How to Create a Pattern on Jeans

comments (2) November 12th, 2016     

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SLMiller Stephani Miller, associate editor
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Create a design on your favorite jeans.
Choose a denim garment carefully. All-cotton fabric is ideal, but cotton blended with some polyester or Spandex content wont negatively affect the outcome
For high contrast, try dark-colored denim and plain discharge paste or pastel deColourant Plus, or light-wash denim and neon- or primary-colored deColourant Plus.
Create a design on your favorite jeans.

Create a design on your favorite jeans.

Photo: Jack Deutsch
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This article was originally featured in the Sewstylish Spring 2014 issue. The dragonfly template seen in the article can be printed here.

Reverse printing and color printing are fun, easy ways to spruce up an old pair of jeans. Try patterns that are whimsical, tribal, geometric, or naturalistic. Place them all over or in just a few spots, such as along a side seam or on the back pockets. You can add printed designs to your denim jeans, skirts, and jackets with very little e ort and a lot of creativity.

All you need are paintbrushes, stencils, or stamps, and a discharge paste such as deColourant or deColourant Plus. When applied to fabric, plain discharge paste removes color from the fibers it touches, creating a unique reverse- printed surface pattern in a paler shade of the fabric's dyed color. Colored discharge paste, such as deColourant Plus, works in one step by exchanging the fabric's dyed color for another color carried in the solution-anything from pastel to neon to metallic.

Why not just use bleach to remove fabric color and create a reverse-print design? Bleach damages and eventually degrades fibers, but discharge paste does not. You could also use fabric paints to create a colorful printed design, but paint sits on the fabric surface and eventually cracks or peels with wear and washing. Colored discharge paste soaks into the fibers and replaces the original color with a new color.


Add or Remove Color

Choose a denim garment carefully. All-cotton fabric is ideal, but cotton blended with some polyester or Spandex content won't negatively affect the outcome. Get creative with your printed design. Cover the jeans' entire surface with printed motifs, or limit the design to a smaller area.

Before using discharge paste on the jeans, make test samples on several swatches of scrap denim in the same color as the jeans. Heat-activate each sample to see the finished results.

1 Prepare the jeans. Slip the jeans onto pant stretchers, if desired, to keep the fabric taut as you work. Cut cardboard or poster board into pieces small enough to fit inside the jeans' legs. Slip the cardboard inside the leg you are working on. This prevents the discharge paste from seeping through the top layer and affecting the bottom layer.


Choose Your Tools

Apply discharge paste
(; just as you
would apply fabric paints.
You can use:
• Foam applicator
• Paintbrush
• Squeeze bottle
with applicator tip
• Stamp
• Stencil
You'll also need:
• 1⁄4 yard denim fabric
(same color as the denim
• Cardboard or poster board
• Iron
• Jeans or other denim
• Work surface
• Pant stretchers

Color Combinations and Development

There are many options for color combinations when using a discharge paste product such as deColourant and deColourant Plus. For high contrast, try dark-colored denim and plain discharge paste or pastel deColourant Plus, or light-wash denim and neon- or primary-colored deColourant Plus. For a subtler effect, try dark-wash denim and primary- or metallic-colored deColourant Plus, or light-wash denim and metallic deColourant Plus.

make a pattern on jeans

For more dramatic color removal on denim, apply the discharge paste, allow it to dry, heatset the design, then wash the jeans and reapply more deColourant over the first application. You can also apply deColourant Plus colors over a design created using plain discharge paste to build up layers of color removal and replacement.

Make several test samples on scrap denim (in the same color as your garment) to determine which color combination you like and how many applications are necessary for a desired effect.

2 Create a design. Apply the discharge paste generously using a foam applicator to dab it through a stencil or onto a stamp to transfer a design onto the denim; paint discharge paste freehand onto the fabric with a paintbrush; or apply it using a squeeze bottle with an applicator tip.


3 Dry the design. Let the discharge paste dry completely on the fabric to avoid smearing the design; this may take up to eight hours. Keep the cardboard pieces in place until the design is dry. For more complex color development, see "Color Combinations and Development" on the previous page.

4 Create a print on the opposite side of the jeans, if desired. The first side must be completely dry.


Hot Tip:

If you're not satisfied with a printed design, you can remove the discharge paste by washing the fabric before heat-setting. Color removal and exchange is permanent after heat activation.



5 Activate the design with heat. Turn the iron to its cotton or denim setting with or without steam. You may wish to use a press cloth to protect your iron while heat-setting. Press the design for about 30 seconds to activate the color removal or exchange.

make a pattern on jeans

6 Wash and dry the printed jeans. For full color removal or replacement, you may need to reapply the discharge paste a second time.


Safety Tip:

Discharge paste has a strong chemical smell during heat-setting, and the fumes can be harmful if inhaled. Always work in a well-ventilated space when using it.

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Comments (2)

Margaret67 writes: This will absolutely change my wardrobe. I have 2 pair of jeans I didn't wear!
Posted: 6:36 am on November 23rd
hashim786 writes: please tell me from where can I purchase decolourant and decolourant plus in kolkata/india

Posted: 2:32 pm on February 17th
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