Family how-to: fabric painting

Published 2 June 2020

Follow these easy instructions to brighten up your organic fabrics using natural, home-made dye.

  • Family how-to: fabric painting

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    Need some colour in your life?

    This activity is our take on ‘batik’, a technique that originated in Indonesia and traditionally uses wax to resist the colour when dying textiles. For some design inspiration, check out the batik patterned fabrics in the artwork of Yinka Shonibare RA.

    Follow along with this quick video, or scroll down for step-by-step instructions.

    • what you need - all

      What you need

      • T-shirt, pillow case or a tea towel – anything made from an organic material like cotton

      • Sketching paper

      • Pencil

      • PVA glue

      • Newspaper or baking paper – something to protect the table

      • Tape

      • Dye – turmeric powder

      • Something to mix paint in

      • Paint brush

      • Spoon

      • Vinegar

      • Water

      • An iron

    • Step 1

      Step 1

      Sketch out some designs on paper

    • Step 2

      Step 2

      Lay the fabric out, draw your design in glue and leave it to dry. The glue resists the dye, so the fabric will remain white in these areas.

    • Step 3

      Step 3

      Mix your turmeric dye – turmeric powder, vinegar and water

    • Step 4

      Step 4

      Protect your surfaces. Turmeric can leave a mark, so roll up your sleeves, wear an apron and protect the table with anything you have to hand – newspaper or baking paper work well.

    • Step 5

      Step 5

      Start painting! The thicker the mixture, the darker the final colour will be - experiment with watering it down to get different tones.

    • Step 6

      Step 6

      Let it dry completely

    • washing the dye out

      Step 7

      When it is fully dry, wash it in hot water to remove the excess dye and glue. Continue washing it until the water runs clear.

    • Step 8

      Step 8

      Let it dry (again!)

    • Step 9

      Step 9

      Iron it to set the dye and remove any creases

  • Admire your work!

  • Finished product square
  • Show us your results! Share a photo or video of your finished work with @royalacademy on Twitter or @royalacademyarts on Instagram, using #familyhowto.

    • Taking part in a family workshop

      Families at the RA

      Whether it’s a free drop-in workshop or one of our fun and engaging Art Detective trails, the RA is brimming with colourful paintings and sculptures that are waiting to be explored. Everyone is welcome at the RA – and kids under 16 go free to all our exhibitions.