FABRIC SURFACE DESIGN TECHNIQUES
If even the mention of creating art gives you shivers up and down your spine because you think that you are not an “artist” and “can’t even draw a straight line,” then creating art using fabric surface design techniques may be for you. It is even possible that these techniques will give you the wings to set your inner artist free.
Variety of Techniques for Surface Design
Fabric surface design encompasses a wide variety of techniques for altering the surface of fabric, whether it is cotton, silk, wool or a synthetic fabric. There is something for everything and everyone. Altered fabric surfaces can be accomplished by any of the following techniques, either individually or in combinations:
- stitching, either by machine or hand
- painting on fabric
- dyeing fabric
- printing on fabric
- using heat transfer paints or crayons
- adding color, pattern and design with paint sticks
- removing the color from already dyed fabrics with a decolourant
- layering different types of fabrics, as in a fabric collage
- burning an image into the fabric to create a design or to reveal the layers underneath
- rusting fabric
- using various transfer mediums and transfer papers to transfer an image to fabric
- digitally printing on fabric
- felting onto a surface
- using a resist such as beeswax, soy wax or a water-based resist to separate colors and to create a design
- embellishing with beads, crystals, buttons, charms, fibers and other found objects
This is a just a tiny glimpse into the world of fabric surface design and all of its possibilities – a little teaser of things to come as we explore this exciting world.
Painting on Fabric
For today, let’s just explore some of the options that you have if you decide you would like to create a piece of fabric art by painting on fabric. Painting on fabric is one of the easiest and fastest ways to alter the surface of fabric. There are so many ways to apply the paint that you don’t need to be able to draw the proverbial “straight line.” Chances are you already have some of the paints that can be used on fabric, such as specially manufactured fabric paints, acrylic paints, puff paints and other dimensional paints, silk paints and heat transfer paints, to name just a few.
The paints come in a variety of finishes:
Sometimes the acrylic paints will “change the hand” of the fabric, i.e., make it stiff. If this is an issue, there are fabric mediums that can be added to the paints to help retain the “hand” of the fabric.
For right now, you don’t have to go out and buy any special fabrics. If you have fabrics such as a tightly- woven quality cotton, silk or even a synthetic fabric, they will work. If you are not using fabrics that are specially manufactured without any finishes (i.e., already prepared for dyeing), then it is best to pre-wash and iron the fabric.
When you are deciding on the color of the paint you are going to use, you need to take into consideration whether you will be painting on fabric that is a solid color, white, black, or maybe even an already printed commercial fabric. You want to use a color that will show up against the background.
Methods for Applying Paint to Fabric
The various ways of painting on fabric is another whole discussion. Some possibilities, just to name a few are:
- paint it on with a brush to cover a portion of the surface, or maybe even the entire surface
- apply it to a rubber or carved wood stamp with a sponge and then stamp the fabric
- draw designs with fabric markers
- make a mono print
- stencil an image, using either a commercial one or one that you have made
- silk screen the image
- apply it with a brayer
- apply it with a sponge
- apply it with a credit card or other found object to create a design
When you are creating art on fabric, you are telling a story, regardless of the fabric surface design techniques or products being used. The techniques and mediums you use should enhance that story for your fabric art to be successful. Don’t worry too much now about how to do it right. Just get out there and do it! It’s your story.
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