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How to Paint Upholstered Furniture

Writing a blog about affordable home decor has never been more fun for me than writing this post. I learned how to paint upholstery and had to share the chair I painted with you. It was a complete success!

This is such an affordable way to update upholstery you don't like or is outdated. Before and after furniture makeover where fabric upholstery was painted. It looks amazing and feels and looks like a leather chair now. Paint recipe and tutorial | In My Own StyleHow to Paint Upholstery

If you have been following my bedroom makeover posts, you know I have one more side of the room to complete. I am sharing the details today with you on how I painted the upholstery on my favorite chair. Well, it is actually how I painted a slipcover, but the process is the same.  If you want to use chalk paint to paint upholstery, you do not need fabric medium and can seal the paint with clear wax.

Painting furniture fabricUpholstered Chair – BEFORE

This chair is my favorite spot in my house. A friend who didn’t want it anymore gave it to me.  That was 18 years ago.  I didn’t like the color, but knew it was perfect for my bedroom since it was the right scale to fit the space by the sunny window.  What I love even more about the chair though is that it rocks and swivels.  I place it so that I can swirl around to see any view I want.  I am writing this post from the chair.  Like I said…my favorite place in my house.

Watch the Before and After Transformation of Painting Upholstery

Before-and-after-Furniture-makeover-How-to-paint-upholstery-and-furniture-fabric

I chose the cabbage rose fabric to make the slipcover coordinate with the color scheme of my bedroom at the time. I have changed the color scheme of the room a few times since then, but never this chair. Making the slipcover took me two days and was something I didn’t want to take on again.

With the newest update of my bedroom, the chair just didn’t go anymore. I didn’t want to give it up and I didn’t want to make another slipcover for it. It is too detailed with a curved back and loose T-style cushion.  I tried a white throw-style slipcover over it, but it was way too big.  That is when I knew paint was going to be the answer.  Paint as we all know is the fastest and most affordable way to make a change in any room and painting upholstery is no different. I decided to go for it since I had nothing to lose.

I am so glad I did. It came out better than I imagined.

How Does Painted Upholstery Feel When You Sit On It?

When you paint upholstery, it is a little stiff at first. It feels exactly like I am sitting on a leather chair.  The fabric feels a little cold when you first sit down, but is comfy to sit on and not crinkly at all.   The reason it feels softer is because I added Fabric/Textile Medium to the paint. This softens the paint and allows it to penetrate the fabric and not just sit on top of it.

Home-Decorating-with-white

I chose to paint the chair white so that I could add any color to it and the room and not have to worry if it would coordinate or not. I have a collection of chair throws… it seems I can’t pass them by when I see them at HomeGoods. I like to change things up and throws are one easy and affordable way to do it. No big purchases necessary.

How to Paint Upholstered Furniture

supplies needed:

My chair was slipcovered with printed cotton fabric. To make sure the cabbage rose design got covered completely I used more paint in the mix then the label on the textile medium bottle stated.

If your fabric is one color, I would follow the directions on the bottle where you mix:

  • 2 parts of fabric/textile medium to 1 part paint.

Here is the recipe I used to make sure it was opaque enough to cover the flowers. It is for one batch.  I needed two batches to cover the design and color on the fabric completely.

  • 8 ounce bottles of textile or fabric medium. I used Folk Art Textile Medium (craft store)
  • 16 ounce white latex paint. I used flat white paint, but you can use eggshell or satin
  • Bristle paint brush
  • Small tipped artist paint brush for painting detailed areas
  • Mixing container and paint stirrer
  • Spray bottle of water
  • 100 grit Sandpaper

Painting-upholstered-furniture

How to Make Fabric Paint

  • In an empty container, mix one 8 ounce bottle of textile medium with 16 ounces of flat, satin, or eggshell paint.  Mix it well with a paint stirrer.

How-to-use-fabric-or-textile-medium-to-paint-upholstery

Before painting fabric, spray water over the surface to slightly dampen it.

