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How to Heat Set Acrylic Paint on Fabric

how to heat set acrylic paint on fabric

Fabric painting has been a popular and creative way to customize clothes whether it is for personal use or as a unique present for a loved one. The possibilities for painting designs are endless; you can play with colors and illustrations as you unleash your creativity and skills.

With that said, acrylic paint is one of the ideal art media for this type of project. You can paint on your fabric, let it completely dry, and you are all good! However, many artists and hobbyists recommend to heat set acrylic paint, allowing it to adhere to the fabric permanently.

The next question lies in how to heat set acrylic paint on fabric. Lucky you, this in-depth guide will walk you through the easy ways to do it!

Is It Really Necessary to Heat Set Acrylic Paint in Fabric?

It is actually not necessary. However, heat setting acrylic paint on fabric is highly recommended for maximum paint adhesion, durability, and color lightfastness. Just keep in mind that it is imperative to use proper tools and adjust the heat settings according to the ideal heat level for every type of fabric.

IMPORTANT TIP: Before you proceed with heat setting, make sure that the acrylic paint is COMPLETELY DRY. Do not heat set it right after painting the fabric. You should let it dry completely for 24 to 72 hours before you heat set the acrylic paint.

How to Heat Set Acrylic Paint in Fabric:

There are different ways to heat set the acrylic paint design safely on your desired fabric type. Consider the following methods.

1st Method: Use a Clothing Iron

use a clothing iron

A clothing iron is no doubt the best way to heat set acrylic paint on any type of fabric. Besides the ease of use, it has adjustable heat settings to iron every type of fabric easily and safely.

Things You Will Need:

  • A clothing iron
  • Paper towel or parchment paper (you can also use wax paper or a clean thin cloth)

Step-by-step Instructions:

  1. After 24 to 72 hours, check if the acrylic paint is completely dry. If it is, put the fabric on a flat surface or an ironing board.
  2. Place a piece of paper towel or parchment paper over the fabric. Make sure that it fully covers the acrylic paint design. Doing so will protect the paint as well as the iron from any paint transfers or stains.
  3. Set the heat level of the iron according to the type of fabric. Make sure you turn off the steam setting. If the heat settings are not available and you are not sure about the correct temperature, start with the lowest setting then gradually increase the heat level as you iron. This prevents any damage to the fabric and acrylic paint.
  4. Let the iron glide slowly over the painted fabric. You can press it on the painted design for 20 to 30 seconds. Move the iron on all sides to avoid burning the fabric.
  5. Take the shirt inside out. At this point, you will be ironing the backside of the paint or the inside part of the shirt.
  6. To prevent any paint stains and transfers, place a paper towel or parchment paper between the painted fabric and the other side of the shirt. Start ironing the backside.
  7. Let it cool before wearing it.

2nd Method: Let It Run in a Tumble Dryer

If you are thinking of another method how to heat set fabric paint without an iron, a tumble dryer is one way to go.

Things You Will Need:

  • A tumble dryer or a clothes dryer

Step-by-step Instructions:

  1. Put the painted fabric inside a tumble dryer.
  2. Let it run for 30 minutes to 1 hour. It is also better to check the recommended hot dryer settings for the type of fabric used.
  3. Allow it to cool completely.

3rd Method: Use a Heat Press

use a heat press

A heat press is a larger version of a clothes iron. As the name suggests, the fabric should be placed between two metal plates, then pressed down to release the heat on the fabric.

Since it is a larger type of machine, it is a better option for multiple shirts or thicker types of fabric, especially if you are considering how to heat set acrylic paint on denim.

Things You Will Need:

  • A heat press
  • Parchment paper or a clean thin cloth

Step-by-step Instructions:

  1. Always check the manual for instructions when setting the heat for the fabric used. Then, set the time and heat level. Make sure that you use the recommended heat setting, so you won’t scorch the paint and fabric.
  2. Place the parchment paper or thin cloth over the painted part of the fabric. Make sure that it fully covers the acrylic paint design.
  3. Use the machine and press it down for 10 seconds.
  4. Let it cool completely.

4th Method: Try Using a Hairdryer

If you do not have any clothes iron or heat press available, you can also try using a hairdryer to apply heat to your painted fabric.

Things You Will Need:

  • A hairdryer
  • Parchment paper or a clean thin cloth

Step-by-step Instructions:

  1. Place parchment paper or a clean thin cloth over the painted part of the fabric. You may also use wax paper or a piece of paper towel. Then, place heavy objects on each side to keep the paper or cloth steady while hair drying the fabric.
  2. Set the hairdryer at the highest heat setting. Hover over the painted fabric to distribute the heat. Make sure to cover the whole acrylic paint design.
  3. Allow the fabric to cool before wearing it.

Conclusion

Following the steps on how to heat set acrylic paint on fabric is not as difficult as you might think it is. You can choose among clothes iron, a tumbler or clothes dryer, a heat press, or a hairdryer to accomplish this task. With the use of proper tools and correct heat settings, you can set your acrylic paint design on fabric for long-lasting quality, excellent adhesion, and stunning color lightfastness.