Can You Spray Paint Fabric? (How To Make It Stay On)

An easy way to breathe new life into a room or an item of clothing is by changing the color. But this isn’t always an easy endeavor when working with fabric. This guide seeks to answer whether you can spray paint fabric or not and what techniques you should avoid, so you don't ruin your furniture or wardrobe beyond repair. 

Spray paint can be so much fun to use! It’s sometimes referred to as aerosol paint and comes safely contained in a pressurized can. One quick press of the nozzle and your paint is ready to be applied with no need for brushes, buckets, or mixing colors. A classic spray paint usage is for repainting decks and fencing, as the aerosol allows an even coverage across the whole area in very little time than painting by hand would achieve.  

Fast, easy, and cheap are a very good combination to look for when working on DIY projects involving your furniture, decor, or wardrobe. This is why you might be drawn to spray paint as a good solution for upcycling, revamping, or adding a little flair to a favorite outfit. It’s often good at adhering to surfaces and, if applied correctly, it will last a long time.   

Spray paint can be applied to various surfaces, including fabric, carpet, jewelry, and even certain kinds of leather. Acrylic paint often works well with the fabric, but you must always use a non-toxic variant, especially if the item you're painting is clothing or furniture. Natural fibers will absorb the paint better than synthetic materials like polyester. You must also make sure the paint won't be ruined in the washing machine or react with any chemicals if the clothes are dry-clean only. It is normal for paint color to fade slightly after the first wash.  

However, not every type of spray paint will work on all materials. It's so important to check the paint carefully before buying and using it, or you may ruin a beloved outfit. When using paint on fabric, good qualities to look out for are flexibility, durability, and resistance to cracking, peeling, or contact residue. If the paint hardens the material when dry, it can easily crack and ruin the design or be unusable. If you are painting clothing or curtains, flexible fabric paint is an absolute must. 

Here are the results you might expect from spray painting these different types of fabric. 

Can You Spray Paint Fabric

Can you spray paint cotton fabric? 

Yes- if you’re using fabric-compatible paint! Cotton fibers are natural, especially if they’re 100% cotton. Many items of clothing are likely to be cotton, including denim jeans. You may also find cotton used for sofas, bed sheets, curtains, and other furnishings. Cotton is easy to wrinkle, which comes in handy when used alongside spray paint or tie-dye for cool designs and patterns. Cotton’s durable nature allows it to absorb paint well, although certain items may need to be washed first before painting, as cotton can shrink.  

Can you spray paint polycotton fabric? 

Yes - but not as easily as 100% cotton. Due to its cotton content, blended polycotton fabric will absorb the paint, but not as well due to the addition of polyester. This will also make it less easy to wrinkle but easier to damage with heat. Spray paint dries better and adheres easier when heat is applied, making spray painting it harder. Before committing to a whole project, test a small area of the material first. 

Can you spray paint polyester fabric? 

You could, but the results may not be as good as they are for natural fibers. Heat may damage it easier when drying the paint, and the paint may not adhere as strongly as it will for cotton, leaving it in danger of cracking or chipping. It may be easier to use fabric dye for this material. 

Can you spray paint upholstery fabric? 

Yes! There are even specific spray paints made for use on upholstery. This can make a big decoration project much cheaper than if you were attempting to use a whole new material on a sofa or a dining chair! However, it may take a good number of cans of paint depending on the size of your project, and it's crucial to allow the paint to dry fully to avoid paint rubbing off on clothes, pets, or other items.  

Can you spray paint wool? 

Yes! Wool is another natural fiber, so it will take the paint quite well. However, it's very important to use a flexible paint on wool as its buoyant nature may mean the paint could flatten the fibers. Make sure the paint is suitable for wool and will not harden it. Another issue may also be color bleeding. If the wool has an existing color, this may impact the final result - a lighter color won’t easily cover a dark hue. 

Can you spray paint silk fabric? 

It may be better not to. Silk doesn’t do well with too much heat, which is needed to dry spray paint for the best result. To add a new design to your silk items, use paint specifically made for silk with brushes or silk dye. 

Can you spray paint linen fabric? 

Yes! Linen is another woven natural fiber and can also be wrinkled easily, like cotton. It is very absorbent, so it will take paint well. 

Can you spray paint tulle fabric? 

Yes! Spray painting tulle can give your decor a very cute flair. It will be hard to add very complicated designs, and you will need to be very careful to lay out coverings to protect the surface you are working on. 

Can you spray paint leather? 

Probably not. Leather does not usually take paint well, although some spray paint claims it can be used on leather or synthetic leather. Dyes made for leather may be a better alternative. 

Why Use Spray Paint On Fabric? (Pros & Cons) 

The best reasons to use spray paint are that it’s easy to use, fast to apply, and cheaper than other alternatives. With DIY projects often becoming expensive due to all the materials required, saving costs where you can is essential. 

Spray paint is very easy to get the hang of, with some cans even designed to work when held upside-down, allowing you to reach every angle required. With a bit of practice, anyone can master the spray.  

When applied well, spray paint attaches to surfaces well and lasts a long time. Fabric paints are often designed to leave the material soft and without a paint-like texture. Stencil Fabric spray paint also works well on fabric but will leave a noticeable raised texture when dry.  

Spray paint on fabric works best when heat is applied as it dries, either by being left outside on a hot day or by using a hairdryer. Using the right kind of paint for the right type of surface, such as fabric-specific paint for fabric items, will ensure you get the finish you want. 

