Painting Embroidery Hoops- 101: TFD The Blog

Painting Embroidery Hoops- 101: TFD The Blog

For those of you who follow me on TIkTok, Instagram, and Facebook you know that I LOVE to paint my hoops!

8 hand painted embroidery hoops from the pride collection played out on brown paper.

Since I love it, I thought yall might like it too! So this week I wanted to give you a 101 on painting on fabric/embroidery. In this blog post I am going to address when to paint, paint types, some beginner tips, and preferences/products I have when painting embroidery hoops. 

When to paint? 

stitched hocus pocus hoop vs unstitched the evil dead hoop

Painting embroidery can seem daunting; stitches you can rip out- paint is a little more permanent LOL. While it can be scary to think of a mistake ruining your entire hoop there are ways to mitigate the effect on your embroidery!

The question is: to paint before stitching or after. 

Now call me wild and free and slightly unhinged, but I prefer to stitch first


  • The stitching provides a border for the paint
  • it feels paint by numbers
  • I know where exactly to add the paint
  • I feel like I can add more detail


  • Potential for total embroidery disaster if the paint bleeds too much
  • background work looks less fluid
  • a lot harder to fix/restart if you monumentally fuck it

This is totally my own preference however, there are also some pros and cons to painting your hoop prior to stitching:


  • Much more forgiving and fluid
  • great if you want a watercolour vibe or if you want a background to your piece painted
  • blends really well!
  • if you mess up it is way easier to start over/no project really lost
  • easier to fix!


  • Can be more difficult to get the paint exactly where you want it
  • harder to do more detailed pieces if you have trouble seeing the final vision of a piece (no lines to work with)

Well hopefully you have a sense of when you want to paint... now to do the paints!

Paint Types and How I use them:

Three embroidered and painted hoops. Midsommar done in fabric paint, The Nun done in acrylic, and Blanche done in watercolour

Now to figure out the kind of paint to use for your vision. When I paint I waffle between three different kinds of paints; acrylic, watercolor, fabric- all have their own pros and cons. 


When I use:

  • If I want colours that blend well, a softer look, or are leaning more towards pastel vibes, watercolours are my go-to option. 

Many people in the embroidery community who paint their hoops tend to learn towards watercolour. Yes, it can be a harder medium to use on fabric BUT it looks rad. 

How I use them:

  • I prefer to use watercolour either as a blended background (a good amount of water- think traditional watercolour)
  • or in a dry brush technique (very little water) for a more pigmented colour

captain spalding hoop depicting blended watercolour background vs sophia hoop showing a dry brush background

Things to be aware of:

  • One thing to note with watercolour- if it gets wet - RIP your project. so be extra careful with this. Watercolour is not permanent necessarily, if it gets caught in rain or wet it can permanently wash you colour out. 
  • Also! Watercolor was not built for fabric- the pigment can potentially react with your fabric and discolor over time. 
  • I find it is more difficult to layer watercolour (if you are going for bolder looks)

Acrylic Paint

When I use: 

  • when I want Big bold colours
  • when I want to paint on the bamboo hoops themselves
  • when I want some cool textures

How I use them: 

  • I use acrylic pain in a couple of ways the first being directly on the bamboo hoop no water or dilution.
  • the second way is on the hoop but in a splattered/dabbed effect for texture
  • the third way is diluted with some water (not too much) to give it more of a watercolour look with less bleeding than watercolours

thee 4 inch hoops with acrylic painted hoops, dead silence hoop with textured red and black acrylic splatter, carrie hoop with diluted acrylic red background

Things to be aware of:

  • Acrylic is acidic and will discolor your fabric overtime- this is something to be aware of if you want longevity in your hoops. 
  • also it takes a bit longer to dry than the other two mediums so factor this into your paint times

Fabric Paint

When I use:

  • I use this when I want bold or layered looks
  • when I want something that will be super pigmented and stay that way over time

How I use them:

  • I am fairly new to using fabric paint but I really love to layer them thickly. 
  • I do NOT dilute them and instead just use the paint as is (like with a lot of my acrylic usage)

midsommar hoop embroidered and painted with fabric paint

Things to be aware of:

  • I find this dries pretty quick so be aware of that before blending
  • most fabric paint needs to be activated after it has been painted using heat- this is what makes it wash safe. 

Beginner Tips: Working with paint and fabric

 You have loads of information about how I like to use paints in embroidery, now some beginner tips on actually doing the thing!

1. Practice! Before I start a project - even though I have been painting hoops for a while - I still try out the techniques I am going to use on what I call a "practice hoop". This is typically a blank hoop with a swatch of the exact fabric I am using for my current project that I practice new paints, techniques, or water levels on to see how it will react. I totally recommend doing this, it has saved several of my hoops. I especially recommend it if you are using a new fabric (each fabric reacts differently) or a new paint brand. 

2. less is more. You can always go bigger on a project but you cannot remove paint as easily. Start with a little bit of whatever you are doing- water, dilution, paint type etc and see how it bleeds, flows, or pigments. Keep adding more until you are at your desired level. 

3. Watercolour- let it dry before adding layers! If you are using watercolour and want to blend/add other colours wait until you previous layer is totally dry. If you add more liquid to an already wet fabric the chances of bleeding and distortion are a lot higher- especially if you want the colour in a specific area rather than the entire hoop. When you do your next layer- don't worry about blending, the water from your next colour/layer will reactivate the previous layer as well. 

4. If the watercolor bleeds too much:  If your project bleeds to much and it bothers you/is not what you were going for. Do not fret. I have saved a couple of pieces by letting it dry completely and then dry brushing watercolour paint of the same colour as the fabric over the bleed. It may take a few layers and it may not totally disappear if it is a darker colour underneath but it will not be as obvious.

My personal preferences

I have talked a little bit about my own preferences in this post; embroidery before painting, when I like to use each paint type, and why I use each- now here are some links to the paints I use!

*DISCLAIMER: I have enjoyed using these paints but they are by no means elite paints- they are definitely beginner and budget friendly, I believe in affordable and accessible crafting. 



  • Budget friendly: $24 for 42 colours! I used the Meedan Watercolour set for my entire Pride collection. Liked the pigments and how things popped, definitely not the best watercolour set but it did decently and I had loads of colour options. 

Fabric Paint:

That's all folks!

If you have any other questions about painting embroidery feel free to drop a comment or reach out to me ! I am always excited to share knowledge and would love to be able to help.

That's it for this week!

Stay weird and wonderful,


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You are welcome! I hope you love the different paint types, glad this post could help :)


Thank you so much for this post! I’m trying to add paint to my embroidery as well and definitely struggling with the watercolor! I hadn’t even thought of the acrylic or fabric paint!! Will give it a try!!


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