Fabric paints are a fun way to add new life to old clothes, furniture, and more. They are designed to layer evenly and opaquely on various kinds of fabric for enviable DIY projects for all ages. The paints come in a variety of colors and finishes so you can achieve your perfect design, no matter how colorful or complicated.
Before buying, keep in mind the surface you intend to paint with your fabric paints, whether it be T-shirts, denim, or upholstery. This will help determine the best fabric paint for your particular project. Also, consider the finish you desire: opaque, semi-transparent, glossy, matte, or metallic. Luckily, many brands sell variety packs with some of each.
Lifestyle and DIY-writer Katy Cano-Murillo knows the importance of buying the right paint for your fabric. "Don't skimp and buy basic craft paint—it will dry hard and crack," she advises. Below you'll find more tips from her on how to use fabric paint properly.
Here, are our picks for the best fabric paints for any project.
Best Overall: Jacquard 8 Pack Textile Color Fabric Paint
Bottles are small
Available in a set of eight different hues, these fabric paints have been used by everyday artists and professionals alike. The paints are highly recommended for their smooth application and high opacity. These fabric paints have been used on everything from clothing, furniture, and even shoes to household accessories with much success. Even items that have later been laundered after painting have held up well and maintained their color and appearance.
Some people have found this paint to be on the thicker side, so depending on your method of application, you may need to thin the paint slightly with water. This fabric paint is our top recommendation overall and is a great choice if you want a quality paint for anything from school-related projects to DIY masterpieces.
Best Budget: TULIP Washable Slick 3D Fabric Paint Set
Can be difficult to apply directly from the bottle
Tulip makes a wide assortment of fabric paints and is a go-to choice for kids and parents. Given its super low price point for a pack of six, it’s also our go-to choice for a budget fabric paint.
The fine tip makes the flow of paint easy to control and allows you to draw intricate details like lettering and flowers. However, if you have a large area to color in, the fine tip could prove to be time-consuming. Customers also said that the formula is too thin to paint with—so it’s really best suited for applying with the fine tip attached to the bottle.
The non-toxic formula is washable, meaning you can easily wash any item you choose to decorate with Tulip fabric paint. Just be sure that you heat set your creation after you’ve finished painting it.
Best for Denim : Arteza Fabric Paint
Wide variety of colors
Long lasting and durable
Vibrant colors on denim
Some colors may need more coats than others
Painting on denim requires a fabric paint that is opaque, vibrant, and won't crack easily. Arteza's fabric paints are permanent when set with heat, and they keep your fabric soft, so your favorite pair of jeans stays perfectly fitted to your body. This 24-piece set comes with two metallic, four neon, and 18 classic colors for endless opportunities for blending and creating unique designs.
These paints are designed to last. They are washing machine and dryer-friendly, so you can wash your new jeans or denim jacket again and again without fading or wear. With some high-quality paint brushes, these paints glide on easily and opaquely for optimal results.
Best for T-Shirts: TULIP Soft Fabric Paint
Won't crack or crumble
Wide color range
Some colors may be more opaque than others
One of the biggest complaints about fabric paint is that it can be stiff, scratchy, or crack easily. This can especially be true on cotton or soft T-shirts. However, this fabric paint proves otherwise.
The 4-ounce bottle of fabric paint is available in more than two dozen colors, and like other Tulip paints, it’s a non-toxic water-based formula. You can choose to either brush it on, use a sponge applicator, or pair it with a stamp or stencil for neat designs.
While this fabric paint for T-shirts is said to be highly opaque, some people have found this to not be totally accurate. Depending on the color of the T-shirt or other material you’re painting, you may need to use several layers of fabric paint. Just be careful not to over-apply the product, or it may become stiff and crusty. Let each layer dry to assess whether more paint is needed.
Users say that once dry, this paint moves well with fabric and washes well. It’s been used with success on everything from clothing to quilts and is super long-lasting.
Best for Furniture: Delta Creative Ceramcoat Acrylic Paint
Perfect for furniture
Can be time-consuming to use
If you’re looking to paint the upholstery of your furniture, you can use almost any acrylic paint—but it’s highly recommended that you mix it with a textile medium first. Delta Creative makes a popular and affordable formula that will help your fabric paint for upholstery adhere better and produce a softer finish.
Keep in mind that this is a textile medium only—you must mix it with acrylic fabric paint. The bottle contains the recommended ratio of paint to medium, and you may need multiple bottles of medium (and paint), depending on the size of the piece you’re painting.
People have used this textile medium with great success when using fabric paint on couches, chairs, cushions, and clothes. It helps to maintain a soft feel to the fabric—though the end result largely depends on the fiber content, weave, and other factors for each type of upholstery. This textile medium may be especially useful on darker fabrics and denim, which can be notoriously hard to use fabric paint on. Some users did experience a hardened finish and needed to sand the paint for a softer feel. Overall, this medium helps to preserve the feeling of fabrics and also helps paint look smoother and more opaque.
Best Pens: Crafts 4 All Dual-Tip Fabric Markers Pens
Two tips to choose from
Can dry up easily
For more control when painting a design on fabric, look for a pen-style applicator. The set of 12 fabric pens from Crafts 4 All is a popular choice for doodling and detail work when using fabric paint.
These fabric paint pens are double-sided, with a thin tip on one end and a thicker chisel tip on the other end. The pigmented formula allows you to create a custom look with just a simple stroke (and no need for brushes, sponges, or other applicators). Just remember that these fabric paint pens can dry out quickly if left exposed to the air—so cap quickly when not in use.
