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How to paint your own denim jacket in 6 steps

If you've wanted to hop on the hand-painted denim trend, I'm going to break down how I paint custom denim jackets in 6 steps so you can paint your own.

This how-to guide includes all of the steps you need to make sure your paint will last on your jacket. It's a lot of work, but you'll end up with a unique jacket that you painted yourself!

1) First, you're going to want to gather supplies:

2) Sketch and paint the base of the design

*This step is super important* Your paint will crack and flake off if you skip this.

First, take your chalk or chalk pencil and sketch out the outline for your design. I highly recommend doing this, especially if the design is on the more complicated side or if you’re sort of winging the whole thing. Don’t worry about the details yet because you’ll be painting over it with a base color. If the chalk gets messy, you can get a damp washcloth to remove what you don’t want on the fabric.

Mix fabric medium with the base color of your design (1 part fabric medium and 2 parts acrylic paint). I like to use white as the base because all of the colors on top of it will end up being super vibrant, and I can use a pencil to sketch complicated designs on top of it. Now, you can paint the base in the spaces with the fabric medium and acrylic paint mixture you outlined with chalk.

Note 1: MAKE SURE if you are painting on the back that the front of your jacket is not underneath. You can button the jacket and put cardboard or a stack of newspaper inside, or unbutton it and lay it flat.

Note 2: The first layer of the base will most likely look like it’s being absorbed into the fabric. I usually add another coat to add some durability to the base, making it much easier to paint on top of it.

3) Set the base with a hair dryer

With the heat setting on the highest it goes, use the hair dryer to dry your base coat. Using heat “sets” the base coat (don’t ask me why because I have no clue, but it does make a difference).

4) *Optional* sketch on your dry base coat

If your design is fairly complicated or painting without lines to guide you looks intimidating, you can use a pencil to sketch directly on your base. This is where having white for your base comes in handy.

5) Paint whatever the heck you want on your dry base coat

Take your time painting your jacket! Once the paint hits the fabric, it’s going to stay there.

Once you’ve finished painting, it’s a good idea to take the hairdryer again and dry the whole thing out. Even better would be to place wax paper over the painted area and iron it, but it’s not necessary. If you have any chalk remaining on the jacket afterwards, use a damp wash cloth to dab it out.

6) Viola, wear your masterpiece.

When you want to wash it, you can place it in the washer with other bulky items. AIR DRY only. DO NOT put it in the dryer! There’s always that one person who puts it in the dryer and learns the hard way.


While painting your own denim jacket can take a lot of time to do, you end up with a one-of-a-kind piece that you can proudly say you painted yourself. I'd also love to see what you create! Tag me on Instagram @designbyera :)

If you have any comments/questions about the process, feel free to reach out to me! Or if after reading this you're thinking you'd rather have someone else paint it for you, I do take commissions! You can place an order here

1 comment

1 Comment

hi :) do you need to mix fabric medium with acrylic paint when painting on top of the base coat?

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