How to Make Hand Painted Garments: Decorate and Customize Your Clothes

With numerous colours and brands of fabric available, It is possible to channel your imagination and skill into handpainting individual garments.

The choice of clothes we wear can often express our personalities with the selection of colour and design. Many design application techniques can help make our clothes more personally expressive. The following instructions can be used with success to transform simple frocks, T-shirts and other garments into personalised outfits. A mixture of cotton and polyester fabric gives the best results.

Create Interesting Patterns

Perhaps you don’t feel confident to draw your design; don’t despair, as there are books available which allow the craftsperson to use the designs without infringing on copyright. An alternative is to use a ready-made stencil, which can be purchased from craft suppliers. With some imagination you can create interesting patterns from one or two leaves and use a toothbrush to spatter paint on for effect.

The ideas are endless once you allow yourself to be openminded and keep simplicity as the key when applying your design. It is advisable to choose one brand of colours so they can be intermixed; the choice is your prerogative to include extras such as gold, silver and glitter paint. A necessary addition is a reducer, which is used to soften colours and a retardant for easy flow of paint.


  • Hog hair brush No 6
  • 1/2″ square shader brush
  • A fine sable brush
  • Pastel pencil
  • Paper towels
  • A firm piece of card
  • Palette, a plastic lid or plate
  • A wooden spatula (metal can have adverse reation on some fabric paints)

Set all your equipment out on a table .


  1. The retarder can be poured into a small container and the reducer placed on the palette. Colours can be either placed on the palette for intermixing or used straight from the tube.
  2. The pastel pencil is used to sketch a design, after placing the firm card inside the garment.
  3. With the hog hair brush, begin from the top of the garment, blocking in the design with appropriate colours, using the retarder and reducer when necessary. White can be mixed with colours if pastel tones are required and for highlights in certain areas. Adding white also produces an opaque sold colour while the reducer renders it transparent. Fine details can be introduced with the sable brush.
  4. The painted area must be dry before applying silver, gold or glitter paints. A hairdryer is ideal to speed the drying process. The square shader brush is used for broad strokes and coverage.
  5. Allow the garment to dry for some hours, place a clean cloth over the back of the fabric and with a medium/ hot iron press for at least 20 minutes, this heat-seals the paint, giving it permanency. Some pigments stand in relief of the fabric when heat is applied with the iron.
  6. Always treat the garment as delicate when washing and iron on the reversed side.
  7. Wear your hand-painted garment with pride and knowledge that it is a one-off fashion statement.