Painted Upholstery – The Process Revealed (Tutorial)

*NOTE -  There are other examples of painted upholstery (mostly from readers) on the Chairs page at the top of the blog.  In addition, there are other upholstery painting methods on that page, if you are interested.

I recently painted an upholstered chair and have been asked about the process.  Below are before and after photos:

And, here it is after 15 months.  Still looking great!
Chair-005

Why would I do this?  Well, after I learned that recovering a wing back chair for my master bedroom would cost $500-700 total, I decided that just wasn’t in my budget.  Not to mention, I haven’t seen any good fabric in this color anywhere (not locally)…

So, how could I do this cheaper?

I REALLY wanted a chair like in my inspiration photo.   Not exactly like it, but the general color and shape.

Image(35)

The wing back and the vibrant teal color were important elements of my master bedroom story board.

storyboardmaster51

Then, I had an epiphany.  I remembered seeing a painted chair a while back.  So, I began to do a little research on painting upholstery.  After all, I could surely afford to buy a used chair and paint!

After a day or two of getting my ducks in a row as far as a plan was concerned, I purchased this chair on Craigslist.

IMG_4611 (640x480)_thumb[5][8]

It was in perfect condition.  Well built.  Great lines.

I began the painting process.  First on a pillow as a test, though this post is about the actual chair.

Materials needed:
1 Quart of latex satin paint in the color of your choice (I just got word that though Valspar called it latex, this paint is acrylic.  It’s also good to note that others have tried the whole process with just latex, just acrylic craft paints and even Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  It does not seem to matter.)
1 Spray bottle full of water, ready for refills
1 Paint brush
Fabric medium (equal to the amount of paint that you use)
Acrylic craft paint in the color of your choice (It should match the color of the Latex paint should you want to use my exact method and do the final coat in acrylic craft paint.)
Sand paper in super fine grit

Tutorial:
1.  Make sure the chair is wiped free of dust and debris.  Clean it well.

2.  Mix 1:1 parts of paint and fabric medium.

IMG_4771 (640x629)

I used Ocean Soul by Valspar.  Below is a more accurate depiction of the color used:

Below is the textile medium that I used.  It is by Delta Ceramcoat and I purchased it in 8 ounce containers at Michael’s.

IMG_4636 (364x640)

Fabric medium keeps the fabric from getting too hard.   Note:  Some fabric mediums require that you place an iron briefly on the fabric (or a hair dryer) after the paint dries.

I didn’t use much paint – maybe 1/8 of the quart.  I mixed mine in an old cup.  A little goes a long way in this phase, as it will be very watered down.

This will be your base coat.

IMG_4699 (480x640)

3.  Water that paint/ textile medium mixture down.   Mix in about 1/2 the amount of water as paint.  (1 part water to 2 parts paint.)  Stir.   It should look more like a stain than a paint.

4.  Remove all seat cushions that are not attached from the chair or other furniture item.

5.  Spritz (fine mist) the part of the chair you will start with first with water.  I started on the seat cushion first.  Don’t be shy, you want the fabric wet.  Rub the water into the fabric.

IMG_4698 (480x640)

Sorry about the pics!  I was new to blogging when I posted this!

6.  Brush on the paint slowly while blending the best you can.  Work the paint into the fabric.   Don’t be afraid to use your hands.  Always make your last stroke with the grain so the fabric lays in the right direction as it dries.

IMG_4693 (640x480)

Note:  I tried it on a pillow first.  If you have a pillow or if there is an underside of a cushion, start there and see how it goes.

IMG_4644

The watered down coats should give you light coverage, almost like a stain.  It will also act as a primer.

IMG_4695 (441x640)

7.  Do two coats this way.   Each should be VERY thin.  Water it down even more if you have to.  Let the first one dry fully before beginning the second.  I let mine dry overnight.

It will look worse before better.  This is after one coat.

chairbedroom2

8.  Don’t worry, your arm won’t fall off.  It is tiring, though, so you won’t mind resting between coats.

9.  Sand any particularly rough parts.   Sand lightly with a fine grit sandpaper.  In the direction of the grain, if possible.

