How to Dye Cotton Fabric With Watercolor Paint

Updated February 21, 2017

Dying cotton fabric with watercolour paints is a quick, easy, and fun project. The watercolour paints will give the fabric a unique look not possible with any other kind of paint or dye. Once the fabric is dyed, it will be suitable for any number of sewing projects, or you may choose to simply display the fabric.

Lay the cotton fabric on a flat piece of plywood or on another even work surface which you will not mind getting paint on it, should the paint drain through the fabric.

Mix each watercolour paint with enough water in a bowl to give the paint the richness of colour you desire.

Use a large, round brush to apply a wash, or strokes, of paint to the fabric in a pattern of your choosing. Long strokes work best.

Spray an even mist of water from the spray bottle onto the fresh paint, allowing it to soak and spread through the fibres of the fabric. This allows for the creation of the unique watercolour effect.

Repeat the process with the different paint colours until you have covered the fabric to your satisfaction. Remember, more water sprayed on the material means that the paint will spread more and soak throughout the fabric.

Use the blow dryer to dry the paint. Allow the fabric to sit undisturbed for 24 hours before using, in order to insure that it is fully dry.


Wash the cotton fabric first to allow it to shrink and to remove any sizing left over from the production of the fabric. After applying a wash of paint, you can use the blow dryer to prevent the paint from spreading beyond where you wish it to.


Watercolour paints on cotton are not colour-fast. Do not launder watercolour-dyed fabrics.

Things You'll Need

  • Piece of plywood
  • Watercolour paints
  • Bowls of water
  • Large, round paintbrush
  • Spray bottle
  • Blow dryer
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About the Author

Jake Essene began writing in 1993 and has published articles in regional newspapers such as the "Daily Intelligencer" and legal journals such as the "Ohio Northern Law Review." Essene earned a Bachelor of Science in theology at Philadelphia Biblical University, with additional studies in archeology at the Jerusalem University College. He then earned a Juris Doctor at the Pettit College of Law.