as durable.

Acrylic paints are sold by a number of companies.
True artists would cringe at the use of sable brushes or natural hair brushes for acrylics, because the water dries then out. But these brushes allow you to work with a fine tip, and create smooth lines.
Think outside the box, you can have your own zebra print skirt, in colors and aligned in a pattern flattering to you.
Stamping is also an option with some great ideas and products available.
For purposes of painting fabric, I have found Apple Barrow or Anita's to be a good value.
Nylon brushes go even wider. They are very good for covering space and release more paint.
Stencils and stenciling can be used for everything from walls to, yes, you guessed it, clothes.
There are sponges that can be cut to any shape and when introduced to water will expand to a permanent depth.
Use of acrylic paints for fabric.

My experience with acrylic paints and fabric came through a misreading of the bottle.  Unconcerned because the paint was washable, I painted in good casual clothes.  Before I go on I should observe an employer, who owned a print shop, he'd rant on about how there were only two types of printers, one type at the end of the day, had everything neat, and not one smudge on his or her clothes.  The other was covered from head to toe in ink. I fall into the second category.  I have not truly created until there is as much paint on me as what I am working on.  After about 45 minutes I went to get the paint off my clothes only to discover, it would not come off.  And in fact, twenty years later, although the design on the shirt has faded, the cotton has thinned from the cotton polyester blend, that paint is still there.  

Thank you for your notes, they mean a lot.  

Next week I will walk you through painting one of the pictures printed last week.  A little Andy Warhol anyone?  Until then, I hope you have a great week, and God Bless.


As promised, we will cover the process for printing on fabric. 

What you will need

1.  Freezer paper
2.  Iron and ironing board
3.  Pins
4. Scissors
5.  Printer with pigmented ink (see 08/13/15 issue for this discussion)
7.  Computer picture or print
8. Fabric (see discussion bellow)
The images are clean and sharp.
If you plan on selling your product, always be careful of copyright.
Before we move into the process of printing on the fabric there are two more things we should discuss.  First, the graphic you select.  I have provided two examples.  One is a large print, the other, a photo which I have altered because... well...I don't want to get sued.  

The Beatles photos have been ordered to create a stripe, which can be used for the boarder of a coat, shirt, skirt, what ever you would like. 

The other pattern is more for a pillow, but can be used as the focal point for a quilted jacket.

My printer can only print a maximum width of 8 1/2 and length of 14" or, legal and regular sized paper, so the printed size of my fabric is limited.

But, as you will soon see, how the graphic appears on your computer screen, is how it will appear on the fabric.

The second concern is what fabric to select.  The fabric should be smooth, or regularly rough.  For instance, you can have success with burlap or linen, but an irregularly appearing slub can thrown the printer off.  It is best to use cotton or a cotton polyester.  However, I used a thin, 100% sheer polyester as one example just to give you an idea of the range of suitable fabrics .  

Cotton, or other natural fibers such as linen, wool, silk are best, because they absorb color faster, better and are more fade resistant.  But, if you are making something that will not be frequently washed, or can be washed gently, man made fabrics will do fine.

getting started

A computer software can expand your image to any size.  The real limit is the size paper your printer can use.  If you plan on doing more of this, make sure you  get a printer that can handle larger paper sizes.
1.  Create a template.  I used an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of copier paper, but that is not necessary.  The template can be any size your printer can properly print.  You don't want the fabric size too small in case it jams, or too big causing it not to go through.  I cheat, and use copier paper because I know the cut will be accurate.  It is very important that you take the time to have an exactly portioned template.  Otherwise, the image on your fabric can come out lopsided. 

The edge the printer catches, must be level.  

2.  With your template, cut out both fabric and freezer paper. I will pin the template onto the fabric to get as accurate a cut as possible.  Remember, the freezer paper is what will port the fabric through the printer.  Exacting care must be made to ensure the paper is cut straight.

3. Iron the freezer paper to the fabric.  Place the shiny side of the freezer paper toward the fabric, and the dull side will be ironed.  I will pin the freezer paper to the fabric at the very edge of the square.  Set your iron on "no steam" and "warm."  Then starting from the center, gently, in a circular motion, move out toward the edge of the square, removing the pin once you reach it, in order to iron the edges.

4.  Handling the fabric with freezer paper very gently, place it into the printer, making sure it is well seated. Also, make sure the fabric side is facing the proper direction.  Some printers flip the paper so that the underside of the page gets printed.  My printer prints the top.  

5.  Make sure your printer settings are correct.  Remember, my Cannon requires that it be set for high quality in order for the pigmented ink to be properly used.  Make sure your printer doesn't have the same type of requirements.

6.  With fingers crossed, PRINT.

7.  I have included several examples.  The fabrics did fine, but you will notice that there is a streak with the print on pink fabric.  This is probably due to the slub located on the dog image.  This doesn't often happen, but can.  If you have the option, it is best to use fabric with a very smooth, flawless surface.  

