Creative Inspirations, Creative Projects

Painting fabric tutorial; autumn apples

This time of year is my favorite for representational fabric painting.  With my love of nature there is simply so much around me begging my brushes to mimic it. Normally I am teaching classes but since I have not opened up my studio for that yet, I thought you might enjoy a simple tutorial here.

Nothing says autumn in New England more than apples.  I have been working on a quilt that features baskets holding apples so I decided to paint them rather than simply appliqué plain red fabric.  Here is how I did it. 

Using painting or masking tape, fix your strip of fabric tightly onto a smooth surface that won’t be harmed by paint.  Consider using a piece of laminate, a piece of glass or a mirror.
Using an archival pen trace your apple on to the fabric.
Dispense 4 drops of paint as shown.  2 drops of yellow on each side, a very small drop of blue and a larger drop of red. These will be mixed to make your colors.
Using a Q-Tip to blend with, mix a tiny bit of blue into the yellow on the left to make an earthy green.  Any shade works!  Mix what looks right to YOU.  Dip your paint brush into it and make a stroke onto the apple as shown.  A flat brush works best.
While the green is still wet, dip a clean brush into the red and stroke it over the edges of the green and onto the body of the apple saving a sliver of space on the left and a larger space on the right.
While the red is still wet:
A. Mix a bit of blue into a bit of red to make a deep burgundy color and stroke it onto the left sliver blending over the edge of the red.
B. Mix a bit of the red into the yellow on the right to make an orange and stroke that onto the space on the right.
C. Mix some of all the colors together to make a brown then paint a stem and a few random dots.

Allow your apple to fully dry on the painting surface before removing.  Allow paint to set 24 hours or dry in a hot dryer on HIGH for 30 minutes.  To completely set the paint, iron the painted fabric with a hot iron for 20 seconds swirling the iron in place so it does not scorch.  At this point your painted creation is completely washable and will not fade or bleed like a dyed fabric may do.


  • If you plan to hand appliqué your work, keep the paint just up to the tracing line but not over it.  Painted fabric is harder to push a needle through but machine sewn it works just fine.  
  • Do not over saturate your fabric with paint.  A very small amount will color the fabric.  It is normal for some paint to bleed through to the back of the fabric but too much will yield a shiny, sticky back that makes it more difficult (but not impossible) to sew with.
  • There are no mistakes!  Every apple should look different then the next one so relax and have fun!
Apples ready for appliqué

If you would like to try your own hand at painting this I have assembled a kit that includes the 3 paints, a template and full instructions. Get it here through my on-line gallery store.

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