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Tips for Painting on Denim

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I need some tips for painting on denim. My stepdaughter painted some jackets for her son and my daughter. My daughter's jacket turned out great but her son's jacket didn't cover as well. It was a dark denim. She put several coats of orange paint but it looks as if she only did a half of a coat! The white paint covered fine but not the orange. What are the best paints? Is there a 'base' coat to use?

Brenda from West Virginia



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By Joan [13]10/24/2009

About 15 years ago I painted a floral design on the front and back of a denim winter coat. It was a medium blue denim. I used a couple shade of peach for the flowers and a couple shades of green for leaves and stems. Then while the paint was still wet I sprinkled gold glitter on some areas. It last for several years and through several washings. In fact I got tired of the coat before I donated it to a thrift store.

The only thing I did to prepare the fabric was wash the coat first and dry without fabric softener. I used the basic craft paints that you buy in the craft department at WalMart. Some of them do say they dry soft, however, I didn't pay any attention to that, I just purchased colors that appealed to me. The jacket didn't dry stiff or anything. I didn't use anything underneath the paints or mix anything with them. I had lots of compliments on the coat.

By jojo the clown boy10/24/2009

Important: Use Rubber Cement for your base coat before you start painting to keep the fabric pliable. Tried and tested method that works. otherwise you will wind up with a surface that will be hard and will crack over time.

Acrylic will adhere to the Rubber Cement well. Do NOT use GESSO or white house paint for a base coat. Do not use oil paint. Fabric paint is garbage as you can't mix colors and get good secondary colors. Hopefully it goes without saying you let the rubber cement dry first, before starting to paint.

By Cyinda [214]02/27/2008

All yellow paint is transparent, (even yellow house paint) buy the best brand of yellow you can... & If you see one yellow that cost 4 times as much as the same brands, It's because it has more pigment added to it (Liquitex)... You will usually need at least 3 or more coats of yellow, but it REALLY helps if you first coat the area (to be painted yellow) with an opaque white.

Denim has a fairly large "Weave" & the larger the weave, the harder it is to get your brush to glide & fill in the "under-bumps".... Sometimes it's easier to paint on something else, then sew or glue it to the denim. To get your paint into the "under-bumps" it helps to add several drops of a "Flo-helper" to your fabric paint.... This makes the paint more "slippery".

By donna (Guest Post)02/27/2008

If you want bright full color on a dark denim or any dark fabric you need to put a silver paint neatly into the area that will be painted with light bright color. The silver is a very effective color block to paint over. Use fabric paints or add fabric additive in acrylic paints to keep a soft feel in the garment. Straight acrylic paints make a garment stiff where I have painted. There is a cover white paint sold also that blocks the dark undertones. Hope this helps you. Let the undercoat of paint dry before adding the final color.

By Mary Lou [14]02/27/2008

Another thing that can affect whether the paint adheres is if you washed and dried the clothing with fabric softener before hand. Wash and dry, but DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTENER. Otherwise I agree with the others, add fabric medium to regular craft paint or if you want to do more fabric painting, invest in paint that is actually made to use on fabric, ie Tulip or Decoart. The idea of basecoating with white is also an excellent one.

RE: Tips for Painting on Denim

By Jill [4]02/25/2008

I agree about the white paint. Also, she may or may not be aware; but you can buy a product called "textile medium" or "fabric medium" in the acrylic paint aisle at the store. When mixed with the paint, it improves the paint's ability to adhere to the fabric fibers and keeps the dried paint softer (and less stiff) when dry.

The jackets are adorable! She did a wonderful job! But now she is going to have to stop feeding the kids so they won't outgrow them! (Just kidding!)

By LuvMyGingerKids [45]02/25/2008

I think they both look GREAT! The orange on white is going to "pop" more than orange on a darker color. As the boy's denim jacket fades with washing, the orange will stand out. She did a wonderful job!!

By beth (Guest Post)02/25/2008

A young German female painter, who I recently met at Art Basel in Miami, has become a fashion icon as she never takes off her paint covered (cool, ripped) jeans. She paints oil paintings....try that.

By Julie [49]02/25/2008

I paint alot on all types of surfaces. And on dark fabrics or any type surface really that is dark just put on white paint first then add your other colors as usual. The white paint makes the other colors pop and you use less of the other colors as well, saving your paints. good luck, oh and nice job on the jackets so cute!

By SL Edens [1]02/25/2008

When painting on dark fabric, it's a good idea to put a white coat on before adding the colors (in this case orange). The white can then allow the orange to look bright. Those are darling jackets. Your stepdaughter did a good job!!!

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