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  1. Member Since
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    Jul 24, 2012, 8:53 PM - Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #1

    Hi RPF,

    I think this is something that affects a lot of us, both old hands and new costumers, what with our superhero fascination: How do you properly fabric paint on stretch fabrics?

    I'd like to get some answers for my own project, and get a good resource here on the site to help future projects.

    My current concern:

    I'm kicking off a new project, and I'd like some expert advice. Essentially, I'm looking to paint on stretch fabric (Nylon, Polyester, Spandex blend), and the issue is I need to prevent ruining the stretch and compression of the spandex. I don't want it to turn baggy anywhere. What is the best fabric paint to paint a large area of this fabric? Keep in mind, heat treating could be disastrous.


    Where I'm at with my planning:

    My plans are to use discontinuous sections of color, so that there's a network of unpainted, fully-stretchy material running throughout the costume. I'm also looking into ways to do a very fine stencil within the colored sections, for the same reason. I'm also likely going to sponge on the paint, with a light base followed by a bright color. I've made a duct-tape dummy of myself to paint on to try to minimize tension issues.

    I hope we get some good discussion and details going in here, and I look forward to any support The RPF can send my way. I also really look forward to showing off the project when I get moving.
  2. milk_man's Avatar
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    Jul 24, 2012, 9:29 PM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #2

    I look forward to this thread. Im working on a spiderman costume that will requite a lot of "puffy paint" but im also looking for ways to paint the basic fabric itself, not just hexagon and webs over top it.
  3. Member Since
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    Jul 24, 2012, 9:38 PM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #3

    And, I guess I should mention: my project is the inverse of that. I'm making a comic-style Spidey suit, painting the base suit, but the webs and (if I can figure out how to block it for stenciling) the hexagon borders will be left blank. They'll hopefully be a source of surplus stretch and compression.
  4. Member Since
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    Jul 24, 2012, 9:47 PM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #4

    Ok, I'll preface this by saying that this is totally off the top of my head and I have never attempted this. I would suggest a stenciled design on the stretch fabric, but only stretched as much as is reasonable expected while wearing it. You don't want to stretch it to capacity, only as far as it will need to stretch when wearing. Then, in order to avoid puckering or splitting or "stretch marks", use an airbrush paint or the t-shirt paint that already comes in a can. Do several test swatches at first, with increasing thin layers of paint. With each swatch, test stretch it when it is dry. Make more and more test swatches until you reach the desired color without reaching the point where the build up of paint causes the stretch marks. If you paint it while it is slightly stretched, it should get the paint deep into the fibers so you don't have a gaping of color when stretched.
  5. Aeronnz's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 2:02 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #5

    I say either folkart or testors paint would be a good option for paint. They stretch pretty easily, and they aren't too expensive...
  6. BornKilr's Avatar
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    North Carolina
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    Jul 25, 2012, 10:27 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #6

    Back when I was airbrushing a lot, (early 90's) there was a company called Aqua Flow that was pretty much the industry standard for fabric airbrush paints. Check and see if they are still around. Otherwise, I know Createx makes good fabric paints also.
  7. Temperance's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 10:55 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #7

    I paint lots of spandex lycra bodysuits for Cats musical costumes.... here's some things to consider:

    Spandex lycra and other stretchy unitards are synthetic fibres, so they cannot be dyed with conventional dyes and paints.... the paint will not absorb into the fibers, mearly sit on TOP of the material... thus they can rub or fade with time and washings.

    Most theatrical productions of Cats use Acid dyes... these are the only permanent ways to dye spandex lycra. Acid dyes however are expensive and complicated to work with, so most fans have found alternative paints which work well....

    Here are some good fabric paints to work with: Setacolor, Jaquards, createx airbrush paint. The can be thinned with water as needed, and are easy to work with with brushes sponges and airbrushes. I do NOT recommend Tulip fabric paints. They are VERY thick and come out really glossy. They will not let the unitard stretch as it used it, and will leave anywhere you paint hard and unyeilding.

