Coloring Fabric for Embroidery

coloring fabric with a flower template using Crayola crayoon

How to Color Fabric for Embroidery

I have a small handful of embroidery pdf patterns in my Etsy shop that have a little color added to them and I often get asked how to do that. So I’ve updated this blog post to show you how easy it is!

Coloring fabric for embroidery can be done using paints, color pencils, and crayons but they all have their nuances. For the sake of simplicity and ease I’m going to focus strictly on crayons.

I’ve only used Crayola brand crayons so it’s what I recommend since I know it’ll work.

Just to be clear, crayons aren’t going to give you super bright results. It mainly adds soft tints to your fabric so if you were hoping for brighter color you may have better results with watercolor.

Watercolor however can spread easily and it’ll rub off onto your fingers if you’re not really careful. Crayola crayons are beginner friendly and you can get the hang of it pretty quickly as you can control where the colors go.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Crayola crayons
  • Embroidery fabric with the pattern transferred
  • Iron
  • Paper towel
  • Mod Podge & water
  • Paint brush

Before You Begin…

You should have your pattern already transferred to your fabric and added to your hoop. Try printing onto fabric with your home printer if you have one. It’s my absolute favorite way of transferring my patterns because it’s quick and gives me precise transfers.

The fabric you use is also kind of important. I stick to a nice white cotton or linen fabric. Sometimes, if it’s too dark or has a little too much texture the colors don’t show up as well or as smoothly as you may like.

Whatever you decide to use be sure to test it to see if you like how it works with crayons.

Coloring Fabric

Coloring fabric comes first before you begin stitching. This is very important. If you try to add color later you may find it really difficult to reach areas next to the thread and if you’re using a light color thread you could accidentally color that too which can ruin your work.

Pick out a few colors from your Crayola crayon box and decide where you’d like to add your colors. Planning is always good since you’re not going to be able to erase anything later.

coloring fabric with a flower template using Crayola crayoon

Working one section at a time, lightly shade in a layer of color. Don’t force color onto the fabric and instead just feather it in. Then add a second layer and continue building up layers until you like how it looks.

Colors should go on lightly so it doesn’t end up looking waxy and obvious that it’s crayon. You could technically scrap excess color away but it can get very messy and is best if avoided.

When you add color in layers you’re going to have better control of where you place color and will prevent you from overdoing it.

You can add color by coloring in small light circles or from side to side. There’s really no right or wrong here and it’s more of a preference thing.

Setting in Color

Once you’re finished coloring your fabric it’s time to remove any excess wax. This step may remove a little color so if you need to go back and add a bit more just repeat this step when you’re done.

ironing fabric

All you have to do is place a thin paper towel on top of your fabric and run a hot iron over it for a few seconds. Then pull up the paper towel right away. If there is any wax to be removed it will show up.

If you’ve kept your layers pretty light then you won’t see much wax removed onto your paper towel, so don’t worry if that’s the case.

If you’re tempted to run the iron over your fabric a second time be sure the paper towel doesn’t have any color on it (if you’re reusing it) so you don’t accidentally melt that onto your fabric.

Using Mod Podge

While the iron helps remove some of that excess wax, it doesn’t make your colors smudge-proof. If you want to add a little extra protection to keep the colors set then here’s what I recommend and it works great!

Simply use watered down Mod Podge (matte, not glossy) as a light varnish. Not only will it keep colors from smudging but there’s also no obvious film.

drop of Mod Podge

If you use it as-is, then that’s a whole different story. It’s just too thick and is very obvious when dry. Your needle and thread will also get stuck as you work, so say no to thick Mod Podge in this case.

To get nice results thin down your Mod Podge with water until it looks like skim milk. It should be quite watery. I use a dollop in about 10mL of water.

Test this out on a scrap piece of fabric before you add it to your pattern to make sure the consistency isn't too thick. 

Lightly paint over colors one section at a time and rinse your brush in between to remove any colors it may pick up before moving on to the next section.

painting Mod Podge onto colors on fabric

If you’ve made your layers of color nice and light, and you’ve removed excess wax you won’t have any issues with color spreading when you add your Mod Podge. Try not to use too wet of a brush but if the Mod Podge does spread out past your template it won’t be obvious once it dries.

Once it’s dry gently run a q-tip over the surface to test it out. If color is still rubbing off give it one more thin layer.

You’re ready to stitch when your fabric is completely dry! You won’t even notice that there’s anything on your fabric. Your needle and thread should glide through easy as pie.

Thanks for sticking around and happy coloring + happy stitching!


p.s. Don’t forget to join my newsletter to stay updated and to get your hands on a cute floral embroidery pattern!

Floral pattern made with 5 basic embroidery stitches

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