Each year I set aside time to learn a new technique. I treat this as if I am going to college. I make a schedule and allow myself space to learn at my own pace. This is how I learned the ins and outs of painting on fabrics. After hours of experimenting with various paints I chose Inktense pencils by Derwent as they are superior in quality.

I am not new to fabric painting, only Inktense pencils. I was a children’s apparel designer in the early 80s and was creating my own line of children’s clothing under the name, “Designs by Lorraine.” I was using watercolor pencils, good old fashion spray starch and textile mediums to paint on all types of children’s clothing. My work was seen in children’s clothing boutiques nationwide and later internationally. Boutiques ordered custom designs through Children’s apparel trade shows including Jacob Javitz show in NYC.


Which One Should I Pick?

Inktense makes pencils, blocks and paint pans. All will work on fabric. The pencils allow you to easily illustrate and add small details. The blocks can be used much like a large piece of chalk to create beautiful backgrounds and cover larger areas. The paint pans are excellent for wet-on-wet techniques.

All three are useful but you do NOT need all. If you are new to painting on fabrics, I would encourage you to begin with the pencils. Be certain to select Inktense INK pencils, they are different from watercolor pencils. You can read more about this HERE.

The pencils come in sets of colors from 12 to 72. You do NOT need all of the colors.

Let’s Paint with Inktense

Choose the Base Fabric

One of the most important steps is selecting the base fabric to paint on. I always begin my classes explaining the importance of this as many people overlook it. You can have the fanciest fabric paints out there, but the fabric choice needs to be very simple or it can end up looking muddy as the colors all run together.

Choose a fabric that contains a lot of sizing. I like to use plain old muslin. A drop of water should bead up on the surface. You can also add sizing such as Mary Ellen’s Best Press. Sizing diminishes the bleeding or spreading that can occur when you begin adding water and paint to the fabrics. 100% cotton fabrics work best. Thank you Helen Godden for introducing this important step, she is an amazing artist and I learned about the muslin and droplet of water from her by reading her response to a question on social media. 

Make a Color Chart

Once you purchase the paints it’s time to create a color chart. You only need to do this once and it will be used in EVERY project.

Use the base fabric described above and write the number or color of the pencil with a fine line permanent marker. Next color in a swatch one at a time. Be sure to increase pressure at the top and less on the bottom. This shows the color from darkest to lightest. If you are looking for instance for a pale pink and your swatches are all dark red you will not realize you already have light pink, it’s just created with LESS pressure.

Do I Need to be an Artist?

Anyone can learn to paint on fabric, you don’t need to know how to draw. Simply find FREE clip art, download it and be sure to print it to the exact size you need and trace it onto the cloth lightly with a pencil. If you are going to sew this into something such as a quilt, purse or pillow, be sure to leave extra space all around for seam allowances.

Next, look for some images that will help you color it, for instance if you chose a sea turtle then look for several photos of them. This type of work is very impressionistic, you DON’T need to paint in every detail, light washes look fantastic!

Will the Art Wash Away?

All fabric paints include color fast directions, but even after following the instructions exactly… it doesn’t always work. Be sure to test on some scrap fabric and launder as usual.

Most fabric art will fade after several washings. The best way to keep it as bright as possible is to add textile medium to the water.  Simply make a solution of 50% water and 50% textile medium, substituting this as your water when you begin to paint, and this will help to keep it colorfast.

There are many textile medium brands to choose from, choose one that is not glossy. I use one made by Liquitex. If you are making wall art you don’t need to be concerned about washing.

Perfect for Quilt As You Go!

If you are a quilter, you will love how easily you can create a stunning ORIGINAL quilt. There are two options available.

1) You can trace the art, sandwich it, free motion and then paint or

2trace, illustrate and then create the quilt blocks.

Keep in mind you can quilt it however you wish and paint after. The quilting lines are then painted over and take on the colors of the fabric paints. Either option always looks clean. I used a permanent fine line Faber-Castell marker to trace, Aurifil 50 wt. threads, a Superior 90/14 topstitch needle, and Tuscany Silk Batting by Hobbs.  As you can see, I did not quilt every line, just enough to outline the line art with Aurifil 50 wt. thread on the top and Aurifil 40 wt. thread on the bottom. There are various QAYG tutorials on the internet, find one that suits your style.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Like most things, painting on fabrics will become easier the more you do it. As you can see this is a FUN way to decorate pillows, purses, bags, quilts and home décor. Are you ready to learn more? I have created several Inktense webinars for ALL levels. I also have non-expiring recordings of webinars for you to watch at your leisure.

I hope this has inspired you to dive into the fun world of fabric painting.

All of Lorraine’s work supports endangered animals worldwide.
It is her hope that she will be able to reach and teach people worldwide through her ZOOM webinars.

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