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Nylon Painting: How to Paint Nylon Fabric

A fun craft project for all ages is decorating t-shirts, hats, or bags with paint. You can personalize the items to mark an event or special occasion or just express your style. From costumes and cosplay to birthday party favors, painting fabric is a blast.

The best way to paint nylon fabric is to use acrylic paint mixed with fabric medium or a ready-to-use fabric paint that has the medium mixed in already. This will help the paint stick to the fabric when you wash the garment and move with the fabric without cracking or peeling off.

Not all paint is created equal. Finding the best paint for your project can be tricky. Luckily, nylon fabric is one of the easiest fabrics to paint. Keep reading for tips that will make your project picture-perfect for the life of the garment.

How to Paint Nylon Fabric

Can You Paint On Nylon Fabric?

Nylon fabric is easy to paint on because it dries easily and bonds well to paint. It’s a synthetic fabric made from petrochemicals that are related to plastics. Nylon is also chemically similar to silk, making a great canvas for painting like silk.

Thin fabric that absorbs moisture well makes a good surface for painting. The fibers will absorb the paint and hold on to them once they dry, so the paint will show up on the fabric’s surface. Nylon has both those properties.

Not all paints work perfectly on nylon, but many will. It’s always a good idea to do a test swatch first before starting a major project. Use scrap fabric if you have it. If a scrap isn’t available, test your paints on an inside seam or otherwise hidden part of your nylon item to make sure it’s color-fast.

What Kind of Paint Can You Use On Nylon?

Apple Barrel Classic Elegance & Bold Impressions Acrylic Paint Set, 2 Fl Oz (Pack of 18), Multicolor, 18 CountAlmost any paint will work on nylon fabric. Nylon bonds well with a variety of paints. The right paint for your project depends on what kind of project it is. You’ll want to check whether the paint you choose is waterproof and if it will crack when the fabric moves.

Knowing what kind of paint you’re using and how to care for items that have this paint on them will help guide you to the right paint for your project.

Acrylic paints and fabric paints are the best choices. They will bond to the nylon fibers and will resist damage from water or the washing machine. Hand-washing painted nylon garments and items is the best way to preserve them, however.

Most paints will bind to the outside of the fabric fibers rather than bleeding into the individual fibers. The stronger the bond between the fabric and the paint, the less likely water, such as rainfall or washing, will remove the paint.

Always follow the directions on the paint packaging before you try to wash painted nylon. This will give you the best results. Also, remember to test paints first on scrap fabric to avoid ruining your whole project before you even properly begin.

Does Fabric Paint Work On Nylon?

FolkArt Brush on Fabric Acrylic Paint Beginner Set (2-Ounce),Fabric paint is one of the best choices for painting nylon fabric. There are a variety of types of fabric paint you can use for different effects and colors. They range from three-D or puffy paints to smooth spray paints and airbrush paints.

Most fabric paints come in one of three formats: brush on, spray-on, or paint marker. Paint markers (also called paint pens) hold the paint in the body of the marker and releases it via bristles or a felt tip.

Spray-on and brush on fabric paints work exactly like regular latex or acrylic paints. The difference between these paints is that they are made specifically to cling to fabric without washing off or cracking when the fabric moves. Many paints will go onto fabric easily; after all artists’ canvas is a fabric. However, canvases aren’t meant to move, and garments are.

Check the label of any fabric paint you find. Some work best for natural fibers and some work better on synthetics. All-purpose or general-purpose paints will work well on nylon, too.

Can You Spray Paint Nylon?

TULIP Fabric Spray Paint- Hawaiian FizzYou can spray paint nylon fabric. It works especially well with fabric spray paints as these are made to stick to the surface of nylon fabric. Most fabric stores and craft stores sell these paints, or you can find them online.

In addition to spray paints, there are also fabric-safe airbrush paints that produce a similar effect. The airbrush technique gives you the same control as a spray-paint can without the pressurized canisters. These are a great alternative if you have environmental concerns about spray cans.

Regular latex spray paint will stick to nylon, too, but it will make the fabric stiff. Unlike fabric-specific paint, when regular spray paint dries, it isn’t as flexible as the fabric. This means it will make the fabric rigid and risks cracking.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Nylon?

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Nylon

The most effective paint for nylon is acrylic paint mixed with fabric medium. In painting, a medium is a substance that helps you apply color to another material. For fabric painting, the fabric medium helps the acrylic paint stick to the fabric. It also makes it flexible once it dries so that the paint won’t crack when the fabric moves.

Plain acrylic paint will stick to nylon but won’t last. It will either wash off or crack off over time. Fabric medium will solve both of these issues. It is a colorless polymer liquid. You can mix it with any color of acrylic paint and even thin it with water for a watercolor effect.

Acrylic paints are more common than fabric paints, so this method will give you a broader range of colors. You can also choose a fabric medium specifically formulated for nylon. The more specific your paints are to your fabric, the better your results will be.

