Sailor Mercury Denim Jacket

Hey there Sports Fans!

Turns out I was very busy while I was gone, and one of the hobbies I picked up was painting on clothing. I haven’t done a lot of it, but what I have done has lasted at least 2 years of very regular wear, and I consistently find myself reiterating the processes to friends and people on Facebook, so I figured… what the hell. Lets just write it down in a way that I can link it, and not explain the same thing 200 times. Of course, we know that now that I am doing this, no one will ever ask me again, and this post will never see the light of day.

THIS TUTORIAL DOES NOT APPLY TO PLEATHER AND OTHER SLICK FABRICS.

Planning

First, I suggest thumb-nailing several design ideas and then picking your best piece. I have 3 pages of designs in my sketch book that came out of this initial process and I’ve kept for future ideas, but for this jacket I settled on the design above. You can tell I hadn’t decided what text I wanted on the ribbons, and I actually battled with that until the very end. Once I settled on the design I drew a couple refined versions [I can’t find anymore] to better decide on the bow shape, ribbon placement, and placement of the transformation stick. Once that was settled it was time to prep the jacket for painting!

Materials

To prep and paint your jacket you’ll need:

A hard surface that fits inside your fabric
Binder Clips
White Pencil Crayon
Paint (see below for type)
Paint Brushes
Your actual item you want to paint on

Paint

If you’re unsure what kind of paint to use you absolutely have options. The secret to painting on fabric is that it needs to adhere to the fabric, be opaque enough to be visible, and be flexible when it dries. My favourite two options for this are actual Fabric Paint and Acrylic Paint.

Fabric Paint

The clear starting point for anyone willing to spend the money is fabric paint. You can buy all sorts of different types: glossy, matte, satin, and even 3D or glowing paint! There are all sorts of metallics and pearls to choose from. All of these will come with their own instructions on use and how to bond it to the fabric, so if you go this route I recommend reading them carefully. It might also vary by brand.

Acrylic Paint

If you’re cheap and broke AF like me I highly recommend using Acrylic paint. Acrylic paint on its own can dye fabric VERY well depending on the quality of the paint you’re buying, and there are options to help your paint last longer. You likely also already have some in your craft supplies. There are all sorts of price point options from dollar store paint, to craft store options, student grade, and professional grade paint. You will also find seemingly endless shelves of tubes in thousands of colours, textures, and finishes. Honestly, I’ve had to curb my paint buying.

My suggestion is to buy what suits you best at the time. If you can only afford the $2 craft paint that’s absolutely fine. You just might need to put in a little more elbow grease to get solid coverage. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’ll work just fine.

Fabric Medium

Regardless of what kind of Acrylic you buy I recommend you mix a Fabric Medium (sometimes called a textile medium) into any paint that makes contact with your actual fabric, the base layer. This is not required, but will help your project last longer with more wash and wear. The layer of paint that adheres to your fabric is the only one that “needs” fabric medium mixed in. Everything else on top of that will be adhering to the paint below it, just like it would on paper or canvas. Fabric Medium essentially turns your paint into a fabric paint, helping it become more flexible and fixed to your project.

Prep Your Canvas/Drawing

Secure your denim to the board so that your painting area is flat and has as few wrinkles as possible. I used an extra shelf for a wooden bookcase I have hanging around. If your board isn’t big enough to show the full piece you want to paint it’s okay to work on it section by section.

I wasn’t intending on writing a tutorial when I made this jacket, so these pictures come from social media updates. The base layer I mentioned above is the white layer of paint I’ve laid on my jacket. It serves as the adhesive layer, attaching the paint to the jacket, as well as a colour boosting layer, so that the paint goes down on white instead of dark blue. You can achieve different saturation and easier coverage using different base layers to prep the surface. It’s most common to see white, grey, or black depending on what effect you’re trying to achieve. Depending on your paint, sometimes it’s impossible to build up to a level where your paint is opaque, and the dark fabric does not affect how your colour looks on the fabric.

You can see how the base layers I used affected the paint on top of it in this shot. The ribbons that are folded back are much darker than the other ribbons. I did not make those sections solid white, so it aided me in creating a shadow in those areas.

For the bubbles I took advantage of the lack of base layer to create a transparent look. Using a diluted paint and fabric medium mix meant I had better control over how much of the bubbles showed up.

For the light blue I had added fabric medium as I hadn’t yet discovered that I didn’t particularly need it. It made the paint blend INCREDIBLY well. The gradients I managed on the bow made me really happy. So that might be something you want to play with.

Setting Your Art

Setting your art is sealing your art to the fabric you’re painting on. Most fabric paint will have instructions for this, but acrylic paint will not. Do NOT wash your art before following those instructions.

For paints with instructions I recommend following them. If you use multiple I recommend using the one with the most work (longest dryer time, highest temperature, etc.). This will ensure all of your paint is safe to wash later.

If you’ve put a top coat onto your art set it after that dries, or re-set your art if you add to it. Acrylic paint does not necessarily need that for protection, but is fine if you are looking for a certain look (gloss, matte, satin…).

Final Art

This is my final jacket after about 2 years of wear. A close up will show some cracks in the paint, but nothing has flaked off. Slight cracking is to be expected on a fabric with some stretch. The fabric has many small gaps between fibers, whereas acrylic paint definitely does not. The less paint you need to use the better.

My only regret is my impatience with the text. It’s my own hand writing and I really don’t like my own writing. It’s also done in puffy paint, so extremely hard to paint over. PLAN THESE DETAILS OUT! I highly recommend penciling out your letters.

My hard work paid off though, because hot damn! Does it look good in person and worn. This picture is from a Super Heroes night at a hockey game. I dressed as a modern Sailor Mercury that was easy to “SailorMoonBound” last minute.

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