How to paint upholstery fabric

Using a stiff bristle paint brush, paint the fabric. Apply one light coat. Since my slipcover had a flower pattern on a white background, I first painted over the flowers to lessen the contrast between them and the background color.

TIP: If you have upholstery that is velvet or has a raised nap you can still paint it, but need to make sure as you paint over the fabric that you brush the paint on in the same direction. When painting cotton or smooth fabric like my slipcover, you can paint in any direction.

You may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t she use chalk paint?” I have read that chalk paint works well on upholstered pieces like an upholstered dining room style seat cushion where the fabric is pulled tight over the cushion and doesn’t move. My slipcover is loose and I didn’t want it to become too stiff. This is the reason I used the fabric/textile medium method.

Painted upholstered chair makeover

Once dry, I painted a light coat over the entire chair and let it dry.  I waited until it was dry to apply the second coat.

Furniture-fabric-paint

I applied a third coat after the second one was dry to the touch. Then applied one more coat.

  • I needed 4 coats of paint to get total coverage.  If your fabric is a solid color with no pattern, two coats may be enough.

How to paint upholstery successfully

I used a small tipped artist’s paint brush to get paint into the detailed areas.

Painting dated upholstery on furniture to update it

Once the first coat of paint was dry, I noticed some of the fibers in the fabric raised up.  Sandpaper to the rescue!

Tips on how to make sure you have success when painting upholstery

I went over the areas where I saw the fiber had raised with my handy-dandy sanding block to smooth them.  Worked perfectly.

Yes It can be done successfully! Amazing transformation of dated and faded fabric to the look and feel of white leather. | In My Own Style

Once the fourth coat of paint was dry, the fabric looked and felt like leather. I was not expecting this and was pleasantly surprised.  It looked and felt better than I imagined.

It had me asking myself, why I waited so long to paint it?  If you have a piece of upholstered furniture where the fabric no longer coordinates with your color scheme or is faded or dated, paint is a very affordable way to update it.  I will not hesitate to paint the upholstery on another chair or piece of furniture I don’t like. Gotta love the power of paint!

Painting upholstered furniture tutorial. Affordable and easy way to update fabric | In My Own Style

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76 Comments

  1. What a fantastic idea!! I just redecorated my entire apartment and could have saved thousands if I had read this prior. Oh well, next time. Thank you

  2. Thank you.
    I was just about to give away my dining set and now, ahhhh. You have saved me from having to deal with all that comes with replacing a solid set of furniture and also from the raised eyebrows from my hubby:)

    1. Hi Joseph – Yes you can paint both vinyl and leather. I have see it done and it looks quite amazing. I would use Annie Sloan chalk paint or Fusion Mineral Paint. Both come in many colors. The only prep needed for both would be to make sure the surface is super clean and dry. You may need 2 coats – let the first one dry completely before adding another coat. Once dry run your hand over the surface, if it feel stiff or you would like to seal it, use soft wax. Both companies sell clear wax that you add a thin layer and buff to a soft sheen.

      You can also paint leather and vinyl with craft store acrylic paint, but you do need to go over the surface first with rubbing alcohol and let dry before painting.

  3. Diane –
    I receive your emails and enjoy your creativity and DIY ideas!

    I’m considering trying this on two purply/mauve upholstered club chairs. My ultimate goal is to have a white/off-white washable slipcover made for them, but to avoid having to buy a more expensive/heavier fabric that would ensure FULL (no see-through) coverage over the purply/mauve, I am hoping by painting white first I may:
    1- like the painted version so much I’m “done”
    OR
    2- cover the purply/mauve enough that a lighter weight white washable fabric (=less expensive) for the slipcover will suffice.

    My question: Can you advise approximate cost for materials to complete your ONE chair?
    Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Alison –

      The cost of redoing a chair all depends on the cost of the fabric and how much yardage you will need. That can be anywhere from $30 and up. If you are just going to paint. You will need the paint, fabric medium, and a paint brush. For two club chairs, it will cost around $40. It can be more or less depending on the paint brand you use. I think you would need a quart of paint for each chair. Two quarts in some brands can be close to the price of a gallon, so you may want to see if buying a gallon will be less expensive. It is always a good thing to have more paint than needed since you won’t know until you start painting the upholstery how much paint it will take to cover it. Some fabrics will really suck up the paint.