8.  And, voila, you have your printed fabric.  Wait 10 minutes and rinse the fabric with cold water.  
Nice clean image on sheer 100 % polyester fabric.
Pin template to fabric and freezer paper to ensure accurate cut.
You can cut in layers, just make sure edges are straight and accurate.
Shiny, glossy side of the freezer paper goes toward the fabric.
No steam and warm setting.
Start in the center and gently iron to the edges in a circular pattern.
Make sure you have no folds, even if it isn't where the image will be, the fold can throw the printer off.
Gently place the fabric into your printer.
Notice the streak is aligned with the slub.
Have fun with your own flattering patterns.
Photo was altered to pencil sketch, detail came out very well.
Enjoy-- this is a really fun and easy way to make very personal, haute couture, tailored made crafts and clothes.    Don't be afraid to experiment.  A lot depends on the fabric you choose, and the kind of printer you have.  

Thank you for joining me, next week we will talk about painting fabric, until then, have a great week, and God Bless. 
Thank you for your wonderful messages, I am glad the articles are helpful.  My first camping trip fell along the lines of National Lampoon's Vacation.  It consisted of torrential rains, a leaky pop-up camper that wouldn't pop out, bed bugs (in the camper--who knew) flooded campsite and fishing, heat wave and ended with me rushing my dog to the vet for what may have been a snake bit, on the face.  I could wax philosophic, but I think--on the whole--I'm just really glad I survived. 

Back to business.  Last article I promised to show you how to knit up some trim for around the jacket.  I have to admit to getting bogged down with the design, and will have to revisit the trim a little later.  I want to include small chips and beads, and the pattern and weight of the trim is taking a little more experimentation than I anticipated.

But, before we move onto fall, there is one more tool available in developing your own unique look--coloring your fabric.  Nowadays we have, generally, 4 methods most of us can use to color fabric, dying, pens, painting and printing.    There is also silk screen--and-stuff--but  these techniques require  added tools, and a deeper skill level.  

Today we will begin discussing the ins and outs of printing on fabric.


If you have an ink jet printer, you can actually use it to print on fabric.  The process is very simple, but, you do have to be aware of a few things.
First, your printer must have pigment in its ink.  Unfortunately, the ink packaging usually does not  say, so you need to research the ink and the printer before hand. You have to research both, because as I discovered, yes Cannon does produce a pigmented ink, but my printer can't use the cartridges. I was to discover all is not lost, as we will discuss later, but, since I had bought the Cannon to print on fabric, I was not pleased.  There is a little bit of trial and error, even when you get the right ink, but once you get it down, a whole new creative world opens up.   

My first foray into printing on fabric began with an Epson printer.  It was worthless for business, it cost $40.00 and went through ink every 50 pages and had a printing speed 1 page per minute.  But, it completely spoiled me when it came to printing on fabric.  Dura Bite is the pigment based ink with Epson, and it is superior to any other brands out there.  
First, the print is immediately color fast.  Once the fabric comes out of the printer, you should let is sit for at least 10 minutes.    Some suggest ironing the print with a steamless iron--and I ended up doing this with the Cannon, but the Epson, never needed it. After waiting to let the ink set, rinse the fabric with cold water.  And this is where you will see the difference in ink quality.  The Epson almost never shed a hint of color, where as HP and Cannon do.  The implication being that over several washes, you will have more fading with the Cannon and HP than the Epson.  On one ministering quilt, I included photos and very fine script writing, even after several washings, the writing looked sharp, and the photo kept its detail.  
Design we will print on fabric
So, you ask, why didn't you keep with Epson.  Sadly,  it clogged and was eventually not worth repairing.  Had I known then what I know now, I think it would have been worth repairing.  But I tried to move  on to something I thought better.  My ideal was a business printer that could also print on fabric.  I tried the HP, but only the black ink is pigmented.  The ink is sharp, and did a great job, but I wanted color.  And, that is why I went with the Cannon.  

Unfortunately, I discovered that my printer could not use the cartridges that had the pigmented colored ink.    Fortunately, the black ink is pigmented so I can still use it for printing on fabric, just not in color.  The Cannon has one addition quirk I did not encounter with the Epson and HP.  Before printing, the copier has to be set at, standard, grayscale, and high quality.  Apparently this setting affects the percentage of pigmented ink used by the printer.  I don't know if other printers require this, but if you find a great deal of washout with an ink that should have pigment, it may be due to the settings of your printer.

And thus ends my saga of trying to find the perfect printer and ink to print on fabric.  The old saw, "The grass is always greener on the other side," comes to mind. Would I go back to the Espon?  Yes.  It is a more expensive printer to purchase, and to run.  Sadly, still has problems with dependability,  but the quality and color fastness  of the ink produces a professional product, that will last through the harshest washings.

Next week we will cover fabric and process involved in printing it.  Until then, thank you for joining me this week, and have a blessed week to come.

Copyright 2014-2015 by Anne A. Sears