I’m super excited to find another surface to add art to! But, (always a bit of a ‘but’) there’s a bit to learn first, and then we can get busy. So, for you my friends I’m testing Acrylic & Fabric Paints on Denim.
So many choices:
It’s not a time right now where I can just head out to the art supply store so the choices were a bit limited to what I could get online. Being in Canada also adds to complication of shipping. There are many who paint on denim and jean jackets with acrylic paint so that is one of my test paints. After painting a couple pairs of shoes on leather and canvas I am loving the Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint so it deserves a place. The other promising brand is Setacolor Opaque Fabric Paint.
The Challenges of Denim
When painting denim there are a few things to consider. It is not a light colour fabric (unless you are painting white denim) so the paint needs to be opaque to cover the colour of the denim.
Secondly is that there are so many different versions of denim nowadays; some with no other fibre content and some with as much as 25% polyester or some kind of spandex. Ya, we all seem to like our jeans to stretch! (hmmm, wonder why that is?!) Stretching a painted fabric brings another challenge to the game.
Denim is also fairly thick and absorbent. That means the paint gets sucked into the fabric and becomes even more dense and that can lead to stiffness and then cracking. Well, let’s see how we make out…
There are other brands available but the Arteza brand was impossible to get to canada right now. Acrylic paints should be mixed with a textile medium so I am adding Fabric Medium; Golden brand GAC900.
In my online travels also came across an acrylic paint that is not just an acrylic paint but one made to be flexible. Flexibility is much of the issue when wearing a painted garment. Plaid brand FX Flexible Acrylic paint is made to adhere to foam and pliable surfaces without peeling, ‘sounds quite promising…
Each test row was painted on a medium weight denim that has some stretch (about 15% polyester) One section of each brand was first applied as a sold white base to get the true colour and one with colour straight onto fabric.
What Brushes to use:
When choosing brushes for this task the super soft water colour ones are not quite stiff enough. The paints are generally quite thick so they will fill a brush easily and therefore you need one of medium firmness to hold it’s shape. It also feels somewhat like you are trying to ‘scrub’ the paint into the fibres of the denim so flat ones help to spread without becoming a big mop of colour..
Whenever I paint anything white it seems like one coat is never enough! The same goes here. Watch how much a cotton denim can absorb! Be patient.
This is the Setacolor Opaque Fabric paint. I’m impressed at how opaque it is. The layer without a base of white is actually pretty solid, as that is what this paint is made for; dark fabrics. But (yup always one) it is somewhat harder to work with since it is also quite thick in consistency. That could be only a criticism for me since I have been painting for over 40 years.
Testing Testing 1 – 2 – 3!
The squares on the left are a white base layer of the Plaid brand FX Flexible Acrylic paint and then the 3 tested paints on the right are added on top.
Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint – black, white, some black line-work, primary colours on white base and without, some brush work paint.
Setacolor Opaque Fabric paint – black, white, some black line-work, primary colours on white base and without, some brush work paint.
You can see that the Setacolor Opaque paint (middle) is definitely the most opaque. The Angelus paint does definitely need an underlying base layer of white to see the true colour. The regular acrylic paint is mixed with the textile/fabric medium and that makes it absorb deep into the denim and lose it’s opaqueness.
The results are quite similar here since they are again on a layer of white Plaid FX Flexible paint.
After drying and the suggested ironing to heat set the paints (use a pressing cloth) I wanted to see how they would hold against bending. I folded over the solid sections and they all did not crack. I would judge that they all had the same amount of flexibility. This denim was not the old-fashioned thick 100% cotton type either though.
Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch! Happy there’s no damage!
Do they stretch?
Well, if I would have given the fabric it’s complete ability to stretch I am sure the paints would have broken since the denim has the ability to stretch about 30% wider. The paints do have some stretch, but not quite that much. Tip; I always tend to play with the leftover paint in the dried palette, to see how much I can stretch it and how strong it is. Considering where we generally have the designs painted on a garment may not be much of an issue of complete stretch.
I decided to hand wash as I have been noticing my front load washer may not always give each piece the same amount of tumble depending where it gets ‘stuck’. I was probably a bit more tough on the test than a washer would have been… The water was medium warm, and regular Sunlight detergent. I scrunched and rubbed and scrunched some more. Swish, swish, scrunch and squeeze, for about 5 minutes of intense washing…
Maybe I was a bit too tough on the poor fabric… But I’d rather see what can happen. I am not that surprised that the Angelus Paint held up as well as it did since the shoes that people paint hold up great! (I love my Rose shoes)
The troubling thing was that the black linework on the Setacolor Paint completely disappeared. (I have read that there may be an issue with the black) The red also seemed to not adhere properly to the denim. Could that be a colour issue or a issue about the polyester content? I think if it was the polyester content then it would be the others as well.
The Artist Loft Acrylic Paint & Gac900 Fabric Medium mix was disappointing. The black linework did hold a bit but the colours dod not seem to adhere to the base layers. Could it be that this brand is not very high quality? Possibly.
Plaid Flexible Acrylic Paint
The white test areas of this flexible paint held up nicely! As per usual the black lines of setacolor did again disappear but the paints adhered well to this layer of white. Many Jean jacket artists do just start with a layer of white where they plan to paint anyways so this could be a viable option. These are my tests but your results may vary according to any different fabric content, paints etc.
So I’m off to a flying start! This denim jacket did take a bit more time since I dove in before I did the tests. After I realized I needed a base layer of white it was much easier to get definition! I now understand the challenges much better and can make choices to decide the outcome I want. I hope these test help you as well!
I much prefer the consistencies of the Angelus Paints Leather paints, how they mix and brush on. The amount of opaqueness is good for my type of painting when more intricate work is desired. If I was to paint a very graphic image I may like to use the Setacolor Opaque paints since they are quite opaque. They are thick and gloppy so it will take a bit more to work to get tiny details. I do still like the Plaid Flexible paint as a base layer and will continue to experiment with it. Let me know what conclusions you have come up with! ‘The more minds are always better!