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Fabric Paint vs Acrylic Paint: Which One is Best for Your Job?

Painters, craft lovers, and ​anyone who works with colors and dyes all have at least a somewhat basic knowledge ​of colors, and some more than others. Paints are so common in our crafting and making culture that they’re almost everywhere.

But, what types of paints are the best and most appropriate for our specific situations? Does it even matter? If we’re trying to style or design clothes and fabric, should we be using paint designed specifically for fabric, or is acrylic paint just fine?

In the fabric paint vs acrylic paint debate, what should we be paying attention to so that we can make the right decisions for our projects?

It’s usually when someone begins exploring a new hobby, such as painting, or when a crafter wants to paint their own t-shirt, jacket, or shoes​ that the question arises: which type of paint would be best to use?

You have to consider the purpose for which you’ll be needing the paint and how ​fabric paint vs acrylic paint differs from each other. Only then will you be able to choose the right paint, the one that’s best suited to your specific needs.

In this fabric paint vs. acrylic paint guide, we’ll discuss how fabric paint is different from acrylic paint and also how they’re similar.

Considerations in the Fabric Paint ​vs Acrylic Paint Comparison

The two ​types of paint differ from each other in some ways. They are given below.

Composition of your design

Fabric paint is composed of regular dye, used for dying clothes, mixed with an adhesive agent, due to which the paint adheres to the fabric more tightly.

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, has no such agent. It is made by the infusion of acrylic compounds and water, making the paint water-soluble. It is, therefore, loosely adherent to the fabric.

How your piece will be used

Since they have a different composition, their applications are somewhat different as well. Fabric paint, having an adhesive agent, is absorbed completely once they are applied to the fabric.

But their application is limited to natural materials, such as cotton, silk, wool. The paint cannot be used to dye synthetic fibers.

Fabric paint is mostly used to paint t-shirts, bed sheets, curtains, and things that are our essentials. As they are completely absorbed, the clothes remain soft and are comfortable to use after they have dried.

Acrylic paint can be used on both natural and synthetic items of clothing, but it is usually advised not to paint the essential items with them. This is because this paint is heavier than fabric paint and is not absorbed by the fabric, rather the paint dries on the surface.

As a result, the clothes are left stiff due to the dried paint. This will make a t-shirt uncomfortable to wear. Moreover, when the clothes are folded, the brittle paint on the surface cracks and the design lasts for a short time.

For these reasons, it is best to apply acrylic paint to canvas, wooden tables and chairs, and other items of the household decor.

Ease of Use 

Fabric paint, being lightweight, is easier to apply and paint, and due to the fact that it has to be kept under a heat source for some time to dry, you can wash the paint off if you make some mistake in the design.

Acrylic paint does not give you that advantage. It has the ability to dry almost as quickly as it is applied on the cloth or canvas and so cannot be washed off. You have to be very careful while painting with this so as to not make any mistakes.

Moreover, this paint is heavier than fabric paint, hence more difficult to work with. However, this paint will make the design look outstanding with vibrant colors, making the hassle worth it.

Paint Durability 

Both the paints are extremely long-lasting if they are protected from external insults. Even so, nothing lasts forever.

Though the fabric paint is completely absorbed into the fabric and waterproof, it is prone to losing its vibrancy after repeated washing. However, there is no damage to the design.

Acrylic paint, even though waterproof and dries almost instantly, will start to come off after a few times of washing. As the fabric is folded and bent while washing, cracks appear in the paint, which will be lost, ultimately damaging the design.

You have to use other solvents in the water to make the paint adhere more strongly to the fabric.

This will somewhat prevent such damages. When washing clothes painted with fabric paint, you will not need any extra solvent to protect your clothes. You can wash them as you have always done in the machine or manually.

Similarities between fabric paint and acrylic paint

So far, we discussed how the two paints differ from each other. Now, let us look at how they are similar to each other.

Both fabric paint and acrylic paint can be used to create masterpieces, both add to the liveliness of the art in their own way.

They both can be used to design fabrics. Some may think that acrylic paint is only for the canvas, whereas it can be used to paint both synthetic and natural fabric. The two paints are also long-lasting and water-resistant.

​The Fabric Paint vs Acrylic Paint Conclusion

Now that you know how fabric paint compares to acrylic paint and their uses, you can have a general idea of which paint to use on which project.

Consider what you will be doing with the painted object and the level of comfort you want from it as a general guide. If you’re painting your bed sheet, pillowcases, items of clothing, or curtains, then go with fabric paint.

Whereas, if you’re painting household furniture, a canvas, a synthetic fabric, handbags, etcetera, then it is safe to choose acrylic paint for your next project.

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