There’s nothing quite like putting on a great pair of jeans. The right fit, the right wash, the right cut—when you’re wearing jeans that make you feel good, you can really take on the day. If you’re ready to fall even more in love with your favorite jeans, you can customize them. Painted jeans are a one-of-a-kind fashion statement and a very cool way to express yourself through clothing. With just a little bit of time and creativity, you’ll have custom denim that’s bound to catch the attention of everyone you meet. Before long, people might even start asking you where they can get their own pair! Keep reading for all the basics of jeans painting. You’ll learn how to paint jeans and even get inspired with some jeans painting designs. Goodbye forever, boring denim! 

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Fabric Paint 101

You can’t paint on jeans without, well, paint. 

So what’s the ideal paint for jeans? Acrylic paint is going to be your best bet. Keep in mind, though, that low-quality paint brands contain a lot of filler, which may cause the paint to crack after it dries on the denim. Quality acrylic paint is made with just pigment and resin, which will make your painted designs more permanent. 

Here’s another tip to help you get the most out of acrylic fabric painting: Don’t add water to your paint. If you have experience working with acrylics on canvas, you might be accustomed to watering it down, but that’s not the way to go with denim. The more concentrated the paint, the more vibrant and long-lasting your designs will be. 

How to Paint Jeans

Now that you have your high-quality acrylic paint ready to go, it’s time to get painting. Find a comfortable workspace where you can lay your denim flat (maybe even the floor), gather a few paintbrushes, and get creative. Follow these steps to turn a simple pair of jeans into your dream fashion statement. 

Step 1: Wash the Denim

Before you add paint to your jeans, make sure they’re freshly washed, which will ensure that any leftover dye has been removed from the fabric. This is an especially important step for a pair of jeans that you’ve recently purchased, whether it’s thrifted or brand new. 

Step 2: Sketch Your Design in Pencil

stripe shirt back
Here, Pollygone Illustration demonstrates how to sketch with a pencil on a denim jacket. 

Once you’ve set your jeans out flat on your work surface, use a standard pencil to draw your design. (We’ll talk about design ideas shortly!) Your sketch doesn’t need to be perfect—it’s just meant to give you a clear idea of where to apply the paint. 

Step 3: Apply Layers of White Paint

painting on shirt back
Fill in your pencil sketch with white acrylic paint.

Jeans are called “blue jeans” for a reason—they’re made with fabric that has its own pigment, which can come in a range of shades. If you want your painted designs to be especially bright and vibrant, you’ll need to start with a few layers of white acrylic paint so the color can settle on top. Use your paintbrush to fill in your pencil sketch with white, making the edges as sharp and clean as possible. 

Once you’ve applied two or three layers of white paint and allowed them to dry, you can move on to the fun part—adding color! 

Step 4: Paint On Other Colors

skulls painted on shirt back
It’s time to get colorful. 

Without further ado, let’s add some color to your jeans. Use your paintbrush to add colored sections and black details on top of the white paint you’ve already applied. Keep adding layers of color until you’re happy with the overall effect. 

Once the colored paint dries, you’re ready to rock your custom denim! 

Learn the Basics of Painting on Denim

How to Paint Customized Denim Clothing for Beginners 

Jeans Painting Ideas

Not sure how to customize your jeans? The sky really is the limit, but if you need some ideas to get you started, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a few amazing jeans painting ideas that will help you make your mark. 

Checkered Jeans

checkered knees on jeans
You can’t go wrong with black and white. 

To achieve this checkerboard effect, you’ll use masking tape to create a neat grid of boxes which will then be filled in with black and white acrylic paint. Apply the pattern to a small section of the jeans or to the whole pair of pants. 

Paint Splatter Jeans

splatter paint jeans
You can get really creative with paint splatter on your denim. 

Paint splatter is a great way to spice up just about any project, and custom denim is no exception. Use brushes of different sizes and as many colors as you’d like to bring the party to your jeans. 

Flower Jeans

flowers painted on jeans
Everything’s coming up roses with these jeans.

Not sure you want to commit to a design all over your jeans? Consider adding artistic touches on the pockets, hems, or in any other spot you’d like. With patience and a few coats of paint, everything will be coming up roses with flower jeans.

Star Jeans

star painted on jeans
These custom jeans will be the star of the show. 

Choose your favorite color (or a few), and create a star pattern on your jeans. To make the creative process easier, make a star stencil out of cardstock or aluminum foil, which will ensure that all of the stars are even and consistent. 

Wave Jeans

wave painting on jeans
Make waves with this design. 

If you’re ready to take your denim art to the next level, challenge yourself with more detailed designs like this one. To achieve this effect, paint the entire back pocket of your jeans with a single color. When it dries, sketch out a wave shape with a pencil and fill it in with blue and white. Add details with lighter shades of blue and a thin permanent black pen. 

Plant Jeans

painted jeans
Go wild with plant designs. 

Breathe new life into denim by using a thin paintbrush and acrylic paint in various shades of green to make plant designs on the pockets or hems of your jeans. If you love the look, you can even paint the design all over. 

Your Jeans Should Be As Cool As You Are 

One of the best things about customizing your denim with fabric paint is that you can give old jeans new life. Whether you want to revive denim that’s been sitting in your closet for a few years or totally reinvent a pair of jeans you found at the thrift store, you’ll fall in love with your pants all over again with these DIY strategies. 

Plus, now that you know the basics of painting denim, you don’t have to stop with your jeans. Add custom touches to your denim jacket, or even begin to play with other experiments in upcycled fashion

You’re an individual—and your jeans should reflect that. With just a little paint, you can make your denim as cool and unique as you are. 

Practice Denim Designs

Painting on Jeans: Acrylic Artwork on Clothing