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Kimono Blog &  Events

Guide: Design your own obi and kimono!

Have you ever wanted to create your own obi or Japanese kimono? Do you have a mofuku obi or kimono in your collection and want to make it into something you can wear outside of funeral attire? Over the years, we have observed a trend in Japan that is quite simply taking solid colored obi and kimono and painting them. We have even seen things like rhinestones and lace added to kimono. Mofuku pieces in particular are ideal for these kinds of projects. The Japanese have expressly made it known that out of respect for the mourning process that such attire is respectfully reserved for funeral customs and is not to be casual fashion. All the same mofuku are often made of higher end silks, and are fairly affordable to obtain. Not to mention, the goth in all of us just love black ;) Painting on your obi or kimono is a fairly simple process. In the case of mofuku the objective is to add color to the item so that it is no longer considered mofuku, and thus more socially acceptable to wear outside of mourning the passing of a love one. When painting your kimono and obi keep in mind certainly colors are more formal than others: black, silver, white, and gold are generally considered the formal colors in Japanese attire.

Here is a photo of an obi we painted today, it was a fairly simple process. After the photo there is a guide to help you paint your own.

nagoya obi

That said, some may think that this kind of project is only reserved for talented artists. We have some great news for you, anyone can paint an obi or a kimono. Even some of the most untrained and inexperience artists will find this work fairly simple if not relaxing. The easiest kimono and obi to paint are the ones that have a rinzu, which is basically a design woven into the fabric. Rinzu is NOT embroidery, but rather a technique that makes the design a part of the fabric. Kimono and obi that feature rinzu are as simple as a paint by number approach, with the artist simply painting in the designs. More advanced artists who want to paint their own design and feel that their skills are up to their challenge will benefit from avoiding kimono and obi that feature rinzu and looking for smoother surfaces. TIP: Ro, ra, and sha are summer weaves of fabric that are very lose and open. We experimented with painting on a ro Japanese kimono years ago, and feel that this kind of fabric does not work well as a canvas.

Below is a small guide to the process of painting your obi or kimono. Supplies: Paintbrush, acrylic paint in your choice of colors, fabric medium to add to acrylic paint, a flat surface, obi or kimono, good light.

Paint Tip: Different brands of paint come in different thicknesses and with different degrees of pigment concentration. Some paints are watery, and those will not work well on this kind of project. When you add fabric medium the acrylic paint you are using will thin some.

1) To begin you need to clear your work space for the work that is to be done. Something I have done in the past to help with working with large section of fabric on a flat smooth surface (which can be slippery) is that I will get a quilters cutting mat which helps reduce slip. Another option is painters tape, but please proceed with caution when using painters tape and first test it in a discrete area to see if it will leave behind any sticky or marks.

2) You can use acrylic paint straight from the bottle, or optionally (but recommended) mix in fabric medium to the paint per instructions on the bottles. Fabric medium helps make the paint better bond to the fabric and not as easily wash or or bleed when in contact with water or moisture. Fabric medium also makes the paint more flexible and less likely to crack. Ideally you should not be washing your attire very often, and should focus on stop treat cleaning it mostly. The fabric medium will thin your paint and make it a little more watery. That said, if you get caught in the rain or a drink is spilled on the item you dont want the paint bleeding everywhere.

TIP: When panting on fabric, keep in mind to not make your paint too thick of a layer. Fabric is fluid, it moves and changes shape. If your paint is too thick it will crack and potentially even begin to flake off. FAbric like spandex will NOT paint well due to its synthetic nature and how much it stretches.

nagoya obi

3) PAINT! You can do your own design, or simply fill in the shapes on the rinzu of the fabric. Most of all, have fun and enjoy this creative process. Painting to fill in the shapes of an already existing rinzu pattern is great for people of all artistic skill levels.

make your own obi

4) Ideally wait around 48 hours before you wear your art. Some places suggest doing stuff like using a hot air hair dryer to help set the paint and better bond it with the fibers. I have not tried this technique, and do not know the results.

That said, there are many ways to decorate and design your kimono and obi. Some people use airbrushing techniques, and we have even in the past used spray paint to create designs. This approach to converting mofuku attire into something more common day is popular throughout Japan and there are many great examples all over of people using this approach. If you are looking for some mofuku obi to paint, we have a number of them for sale that are very affordable and ideal for this project! You can shop in our kimono store online under the nagoya obi section to check out the mofuku obi we have for sale :)

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