IMG_4756 (480x640)

10.  Once my chair was dry, I chose to spray painted the legs in a glossy white.

Below is the chair before the legs were painted, with two coats of paint on the upholstery.

IMG_4703 (640x480)

After the legs were painted.

IMG_4762 (480x640)

11.  Now, it’s time for a final coat using the acrylic paint.  Mix it 1:1 with the fabric medium, like you did with the latex paint.

Note:  It is not necessary to do an acrylic coat.  You can use latex if you prefer.  I just got word that the Valspar paint that I used is acrylic.  However, most say that acrylic has more pigment.  Either way, you want a third coat and you will want this coat a little thicker.  

I mixed this in a cup as well.  But, this time, be more generous with the paint and dilute it less.  I’d do a full cup of paint, this size. (See below.)

Add just a few thimbles of water to dilute it a little.

IMG_4758 (640x548)

I had to mix my own color since the acrylic paints didn’t come in the color I wanted.

Spray the fabric with water again, just like you did on the other two coats.  It simply helps it blend and go on more smoothly.

Paint this layer much more generously.  This will be the layer that will cover the chair more completely. Don’t glop it on, but be generous.  It should provide full coverage unlike the base coats.

12.  I thought my chair needed a little bling, so I added some nail head trim on the arms.  I got the spacing right by folding a piece of paper and taping it so as to laminate it.

IMG_4767 (640x480)

Then, I simply hammered them in!  Nothing to it.

IMG_4779 (436x640)

13.  Congrats, you have a new chair!

IMG_4787 (441x640)

And, here is a look at it in my master bedroom!

Before?
IMG_4611 (640x480)

Is it crunchy or stiff?
It started out as a velvet fabric.  It is not soft like velvet anymore, but it is also not hard, crunchy or sand papery.  It’s like a stiffer rougher fabric, similar to painted canvas.  If you rub it in the direction of the grain, though, it’s not bad at all.  If you rub it in the opposite direction, it’s more rough.

Does the paint come off on clothing?
Not at all.  I tested it out and even wet it and sat on it.  No problem.   Similarly, if you paint a t-shirt, the paint doesn’t rub off.

Chair-005

Tips?
- A smoother fabric makes for a more consistent color.
- The final paint layer is very important.  It will give the consistent deep color.  Be sure not to overdo it on the first two coats.
- Go light on seams.  Water this down and don’t overdo it.  Work it in to those areas.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands.
- Sand down any particularly rough spots.
- For a more leather-like finish, you could try a glossy paint or a wax finish.
- It seems to work fine with latex paint only or just acrylic paint.  See my second painted chair (acrylic only) and the readers pale pink chaise (latex only).
- You’ll find that the better shape the fabric is in, the better the paint will go on and the less stiff it will be.  The arms on my chair were a tiny bit worn compared to the rest of the chair.  As a result, they are a little rougher now.  I do think that in time, with use, it will all even out in texture, though.
- It’s not a chair to cuddle in.  It’s not super plush anymore.  However, you will find other painting methods that are a little softer on the Chairs page of my blog.
- Someone made a good point – it’s a little like the concept of the velvet Elvis paintings.
- Best practice is to do a pillow first if you have one or the underside of a cushion if it is possible.
- I strongly suggest that this is tried on a chair that you would otherwise reupholster or get rid of so nothing is in jeopardy of being lost.
- It is perfect for a photography prop!
- See other painting methods on my Chairs page.  There are many examples there.

Hope you enjoyed this step by step look into the process!

PLEASE let me know if you try this – I’d love to see photos!

I am constantly updating my blog with examples of painted upholstery.  In fact, I added a new Chairs page that shows examples of painted upholstery on one page with links to posts.   This is the best way to see other examples.  Feel free to comment  with any thoughts or questions.

