How To Heat Set Fabric Paint

January 14, 2021

Painting on fabric is such a fun and creative way to spruce up your old clothing or pillows.

If you have an eye for fashion or enjoy being artistic, it can be such a fantastic hobby and creative outlet.

How To Heat Set Fabric Paint
painted fabric with paint brusher

After you have finished painting the fabric, you may be worried about the paint smudging or washing off, especially if the fabric you have painted is going to be worn.

Thankfully, there is an easy technique called heat setting that will help to protect your fabric paint from becoming damaged. In this article, we will be talking you through the steps you need to take to heat set fabric paint.

What Is Heat Setting?

Heat setting is a technique used to set fabric paint. It helps your design to remain permanently on the fabric. It is a thermal process that can be used in both a manufacturing setting and at home.

The heat setting we will be discussing in this article is the home method. 

What Equipment Will I Need To Heat Set Fabric Paint?

Before you begin the heat setting process, you will need to have all of the equipment you need to hand. This will speed up the overall process.

Here is everything you will need:

  • Fabric containing the paint you want to heat set
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Scrap fabric to place on top of the materials you are ironing
  • Towel

How to Heat Set Fabric Paint With An Iron

Here are all of the steps you will need to take to heat set fabric paint. 

It is worth noting that these are merely guidelines. While this method is successful, it will vary slightly, depending on the fabric and fabric paint you are using. 

If the fabric is thinner, you will need to be more careful. In addition to this, some fabrics cannot be ironed. Given this, you will need to double-check the fabric is suitable before heat setting the paint.

Some types of fabric paint will have different instructions. Given this, we would always recommend checking the bottle before using the paint.

Step One: Allowing The Paint To Dry

While it may be tempting to heat set the fabric paint as soon as you have finished painting, this will ruin your design. You need to ensure that the fabric paint has been given sufficient time to dry before you apply heat. 

The drying process can vary depending on the fabric and the size of the design you have created. We would recommend allowing the paint to dry for around an hour. 

After an hour, double-check that the paint has dried before setting it. You can leave the fabric paint to air dry over a few days if you prefer. 

Step Two: Choosing The Ironing Technique

Now that your design is dry, you are ready to set the fabric paint. You will want to turn your iron to medium heat and allow it to heat up sufficiently.

Before you iron the fabric, you will need to ensure that you are not applying the heat directly to the paint. If you apply the iron directly to the paint it will not heat set and it will ruin your design. 

There are a few different methods you can use when heat setting the fabric so that the heat is not directly placed on the paint, such as:

  • Turning the fabric inside out
  • Placing leftover material on top of the painting design
  • Ironing the opposite side of the material

The method you choose will depend on the type of fabric you use. If the fabric is particularly thin, we would recommend using thicker materials such as a towel to act as a barrier. This will help to prevent burning. 

Step Three: Heat Setting The Fabric Paint

Once you are happy with the method you are going to use, it is time to begin the heat setting process. Fabric paint requires dry heat to set. Given this, we recommend you use the standard settings on your iron. You will not want to use any of the steaming or water options. 

The amount of time you iron the fabric for will vary depending on the fabric and the design. However, on average heat setting can take around three to five minutes. 

After a few minutes, we would recommend double-checking the design to see if it has been set correctly. If it has still not fully set, you can continue to iron the fabric for another few minutes. 

Once you are satisfied that it has been set correctly, you can turn off your iron and the heat setting is complete! 

Other Methods Of Heat Setting Fabrics

While ironing is the most common method of heat setting fabric paint, there are alternative methods you can use too. Some of these methods include:

Clothes Dryer - You can use your clothes dryer on a high setting to heat set fabric paint. This is a fairly easy method and will take around an hour to complete.

Hair Dryer - You can even use a hairdryer to heat set fabric paint, though this is a fairly long process. This method tends to work best on small areas of fabric paint, rather than something that is covered entirely.

Oven - While this may sound unconventional, you can choose to use your oven to set your fabric paint. However, severe caution will need to be taken as this is a potential fire hazard. 


We hope that you found this article useful. As you can see it is very easy to set fabric paint. If the most common method of iron heat setting is not for you, you can alternatively try using a clothes dryer, hairdryer, or oven instead.

Always remember to check the fabric is heat safe and that instructions on the fabric paint before setting and applying the heat. This is because every paint and material is different.

These instructions are guidelines and there will be differences, depending on the type of materials you are using. 

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