However, spray paint is not without its downsides. Large projects may require a lot of cans, which could start to push your DIY budget back up! There is also the issue of fumes. Spray paint should only be used in well-ventilated areas, ideally outside or indoors, with doors and windows open. Masks and protective clothing may also be needed to protect you from fumes and splatter. 

How To Spray Paint Fabric? (DIY Steps + Tips To Make It Stick) 

You will need: 

  • Spray paint and primer - multiple cans may be required depending on the size of your project 
  • Protective material for the space you’re painting in 
  • Protective equipment for you, such as a mask and overalls 
  • Painter’s tape 
  • Hairdryer 
  • 1
    First, set up the area you will be using. Outdoors is best, but if you need to be indoors, open all doors and windows to maximize ventilation. Put down protective materials like dust sheets and materials over any surface or furniture that may be at risk from overspray. If possible, move the furniture out of the way!
  • 2
    If you’re painting outside, check the weather first. If you’re painting on a day that’s too hot and humid, air bubbles may form on the paint as it dries and ruin the finish.
  • 3
    Use the painter’s tape to protect any parts of the project you don’t want to cover with paint. This can also help you make a fancy design or straight edge.
  • 4
    Put on old clothes you don't mind getting splattered in paint, or protective overalls to cover arms and legs too. Also, put on a mask to protect yourself from breathing in fumes and paint dust.
  • 5
    Make sure the paint is suitable for the material you will be painting. How will it look when it is dry, and will the texture be altered? Test the paint on a small section of material first and allow it to dry completely so you can see how it will look and feel. Make sure the paint doesn't rub or wash off easily, which is especially important if it will be worn, sat on, or is in a high traffic area.
  • 6
    Read all instructions for the best painting method for your type of paint. Test on scrap material first so you can get a feel for how the nozzle sprays and how much surface area the spray paint will cover with one sweep.
  • 7
    You may need to prime the surface first. Some spray paints are self-priming, but others work best when primed.
  • 8
    The instructions may recommend you shake the can well and hold it 6 to 8 inches away from the surface you will be painting. Using a sweeping side to side motion, begin pressing the nozzle a short distance from the edge of your fabric and continue until just beyond it. This will help avoid drips and splatters on the project itself.
  • 9
    A consistent motion with the nozzle pressed constantly will give you the most even coat. Aim to overlap each pass by about a third, and clean the nozzle regularly to avoid paint build-up and blockage. To clean the valve, turn the can upside down and hold the nozzle for a few seconds until clear gas is released. If it does become blocked, try wiping the nozzle first with warm water and then a lacquer thinner if the water doesn't move it. Clean the tip before storing to avoid these clogs developing. 
  • 10
    You may need several coats to completely cover your surface and leave it even and beautiful. To adhere well, spray paint should be set with heat. It can be left outside to dry on a warm day, or you can pass a hairdryer over the surface. Allow clothes to completely dry before wearing, and don't wash it until after three days to ensure the paint has truly adhered.
  • 11
    When washing painted clothes, use a mild detergent and avoid bleach or fabric conditioner, as these chemicals might take the paint off the material or cause it to crack and peel. Washing on a low heat and turning clothes inside out may also help avoid this issue. 
t-shirt clothes

Popular Spray Paint Brands For Fabric (What Is Best?) 

Many of the big paint brands have a wide range of spray paints, and among these options are often aerosols intended to be used on fabric. Some are specifically intended for use on indoor or outdoor furniture, while others are designed especially for clothes. 

Some brands such as Krylon and Montana don’t have fabric options as readily available and seem to produce paint intended for surfaces like wood and metal, rather than fabric. 

The best brands for fabric spray paint, with some great examples of their ranges, include: 

Tulip ColorShot 

Tulip ColorShot has a great range of colors in its Instant Fabric range, even selling fun multi-packs of complementary colors. This spray paint can be used on both natural and synthetic fibers and promises to be splatter and drip-free. Tulip ColorShot also has a spray paint for upholstery, which will leave the texture being painted still looking natural after it has dried.  

Dupli-Color  

Dupli-Color’s Vinyl and Fabric range has a durable and flexible finish and can even be used to recolor carpets. In addition, its formula includes a primer, saving you an extra step in your process! It also promises to be dry to the touch in 30 minutes, along with crack, chip, and peel-free. 

Rust-Oleum 

This brand is well-known for its quality paints, including a great range of spray paints with nozzles that can perform at any angle. Among their range is a very specific paint designed for repainting the fabric on outdoor furniture! Their Vinyl and Fabric paint claims to be useable on simulated leather. 


Frequently Asked Spray Painting Fabric Questions 

How long does spray paint take to dry on fabric?  

Exact times will vary between brands. Some claim to dry to the touch in 30 minutes, but it’s best to leave your project a day or two to ensure it’s completely dried. 


How well does spray paint stay on shirts?  

It will depend on the material - paint adheres better to fabrics made of natural fibers rather than synthetic material. 


How do you paint fabric without it getting stiff?  

Any spray paint you are using on fabric should not make it stiff when dry, especially if it’s clothing or curtains. Fabric spray paint is designed to be flexible and leave your item useable. Make sure you’re using the most appropriate materials before beginning.  


Does fabric spray paint wash off easily?  

Fabric paint shouldn’t come off easily when washed. It’s a good idea not to wash an item you have painted for at least three days to allow it enough time to have fully adhered to the material.  


Does fabric paint need to be sealed? 

The best way to seal fabric spray paint is by using heat. This can be done using a dry iron, a hairdryer, or by leaving your project outside on a warm day. 


Conclusion

Fabric spray paint is an affordable solution to your decoration budgeting woes. It’s very easy to use and can produce some fantastic results. Are you feeling inspired yet? 


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