Update 5/31/11:  My second painted chair. Textured, no velvet and I did acrylic paint only.
Update 6/18/11:  Reader paints a pale pink chaise.  Latex paint only.
Update 8/8/11:  It does not seem to matter if you do latex or acrylic.  The main thing is to do thin layers and to spritz the fabric with water.  Work it into the fabric, don’t let it just sit on top.
Update 5/17/12:  The intro to my series on Simply Spray upholstery spray paint and an update on how my two painted chairs are holding up.
Update 1/6/13:  A reader wrote: “I have to say that Martha Stewart Fabric Medium was way easier to work with than the Ceramcoat Fabric Medium I started with. Also for me, the coats I did with satin latex paint did not nearly cover the original color as well as the acrylic paint. I think in the future, I might use acrylic paint only mixed with the Martha Stewart medium. That mix was a lot thinner and easier to work with than the latex paint and Ceramcoat.”
Update 6/18/13:  We’re still using it today in our master bedroom.
Update 7/1/13:  I just got a comment saying the Valspar Signature paint line is actually acrylic paint not latex.  Good to know!

P.S.  I am not selling anything.  I make no money off of posting on painted upholstery – I just offer information to my readers.  It would have helped me as I was researching and deciding what to do, so I want to offer it to others.

If you choose to follow this tutorial, it is at your own risk.  I am not responsible for the outcome, nor do I claim that it works perfectly for everyone.  I show fails as well as successes on my Chairs page.  I have only tried it on the two particular chairs that I own and am sharing my experience in hopes that it inspires and helps you. 

450 Comments :

  1. would this work on a couch that isn’t smooth fabric?????

    • I can only tell you what it worked on for me. But, look through the examples on the Chairs page and see if you find any with a similar fabric to your sofa. That may help ease your mind. Good luck!

  2. Here are a couple of valuable tips I learned doing this project:

    Use Valspar acrylic/latex–I used flat paint and it seems to work better.
    Instead of using sandpaper between coats, paint your piece, let it dry thoroughly (3-4 days), and use warm water with a little bit of fabric softener mixed in and scrubbed on with a Scotchbrite pad (like steel wool but made of nylon). The Scotchbrite pad will work like sandpaper and will even out thick spots of paint where the fabric is stiffest. Don’t rub hard, but do go with the grain using the water and fabric softener with the pad as you go. You will be amazed at how much softer and more even the texture of the fabric will be.

    • Hi, did you complete this step after every painted layer. I have ran into the same problem with my fabric being stiff and sticking to stuff.

      • Which step? Sand paper? Yes. For stiffness, you could try sand paper, going in the direction of the fabric. Or, some have rubbing on (then off) a mix of fabric softener and water. I’ve heard mixed results with that, though. Good luck! Let us know what works.

  3. I was just wondering why you didn’t just keep using the first paint through out the project since it was the color you wanted already? Then you wouldn’t have had to mix the acrylic to match. Just wondering! I am thinking of Doug a couch but need to look at all your other painted furniture tutorials first.

    • Wow, it’s tough to remember that far back, but I think what happened was that I did a lot of research and there wasn’t a ton of stuff out there on how to paint fabric yet. Some said latex, some said acrylic. So, I think I just did both!! :) But, come to find out, I don’t think it matters which you choose.

  4. I just tried this and love the way my chairs turned out. I get loads of compliments from them already. However I seem to have a tiny bit of transfer – just wondering if you have any tips? I did not blow dry or iron the fabric when finished and wondering if that is the key? Im afraid to ruin them so looking for any help!

    Thanks for your post! x

    • Kay, I didn’t have that problem at all. I’d try blow drying it. It definitely should not hurt. Make sure it dries thoroughly.

  5. Ps: I used the same fabric medium as you.

  6. so are you supposed to use the entire quart can of paint?

    • The instructions on the post should say how much I used. Not much. It’s mixed with water and fabric medium. Hope that helps.

  7. Hello, have you ever painted vinyl? Eg. vinyl chairs, furniture? I plan on painting a classic car headliner. The material is in excellent condition, but it has some stains on it that I couldn’t remove. It is a white color. Can you recommend paints or dyes for this particular project? Thank you….

    Nung

    • I have not, but if you go to the Chairs page, there is an example on there of painted vinyl. It’s under “Other Methods” about 3/4 of the way down. It’s a white sofa. She used a spray paint made for vinyl.

  8. Cindy Woodward

    Hi Kristy,

    Great site! I am so glad to have found it.

