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How to Paint Upholstered Furniture

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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This is such an affordable way to update upholstery you don't like or is outdated.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


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.


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


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.


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.


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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  1. 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.

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

  3. 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!