How to Paint Denim

Painting denim is a fun and creative way to personalize jackets, jeans, and shorts. Once you learn how to paint denim, you can turn an inexpensive, simple item into a statement piece that is one-of-a-kind. Below, I walk you through how to paint denim using a pair of shorts. I also share some of the items that I have done, in the hopes that you can use them for inspiration.


Step 1: Research Potential Paint Designs

Search Pinterest or Google Images for "Painted Denim" and you will find tons of ideas. Check out the inspiration below from my sisters' and my closets.



Step 2: Collect Supplies

  • You will need a WASHED denim jacket or pair of pants/shorts. Make sure to wash the item beforehand and let it dry before painting your denim. I used this denim jacket for my "Howdy Honey" design seen above.

  • 1 black or blue ballpoint pen

  • Fabric paint in a color of your choice. If you use any other type of paint, it will wash off or get damaged.

  • A range of paint brushes in different sizes depending on the design you choose.


Step 3: Map Out Your Denim Design

  • Option 1: Freehand the design by drawing it on your denim with a pen. If the lines or design is a little shaky, don't worry. You will be painting over it with thicker lines, so you won't see the pen when you're done.

  • Option 2: Use stencils or create your design on Word or Canva, print it out, cut it out, and trace it onto your denim with a pen.


Step 4: Paint Your Denim

Paint the denim as you would paint any other canvas. Remember that you can always add more but you can't take the paint away once it's on the denim. Fill in your pen outline with paint and let dry. Repeat this process, letting the paint dry in between coats, until you can no longer see the pen lines. Depending on the color of your paint, this requires 2-6 coats of paint.


Pro Tips for Painting Denim

  • If you are painting pockets, slip a paper towel in the pocket. This prevents excess paint getting onto other parts of the denim.

  • If you want a design that includes clean lines, use painters tape to lay out straight lines. Once the paint is dry, peel the tape off to reveal a clean design.





Step 5: Show Off Your Painted Denim

Once your denim is ready to wear, snap a photo, upload it to Instagram, and tag @simplykarna. I'll be reposting your creations and giving shoutouts. I can't wait to see your creations!


Thanks for reading,



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