    Does the water, sprayed on the furniture, soak through into the foam/cushions? If so, was that a factor in the drying process?

    Thanks so much.

    • Cindy, it did get into the foam some, but it seemed to dry within a few hours… It didn’t affect it other than that. Hope that helps.

  9. Hi,
    I am currently doing this project. The fabric of my chairs however are NOT velvety. It reminds me more of cottorro pant fabric (not as soft). Any advice on how to get the paint to distribute smoothly. Even between the grains. Help please :(

  10. Just purchased a wing back chair today can’t wait to try this out.

  11. I forgot to mention your’s look amazing. :)

  12. Do you re wet the chair AFTER the first coat has dried and you are moving on to the second?

  13. also how do you make sure that the coats are even… so far the thin coats that i have done, when they dry are a little patchy. I want to insure when i do the last layer it will look perfectly even :)

    btw… your amazing thank you for your help

    • It will look uneven, but when you get a certain amount on, it’s all opaque so it will even out, if that makes sense… Hope that helps!

  14. I am LOVING the results of my chairs! The material started off velvety, but not it is a little rougher. (WHICH I DON’T MIND) However, the fabric is now sticking to clothes. Almost like a Velcro because the material is rougher now. How can i fix this / soften the fabric.

    • You could try sand paper, going in the direction of the fabric. Or, some have rubbing on (then off) a mix of fabric softener and water. I’ve heard mixed results with that, though. Good luck! Let us know what works.

  15. Hi I love the way the chairs turned out I have 2 Craigslist chairs I found
    That I plan on doing , just needed to get my supplies and choose a color.
    I did want to ask do u spray down the whole chair one time then paint
    Or is it a continuous spraying of water while u are painting the chair

  16. Do you find that liquid will bead on the surface. Do the paint layers provide some spill proofing and wipe-ability to the fabric?

    • It should only bead up if there was a scotch-guard type treatment on the fabric. I’m not sure if it helps with spills or not since I haven’t had any on my chair. Perhaps you could ask around…

  17. WENDY JANVIER

    I cannot find any martha stewart fabric medium anywhere. Any suggestions?

  18. What a wonderful idea. Thanks for all the work in putting it into a tutorial! My patio seat cushions are fading. I don’t want to have to buy all new cushions and wondered if this method would work on them. Any thoughts?

  19. Hey! I was wondering if you heard of any success with painting a dark piece of furniture to white or cream. Thanks! :)

  20. Thanks! If my couch is a success, I will pass on photos. Wish me luck! :)

  21. I wanted to reupholster a wing chair I have had for 15 years but gave up when I realized how much it would cost me. I ran into your blog and saw how beautiful the chair looks. I want to try and paint my chair now. I need to know if you removed the foam from the cushion seat before painting it or did you just paint it without removing the insert.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

