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How to Paint Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint

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Post updated: 8/9/2021

I recently got to spend an afternoon learning how to use Annie Sloan chalk paint to paint upholstery fabric, along with a few other furniture painting tips from the grand master of chalk paint herself, Annie Sloan, inventor of Chalk Paint®.


In the past I have painted upholstery with paint and fabric medium. It works fine, but it does require mixing ratios of paint and fabric medium together.

If you want to paint something large you would need a lot of fabric medium. Not so when you use chalk paint.

The highlight of the workshop for me was seeing how she painted a large wing chair with chalk paint.

It was quite amazing to watch and then sit on a chair she had painted the day before so we could see how the painted finish felt.

How to Paint Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint

Time needed: 1 hour.

How to Use Chalk Paint to Paint an Upholstered Chair

When choosing an upholstered piece of furniture to paint, make sure the upholstery is sound and firm. If the fabric moves, painting it will not work as well as when you sit on it, the movement may cause the fabric to crinkle and that would cause the paint to fail.

Dining room chair seats that have nailed-on upholstered cushions are good candidates for chalk paint as is a wing style chair.

  1. Gather Supplies Needed

    When using Chalk Paint® to paint an upholstered piece of furniture all you need is a spray bottle of water, a paint brush and chalk paint.

    a wing chair getting painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint

  2. Dampen the Fabric

    Before you can start painting, you need to spray the fabric with water first to dampen it.

    It does not have to be soaking wet.

    Once wet, begin to apply one light coat of chalk paint over the fabric using a brush, let dry.

    If you are working on a large chair like this one, as you work, you may have to spritz the fabric again if it has gotten dry. Once one coat is applied, let it dry.

    Once dry, add another light coat if needed.

    how to paint upholstery with chalk paint

  3. Optional: Add a Layer of Wax

    You can leave the paint just as is on the fabric or it can be sealed with clear wax. Apply wax in a very thin coat, you don’t need much and then buff to work the wax into the fabric until you see a subtle sheen on the fabric.

  4. A Finished Chalk Painted Upholstered Chair

    Here is a close up view of an identical chair that she had painted a day earlier using French Linen. French Linen chalk paint on a upholstered chair

  5. Use the Chair as You Normally Would

    When sitting on the chair is only felt just a teeny bit stiff, but soft. I was quite surprised.  It will be fully dry in a few days depending on the air temp and humidity.

    Note: Once dry it will not rub off onto clothing when you sit on the chair.
    an upholstered chair painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint in French Linen

Chalk Painting Tips From Annie Sloan

The workshop was about 2 hours long, while Annie demonstrated how to paint the upholstered chair, she also gave us a few chalk paint tips.

Here are a few of the chalk painting takeaways from the workshop that I learned.

Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Paint Colors

Don’t like a certain chalk paint color? Or perhaps you think your project would look better with a unique red/pink color that isn’t available. 

Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan is designed to be mixed, so colors will never be muddy. Create the exact color you want by simply mixing the chalk paint colors together.

Painting Workshop with Annie Sloan

Start by mixing only a small amount at first. When you like the color, then make more to use on your project.

Use an Annie Sloan® Mix Mat 


If you are a newbie at color mixing, the color chart on the back side of the Mix Mat will help.

You may be asking, “What is a mix mat?”   It is ingenious and the first of its kind furniture painting accessory.

Inspired by the function of a traditional artist’s palette combined with the simplicity of a rolling tray. It allows you to be inventive and create your own paint colors by simply adding them to the mat and mixing them around until you like the color you see.

It evenly distributes the color onto brushes, rollers, and stamps.

It is made with a silicone-like material that holds paint on its surface without the paint running off. It is easy to wipe clean so it can be re-used again and again.

I ordered a Mix Mat when I got home from the trip since I mix paint colors ALL THE TIME.  I used to mix on a foam plate or in a jar, but the mix mat allows you a lot more room to play and get creative with color.   

Create Chippy Finishes With a Stirring Stick + Toilet Cleaner

Yep, you read that right.  If you want a very old layered and distressed finish on a piece of furniture you can do it with toilet cleaning bleach, the thick kind that coats the toilet bowl.

Once the coat of Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan is dry, squirt some toilet cleaning bleach in an area you want to look chippy. Let it sit on the painted surface for a short time. Then using the end of a wood paint stirring stick, chip away at the paint.

This technique is in the book,  Annie Sloan Paints Everything.  

The Right Brush Can Make a Difference


I have always used old t-shirts to apply and buff the clear wax finish. I have seen others use a wax brush, but up until now, I never have.

Well that is going to change…. after painting at the workshop, I am a convert. 

What I learned was that when using a brush to apply wax to chalk painted furniture, you dip the ends of the bristles into the can of wax. When you do this it picks up just the right amount of wax.  A simple wispy swirl onto the surface is all that is needed.

Annie also told us that when she applies the wax, she does it section by section. Adding wax to one area with the brush, buffs with a soft cloth and then adds wax to the next section, buffs and continues until the surface is covered.

Buffing Chalk Paint Wax

And one last tip.  I have always used old t-shirts to buff the wax finish.

Shopp Towels

What works even better are soft shop towels like these that you buy at the hardware store.  The surface of the towels is soft but they have a fine texture to them that shines the wax with a few quick buffs.

It was a very informative workshop that was worth attending.

Have you ever gone to a furniture painting class or workshop?

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  1. What fun to be able to attend one of her sessions. Love all the great tips you shared. I have a set of ladder shelves I am needing to paint . Thanks for such a great giveaway.

  2. I would love to paint a desk that my father refinished for me years and years ago, but now needs a “facelift” after many years of love :-)

  3. I have painted a few pieces of upholstered furniture but I have a rather-dated but in good shape easy chair that I would love to try painting with ASCP. Her new book looks amazing!

  4. I have a beautiful oak chair that really needs a new lease on life – so I would definitely paint that!