  4. I liked the way you have represented your information.I enjoy it and I love it, so thank you for this wonderful article, it helps a lot. Keep it up.

  5. How is it holding up after two years? Or is this one that you gave to your daughter?

  6. Hi,I check your blog named “How to Paint Upholstered Furniture – In My Own Style” on a regular basis.Your humoristic style is awesome, keep it up! And you can look our website about proxy server list.

  7. Please clarify: First you said “2 parts of fabric/textile medium to 1 part paint.”, but then you say mix 8 ounces textile medium to 16 ounces of paint”.Which is the correct ratio?

    1. Hi Shelly – My chair was slipcovered with printed cotton fabric. To make sure the cabbage rose design got covered completely I used more paint in the mix then the label on the textile medium bottle stated. If your fabric is one color, I would follow the directions on the bottle where you mix:

      2 parts of fabric/textile medium to 1 part paint. You can go wrong with this ratio no matter what your fabric.

      I included the other ratio – 8 ounces of fabric/textile medium to 16 ounces of paint since that is what I used. I really wanted to make sure the roses got covered so I would have a solid white color and no shadows of roses appearing through the paint. This is written in the post, but I will make it clearer. :-)

      1. That still isn’t clear to me… “8 ounces of fabric/textile medium to 16 ounces paint” would be 1 part fabric/textile medium to 2 parts paint.

        If it is, as you say “2 parts of fabric/textile medium to 1 part paint” then it would be “16 ounces of fabric/textile medium to 8 ounces paint”.

        So, do you use twice as much paint as you do fabric/textile medium, or twice as much fabric/textile medium as you do paint?

        1. Hi Serena – Sorry for the confusion. Every brand has there own mix ratios. On the brand I used, Folk Art. It recommends using 2 parts fabric medium and 1 part paint.

          I didn’t do this ratio, I added more paint to my mix since I was using white paint and I wanted to block out the flower pattern on the fabric. Adding more paint then fabric medium made my paint mix more opaque. So I mixed 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts paint.

    2. a lot of work to go through for a chair I could probably replace it Salvation Army for $10 are $20 at the most I replaced material do old-fashioned way with material and a stapler a good heavy duty one it most certainly is unique I wonder how the fabric feels against your skin when you’re in shorts

  8. Thank you for sharing your process. I a table and four chairs to paint. Chalk paint seemed expensive. Your method:formula sounds easy and cost effective!

    1. Hi Shelley – I am so glad I painted my chair. I would do it again if I ever find a piece in good shape but don’t like the colors in the upholstery. The paint is a little stiff at first, but with use, it does soften. The way I like to tell people who ask how it feels. It feels like sitting on a leather chair.

    1. Hi Cat – So far so good on the wear of the painted upholstered chair. The fabric has gotten softer with time, but it still has a stiff feel to it compared to regular upholstery fabric. To clean it, I wipe it with a damp soapy rag to clean the dust off of it. When we moved it did get dinged up a bit and I had to touch up a few areas. If the chair was painted any other color, I don’t think I would even see the dings, but with white they showed up easily. I would definitely do it again on another piece of upholstered furniture.

    1. Hi Mary – The ratio of textile medium to paint is 4 parts of textile medium mixed into 2 parts of paint. If I remember correctly I bought 2 bottles of textile medium and used one full bottle and a half of the other. If your chair is smaller or larger than mine, you will need more or less.

  9. Well done! Awesome site, Diane.

    Any advise for painting an acquired piece with an unknown history of ScotchGuard treatment? I’m assuming ScotchGuard treatments could derail painting? Or not?

    Thank you for your advise.

    1. Hi Nick – It may not matter at all that the fabric is treated. If the fabric is older and the ScothGuard treatment done a long time ago, I don’t think you will have a problem. You can test it out. Pour some water over the fabric. If it beads up then there is still a water repeller on the fabric. I would then test out the paint on a small area and if it adheres, you will be good to go.