You can also use acrylic paints without a fabric medium if you aren’t concerned with laundering or cracking. If you’re painting tote bags or other items that don’t need regular trips through the washing machine, this can be a great affordable way of decorating them.

Wetting the nylon gently before you paint it will help the nylon stick better without a medium. Use a spray bottle or blot the fabric with a damp cloth. You want it moistened, not soaking wet.

How to Paint Nylon Fabric

Painting nylon fabric is simple enough for anyone to do, no matter what your artistic experience is. Follow these steps to make your artwork last longer, and protect your space from accidental paint messes.

  1. Protect your space. While you may want to cover your nylon in paint, chances are you want to keep the rest of your workspace clean. Lay down a drop cloth, plastic sheeting, or another protective barrier between your work surface and your project.
  2. Protect the clothes you’re wearing. The same principle goes for your clothes! Wear an apron or a smock to protect what you’re wearing, so you only get paint on the nylon you intend to paint.
  3. Wash your fabric. Before you paint it, you need your nylon to be clean and dry. This keeps any dust or dirt on the surface from disrupting the paint. It will also give you a smooth canvas to paint on. Follow the fabric care directions when you wash your fabric for best results.
  4. Prepare your fabric. Nylon is a thin, breathable fabric. Any paint you use is likely to soak through one layer onto whatever is behind it. Slide a piece of cardboard or another barrier behind the layer that you’re painting. For t-shirts or backpacks, this is important to keep the paint from getting on the rest of the item. If you’re working with a single-layer item, you may want to put down cardboard anyway to keep the nylon from sticking to your dropcloth.
  5. Secure your fabric. Using weights or masking tape, secure your fabric to your work surface. Make sure the fabric is smooth and wrinkle-free. This will help you make your design without any gaps or problems.
  6. Paint! Follow the packaging directions for your paint. If you need to mix acrylic and fabric medium, do so. Then let your creativity run wild!
  7. Let it dry. Once you’re happy with your design, let the item dry flat. Avoid hanging it up as the paint could drip. Make sure it’s in a protected place where it won’t be disturbed for several hours. As soon as it’s dry, you can use it and wash it as normal!

How to Remove Paint From Nylon Fabric

The best way to remove paint from nylon fabric depends on the type of paint you used. For heavy-duty paints like acrylic or fabric paint, you’ll need a chemical solvent like an artist’s brush cleaner or oil soap.

Before you treat the garment, scrape as much paint off the surface as you can. The paint bonds to the fabric but doesn’t soak into nylon, so the oil soap or brush cleaner will work to break that bond.

Soak the stained area for at least an hour or up to overnight. Then using a palette knife, your fingernail, or another rigid object, gently scrape the paint stain off the fabric. If you haven’t used this technique before, test it on an inconspicuous piece of fabric first to make sure it doesn’t harm the nylon.

Milder, washable paints (such as children’s paints or paint that isn’t meant to last) might come out with regular laundry detergent and a good soak. For these types of paint, try to soak the garment as soon as you notice the stain.

Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and gentle laundry detergent. Scrape as much paint off the surface of your fabric as possible and then submerge the fabric in the basin. Scrub the stain with the sudsy water and leave to soak for at least forty minutes.

Once the paint is gone, you can launder the item as normal. Regardless of the type of paint used, be mindful that you may be left with color staining. It’s possible to soak off the binding agent of the paint (also called the medium) without preventing the dye from soaking into the fabric.

Highly saturated colors and blue shades (like purples and greens) will be more likely to stain than lighter colors. Always protect your clothing with an apron or smock when you’re working with paints to avoid this!

Best Paint for Nylon Fabric

DecoArt Acrylic 2 oz 12 Count Brights Craft Paint Value Pack, 2 Fl Oz (Pack of 12), 24 OzFabric-specific paint or acrylic mixed with fabric medium are the best paints for nylon. They last the longest and feel the best once they dry. These paints aren’t hard to find, either.

The best fabric medium for nylon is GAC 900. It’s a heat-set medium, so it works for a variety of fabric painting and printing methods. Screen printing, brush on, and spray-on paints can all use GAC 900 as a fabric medium.

You can mix GAC 900 with just about any brand of acrylic paint, but the best acrylic paints for nylon are Jacquard or DecoArt. Both brands make acrylic fabric paint specifically for nylon. You can find them online or at your local craft store.

Both lines offer a wide variety of colors, and DecoArt also offers specialty finishes like glitter and metallic. Some of these paints are already formulated with fabric medium so read all of the labels carefully before mixing your paints.

However, if you can’t get acrylic paint for fabric, any acrylic craft paint mixed with fabric medium will do the job. Remember to test your paint on scrap fabric first to get the mixture the consistency that you want.


As intimidating as fabric medium and paints might seem, painting nylon fabric is easy enough for anyone. With a little preparation and the right supplies, you can be a nylon painting expert in an afternoon!

What nylon paint technique do you want to try most? Tell us about your nylon painting projects in the comments below.