Spray Painting Fabric: Tips, Techniques, and Best Practices
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


1. Choose the Right Fabric

2. Select Your Spray Paint

3. Prep Your Work Space

4. Test on a Scrap

5. Spray with Care

6. Allow for Drying Time

7. Add Detail with Stencils

8. Set the Paint

9. Clean up Properly

10. Troubleshoot Common Issues

Can you spray paint fabric? The answer is a resounding yes! But the success of your project hinges on a few key factors - the type of fabric, the type of spray paint, the right environment, and your technique. Let's explore these factors one by one, starting with choosing the right fabric.

1. Choose the Right Fabric

Not all fabrics are equal when it comes to spray painting. Some will readily absorb and beautifully showcase your spray paint while others may resist or distort your handiwork. By understanding the characteristics of different fabrics, you can select the most suitable one for your spray painting project.

Natural Fabrics

Fabrics such as cotton, linen, silk, and wool are natural choices for spray painting. They have a porous structure that allows the paint to get absorbed evenly, resulting in a smooth, vibrant finish. However, remember that some natural fabrics like silk can be delicate — apply the paint gently and allow ample drying time.

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic can be a bit tricky. They tend to repel water-based paints due to their plastic-like nature. But don't worry, you can still spray paint these fabrics. Just opt for a paint specifically designed for synthetic materials, and be prepared for a slightly longer drying time.

Mixed Fabrics

What about fabrics that are a blend of natural and synthetic fibers, you ask? Well, these can be spray painted too. The key is to use a versatile paint that works well on a variety of materials. Again, patience is key here — allow sufficient drying time for optimal results.

In conclusion, yes, you can spray paint fabric — but the type of fabric you choose can make all the difference. So, take your time, consider your options, and select the fabric that best suits your creative vision and the type of paint you plan to use.

2. Select Your Spray Paint

Once you've chosen the right fabric for your project, the next step is to select your spray paint. Not all paints are created equal, especially when it comes to fabric. Let's cover the basics of selecting the right spray paint for your fabric.

Fabric-specific Paint

Yes, there is such a thing as fabric-specific spray paint! These paints are specially formulated to bond with fabric fibers, resulting in a long-lasting, fade-resistant finish. They come in a variety of colors and finishes, so you're sure to find something that suits your vision. The great thing about these paints is that they stay flexible even after drying, so your painted fabric won't feel stiff or uncomfortable.

Multipurpose Paint

If you can't find a fabric-specific spray paint, don't worry. Multipurpose spray paints can work just as well. These paints are designed to adhere to a wide range of surfaces, including fabric. However, they may not be as flexible or wash-resistant as fabric-specific paints, so keep that in mind if durability is a concern.

Color and Finish

Beyond the type of paint, you should also consider the color and finish. Do you want a matte, glossy, or metallic look? Light color or dark? Solid or gradient? The possibilities are endless, so have fun with it! Just ensure the color and finish align with your project's aesthetic.

To sum it up, the right spray paint can make your fabric painting project a breeze. Whether you choose a fabric-specific or multipurpose paint, taking the time to select the right one will pay off in the long run. And remember, the spray painting fabric process should be enjoyable — so don't be afraid to experiment and let your creativity shine!

3. Prep Your Work Space

Now that you've selected the perfect spray paint for your fabric, it's time to prepare your workspace. Proper preparation is key to a successful and mess-free spray painting fabric project. Here's how you can set up an efficient and safe workspace.

Choose a Ventilated Area

Spray paint fumes can be harmful if inhaled in large amounts, so it's essential to work in a well-ventilated area. An outdoor space would be ideal. If that's not possible, ensure you're working in a room with plenty of fresh air circulation — perhaps near an open window or a fan.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Spray paint can travel further than you might think, so take precautions to protect the areas around your workspace. Use drop cloths, newspapers, or plastic sheets to cover the floor and any nearby furniture. Trust me: it's much easier to prevent paint splatters than to clean them up afterwards!

Have Cleaning Supplies Ready

Even with the best precautions, accidents can happen. Keep some cleaning supplies on hand for quick clean-ups. Mild soap, warm water, and a soft cloth can remove fresh paint splatters from most surfaces.