68 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Potential Rehab Ideas | (Pingback)
  2. Saturday Sharing| 1Stop Mom | (Pingback)
  3. Upholstery Spray Paint | | Design Build LoveDesign Build Love (Pingback)
  4. DIY FRIDAY: Painting Upholstered Furniture « Gina McMurtrey Interiors (Pingback)
  5. Never Again | (Pingback)
  6. fun little places where you too can waste valuable time…. | why'd i come in here? (Pingback)
  7. DIY of the day: painted upholstery « Mr. Kate (Pingback)
  8. Colorfully Striped Chairs – Nifty Thrifty Decorator (Pingback)
  9. Chair of my dreams (Part 1) | lifehappilyeverafter.com (Pingback)
  10. Revisiting the Old Apartment « Love & Renovations (Pingback)
  11. lifehappilyeverafter.com » Chair of my dreams (Part 1) (Pingback)
  12. lifehappilyeverafter.com » Dreaming of a wing back chair (Pingback)
  13. Home Project - Lisa from A Vintage Vine Hyphen Interiors (Pingback)
  14. Painted Chair Fail - Michelle from Décor and the Dog Hyphen Interiors (Pingback)
  15. Painted upholstery « Pinterest Addict (Pingback)
  16. Reader Painted Two Wingback Chairs! Hyphen Interiors (Pingback)
  17. Good Ideas by ludduz - Pearltrees (Pingback)
  18. Not your usual kind of fabric painting! « Iris Interiors (Pingback)
  19. Birthday t-shirt (Pingback)
  20. Locust Farms (Pingback)
  21. Dollar Store Crafts » Blog Archive » Question: How Should I Remake This Chair? (Pingback)
  22. Painted Upholstered Chair | Decor Hacks (Pingback)
  23. Painting Upholstered Chair, the Pinterest Project | Cristin Emrick Photography (Pingback)
  24. You can paint upholstery? Yes, you can! | UsedEverywhere (Pingback)
  25. I Painted a Chair! | GreyAndYellow (Pingback)
  26. Paint a Chair!?! - Attempts at Domestication (Pingback)
  27. Before and during… « librarian, housewife, writer (Pingback)
  28. a {charmed} life (Pingback)
  29. Painted Upholstery: Should I Paint My Chair? (Pingback)
  30. DIY: Painting upholstery » The Full Moxie:: Celebrity, Entertainment, DIY, Fashion & Beauty, Fitness & Health, Love & Family,Food, (Pingback)
  31. Painting Upholstery DIY Tutorials (Pingback)
  32. Craigslist Chair Makeover | Me and My DIY (Pingback)
  33. DIY Home Decor | Pearltrees (Pingback)
  34. Painted Upholstered Chair tutorial DIY Show Off ™ – DIY Decorating and Home Improvement Blog (Pingback)
  35. How To Paint An Upholstered Chair | Rustic Crafts & Chic Decor (Pingback)
  36. DIY (Do it Yourself) | Pearltrees (Pingback)
  37. Never Again | I Love Rehabs (Pingback)
  38. DIY Goal Check In by Krista « Invited (Pingback)
  39. Our Trip to Nashville Part 2 | I Love Rehabs (Pingback)
  40. Painted Furniture - O’Neill Studios (Pingback)
  41. Potential Rehab Ideas | I Love Rehabs (Pingback)
  42. Sunday Love (9) | Circo Luma (Pingback)
  43. My Thrift Store Find- Painted Chair Upholstery Before/After | Dirty Diaper Laundry (Pingback)
  44. Cómo cambiar el color de tapizado con pintura - Guía de MANUALIDADES (Pingback)
  45. Painting Fabric with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint | Bella Tucker Decorative Finishes | Faux Finish Painter Franklin TN (Pingback)
  46. My Red Velvet Cane Chair | Sophistikated Designs (Pingback)
  47. CL on Monday The Thirteenth | Dovetail Market (Pingback)
  48. design ideas | Pearltrees (Pingback)
  49. Furniture | Pearltrees (Pingback)
  50. Quick Fix: Painted Lamp Shades (Pingback)
  51. DIY: Painted Upholstery – The Niche (Pingback)
  52. Project Idea: Painted Upholstery | Design Rousings (Pingback)
  53. Velvet Upholstery Painted Chair Makeover - Fox Hollow Cottage (Pingback)
  54. PAINTING UPHOLSTERY ~ a whole new look (Pingback)
  55. Painted Fabric Chair | flicker-doodles (Pingback)
  56. How To Paint Fabric Furniture | The Curly Diaries (Pingback)
  57. {Mint & Pink} Owl Inspired Baby Shower // Hostess with the Mostess® (Pingback)
  58. Painting a Fabric Ottoman | Mrs. Bomb.com (Pingback)
  59. Shop Your Own Home | Inspired Design (Pingback)
  60. Painted Wing Chair…it worked! | 2 Bees in a Pod (Pingback)
  61. Painting Upholstery | elizabethjoandesigns.com (Pingback)
  62. Dining Room 2.0 | The Domestic Junkies (Pingback)
  63. A Painted Wingback Chair | BESA GM (Pingback)
  64. DIY Painted Chairs | Tayci Made It (Pingback)
  65. DIY BLOGS | Pearltrees (Pingback)
  66. HomeGoods | Paint Packs Powerful Punch For Pennies (Pingback)
  67. Paint Packs Powerful Punch For Pennies | German Beauty Sabine (Pingback)
  68. I Painted My Sofa! (Before & After) (Pingback)