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How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Denim: 2 Easy Ways

Painting denim is a lot of fun – I like the texture and the feel this fabric has and that is has natural color that can come through the paint.

I’ve used acrylic paint to customize my denim shorts and to make paintings of denim leftover pieces and I tested different sealing methods – sealer and heat setting.

Let me show you how to seal acrylic paint on denim to make it permanent and don’t ruin it!

Note: my favorite paints on budget for painting on denim jeans and jackets are Decola and Mont Marte Fabric paints – they are beginner-level paints.

Read also: Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric? How to Guide

Why I need to seal paint on denim?

Sealing or heat setting acrylic paint on denim is an important step for durability and for wearing denim clothes (jeans, jackets, shorts etc). It helps:

  • to prevent cracking as much as possible
  • to make jeans more flexible
  • to make the painted area washable and the paint permanent
  • to keep colors from fading and yellowing.

Fabric paint and acrylics are hard to scrub off the fabric and denim in the first place but they do fade and unevenly wash off if you do not seal the whole painted area.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Denim

What cAn i use to seal acrylic paint on denim?

There are 2 main methods to seal paint on denim – to heat set or to use a liquid sealant (like Mod Podge). Heat setting is the most popular, fastest and most effective way to make acrylic paint stay on denim.

And when I say heat setting I don’t mean only iron! Did you know that you can use different “heating” tools?

What can I use to heat-set acrylic paint on denim?

  1. Use an iron for 3-5 minutes on low setting 
  2. Clothes dryer: 30 min to 1 hr setting.
  3. Baking in the oven at 250C degrees (risky, I would not recommend!)
  4. Use the hovering method: hold your warm iron next to the painted area, but don’t touch it.
  5. You can try to use a hairdryer to dry and seal the painted area,
  6. You can even use a heat press if you own one.

Iron is perfect when you are painting on denim clothes that we can lay horizontally and iron.

But if you painted on denim shoes, bag or items that cannot be ironed easily, heat set them in a clothe dryer or with a hairdryer.

However, the dryer and other methods are not as efficient as ironing. Only with an iron you can thoroughly heat set all corners and the whole surface of the painted area on denim.

With that said, it is not always guaranteed than with hairdryer or clothes dryer the whole area will be evenly selaed.


How to heat set acrylic paint on denim

What do you need:

  • dry painting on your denim piece
  • iron
  • pressing cloth (or alternative, like a cotton cloth)

This was my thrifted jeans I turned into shorts and painted with fabric paint:

how to paint fabric with acrylic paint
Final look of selaed paint on denim

To seal acrylic paint on denim you need to let your design dry completely (around 24 hrs). Then heat-set it with an iron on low to mid settings and a pressing cloth. Done 🙂

Total Time: 5 minutes

Let the painted area dry

Acrylic and fabric paints normally dry within 24 hours. I often leave fresh painting overnight and it is fully dry the next morning.
DIY fabric paint can take a few days to dry.

Heat Set

Put a pressing cloth or any cotton cloth/parchment or wax paper over painted area. Iron it for 3-5 minutes on low setting without steam (dry iron).

Alternatively you can use a dryer for 1 hour cycle, but it is much less efficient than using a regular iron. However, not all surfaces can be ironed because they are not flat.
In this case use a dryer or hair dryer.

Let it cool off and wash

You can then do the very first washing. I use gentle cycle and COLD water setting on my washing machine for denim but you can always hand wash your painted jeans, shorts or jacket.
Let it air dry afterwards and it will be ready to wear!


How to seal acrylic paint on denim with a sealer

Working with acrylic paint or acrylic paint pens on denim that you will not wear you can seal it with regular Mod Podge or special fabric Mod Podge or spray sealent.

It will make painted area more durable, washable, and the denim won’t lose much flexibility.

I let the painted area dry for 3 days and then used satin Mod Podge to seal Artistro acrylic paint pens on denim and it worked perfectly.

You can apply Mod Podge or any liquid sealant with a flat brush.

how to seal acrylic paint on denim
While wet it will be white-ish but when it is dry it will be glossy

Don’t freak out that when you apply the liquid is white, Mod Podge is glue based (thus it’s super cheap) and it will become clear once dry.

As you see, right side is dry and glossier (satin finish as I used satin Mod Podge) and I tested – the ink doesn’t wash off but it is yet recommended to hand wash

However, I feel like Mod podge still makes the fabric a bit stiff, I think it’s due to its glue base.

That’s why I do not recommend it for jackets or jeans as these items you will wear a lot and they need to bend and fold easily.


Sealing Paint On Denim With Fabric Medium

Once your painting on denim is finished and completely dry you can brush undiluted fabric medium over it and let it dry.

Then you should wash it on cold cycle and dry it in a clothes dryer on low settings.

This way the painting will be “imprinted” in the denim texture.

The best medium to do so are professional fabric mediums (DIY recipes will not work) like Golden GAC900 and Liquitex fabric medium.

However it is still a craft method, officially Liquitex or Golden don’t put such use for their fabric mediums.

There is one professional fabric medium that specifically mention that you can use it to seal markers, pens, and other paints that were not fabric paints for better durability – it is Jacquard Textile Medium.


Tips To seal acrylic paint on denim

To make sealing paint on denim easier, you can:

  • tape out the painting area upfront but you must remove the tape before you iron the denim – otherwise it will burn.
  • if you can – always go for ironing over any other methods of selling paint on fabric and denim
  • if you don’t have pressing cloth or no spare cloth, use wax or parchment paper.
  • If you don’t need to wear painted denim and decide to use Mod Podge as sealent, use a clean flat brush and once done wash it immediately!

FAQ

Does acrylic paint stay on denim?

Yes, acrylic sticks and stays on denim permanently after you heat-set it with an iron or dryer.

It won’t wash off or fade.

How do you seal acrylic paint on fabric?

Sealing acrylic paint on fabric is easy – you can iron dry painted area for 3-5 minutes on low to mid settings over a thin cloth.

Alternatively you can use a liquid sealent like Mod Podge.

How do you make acrylic paint not crack on jeans?

Using fabric paint or mixing acrylic paint with fabric medium and working in thin layers will help you keep jeans and denim flexible and avoid cracks. Heat-setting your finished dry design also prevents cracks.

Have you tested acrylics on denim already? How did it go?

Please share your experience or any questions in comments, I will answer them all and I will be happy to see some pictures of your denim creations.