Fabric Painting Tutorial- Sun printing
I love painting my own fabrics to create unique patterns. I am going to show you how simple and fun this can be! You will need a few supplies to make your own prints:
1. Cotton fabric- I use a kona cotton that is PFD- prepared for dying, It ensures a bright, even interaction with the paints, but you can experiment with any light colored cotton. I work in small batches, about 1/8 of a yard, because working quickly is important, but you can work as large as you can manage.
2. Heliographic fabric paints (light sensitive paints) I use Pebeo Setacolor transparent paints. They are pretty thick, similar to acrylic, straight out of the jar, so I pour them into plastic squirt bottles and add an equal amount of water. This makes the paint act a lot like watercolors, my medium of choice when I work on paper.
3. Plastic to protect your work surface (a trash bag will do)
4 . Supplies for printing- this is where the fun starts. You can use anything that will block out the light and lie relatively flat, although I also experiment with more three dimensional and even translucent shapes, as you’ll see below. The idea is that the objects placed on top of the paint will block out the sun and cause that area to fade. You may also want some brushes, sponges, or any other method to apply and spread paint.
5. A bright sun. The faster the fabric dries, the more dramatic the results, so a hot summer day will give you more contrast than a weak winter sun- both effects can be beautiful, it depends on the look you are going for. For this tutorial I worked on my deck (which gets full sun) on a 65-degree day.
I first apply the paint, often squirting patterns directly from the bottles, but I also use brushes and sponges.
Working on wet fabric will cause the paints to blend more, as in the blue in the center, while applying directly from the squirt bottle onto dry fabric result in less blending. There will always be some bleeding as the paint follows the path of the fibers, so don’t be afraid to leave some white or lighter spots.
Once you have all your paint down, it’s time to add your objects!
For this green fabric I wanted a tree shape, something I use a lot in my work, so I placed needle clippings from my yard
Here is where I play with the light a little; you can see the interesting way the light travels through these marbles. This method gives me points of highlight with soft edges.
Finally for the blue I used some simple cooking twine and a handful of red lentils (I know it doesn’t need to be said, but please don’t use these things in the kitchen when you are done!)
Let the fabric dry thoroughly. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the heat and humidity. Remember that faster drying time provides more contrast, and make sure you pick a spot that receives several hours of sun so your hard work won’t end up in the shade before it’s dry. Then remove your objects and admire!
These fabrics are best used for decorative objects, because you are working with paint instead of dye the friction caused by wearing or repeated washings can make the colors fade. You will want to heat set this paint with a hot dry iron and a pressing cloth (to protect your ironing board). I use hand painted fabric a lot in art quilts that will be displayed on a wall rather than slept under. This is what I did with the fabrics from this tutorial
Heather Brockman Lee is an artist, mommy, vegetarian, and displaced mountaineer. She has been a working artist for the last 12 years and has a background in stained and hot glass, floral design and custom textile design as well as a BA in fine arts. As a published artist that loves working with paint, paper, fabric, and wax she is now lucky enough to stay home with her two kids and focus on her own work.