    I like to use my own unitard pattern, so I will stretch the flattened pattern on a sheet of cardboard or other flat surface and paint flat. Once complete, I will sew the unitard together. If you do not want to sew your own unitard or want to buy a commercial unitard, it's easiest to paint on a mannequin.

    Once you finish painting, all of the above paints I listed require heat setting. Turn the costume INSIDE OUT and pass the iron over once or twice on the LOWEST heat setting. Heat ruins spandex lycra.... heat can destroy or melt the elastic fibers and weaken the material. You need to heatset, but any prolonged heating will ruin your garment, so one or two quick passes with the iron is all you need.

    Hope that helps!
  8. Freya Willia's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 10:59 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #8

    Assuming that you're not going to invest in an airbrush kit, I would try these:

    Printing inks are always soft, stable, and if you scroll down this page you will see they have a "no heat fixative" you can mix if you don't want to heat bond it:

    Versatex Printing Ink

    other options:

    Paints and Dye To Use On Synthetic Fabrics

    Some silk paints will work on nylon spandex, but test it out. Those are also probably like dyes and might only be good for large areas/spraying.
  9. Member Since
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    Jul 25, 2012, 6:24 PM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #9

    This has been a lot of really great advice so far. Temperance, thanks for the infobomb, and Freya that no-heat fixative could really error proof this project.

    This Saturday I'm going to try to pick up some swatches of the same material, then do some experiments and trials with paint and stretchability. I'll do my best to document everything and post back here.
  10. ObiWannabe's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 11:58 PM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #10

    I definitely second the Jacquard paints. They're acrylic-based fabric paints, so they can be watered down to thin them and make them easier to apply in larger swaths. I managed to get almost a watercolor blending effect using four different Jacquard paints and a cup of good ol' tap water on a pair of tights for an Ocean-themed costume. The trick is to have someone (your duct tape dummy will do) wear the piece while it's being painted so that it's stretched to the same degree as it will be when the finished product is being worn. Temperance has the best heat-setting tricks, that's good advice too.
  11. RPF Premium Member Looch's Avatar
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    vancouver, BC, Canada
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    Jul 26, 2012, 12:14 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #11

    Of course, you could also have the patterns sublimated-a process whereby the print is infused into the fibres itself,as opposed to having themselves simply painted on to the surface
  12. Member Since
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    Jul 26, 2012, 6:48 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #12

    That's true, Looch, Dye Sublimation is an alternative, but that process isn't something I can do myself. And personally, if I'm just paying some place to do it for me, then, in my mind, I may as well just buy a completed costume from someone else.

    That, and there are lots of circumstances where people specifically want to paint onto the suit, and there's a lot of spit-balling on the subject across the internet, but so far in this thread we've had several people say "I have experience, this is how I did it, this is what you need to know". And I think that's the real purpose of this thread: to have somewhere specific that can be pointed to when someone new asks the question. Somewhere that has good solid information to get them on their way.
  13. milk_man's Avatar
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    Jul 26, 2012, 12:23 PM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #13

    Ive been doing some testing myself on the most basic things you can find. Ive found smearing regular paint/fabric paint ends up warping the cloth far too much than I would like, then dries hard.

    Ive since looked into sharpies. Surprisingly enough the ink stays very well on most fabrics, causes no change in the shape and the color isnt terrible. Totaly depends on what youre looking for.
  14. Member Since
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    Jul 26, 2012, 8:40 PM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #14

    What kind do you mean by "regular paint/fabric paint"? Like, Tulip? Basic craft acrylics?

    And unfortunately, I'll be working on black fabric, so I've gotta come up with covering paint. But yeah, for some applications I can totally see Sharpies working.

