Custom Painting Tutorial: Create an Awesome 80s Denim Jacket

by Dariacreative
6 Materials
2 Hours

Hi guys. I’m going to show you how to custom paint an 80s denim jacket.

Vintage fashion is a huge trend. It’s a lot of fun to look back and take inspiration from previous decades. Denim jackets were very trendy in the 80s, so it’s a perfect clothing article for this project.

We’re going to take some elements from the aesthetics of the 80s and design some ideas for our custom painted jacket.

Tools and materials:

  • Denim jacket
  • Bleach
  • Fabric paint
  • Paint brush
  • Fabric outliner
  • Black fabric marker
80s design inspiration

1. Look for inspiration

Pinterest is a great place to find a large variety of design elements. You will be given options like images from album covers, art, and culture.

I chose two 80s inspired design concepts. The first is video games inspired, futuristic, cyberpunk. It has elements of outer space, and bright neon colors.

The second aesthetic is sci-fi inspired. The surrealistic illustrations I found used more mid-colors. My idea was to mix the two aesthetics and create something in between.

Creating base pattern with bleach

2. Use bleach to start your design

Start by using bleach to create a base pattern.

I made 80s inspired waves. It’s best to start with bleach instead of paint because it will allow you to create a soft layer to start on without any added texture.

Painting on black fabric requires more paint than white fabric because black fabric absorbs color. Bleach will help reduce the thickness of your artwork. This will make it easier for you to apply other colors on top of a light layer and your artwork will be very soft.


Adding color

3. Add color to the bleached pattern

Use spray fabric paint to change the color of the pattern you made with the bleach.

Spray fabric paint is very soft. It's just like a textile dye. It doesn't make fabric stiff. It's very watery, and soft. It's not able to dye dark fabric so it will only be visible on the parts you bleached.


Sketching design with chalk

4. Start sketching your designs with chalk

Once you’re finished with your base pattern you can start to think about what you want to paint.

Start by sketching it out using chalk. I started by writing the word ‘love’ because I think that the 80s were very romantic.


Painting DIY 80s jacket

5. Start painting

Start by applying the first layer of paint.

I painted directly on the fabric with my colors. I didn't apply a white base layer because it was not necessary. Opaque fabric paints have very good coverage.

The first layer will be dirty yellow but adding a second layer will create a very bright yellow.

Painting DIY 80s jacket

Paint some planets, shining stars, and other futuristic elements. The 80s were all about the future, and things like space travel and the progress of technology.

Drawing DIY 80s jacket

You can draw a heart inside of a futuristic 3-dimensional space with grid lines. 

Painting DIY 80s jacket

Add some slogans for an 80s street style vibe. Use a few different 80s inspired fonts for a funky effect. In addition to fonts, you can also use regular handwriting.  

Painting DIY 80s jacket

6. Paint the sleeves 

Sleeves are so underused in clothing customization, but they are a great place for some added slogans, images, and details.


Painting DIY 80s jacket

You’ll need to use a small brush for the line work and lettering. Lettering would be easier with fabric markers. But since we’re using dark fabric, they won’t show up. 

Painting DIY 80s jacket

7. Add a second layer of paint once the first layer dries

The second layer should come out very bright. Use opaque colors for painting on dark clothes.

If your paints have good coverage, you should be able to create bright and light colors using only two layers of paint.


Adding detail to DIY 80s jacket

8. Use a fabric outliner for details

I recommend using a shiny silver color fabric outliner for the rings of the planets.

You can also use it to add an extra effect to your clouds. They are easy to use and create a really cool effect.


Cleaning up the lettering

9. Clean the lettering with a black fabric marker

It can be challenging to create clear and sharp letters on the denim, so here is a tip. When working with dark denim, you can use a black fabric marker to outline letters. This will make them cleaner and more defined.

For handwriting effect there is no need to make letters clean and clear. You actually want to do the opposite. Your letters should look a bit messier to create a freehand effect.


Painting DIY 80s jacket

Use a variety of fonts, handwriting, colors, and effects. This will help to create a very eye-catching design. Create gradients on your lettering as well. Gradients were used a lot in 80s fonts, and they add a bit more of a pop to the design.


Painting DIY 80s jacket

10. Paint details on the front of the jacket

Add a couple of surrealistic elements on the front of the jacket as well.

I painted melting butterflies because surrealism was a big trend in 80s design.

Completed DIY 80s jacket

DIY 80s jacket

I love the way this custom design came out.

Now I’m inspired to try to create designs with a 70s aesthetic or a 90s aesthetic. It would be so fun and interesting. Let me know in the comments if you think that I should make something inspired from a different decade.

Suggested materials:
  • Denim jacket
  • Bleach
  • Fabric paint
See all materials

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