  10. I would love to see if you have a solution for a large room rug. Any ideas of how to change the coloring? Have you ever tried before? If not, PLEASE make it your next project!!! ha!

  11. Diane, I have been looking at DIY sites for about two months now and yours is the BEST ever! I cannot leave your site!!! Been here the whole morning looking at project after project, because I’m moving into a precious little house very soon and want to use all my old stuff, but make it more trendy. You seem to have so many solutions I can use. Thank you thank you.
    There’s just one change I want to make but can’t seem to find anything telling me it is possible; I have an antique Persian rug (Mashad) that has full bodied reds, navy, deep blues and greens plus every other colour in the spectrum. I want to use it but wish it was a more neutral colour. Kindly tell me; Any ideas here???

    1. Hi Pauline – Thanks for reading my blog and leaving me such a nice comment. XO You are the second person this week to ask me about how to change the color of a rug. I tried to paint a large area rug about 3 years ago. It was a total fail. It might be easier to go for a layered rug look in the room. Choose a slightly smaller or sisal or neutral rug that you like and place it over the existing rug. It works well, if you place it under the conversation area – sofa, coffee table and chairs and will accent that area of the room.

      There are dyes for rugs, but I am not sure they will make your rug neutral, but only darker. Sorry I don’t have an idea for you to try. Have you done a Google search to see what comes up?

  12. Wow, Wonderwoman Dianne, absolutely amazing!
    Would this work on our dark brown rocker-recliner chairs, one which is leather and the other is suede? Would it adhere/penetrate the leather, or would chalkpaint be a better option?
    Thanks kindly.

    1. Hi Annie – It would work on the suede, but you would need to make sure you paint in one direction only since the nap will be raised or flattened depending on the direction you brush. Pick one direction and then apply the paint with the paint brush in the same direction every time you apply paint.

      As for the leather, I am not sure since it would not penetrate the surface and just sit on top. I would use chalk paint or the paint that is used to paint auto upholstery.

  13. Thank you so much for this idea! I am thinking about trying this for “recovering” the couches in one of our church youth rooms. Would you recommend this treatment for highly used/not so gently treated couches?

    1. Hi Sarah –

      Painting the couches that get high traffic may be fine. I have only painted my chair so I can only go by this experience. The cushions will make a slight crunching sound when you first sit on them, but the more you sit, the softer it gets and the less sound. You may want to add more fabric medium to lessen a stiff feel.

      The only downfall I can see is depending on the type of upholstery and success of application is that the paint may crack over time. Not fall off, but you may see fine cracks in the painted finish if it gets a lot of use. My chair has not done this, but looking at your situation where the seating will get a lot of use is the only thing I think could be a negative.

  14. Wonderful project, Diane. I have two simple, upholstered side chairs that I’ve been wanting to jazz up. Your instructions are easy to follow. I will be trying this soon.
    Thanks.

  15. Your work is beautiful. Several years ago when I lived in Florida, I found that I could paint the faded upholstery with latex semigloss enamel (indoor) and it took on a leathery texture. It holds up great in a sun-room or any room, and you can change the color or paint designs on it if you want to do that. When we sold the house the new owners wanted most of my painted furniture pieces.

  16. i haven’t checked your blog for a long time…Recently, I bought a good quality sofa (Sherrill) with stained upholstery. I was girding up my loins to pay for reupholstery or slipcovers. I see I won’t have to.

    Thanks again?

  17. Thank you Diane! This post just gave me an Aha Moment!! I have been wanting to redo my master bedroom for so long, but have been putting it off because of the custom draperies…they cost a lot of money and I would feel guilty getting rid of them…plus, because of our many windows, it would cost a fortune to replace them. I still love the drapes but HATE the color! Can you think of any reason I can’t use this technique to change the color?

