Paint vs Dye
First, you can stop stressing about the material. I get so many questions on this, and it does matter if you’re getting your dress dyed, but I’m a painter. I know it looks like a dye, but it's not. There is no boiling hot water, dress dunking, color uncertainty or fabric limits.
I can paint any bridal fabric any color, but each fabric has some unique properties and results you should know before getting your dress painted.
No one fabric is the best, it depends more on the look you hope to accomplish. Here I will break down each fabric for you with the pros and cons so you can decide the best fabric for you!
I also grouped similar fabrics so these might not be the proper terms but it will be easy to identify each fabric and their paint-ability.
First, A Little Fabric Lesson.
We're going to go over Fabric Weaves, not Fabric Material. The confusing part is everyone just refers to them all as the fabric type, but I'll try and simplify that.
Fabric Materials are typically what the tag of a dress will say, but the Weave is more often found in the description of the dress by the seller/designer as it describes how it looks and behaves.
Material = What the Fabric is made of.
Some examples of Materials are Polyester, Nylon, Silk, Acrylic, Cotton.
Weave = How the Material was made.
Some examples being Lace, Chiffon, Organza.
Now let's break down the Bridal Fabrics.
Again, this is really simplified so if you know the proper term that’s great, but if your guessing, this guide will help.
1. Lace Applique
It’s a decorative lace that has been cut and sewn to Tulle or another fabric type, typically heavy along the rim and in patches going up the dress. 95% of the time, the lace will be attached to tulle, but I have seen it attached to chiffon and satin as well. My dress was this fabric, so you have a prime example of how it looks.
PS: If your dress has Lace Appliques at the top, but they don’t cascade into the area you want to be colored, I consider that a Tulle dress for the purposes of my coloring.
Typically the Lace will be slightly lighter than the tulle making its intricate beauty pop. I personally love scalloped lace hems, they allow for detail along the edge of the dress but still get the soft blend of tulle at the top. The finish, for lace applique on tulle, is nearly perfect with color, soft blend, holds well, feels and moves the same.
Metallic and Glitter Colors will only show in the lace area. Since this is a blend of two fabrics, check out my notes of Lace and Tulle. This fabric can be a little more costly than the others. Also, If your lace has beads or sequins on it, the color won’t take as well to those.
Typically floral patterns that cover the entire dress. Instead of it being attached to another fabric, the fabric itself is completely composed of the patterns interlocking. Check out the Rustic White Rose for a unique paint with this fabric!
Great for lots of color and details. This fabric gives you subtle depth without the poof that most lace appliques have. Thicker lace takes metallic colors and glitters fine.
You will notice a slight change in the feel of the fabric, but it will move and act the same. If your lace has beads on it, the color won’t take to those.
Almost invisible netting. Typically your veil is made out of this. Unlike the others, it won't need to have a sewn hem since it won’t unravel. Meaning the edge of the fabric is just cut. Often used for a light and airy effect or to add body under other fabrics.
Lots of layers make for wonderful blends, sometimes too good. The color finish is perfect, because each layer blends together to create a flawless, smooth coloring. It causes barely any change to the fabric—none if you have a good quality tulle.
This soft, airy look won’t take too much detail, so it’s not the best if you want a lot of color in a little area. Stay away from metallic or glitter colors with this fabric. Sometimes a light overspray occurs—this is a where color from the air gets trapped in the top area of the tulle. It’s barely noticeable and I have greatly reduced this occurrence. My most popular gowns have this—my dress and the peacock dress—so it’s not such a bad thing, just something to be aware of.
Translucent (see-through) soft and silky. It has really great movement, like how water just flows and moves. It’s often used in simpler gowns and bridesmaid dresses. (Georgette is also very similar to chiffon)
This fabric is amazing, giving you such strong color payoff that you really only need 2 layers colored. This also means it’s easier on the wallet. The finish is near perfect. You may see little spots, but nothing drastic. Also, due to the mix I use, this fabric is may be dry cleaned! My favorite thing about this fabric is really the color payoff: bright, dark, light, metallic, glitter, hand painting, it can do it all.
Your biggest drawback is going to be it wrinkles easy. You will need to steam/iron the dress before the big day. This fabric is also a bit more delicate and snags easily.
Translucent (see-through) sometimes shiny, has a sewn hem, and lots of body. Basically, if you tried to roll it up or fold it, it will just unfold itself. Often used in rosette gowns, it likes to flow in the air. Looks similar to Chiffon but acts very different, feels stiffer.
Again, this fabric takes all colors and all of them quite well. It’s great with detail and good with metallic. The hem, usually white and thin, doesn't often color well, leaving a white line around the edge of the fabric. Some might call this a drawback, but I actually like the look.
This fabric resists color the most. If you scrub it, it will come off. But don’t be scared, you have to really, really scrub it, and who does that to a wedding dress? Horsehair (a plastic-like material in the hem) in Organza is very difficult to work with, thus more expensive to color.
SUPER vague here, but basically any opaque (not see-through) fabric with minimal stretch I just call Satin. Almost every dress has a “satin“ lining to make the dress not see through.
Warning: If your dress has permanent wrinkles these will become highlighted.
Color-wise, metallic and glitters are wonderful on this fabric. I can also paint details directly on it for some very unique designs. Keep in mind, it has a very different look than the others since there is no depth or translucency. Consider creating that with patterning, details, stripes, etc. Take, for instance, the Corpse Bride Dress. It turned out AMAZING because of these details and disregard for a perfect machine-like gradient.
This isn’t a fabric you can hold up to your face and it look perfect, but standing next to it the little “errors” are not noticeable. The problem with this fabric (as a top layer) is 95% of satin dresses repel water, making it extremely hard to color. It’s still possible, but very difficult.
This is an opaque (not see-through) fabric with stretch. It’s becoming more popular but would not be considered your normal wedding dress material. Often a matte look and soft texture seen typically on simple dresses that hug the body.
WOW, so smooth. Again it has a much different look than the translucent fabrics, the final result will be very smooth, wrinkles are not an issue for this fabric! Color-wise there are no limits. I can paint details directly on it for some very unique designs. Very similar to chiffon for me, and also Dry-Cleanable!
Biggest problem is it is tooooo good, the color can slide up a bit in areas and make a bit of a swirly swooshy look. That’s me being hyper-critical though, I mean you saw the picture. PERFECT.
Hope that helps! Let me know below if you have any other questions.