Easy Fabric Painting and Resist Technique

Oct 31, 2012

If you're feeling adventurous, and ready to go beyond sewing to explore customizing fabric, you've come to the right place! Surface design is the perfect way to make a sewing project truly unique . . . because what's better than something that's not only made by hand, but made using one-of-a-kind fabric! I came across this Quilting Daily blog and immediately got excited about this simple tutorial by Rose Hughes.  

Fabric painting with crayon resist by Rose Hughes

Time to get out your crayons—the kind kids use, nothing fancy!  As you mark the fabric, the crayons leave traces of wax behind along with the color. The wax then acts as a resist when fabric paints are applied. The crayon color, glitter, or metallic shine remains on the fabric once it is pressed, adding color and sparkle to the overall design. Are you having a "why didn't I think of that" moment?

Here's Rose's tutorial, from the April/May 2012 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine.


  • Crayons (consider ones that are glittery or pearlescent)
  • Fabric that has been prepared for dyeing
  • Paint, water, and mixing containers
  • Sandpaper
  • Wax paper
  • Wide paintbrushes
  • Rubbing plates, carved stamps, and other textures (optional)

1. Choose 4-6 crayons from the same color family. Place your fabric over the sandpaper face up on a firm surface.

2. Using the crayons from your selected color family and pressing firmly, draw lines of varying sizes. Overlap the lines if you like, and fill in some spaces. Keep in mind that the paint you apply later will adhere in the spaces where there is no resist, so leave some areas free of crayon marks.

Surface Design - Layers of Crayon Rubbings
Layers of crayon rubbings

3. Once you are satisfied with your marking and have covered the whole piece of fabric, it is time to add additional interest with paint. Place your fabric on a piece of wax or freezer paper slightly larger than your project.

4. Mix paint for the background of your piece by adding approximately 1 teaspoon of paint to 1/2 cup of water. Stir the mixture thoroughly.

5. Using a wide paintbrush, apply the paint straight across the top and work your way down covering the entire piece of fabric. Allow the piece to dry thoroughly.

6. Add additional layers of paint if you wish, varying the type for more interest. Non-diluted pearl or iridescent fabric paints may be applied on the piece to add additional texture or designs.

7. Once the painted fabric is dry, place it between 2 paper towels, and press with a hot iron to remove any excess wax. Continue pressing to heat set the paint for the time indicated by the paint manufacturer.

That's all there is to it! Once you start using crayons for coloring fabric, you're going to find it hard to stop. In addition to of all the wonderful (addictive) colors, crayons are inexpensive and easy to find. Try drawing, stamping and rubbing with crayons to give your fabric a one-of-a-kind look and feel.

In addition to amazing artists and helpful sewing tips, Quilting Arts magazine is a wonderful resource for a variety of surface design techniques. Some are simple like this one, others more challenging. Either way, if you like surface design, you want this go-to resource as part of your sewing library, so subscribe to Quilting Arts today.

Happy Stitching!

P.S. What surface design technique is your favorite? Please share your tips and suggestions below.

Featured Product

Quilting Arts, April/May 2012: Digital Edition

Availability: In Stock
Price: $7.99

Digital Magazine Single Issue

Indulge your passion for color in the newest issue of Quilting Arts Magazine. Create colorful cloth with stencils, rubbing plates, crayons, dye, and paint. Stitch together bright and bold scraps to make a unique canvas for embellishment, learn the modern quilting technique of perfect quilted circles, and so much more. This issue is overflowing with gorgeous color and creative ideas from cover to cover!


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Jilly23249 wrote
on Oct 31, 2012 5:08 AM

Love the idea!  How do you treat the fabric for dying?  I am thinking that eashing is enough.  Or maybe treat according to the fabric paint label?  Could i use plain old acrylic craft paint?  So many questions!  Thx for any answers!

jjohnsonmpa wrote
on Oct 31, 2012 8:53 AM

I read this article with great interest. I have one question. Once completed, will this fabric be washable, or dry-cleanable, etc.?

McKennaO wrote
on Oct 31, 2012 11:19 AM

Great idea, and I'd like to incorporate this into some overalls I'll be making for my grandchildren. Laundering after the fact was a concern to me, too, so I tried the Plaid (fabric paint) site and found some excellent information on preparing for dyeing and laundering hand-painted fabrics. Just Google "how to launder hand-painted fabrics" and click on the wwwDOTplainonlineDOTcom site this search will generate.

on Oct 31, 2012 2:04 PM

I did a project with 24 first graders last year using this technique.  We colored with crayons and fabric paint markers onto practice fabric squares,  then onto our real quilt squares.  After heat setting with a hot iron (use parchment paper between iron and fabric), I fused the practice squares to washed cotton t shirts,  then turned the quilt squares into a great quilt which was auctioned at the PTA.  Proceed went toward their classroom needs.  The shirts have held up well after repeated washings.

If they do fade a bit, you can always repeat the coloring process.It is all great fun and easy to do with children.


mary@189 wrote
on Nov 1, 2012 12:52 PM

Give me a break this is nothing new.  We did this very same thing in the 5th grade. 50 some odd years ago.

artgirl715 wrote
on Nov 4, 2012 5:05 PM

I love this technique and am surprised that it hasn't been more publicized.  I taught art and we used this technique and got some very professional looking results.  It's a great way to create pillow animals.  Just transfer a simple line drawing of an animal and then color with crayons. I did the back and front of the animal. After coloring, cut out, leaving a margin for sewing the two halves together. I used black dye instead of paint, which created a nice batik effect.  After drying and ironing out the wax, I stitched the two halves together, leaving a space open to stuff the animal. I hand stitched the opening after stuffing.  I used good quality muslin fabric and just washed it good to get out any sizing before using it.  One tip I would like to add is make sure that you color heavily, laying down a lot of color.

AmberStitch wrote
on Nov 5, 2012 10:12 AM

I think  you mean “washing,” not “eashing.”

Quilting Arts Editor Vivika DeNegre has some answers for your questions::

"The artist didn’t dye the fabric, it was painted. However, she used PFD (prepared for dye) fabric. If you don’t have PFD fabric, use a cloth that has been thoroughly washed and rinsed, and use no softeners or sizing when drying or ironing.

The artist used Createx airbrush paint for her project. You can also use diluted acrylic paints on fabric, but they tend to change the hand of the fabric.

I would suggest using this technique on a piece that would not need to be laundered …  but if you had to wash the piece, follow the instructions for the type of paint that you use. As one of the commenters noted, you can always apply another layer of color if it fades."

Hope that helps! Amber