Stenciling on Fabric

Fabric Stenciling Basics 

Fabric stenciling employs the same basic stenciling technique as other surfaces: Using a dry brush, water-based paint and creating shading and coloration variations by swirling or stippling through the stencil. Fabric stenciling could involve anything from a small project such as a painted canvas gift bag to stenciling a border pattern on curtains, such as the Thistle and Grape Scroll shown at left. As always with stenciling, the choices are virtually limitless! See our Extraordinary Stencil Effects Video: Fabric and Glass for demonstrations of fabric stenciling on silk, velvet and canvas using three different stenciling techniques.

stenciled fabric velvet pillows

Fabric Surfaces
Generally, fabric painting is best done on natural fabrics such as cotton, muslin, denim, velvet and heavier silks. Popular surfaces include aprons, canvas totes and pillow covers, tablecloths, bed linens, denim shirts or jeans, curtains, slipcovers and cambric window shades.

If the item is going to be "wash and wear", remove the sizing on the fabric by washing it before painting. Air dry and iron.

Fabric Paints
There are many paints designed specifically for painting on fabric. Regular craft acrylics can be turned into suitable fabric painting mediums with the simple addition of Textile Medium. The Textile Medium changes the properties of the paint, allowing it to bond better with the fibers and leaving a softer, more pliable feel on the surface. Metallic paints can be used as well, or created by mixing metallic powders into Textile Medium.
 
Keeping it in place
Heavier fabrics will tend not to move very much when stenciling. Lighter fabrics can be held in place by working on a smooth cardboard surface that has been lightly sprayed with stencil adhesive. Small fabric pieces can be held in place by taping fine sandpaper to the work surface and placing the fabric over it.

Use Stencil Adhesive is also useful for keeping the stencils from shifting on the fabric as you work.

Stenciling Technique
The basic stenciling technique is the same for smooth fabrics. Although the fabric is generally a more absorbent surface than most walls or furniture, you will still need to offload the brush well, and apply paint by building up thin layers of color.

Heavier, textured fabrics such as velvet require more paint to fill in and cover. A stippling or pouncing technique can be used with the stencil brush to work the paint well into the fibers. Our large Verona, Florence and Palermo tile stencils are simply stenciled with metallic paints on Pottery Barn velvet pillow covers.

Heat-Setting
Again, if you plan to wash your fabric, you will want to heat-set the paint. The easiest way is to place the item in the dryer on high heat for an hour. Otherwise, you can heat set the painted area with a hot, dry iron and pressing cloth for a minute or two.

10 Comments

Royal Design Studio
Royal Design Studio

June 23, 2015

Hi Emily, you can definitely stencil over non-washable fabric. The trick to no getting any stencil spray adhesive residue is to make sure that you just apply a light misting of the spray adhesive to the back of the stencil and let it “set up” for a few minutes before laying on the fabric. If you want to be extra careful you can even lay the sprayed stencil first over a piece of scrap paper. Any excessive adhesive will be left on the paper.

Emily
Emily

June 14, 2015

I am trying to stencil on a non washable fabric. Will the spray adhesive leave a residue?

Royal Design Studio
Royal Design Studio

June 08, 2015

Hello Maria! Of course you can! That sounds like a fun project. A very happy customer did something similar by stenciled her vertical blinds. You can check out her stencil project here: http://www.royaldesignstudio.com/blogs/stencil-ideas/17851832-pull-it-together-with-these-12-stenciled-diy-curtains

Maria
Maria

June 07, 2015

This is more a question than a comment. We purchased home and inherited vertical blinds in excellent shape. However the color will not work with my decore, beige background and gold vertical strips. Material panels are removable. Is it possible to paint solid color and add retro stencil.

Melanie Royals
Melanie Royals

December 31, 2014

Hi Jean, I really don’t see any need to use a fixative medium when stenciling on velvet for a wall hanging. If you did want to set fabric stenciling you always have a choice to simply put the stenciled material in the clothes dryer on high for 30 minutes, rather than heat setting it with an iron. Good luck with your stencil project!

Jean
Jean

December 27, 2014

Hi there, could you please tell me if I should use a fixative (like Jacquard Airfix) to set Jacquard Lumiere metallic paint on 100% cotton velvet fabric? Obviously I don’t want to iron the velvet to set the paint. The velvet will not be washed, only spot cleaned, if necessary, because it will be a wall hanging, not a wearable garment. Thank you for your advice!

Katie from Royal Design Studio
Katie from Royal Design Studio

December 08, 2013

Hi Gloria,
Yes! You will be really pleased with your results! Just make sure to off load the paint before you begin to stencil!

Please send us pics of your finished product!

gloria
gloria

December 01, 2013

Have a rocker with cloth back I want to stencil on. I used the Chalk Paint for cloth & wood. Turned out really nice. Can I use the Chalk Paint to stencil?

Melanie Royals
Melanie Royals

June 14, 2013

Ameeta, I would think that you could use a permanent marker suitable for fabric to just use the stencil to outline your design. I think that’s what you are asking? You would have to test the stencil technique first on some scrap fabric though. Hope that helps!

ameeta
ameeta

June 13, 2013

Hi..can I stensil a print onto a fabric headboard of a bed? i want to do just basic outlines and not paint over it completely. just an outline of a moroccan print. thanks.

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