    1. Hi Laurie – I cannot think of one reason why this would not work on your drapes. I would follow the label directions on the bottle when mixing the fabric medium and the paint. (I added more paint to my mix to make sure the red on the flowers would be covered, but it did make my fabric a little stiff, like leather). I don’t think you want the drapes to feel like leather so just mix two parts textile medium to one part paint.

  18. Diane,
    I love the after look! I have two similar chaise lounges. The webbing was a bright orange when we bought them. After one poolside summer they are now bleached white. Is there a way to spray paint the web-like sling fabric to make them colorful once again?
    Thank you!

  19. Oh my. I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am not only with you but the chair too! Oh ye woman. Do you not see how much we value you and this blog?!! I agree with every single one who commented before me. FINALLY, with your precise instructions, I have the courage to PAINT TWO CHAIRS!!!! And, here I go! lol

    1. Hi Linda – Thanks for then nice compliment. I truly enjoy decorating and blogging. It is the best job I ever had. I am so happy that I get to so what I love every day.

  20. I absolutely love your site. The chair turned out lovely and It sure does look like a soft leather chair:) Thanks so much for sharing.

  21. Diane, you truly are a wonderment! All your projects are so well thought-out and so carefully described and photographed. Now, we’ve even been treated to digital bouncing throws. I’m so excited with this project I’m searching my home looking for some furniture to paint . . .

  22. Hi Diane, love the outcome! I have also painted upholstery – my entire sofa! It turned out beautiful! I have a question though – you stated you used 2 parts medium to 1 part paint (which I did also) but you have in the instructions 8 oz. medium and 16 oz. of paint. Wouldn’t that be 1 part medium to 2 parts paint? Please correct me if I’m wrong!
    Thanks and love reading all of your posts!

    1. Hi Nanette – In the tutorial I stated that I added more paint to my mix then what the label called for. I used 1 part (8 ounce bottle) textile medium to 2 parts paint (16 ounces) because I wanted to be sure that the paint/textile medium would cover the flowers. Normally you would use 2 parts medium to 1 part paint. I tried to explain this in the directions, but will look at it again to make sure it is clear what I did.

  23. Great new look! I am especially impressed that you made the slipcover in the first place. This post is so timely for me as I just finished painting an upholstered chair that had been in my mom’s house for years. As part of the updating, I also removed the chair skirt, stained the legs, and added upholstery tacks to the front of the arms. Aside from the fact that throws tend to “catch” on the new texture, I am quite happy with the result. Now if only I could work up the nerve to tackle my living room couch and love seat . . .

    P.S. I am new to your blog and enjoy it so much. Love your style and your attitude. Thanks.

  24. Last summer I bought a simple, small wing-backed chair with oak legs at a garage sale for $15. I had fully intended to get it reupholstered since the fabric is the 1980s country mauve color—but since there really isn’t anything wrong with the upholstery other than the color, I may just paint it. Your tutorial gives me a much less expensive possibility. Picking a new color will be difficult, but I think this is worth a try! Thank you for all your great ideas and instructions!!

  25. Thanks so much for posting your great tutorial, Diane. I have four outdoor chair cushions that have an odd shaped top that I’m going to try painting. The chairs will be sitting on my screen porch, so I’m thinking that I might give this try using exterior paint.

  26. I did this a couple of years ago to a small chair – it was a dark stripe and painted it with BM Revere Pewter leftover paint. I too used textile medium and worked fine!

  27. Totally cool! All my furniture is neutral but one of these days I’ll find a worthy prospect at a thrift store or garage sale and I’ll definitely paint it! :-) Love the end result of your chair.

  28. LOVE your tutorial! I painted a chair once with chalk paint a couple years ago but didn’t have any instructions.
    I didn’t use a medium to mix with the paint, or wax afterwards (or spray w/ water beforehand); needless to say
    it came out a bit stiff but it really did cover well. Next time I’ll follow your easy tutorial :)

  29. Wow…you never cease to amaze with your projects! I am curious…does the paint bleed through to the chair? And, yes, please keep us informed with performance reports! ;)

    1. Hi Donnamae – The paint did not bleed through to the chair since the fabric has a very tight weave. If your fabric is less densely woven, the paint may bleed through. So far the chair has held up beautifully. I use it everyday and am so happy that I did it. I will post an update in another month or two.

