How To Paint On Fabric With Stencils

How To Paint On Fabric With Stencils

Stencils, stencils, stencils! 

If this is your first time joining us, we will let you in on a little secret… we LOVE stenciling! We have shared the pros and cons of reusable stencils vs. one time use, we have showcased some of our favorite religious and mother themed stencils but we haven’t touched on the how to stencil. And while we could talk anyone’s ear off when it comes to stenciling, today we want to share with you the best way to paint and stencil on fabric! And whether you have stenciled on fabric before or are a first timer- don’t fret! It is much easier than you think and can be mastered by anyone. 


What Kind of Paint Do I Use?

First things first, you need to know what kind of supplies will be best for this kind of project. While we have our own opinions on the best stencils to use, (hint hint - check them out here) we want to help you find the paint that is best for you, your technique and your project. 

While we don’t sponsor any brand in particular, our advice would be to choose a brand that you know and trust, and that prioritizes quality over cost. Unfortunately, the dollar paints will usually prove the saying “you get what you pay for” true. Here are some ideas of kinds of paints that will work for painting on fabric:

  • Fabric Paint- an obvious choice, but it can be a little more expensive.
  • Acrylic Paint - you are more likely to already have this on hand, and it works surprisingly well. Tip: If you mix in a liquid called "Fabric Medium" it will change any acrylic paint into "fabric paint" . Mix 2 parts paint with 2 part fabric medium.  Heat set as per directions after stenciling.
  • Fabric Ink 
  • Mineral Paint 

Once you have picked your paint, you will grab your stencil, your material and your choice of brush/roller/sponge and get ready to paint! 

What Kind of Fabric Should I use?

While we don’t want to limit your fabric selection, here are a few fabrics that we find work great with acrylic and fabric paint. 

  • Cotton
  • Rayons
  • Silk 
  • Linen
  • Hemp 

The tighter the fabric is woven, the better suited it is for painting! We recommend trying it out on a small sample of your fabric before going for gold with the full painting. Ironing your fabric beforehand and taping the fabric to a hard surface will also help you to keep your project sturdy.

Important TIP:  If you intend on ever washing the fabric (such as tshirts, cushions, etc); be sure to pre-wash it before stenciling; and heat setting it after stenciling. This will help the paint to adhere well and be more permanent.   

Painted pillow


Where Do I Start?

Now that you have your supplies, it is time to get to stenciling. Make sure you have a flat surface, and envision what are you wanting to cover with your paint. If it is smaller, choose your brush accordingly. The amount of stenciling and painting that is happening will largely determine how much time it takes as well. 

Tip: If you're wanting to stencil on a tshirt or item that has layers of fabric; put a piece of cardboard in between the layers so that your paint doesn't soak thru the top layer. Try a little practice on a piece of your fabric or paper before taking a brush to your project’s fabric. This will help you feel comfortable and get a taste of what painting on fabric will be like.

When you are finished; be sure to 'heat set' the item when it's completely dry.  Follow the heat set instructions on the paint bottle; typically this involves ironing (with a protective cloth overtop) or on heat setting in the dryer. 

How Do I Avoid Bleeding? 

Now it is time to create! Line up your stencil (using adhesive or tape as needed) and dip your brush/sponge. We would be crazy to not mention our WallCutz motto- Offload, Offload, Offload! You want to use small amounts of paint to avoid bleeding and dripping of paint. Find what brush strokes work for you, but we suggest using dabbing motions up and down instead of stroking the brush across.

Why Stencil on Fabric?

As crafters, we often have a vision in our head of exactly what we want! While you could search and search for your perfect fabric, you could also make it. With an endless array of stencils and any color fabric you can think of, you can make unique, one of a kind combinations for any project that you have lined up. While stenciling on fabric might sound intimidating, it is easy to learn and gives you control over every detail that you choose. While some kinds of paints may require a sealant to lock it in once it dries, that is something you can play around with and see if your project needs! 


Farmer's market painted bag

Give it a try!

Now that we have walked you through it, it’s time for you to give it a try! Don’t let the fear of bleeding or trying something new stop you. Give it a little practice, then let your creative juices flow. If you are a visual learner and would like a little more guidance in addition to this blog, check out this WallCutz video that perfectly illustrates how to stencil on fabric.



Once you are ready, head on over to and grab a stencil from our endless collections to try!

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  • Evangeline Rodriguez - June 22, 2021

    Thank you for continuing to educate us. I really enjoy it 😀

  • Tammy Keck - June 22, 2021
    I have stenciled on a garden flag. I used acrylic outdoor paint that I found. It has lasted out in the sun and weather just fine. Also I have stenciled on make-up bags/multipurpose bags. Love how it all turns out on fabrics! Can’t wait to do more! Need to try some pillows.
  • Janice Scott - June 21, 2021

    I have stenciled on baby onesies and kitchen towels. So many possibilities!!

  • Tina M Hall - June 16, 2021
    I have not tried stenciling on fabric but I can see the possibilities! I love love love the tote bag with the red truck!
  • Laurie - June 15, 2021
    I have stenciled on a pillow case and can’t wait to do another!
  • Sandie Stodola - June 15, 2021
    Can’t wait to try stenciling on a shirt.
  • Rhonda jenkins - June 15, 2021
    Love to stencil on t shirts, canvas tote bags, burlap works good also i just use my acrylics paints mixed with a bit of fabric medium place cardboard underneath surface so it doesn’t bleed through i usually let dry over night and heat set with parchment paper and a dry iron keep iron moving over your design for a few minutes works great no worries it will fade from washing
  • carrie anderson - June 15, 2021
    Love your blog with ideas. Have never tried stenciling on fabric. Might have to give it a try!

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