Best Fabric Painting Books

A list of books on fabric painting that I think are fabulous.

This is a selection of books on fabric painting that I have found inspiring and useful. Some are dedicated entirely to fabric painting, some cover it as part of mixed media, and some deal with fabric painting as part of art quilting (where a lot of creative fabric painting is happening!).

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Complex Cloth: A Comprehensive Guide to Surface Design

Book review Complex Cloth fabric painting
Book review Complex Cloth fabric painting. Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

Clear, illustrated, step-by-step instructions of what's involved in different fabric painting techniques including stamping, stenciling, silk-screening, bleach-discharge, water-based resists) with lots of photos of steps and finished examples. First published in 1996, so it doesn't cover "modern" techniques such as printing from your computer onto fabric, just photocopy transfers.

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The Painted Quilt: Paint and Print Techniques for Colour on Quilts

Book Review The Painted Quilt by Linda and Laura Kemshall
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans

Never mind if you've never been near a sewing machine, let alone quilted, this book is packed with fabric painting ideas for both adding and removing color from fabric. It covers all sorts of fabric-painting techniques but I think it's of as much interest for the inspiration from photos of the authors' finished projects as the how-to explanations.

The design style of the pages is busy and at times bit hectic, but the photos are labeled a,b,c so you can tie the relevant photo and text together. Some of the type for the instructions is quite small, but that's because there's a lot squeezed in.

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Skydyes: A Visual Guide to Fabric Painting

Book review Skydyes fabric painting
Book review Skydyes fabric painting. Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

Author Mickey Lawler is a quilter who handpaints cottons and silks to use in her own quilts and for sale. In


she explains her fabric-painting technique and demonstrates the painting of different types of sky, earth, and sea fabric step by step (for instance summer sky, stormy sky, and night sky). The book ends with a whole cloth painting demo of a seascape. Spread through the book are photos of quilts created using her fabrics. A good introduction to fabric painting abstracts if you're cautious about experimenting.

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Imagery on Fabric: A Complete Surface Design Handbook

Fabric Painting Book Reviews : Imagery on Fabric by Jean Ray Laury
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans

This book is out of print and the chapters on printing fabric from your computer or a photocopier and Polaroid transfers are outdated (the second edition was published 1997). But it's still one of my favorites for the easy-to-understand explanations of fabric-painting techniques, the numerous photos of finished examples (clothing and quilts), and its troubleshooting tips.

Chapters cover drawing and painting, dye transfer, screen printing, light-sensitive printing, stamp printing, and discharge printing.

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Inspired to Quilt: Creative Experiments in Art Quilt Imagery

Fabric painting books
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans

If you want to paint fabric with dyes, then the first and second sections of this book will be interest to you. It deals with printmaking, stamping, freezer paper painting, monoprinting, soy wax resist, and direct-dye painting. While the artist uses dyes, you can of course also adapt the methods to paint. It's only 34 or so pages from the book, so best page through a copy before deciding to buy it (unless you're also into art quilting).

If you want to expand your mixed media techniques, the chapters on embellishment (beads, gold foil, stitching) and sandwiching fabrics will introduce you to things to be done with fabric and thread.

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The Quilting Arts Book: Techniques & Inspiration for One-of-a-Kind Quilts

Fabric painting books
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

It's chapter five of this book that's of particular interest to fabric painters, dealing with surface design techniques. These include foiling on fabric, painting with wax pastels and paint sticks, color discharge, printmaking and resist printing, plus some digital imaging.

It's only about 25 pages of the book so, again, page through a copy if your interest in decorating fabric doesn't extend to embroidery and quilting or using fabric and thread in your mixed media.