Surface Design Techniques with Fabric Paint

You can transform any type of material with fabric paint to create your own custom patterns, prints & designs. The best fabric paint to use for marbling fabric is marbling fabric paint (the kind you would find in a kit). Other paints can be diluted to use as well, but it can be difficult to get the mixture right, especially if you are just starting out. Regular acrylic or craft paint can be used on fabric, however, the fabric will be stiff and not very comfortable to wear. The best fabric paints for adding paint directly to your fabric would be something like Jacquard Lumiere Fabric Paints. These are acrylic paints but made for fabric. To marble fabric, all you need is a fabric marbling kit and a few basic supplies which include items you probably already have at home!


Marble Painting Basics

Before you begin creating your marble fabric designs, you’ll first need to treat the fabric with a mordant. This will allow the fabric paint to permanently adhere to the fabric. (If you have a fabric marbling kit, everything should be included for you as well as the instructions. If you purchase the items separately, you’ll need to get alum for this step.) First, dissolve 4 tablespoons of alum in one gallon of warm water. Submerge the fabric into the alum solution and soak for 20 minutes. Wring out and line dry. Then, iron the fabric on a low heat setting.

Then, you’ll need to prepare the marbling base, or “size.” Using a whisk or blender, add 2 tablespoons of carrageenan to one gallon of warm water. Blend for 10 minutes or until the clumps of carrageenan have dissolved into the water. If blending with a whisk, sometimes it’s best to just leave the carrageenan to dissolve on its own if some clumps remain.

Once dissolved, fill your tray with the carrageenan, at least 1” deep. Skim off any film, bubbles or dust from the surface with newspaper or paper towel. Begin by squeezing drops of marbling paint out of the squeeze bottles onto the surface of the size. Drop the paint as close to the surface as possible to prevent the drops from breaking the surface and falling to the bottom of the size. You should see the paint spreading across the surface in circles. Try adding colors on top of colors to get concentric circles or bullseye type patterns. You can also apply paint splatters by dipping the tip of a brush into the paint and splattering it across the surface. This will break up the paint circles of the previous layers.

Next, drag a thin tool such as a stylus, skewer or awl through the paint up and down from the left side of the tray to the right. This will create a nice, feathered pattern. Once you are satisfied with your design, hold the fabric on both ends and drop it onto the surface of the size, starting from the middle and gently placing it down. You may need to gently press the fabric down to pick up all of the paint. Then, lift the fabric from one end, pulling it up and off of the surface in one motion. Let the size drip off a bit, then run the fabric under cold water to wash off the carrageenan. Gently squeeze the excess water out and then hang or lay flat to dry. Remember to skim the surface of the size with newspaper or paper towel to remove any lingering paint before beginning a new design.

Other Marbled Fabric Designs

Experiment with different color combinations to get the look you want. Remember that the last color you use is most likely going to be your most dominant color. You can also mix the colors in the kit to get different colors. White can be added to any color to create pastels. You can also get orange by mixing red and yellow and another shade of purple by mixing blue and red that is different from the purple in the kit.

Try splattering the paint onto the surface by dipping a paint brush and splatter painting onto the surface of the size. You can also leave the pattern as is and take a print without using the tools. This will give you a more abstract painted look.

Create a few concentric circles with the paint droppers in the marbling kit. Then, take a comb and drag just the tip of the teeth of the comb through the paint (if you go too deep, you won’t get an intricate pattern. The finer the teeth of the comb, the more intricate the design).

Begin with concentric circles again. Play with the stylus or skewer by swirling some of the concentric circles outward, letting the paint swirl around. The more you mix, the more intricate your design becomes. The less you mix, the more you’ll notice bigger chunks of color.

For a more simple pattern, drag the stylus or skewer up and down the entire surface from left to right (like the first step of the first design). Each time you create a new design, change the color combinations a bit to vary the patterns.

Adding Fabric Paint to Your Marble Painting

To enhance your marbled fabric, or to add a little more interest to a “not-so-favorite” design, try adding the Lumiere Fabric Paints in splatters and splashes with a paint brush. This technique is simple, yet adds an interesting layer to the marbled fabric design. Simply dip a paint brush into the fabric paint and flick it onto the surface of the fabric (be sure it’s dry at this point).

You can add several colors this way, no need to wait for colors to dry in between application. To get smaller splatters, dip the brush in paint and then take another dry brush and tap the brushes together. You can also dip an old toothbrush in the paint and use your thumb to flick small splatters onto the fabric. This step can be particularly unpredictable and messy, so be sure that you are wearing something that can get paint on it and protect your surface with newspaper as well. After all the paint has dried for at least 24 hours, you can heat set the paint by ironing. Then hand wash with cold water or machine wash on gentle/delicates cycle.

Now what can you do with these beautiful painted fabric pieces once you’re done? You can cut them into smaller pieces to sew into a quilt. You can use them to create patches on clothing, purses, pillows, etc. You can sew them into little flag shapes and create a banner to decorate your home.

Or sew them into little pouches and fill them with dried flowers and a few drops of essential oils to create sachets. The possibilities are endless! These techniques work great on any type of fabric. Try them on shoes, scarves, baby onesies, tea towels, etc. To marble larger items, just use a tray that is larger than the item that you want to marble.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to marble fabric and that you are inspired to try fabric paint on your own projects!

Tools & Materials