Monday, March 2, 2015

Painting Fabric Backgrounds

I often like to paint fabrics that I use for backgrounds and mountains. A wide variety of paints will work for this, including various brands of textile paints, acrylic paints, and acrylic inks.  I don’t tend to use Tsukeniko inks for large pieces because of the expense.  I also don’t use watercolors or other paints that may wash out with water. This may not make sense since fiber art pieces should not be washed, but I spritz with water at times during construction and really don’t want to risk changes to the colors or bleeding into other fabrics. In general I have found that paints that are permanent on the fabric after heat setting all work well. Acrylic paints, if diluted, are fine and don’t leave the fabric too stiff.

I prefer to paint large pieces of fabric on a table in the back yard because it can be “drippy”.  But, if the weather doesn't allow it, I do paint in my studio in the house. I protect the flooring with a sheet laid out in front of the table I am painting on. I also put plastic on the table top so that the paints don't stain the table.

painting on a table

I sometimes stretch the fabric on oil painting stretcher bars. Binder clips work great to secure the fabric to the bars. Fabric stretched on bars dries more quickly, but the paint drips off of it, resulting in lighter values. But, if you put salt on stretched fabric and let it slowly dry you can get some beautiful effects.  
stretcher bars

I like to mix the paints in plastic containers ahead of time. 

paint containers

Spritz the fabric to dampen it and then apply the paint in large strokes across it. I like to use a wide brush to apply it to the fabric. If you add more paint in some areas you can get streaks and light/dark effects.


For other effects you can paint unstretched fabric and scrunch it up or fold it to get light/dark lines. 

Or sprinkle salt on for additional texture. Or scrunch fabric in a ball and pour paint on it. It is fun to experiment with different methods and see what you get. Scrunching gives me fabric that is ideal for foliage or leaves. I have always found the result to be a fabric I can use.

The sky, mountains, water, and some of the tree/bushes were all fabrics created by painting using these techniques.

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