Painting Tricks for Dark Jean Jackets

Have you ever painted a Jean Jacket?! It’s fun and also somewhat of a challenge… I’ve put together some painting tricks for Dark Jean Jackets so you can actually wear all your own creative ideas yourself!

The main issue when painting dark denim is that the paint (whatever kind you use) just decides to sink into the dark background and then more layers are needed. Often a whole area is ‘primed’ with a good opaque white to give it a starting canvas. That is great, but then it often becomes stiff and less like your favourite worn denim.

Prepping the Bleach mix:

To give your image idea a lighter background to start with you can bleach it. I know bleaching does open the possibility that the fibres will be damaged but it seems everyone does love the look of distress so I am not that concerned.

When you read the fibre content label it is often quite a high percentage of polyester nowadays. The way they manage to do this is the fibres that are in one direction are the lighter coloured polyester ones and the other are the Blue cotton ones. I figured this out with my jeans that have a hole in the knee (ya grandma tries to be hip) and see that the cross threads that are left are stretchy. It’s those cotton ones that will (hopefully) lighten.

To make the bleaching solution I am going to use a thickening agent; I cook up some water and cornstarch. ( 1 tablespoon – 1.5 cups water) Mix cool and then heat and simmer until thickened. Let cool.

Applying the Bleach ‘Gel’

Bleach and cornstarch will mix and make a thickened gel easily. The amount of bleach is a bit of an experiment. I don not think all denim is dyed with indigo as was in the past so the dyes may take longer to bleach. You may try an equal amount of bleach with gel and watch the progress. Some odd dark denims that are not really blue can also change to odd colours.

The gel will allow less bleeding of the bleach and control the area needed to lighten. I find that each brand of denim is different. Plan the image you’d like (you can use an erasable pen) or you may even choose large blocks. The bleach may bleed through so make that there is a barrier layer (like plastic) inside.The options are endless. (Be careful to work under well ventilated conditions)

The areas you have chosen to lighten will allow easier painting with Dye-Na-Flow; essentially being a very light ‘canvas’. This dye/paint works great on light denim. A brush will also allow you to be more precise.

Funny Things Happen!

I was working on a few jackets at a time since I would watch the bleaching progression on each as I worked. When I went back to add some more to this one with the bleach/gel mix that I had mixed earlier it decided to change to orange! I was baffled! Perhaps the cornstarch and bleach was not getting along that much in the bottle?

After washing out it did end white though! Whew! I rinse really well before the washer so that the bleach is rinsed out. I plunge it into a bucket of Oxyclean mixed with water (2 scoops / bucket) as this creates the same reaction as hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the bleach. Wash and dry well!

‘Fresh Canvas’

Now the light areas can be painted with the great Dye-Na-Flow! This amazing dye/paint will now sink into the fabric and keep the soft feeling of denim!

Since denim is mostly blue the other colours of the colour wheel will stand out more… or maybe you do not want that? The hardest part I always have is deciding on what image I am going to use!

Before you think you can not paint… I chose the roses since they are so simple; you can not really go wrong.

There’s always a way:

The darker parts of the denim can still be painted if they are lighter than black. That allows you to get even more definition into the art.

I love how quickly this method works! It also looks much more ‘hand-painted’ since there do not have to be so many laborious layers! I liken it to the look of graffiti!

Another of the painting tricks for dark jean jackets (or other denim) is that this method integrates beautifully with the fabric texture. It does not feel like it is a stiff ‘plasticy’ layer. As the denim wears the painted part will wear in a similar way.

It may look odd until you add the colours where you want them. I honestly did not have that much plan when I started…

Such brilliant colour!

The Dye-Na-Flow Azure Blue is a beautiful bright blue that stands out against the denim blue.

The leaf areas were darkened to blend into the denim more. I can see you wearing this with a feminine floral flowing skirt…

Mixing the gel into bleach as needed and then painting it into the areas I want lightened works well. The gel will keep for a while if sealed in a fridge. (Be careful to work under well ventilated conditions)

This bird had some black subtly added around the edges to define it. Adding quotes is a nice surprise to add to the artwork.

Until you spread your wings you’ll have no idea how far you can fly

A sweet little cheekie fellow on the shoulder yoke accents the art on the back. I like to have more than one image but that is just my choice.

Another one of the painting tricks for dark denim is that ‘if’ you do need to have some super white high-lights you can still add some of the opaque paint. As I tested in the ‘Testing Acrylic & Fabric Paints on Denim’ post I like the Angelus Leather Paints. It would only be in minimal amounts so it does not make it stiff.

How would you like this fellow sitting on your shoulder?

There’s surely a jean jacket tucked somewhere in everyone’s closet… Go ahead and get creative!

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  1. You are just amazing, Barb. Does your mind ever rest? All of those jackets are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Well, truth be told; once you get into the habit of creating, it’s hard to stop! If I just try to ‘relax’ I get so bored since my mind is not challenged. I guess it’s like the crosswords & puzzles people do…

  2. Another stunner. Wish there were more hours in the day. Thanks for keeping me inspired.

  3. You are so talented. Thank you for sharing. I have painted on denim with mixed result. Used permanent markers. (Not so permanent)! Ah, we live we learn. Gloria

    1. I completely understand; I also had a ‘sharpie-jacket’. There’s a lot to keep in mind with anything washable. ‘And I am starting to wonder why cottons are so much different, just like a pair of jeans can be so different.

    1. I do not add to the Dye-na-flow since it is already a textile dye/paint. The medium is meant to be added if using the Angelus or acrylic paints on fabric.When in doubt I always do small test pieces…