Suggested method for

“Sun Effect”

Fabric Painting


You wet the fabric, apply the paints and then put items onto the painted fabric to block out the sun.  Leave the fabric to dry and you will find that where there has been a masking item, the paint will be lighter.


You will need:

Ù     Pebeo Setacolor Transparent Paints (these are sold in the store – click on the “shopping” link)

Ù     Cups for mixing paints with a little water

Ù     Sponge brushes

Ù     A spray bottle with water (optional – you could use the tap!)

Ù     Items to mask out light – use plastic (or card, but it will get wet) cut outs, leaves and other items from nature, pasta, anything you can find that will sit flat and wont break down from the water/paint

Ù     Iron or oven for setting the paint

Ù     Fabric for painting on – cotton, cotton/hemp blend or similar – not synthetic, and smoother fabrics work better

Note – if you’re painting on a ready sewn item such as a t-shirt, the paints will go through, so you’ll need to put a thick wad of newspaper or some cardboard between the fabric layers.

Optional – rock salt – for achieving paint effect



1)     Prewash the fabric to remove any sizing.

2)     Mix a little of the paint with water in a cup.  You can dilute it more or less depending on how bright you want the colour to end up, but if you go too light the masked areas wont show up.  Dilute at least 1 part paint to 2 parts water.

3)     Wet the fabric – use a spray bottle of water, a sponge brush dipped in water, or run it under the tap, but it should be damp all over rather than dripping.

4)     Spread it out flat onto a surface that can get paint on it.  I use an outside table covered in a plastic sheet.

5)     Before the fabric dries, use the sponge brushes to cover it with the diluted paint.  To get nice merging of colours, I sometimes spray a little extra water.  It isn’t usually necessary though if your fabric is wet enough.

1)     Before the paint has a chance to dry, spread your items for masking out on it.  A nice easy one to start with is leaves or ferns as they’re easy to find and turn out great.  You may like to sprinkle some rock salt in some areas – the salt draws the colour away.  If you want small spots of lighter colour, rice works well for masking.

2)     Leave to dry.  On a sunny day this can take as little as an hour.

3)     Remove the masking items and heat set your fabric.  You can iron the fabric on the wrong side for 5 minutes at cotton setting, or put it in the oven at 150 deg C for 5 minutes (making sure the oven is at this temperature for the whole 5 minutes).  I worry that it wont have set properly in the oven, but don’t want to iron lots of pieces of fabric for 5 minutes each, so I put it in the oven for 5 minutes, then give each item an iron for just a minute or two to be sure.  It is crumpled enough to need an iron anyway!

4)     After heat setting the fabric should be fine for washing at 40 deg C and dry cleaning.


Photo gallery


Hemp/cotton blend jersey, painted with ultramarine, fuchsia and Bengal rose.  Masks were cardboard cutouts of butterflies, flowers and leaves.  Effect in the top area was achieved by sprinkling wet painted fabric with rock salt.  After drying and heat setting, fabric was sewn into a very simple skirt.


These were painted by my children – 2 and 4 years old.  I supervised, but only guiding them in the method rather than interfering with the painting and masking.  Squares of inexpensive calico were painted using various combinations of ultramarine, lemon yellow, light green and Bengal rose.  They were masked using leaves or paper cut outs.  After the fabric dried and was heat set, I sewed the squares into very simple cushions.  Its nice for kids to see items they’ve created (besides the sewing) displayed and even better, being used.