Sometimes appliqué isn’t the answer; as much as I prefer to sew on designs, for longevity’s sake, painting is the solution. I’ve only painted on a few of my cosplay, but when I do, generally I make stencils because I am a stickler for clean, crisp edges (which sometimes don’t even happen with stencils, due to user error).
My most ambitious fabric painting project was the Twelve Kingdom’s Illustration book cover Youko cosplay. As soon as I saw the illustration book cover I was obsessed, but also overwhelmed. This was the most ambitious painting project I have done and I learned a lot of what not to do.
I sketched out the designs, transferred them onto blank stencil mylar sheets, and carefully cut them out with an X-ACTO blade. In the end I had 5 floral stencils and a number of foam brushes, cut at various sizes to freehand the bamboo designs.
As for the paints themselves; they are all mixtures of fabric paint and liquid acrylics. Fabric paint is much softer than acrylics and I usually try to use them exclusively on fabrics, but some of the colors I already had in artists liquid acrylics and wanted to use what I had.
At first I wanted the colors to look watercolored, to match the gorgeous illustration, but in experimenting (on the actual cosplay) I decided that I’d need to scrap the idea. What not to do: experiment with painting on the actual costume. I had also tried to freehand a few of the watercolored designs because I thought that might give a better feel to it, but in the end it ended up looking a bit messy and the colors were inconsistent. After the failure of my first attempt I went back and premixed all the colors I wanted to use in large quantities so I would not have to remix them.
A lot of liberties were taken with the design placement ; the only clear picture we get is with the one angle on the book cover and I tried to mimic that same feel on the entire hanfu coat (not sure of proper term for this particular article).
For Yorda I painted on a dye-bath to get the gradients needed for her dress. Some portions I dyed first to discolor then painted on a more saturated dye-bath to get the darker tones. I used the same technique for the Blinded Maiden.