    Edit: going to try to find some printing ink in my area.
  15. milk_man's Avatar
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    Jul 29, 2012, 9:18 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #15

    My attempts were with Tulip puffy and smooth fabric paints. They work great for stuff like spidermans webs which are just small strings of paint, but smearing it to cover up color results in bad things.
  16. Bill Clar's Avatar
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    Dec 8, 2012, 11:38 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #16

    I did a search and this is the closest thread I could find. I hope the resurrection is okay.

    I've been using Tulip Puffy paint on my spiderman costume for the past two months. I've noticed that the puff paint isn't truly dry. It's sticky and tacky, even six weeks after it was painted.

    I cannot fold the painted sections onto themselves or let them touch lest they stick together. I fear if they stick together for too long it may be impossible to safely separate them.

    Has anyone else had this problem with Tulip Puffy paint?
  17. jasonsshin's Avatar
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    Dec 10, 2012, 1:48 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #17

    have the same problem. anyone have solutions?
  18. Member Since
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    Dec 10, 2012, 3:35 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #18

    I know nothing about these paints however if I want a tacky surface to be more stable I usually apply a little baby powder and wipe it away gently. That is if you don't mind smelling fresh for a day or two.
    If someone wants to try it and see if it works on a test area i would be curious whether or not it works.
  19. Bill Clar's Avatar
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    Dec 10, 2012, 7:40 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #19

    Spydwar said: View Post
    I know nothing about these paints however if I want a tacky surface to be more stable I usually apply a little baby powder and wipe it away gently. That is if you don't mind smelling fresh for a day or two.
    If someone wants to try it and see if it works on a test area i would be curious whether or not it works.
    That could work but I fear that it will remove the glossiness of the paint. Still, I have some extra fabric lying around so I'll give it a try.
  20. Shylaah's Avatar
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    Dec 10, 2012, 10:38 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #20

    The Tulip Puffy paint is intended to be heat set to make it "puff up" and be more dimensional. Like you do with embossing inks, applying heat makes them "do their thing". So the Tulip Puffy paint will never "dry", it must be made to "set" with heat, which will make it expand.

    Tulip makes other Dimensional paints, the Tulip Slick is dimensional and shiny and dries to a plasitic-y feel. It also dries rigid and lines will snap apart if it is stretched very much. These types of paints are marketed mainly for fabric art, not really for garments to be worn, though they were used a lot for embellishing t-shirts, collars, and folk art clothing in the gawd-awful 90s ......those techniques mainly used woven fabrics applied to other woven fabrics or t-shirts and didn't involve all that stretching that superhero and villain costumes today require.

    No paint is going to work very well on spandex for the reasons Temperance mentions. Even paints marketed as fabric paints are meant only to embellish, outline and highlight. They are not intended for painting large continuous areas. That's why they come in the little "writing tip" bottles, so you can draw and outline around elements of a design.

    Shylaah


    Bill Clar said: View Post
    I did a search and this is the closest thread I could find. I hope the resurrection is okay.

    I've been using Tulip Puffy paint on my spiderman costume for the past two months. I've noticed that the puff paint isn't truly dry. It's sticky and tacky, even six weeks after it was painted.

    I cannot fold the painted sections onto themselves or let them touch lest they stick together. I fear if they stick together for too long it may be impossible to safely separate them.

    Has anyone else had this problem with Tulip Puffy paint?
  21. Member Since
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    Boston, MA
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    Dec 10, 2012, 11:58 AM - Re: Fabric Painting on Stretch Materials #21

    I haven't used the puffy style only the basic Tulip brand fabric paints as well as a type of fabric paint that resembled colored Elmer's glue. Both left the fabric baggy but only a little. Have you considered turning the fabric paint into a dye?
    Is it possible to make a fabric dye out of acrylic paint? - Yahoo! Answers
    For detail work you might be able to make your own "sharpie" out of the new dye and an empty writing tip fabric paint bottle.
    Liquitex makes a fabric medium for acrylic paint that it says does not need to be heat set. Although you can just to be on the safe side. It's available at local art stores. I picked mine up at Michael's.

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