While the product claims to have minimal bleed, a few people have said that they found the pens to have more edge bleeding than expected or that it soaked through the material to the other side of the shirt. Many people avoid this by working slowly in delicate areas and placing a barrier in between fabric to prevent it from seeping through. Luckily, this hasn’t been a major problem for most.
Best 3D Fabric Paint: Puffy Rainbow 3D Paint Pack
Does not build-up or glob
Bottles are small
If you want to bring a new dimension to fabric painting, choose a paint set that has a 3D texture. Our top choice is Puffy 3D Paint, which comes in a pack of 20 different colors.
You can use these paints to decorate T-shirts, hoodies, or other crafts where you want a raised texture that stands out. Kids, in particular, will love using puffy fabric paint for school projects, fun T-shirts, baseball hats, and more.
A precision tip on each bottle allows more control over designs, and the various color options provide endless possibilities. These fabric paints are machine-washable and stay flexible after drying, but restless fingers may be tempted to pick the paint from finished projects. This set of 20 Puffy Fabric Paints is a great value and is much loved for its endless 3D possibilities.
Best Glow-in-the-Dark: neon nights UV Fabric Paint Set Fluorescent for Clothing
Glow in the dark
No need for white coat underneath
Some colors may need more coats than others
Take your fabric paint from day to night with textile paint that glows in the dark. Neon Nights makes fluorescent fabric paint that glows in the dark and is a big hit with kids and adults alike.
This glow-in-the-dark textile paint comes in a set of eight neon colors that are bright and bold on their own but glow fluorescent in the dark. You can charge the paint with sunlight, UV, or black light—but note that LED lighting won’t work effectively.
When it comes to applying this fabric paint, you’ll need a brush or other applicator since the paint comes packaged in individual jars. People say that the color is rather sheer, so you may need to apply several coats—especially with dark colors. When properly charged, users note that it glows bright and looks great.
Best for Stamping: Fabric Creations Fabric Ink in Assorted Colors
Easy to apply
Stamps ensure accurate designs
Water-based paints make it easy to correct mistakes
Some found the paints to dry out quickly
Looking for fabric paint that can be used like ink to stamp and embellish T-shirts, scarves, cloth napkins, and more? Fabric Ink by Fabric Creations is a highly pigmented fabric ink perfect for stamping and more.
Fabric Ink comes in a 2-ounce bottle, and the colors can be mixed together to create custom shades. The formula is non-toxic and water-based, so it’s easy to clean with soap and water while it's still wet if you happen to spill or make a mistake.
People have used this fabric paint to create artisan crafts such as stamped scarves and T-shirts or beautifully embellished lampshades and other home goods. While heat setting is optional for items that won’t be laundered, it’s necessary for anything you plan to hand or machine wash in the future.
What to Look for in Fabric Paints
Your project is going to determine what fabric paint is best for you. Some are better suited for thick fabrics like leather and denim, while others may be thinner and perfect for cotton or even canvases. Brands will list the fabrics that are best suited for their paints so you can find the right one.
Also, consider the design you intend to create. If creating something intricate, maybe opt for a fabric pen or option with a fine tip for small details. If covering a large area, opt for brands with large bottles and use a big paintbrush or roller.
Like other paints, fabric paints will vary in their finish. A paint's finish refers to how the paint looks when it is dry. This could be matte, glossy, metallic, or pearl. Consider the look you are going for with your garment or furniture piece and choose a finish correspondingly.
Finish also refers to a paint's opacity. This is how opaque or thick a paint appears when dried. Some paints claim to be semi-transparent, which may offer a less opaque finish than other options. Luckily, with most fabric paints, you can always add more layers to achieve a more opaque look.
Most fabric paints are permanent and designed to last on your project for years and years. Still, ensure that your paint is going to remain on your garment for as long as you wish. For something permanent, ensure that the paint is machine washable. This will prevent it from peeling or fading in the wash. For less commitment, opt for a semi-permanent option.
How long does fabric paint stay on?
With the right fabric paint, your designs can stay beautiful and vibrant for a very long time. "From my experience, it lasts years if treated properly," says Cano-Murillo. She recommends setting your creations with heat. "Wait two days after painting, turn it inside out, and heat set with your iron to make it permanent, otherwise it could eventually fade," she recommends.
Is fabric paint removable?
Most fabric paint is made to be permanent, so it is not easily removable. "It is even more permanent because it bonds with the woven fibers of the fabric," Cano-Murillo shares. It can even stick to your skin if you're not careful!
For emergencies, there is a method to remove fabric paint after it has dried. It requires an alcohol-based liquid, warm water, and a lot of scrubbing with something coarse and rough. This could lessen the stain of the fabric paint, but acetones can deteriorate plastics, including acrylic, so they should never be used on acrylic fabric.
How do you keep fabric paint from washing off?
Setting fabric paint with heat ensures that it will not wash off in the washing machine or dryer. Use a clean, dry, pressing cloth over your fabric paint design and iron it for two to five minutes. The settings of your iron will be determined by the fabric you are using. Do not use the steam setting of your iron or any water in the process.
Why Trust the Spruce Crafts?
Erica Puisis has been a writer for The Spruce brands since 2017, specializing as a product researcher for large and small appliances. Additional reporting was done by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays. She's also covered similar topics in other roles, including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.
Expert advice was provided by Lifestyle and DIY-writer Katy Cano-Murillo.