Imaginary Paint: Customizing Clothes

Nicole Van Fleet Kingery

These past couple of weeks I’ve been spending time cleaning up my room, starting with my closet and dresser. Getting rid of clothes I never wear and organizing things has been a good way to spend my time. I have a lot of clothes, many that I don’t wear much anymore. Some I wish looked different, which is why, for this post, I decided to take a stab at customizing my clothes.

Don’t worry! I have some experience in this field; when I was younger, my mom had me take sewing lessons, so whenever the occasion arises, I make costumes for events and sometimes cut up my shirts if I don’t like how they look anymore. Most recently I’ve seen a lot of Instagram videos of people painting on denim so I decided to try it out for myself.

The design I made is of a cute red panda. I don’t know why, but they’re one of the cutest creatures alive. Normally, when you think of pandas you think of these giant, fluffy, black and white bears, but red pandas are kind of like the cats of the panda family. They’re small, long, lean and their fur is the color of autumn.

It took me a while to get to the actual painting stage, since I found out online that painting on fabric works better if you mix the paint with a textile medium, specifically made for using acrylics on fabric. From what I can tell, the medium makes the paint stretchier so it won’t get ruined in the wash. Anyways, I ordered the textile medium on Amazon (probably marking the last Amazon purchase I’ll be making for the next few months) and got to painting as soon as the supplies arrived.

Final product up close and personal.

I placed my little panda on top of one of the seams of the jacket so that it looks like it’s sitting on a ledge or a fence, taking a nap, except the seams in the jacket really stand out, so I was worried that they might stand out too much and take away from my design. In the end, that wasn’t the case. After painting over them I realized the seams are actually less noticeable.

The final piece turned out cute and now I have a mascot that’ll always have my back. Near the end, I was wondering whether or not I should outline my panda in black, either with paint or a permanent marker, but after much consideration and a quick survey on my Instagram story, I decided against the idea.

My concern going into painting was that I would mess up and have to give away my only comfortable jean jacket. With a painting like this, there’s no room for error, no erasing what’s been done, and no Ctrl+Z. To progress, I have to commit to every brush stroke. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the first step is the hardest, but once you start, you wonder why you ever hesitated in the first place.

Probably even more stress inducing than painting was a side adventure that came out of this process. While cleaning out my closet, I found a Disney shirt that my cousin gave me for Christmas. It was just a simple gray t-shirt with a Mickey design on the front. Recently, I got a bit of a stain on the bottom, so I decided to cut it up a bit. Like I said, this was a lot more stressful than the painting. I didn’t want to ruin it, but I also wanted to experiment a bit. In addition to trimming the bottom, I cut off the sleeves and made a heart design on the back, inspired by a DIY I found on the internet.

Photo credits go to my brother, who wouldn’t help me out until he finished his homework.

To improve my chances of success, I traced the design on the inside of the shirt with a water-based marker that will hopefully wash off when it’s washed. I didn’t cut off the neck part because I thought it looked neat. My projects turned out a lot better than expected and customizing my clothing is something I plan to try more in the future. Message me if you want to give it a try and need any tips!