  30. I have been wanting new cushions for my 2 wicker chairs on my covered front porch. They are in great condition, just
    faded and dated. So expensive to get new ones. Can’t wait to give this a try!! Thanks:)

  31. Wow, I’ve heard about painting upholstery before but this is the best detailed description that I’ve seen! I’m curious if you thought about dying the fabric instead of painting (or bleaching since you were going for white)? Not sure if white dye would have covered the cabbage roses though.

  32. Diane, once again you have hit a home run. I have re-upholstered and have made my share of slipcovers over the years but with arthritis setting in this looks like an option for me in the future. I am really looking forward to your updates on how it is holding up with use because it is your favorite chair after all so you will be sitting in it often.
    Your tutorials are so good; you are amazing.

  33. I so appreciate this post and your wonderful instructions. You are still the very best. I mean…. how the heck valuable is this post to so many? VERY, VERY valuable.

    Thank you again and yes you are a genius. And oh heck, you told us a while, year, or so back that you can only sew a straight line…… Oh gosh, you are so much better at sewing than that such. I was an expert and I would dread to make that slip cover…. fabulous job for sure!

  34. My goodness, Diane. I can’t get over how well this turned out. I’ve got a lovely old chair I bought at an auction umpteen years ago. Then I bought fabric for it at least 10 years ago and never had it re-upholstered. Now that fabric is out of style so just might give this a go.

  35. Hi Diane-
    I love the chair!
    How does it feel to sit on? How does it feel to the touch?
    I have a love seat and sofa that have a tapestry type pattern that I would love to do this to!
    My hubby would probably freak at the thought!
    If only you made house calls – I’m only a town away!
    Love your blog – thanks for sharing!
    Sue

  36. Okay – this is the most amazing thing I have ever seen … painted upholstery!?! I am very interested to see your “how does it wear” updates! (Please don’t wait a year … if you use it all of the time, update in a month or so! Please!

    You are truly fearless with this decorating, aren’t you?! This was brave to tackle a favorite chair like this!

    1. Hi Lynn – thanks :-) My background in retail display has taught me to look at everything with open eyes. Fear = no gain. I enjoy finding affordable options and the process of experimenting to find out the best way to do things. I will post in a few weeks and then again after a few months.

      1. Well, thanks for sharing the results of all of your experimenting! I have learned a TON from reading your posts! And, I think I need to adopt this motto: Fear = no gain! :-)

  37. If you sit in the chair with dark pants on, doesn’t it rub off? Without sealing the paint in some way it seems like you would get chalky marks all over your backside

    1. Hi BE – The dried paint finish is not chalky. I added fabric/textile medium to the paint. This softens the paint and adds a slight sheen to the painted finish. If you didn’t use it, the paint would be chalky and rub off on your clothes.

  38. Wow…amazing result. I saw this idea before but it is your detailed “how-to” that convinced me to try. Thank you.

  39. Very interesting post. Can you scotchguard for stains? What happens if it does get a stain? Is it washable? Spot clean only? Dry clean? Or just paint over the stain? Hope you do a follow up post in a year so we’ll hear about your ongoing experience.

    PS This could open up a whole world of ugly thrift shop chairs!

    1. Hi Patricia – I think if I get a stain on the chair, I could remove it with soap and water on a rag. If not, touching up with paint would fix it. I have kept the leftover paint to use as touch-up if needed. I will do an update post on how it wears.

      1. Diana, This is gorgeous redo, bravo! I can attest to use of chalk-type paint “not” being stiff however, so your readers can feel free to use whatever good brand of chalk-type paint they have….American Paint Company, Annie Sloan, etc – with a couple of coats of clear wax will give you the flexibility you were looking for.
        Same basic procedure, spray fabric as you go, then the first coat, and use subsequent thin coats.
        Nice to give readers who cannot get chalk paint this wonderful option!