With these tips, you can create a workspace that's conducive to your spray painting fabric project. Remember, a well-prepared workspace can make the painting process smoother and more enjoyable. Now, let's move on to the next step: testing your spray paint on a scrap piece of fabric.

4. Test on a Scrap

Before you get too excited and start spraying your fabric, it's a good idea to test the paint on a scrap piece first. This step ensures that the colour and finish meet your expectations, and believe me, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Choose a Similar Fabric

When testing, it's vital to use a fabric that's similar to the one you're planning to spray paint. The same type of material will give you the most accurate idea of how the paint will behave on your actual project. So, if you're painting denim, test on a denim scrap; if you're painting cotton, test on a cotton scrap.

Apply the Paint

Apply the paint to your scrap fabric in the same way you plan to apply it to your project. This way, you'll get a clear idea of the coverage and intensity of the color. Also, make sure to let the paint dry completely — the color and texture can change significantly after drying.

Evaluate the Results

Once the paint is dry, evaluate the results. Are you happy with the color and finish? If not, consider selecting a different spray paint, or adjust your application technique. Remember, it's far easier to make adjustments now than after you've painted your entire fabric piece.

Testing your spray paint on a scrap piece of fabric might seem like a time-consuming step, but it can save you from disappointment down the line. So now, can you spray paint fabric confidently? With your workspace ready and your paint tested, you're moving in the right direction. Next, we're going to discuss how to spray with care.

5. Spray with Care

So you've tested your paint and are ready to get down to business. But before you start, it's important to remember that spray painting fabric requires a careful approach. One wrong move and you might end up with a patchy masterpiece or, worse, a ruined project. Don't worry, though — these tips will guide you on how to spray paint fabric with care.

Maintain Distance

When spray painting fabric, you'll want to maintain a certain distance — typically around 6 to 8 inches — between the spray paint can and the fabric. This distance prevents the paint from soaking into the fabric, which can lead to blotches.

Use Even Strokes

Just like painting a wall, you'll want to use smooth, even strokes when spray painting fabric. Start from one end and work your way to the other, overlapping each pass slightly. This technique helps to ensure a uniform finish and reduces the risk of having visible start and stop points.

Apply Multiple Coats

When it comes to spray painting fabric, it's better to apply thin, multiple coats rather than one thick one. Remember to let each coat dry before applying the next. This method allows the paint to adhere better and gives a more professional finish.

Avoid Drips

Drips can be the bane of any painting project, including fabric. To avoid them, don't hold the spray can in one place for too long. Keep the can moving at all times during application.

Spray painting fabric isn't as daunting as it may seem, right? With a bit of patience and these best practices, you're well on your way to transforming that old fabric into something quite spectacular. Next, let's talk about the importance of allowing for drying time after you spray paint fabric.

6. Allow for Drying Time

Now that you've successfully spray painted your fabric, you might be eager to see the final result. But hold on a minute! It's important to give your freshly painted fabric ample time to dry. Here's what you need to know about the drying process.

Why Drying Time is Important

Skipping the drying process can lead to smudged designs and ruined fabric. Allowing the paint to dry ensures that the color sets in properly, and it helps to prevent the paint from rubbing off on other surfaces.

How Long to Let Fabric Dry

Generally, it's best to let your spray painted fabric dry for at least 24 hours. However, this can vary depending on the type of fabric and spray paint you're using. Always check the instructions on the spray paint can for specific drying times.

Tips for Speeding Up Drying Time

If you're in a rush, you can speed up the drying process by placing the fabric in a well-ventilated area or using a fan. Just be sure not to rush too much — remember, good things come to those who wait!

By allowing for proper drying time, you're helping ensure that your spray painted fabric looks its best. But what about adding some extra flair? Next, we'll explore how to add detail to your fabric using stencils.

7. Add Detail with Stencils

Adding stenciled details to your spray-painted fabric can elevate your project from simply colored to a work of art. Whether you're looking to add bold patterns or subtle accents, stencils can help you achieve the look you want. Let's dive into how you can add detail with stencils.

Selecting the Right Stencil

First, consider the design you want to add to your fabric. Stencils come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so you're sure to find something that fits your vision. Remember to consider the size of your fabric and the spray paint colors you're using when choosing your stencil.

How to Use a Stencil

Once you've selected your stencil, position it on your fabric and secure it with tape to prevent it from moving. Spray over the stencil carefully, ensuring even coverage. Then, remove the stencil while the paint is still wet to prevent it from sticking to the fabric.

Cleaning and Reusing Stencils

With proper care, stencils can be reused multiple times. After using a stencil, clean it with warm soapy water and let it dry completely before storing it. This way, you'll be ready for your next spray paint fabric project!

Adding detail with stencils can truly make your project stand out. Once you've added your details, you're almost done — but not quite. The final step in spray painting fabric is setting the paint, which we'll cover next.

8. Set the Paint

Once you've added your stenciled details, your final task in the spray painting process is to set the paint. This will help ensure your design stays vibrant and doesn't fade with use or wash. Let's take a look at how to do this effectively.

Allow Paint to Dry

Before you set the paint, make sure it's completely dry. While the surface may seem dry to the touch, spray paint can take a little longer to dry beneath the surface. So, grant it some extra drying time to be on the safe side.

Heat Setting

After the paint is completely dry, it's time to heat set. This process involves applying heat to the painted fabric to help set the paint into the fibers. You can use an iron (set to a heat level appropriate for your fabric) and gently iron over the painted area for a few minutes. It's a good idea to use a pressing cloth between the iron and the painted fabric to prevent any transfer of paint.

After Care

Once the paint is set, take care when washing your fabric. Hand-washing in cold water is recommended to maintain the vibrancy of your spray-painted design. And remember, the better you care for your painted fabric, the longer your design will last!

Setting the paint is the last step in the spray painting process, but there's still more to learn. Up next, we'll tackle how to clean up properly after your painting project.

9. Clean up Properly

Now that your work of art is complete and your paint is set, it's time to clean up. As with any project, the clean-up process is just as important as the creation itself. Let's explore how to properly clean up after you've spray painted fabric.

Clean the Sprayer

First things first, you'll want to clean your spray paint can's nozzle. This prevents the paint from drying and clogging the sprayer for future use. Simply remove the nozzle and rinse it under warm water. If the paint has already dried, you might need to use a fine wire brush to remove it.

Store Leftover Paint

If you have leftover paint, make sure to store it properly. Cover the can with its original cap and store it in a cool, dry place. This will help to preserve the paint's quality for future projects.

Dispose of Used Materials

Dispose of any used materials like newspaper or drop cloths that helped protect your workspace. Remember, it's important to keep our environment clean and safe, so always dispose of these materials responsibly.

Well done! You've successfully cleaned up after your spray painting project. But what happens if you run into problems? Don't worry—we're not leaving you high and dry. Up next, we'll discuss how to troubleshoot common issues.

10. Troubleshoot Common Issues

As with any DIY project, sometimes things don't go exactly as planned. But don't worry, we have your back! Let's cover some common issues you might encounter when you spray paint fabric, and how you can resolve them.

Uneven Paint

If your paint job looks uneven or blotchy, don't panic. This often happens when the spray can is held too close or too far from the fabric. Adjust your spraying distance and apply a second coat. Remember, it's better to apply several light coats than one heavy one.

Paint Does Not Stick

Have you found that the paint is not sticking to the fabric? This can be due to oily or dirty fabric. Make sure to clean the fabric well before painting, and if possible, perform a small test on an unseen part of the fabric first.

Color Does Not Show

If the color of the paint doesn't show up well, it might be because the color of the fabric is too dark. In this case, consider using a primer or a white base coat before applying your colored spray paint.

There you have it—a troubleshooting guide for the most common issues you might face when spray painting fabric. Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you spray paint fabric, the better you'll become at it, and the fewer issues you'll encounter. Happy painting!

If you enjoyed learning about spray painting fabric and want to dive deeper into fabric texturing techniques, check out the 'Substance Painter Texturing Workshop' by tabithaswanson_. In this workshop and the others available via a Daisie subscription, you'll learn various paint-based skills for your spray painting profession.