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How to Paint Chair Upholstery Fabric

This post was written in collaboration with Zibra Brushes but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Wait until you see how easy it is to paint fabric and transform a piece into something amazing on a budget.

Have you ever tried to chalk paint fabric before? I used chalk paint on fabric for the first time last year and the result is amazing!

So I tried it again with a vintage chair I found on Facebook Marketplace.

And you won’t believe the transformation!

We recently remodeled the kitchen, refreshed the living room, painted the dining room and updated the front entry to make them lighter, brighter and more neutral.

After lightening up the whole my main floor, some pieces looked very outdated so I gave them a quick facelift to compliment my neutral home.

I gave this coffee table a quick makeover.

Repurposed this vintage framed piece into chalkboard art.

Transformed this old framed picture with a stencil.

And I even painted our piano. It looks SO much better!

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Painting Chair Fabric

Why I Decided to Chalk Paint Fabric

A few years ago, I bought this vintage chair on Facebook Marketplace. I didn’t love the chair fabric, but it worked with my decor at the time.

Since moving to neutrals, the upholstery fabric is too dark for my home.

I could recover it, but don’t want to do that much work with it or spend a lot of money on it.

So I’m painting the fabric with chalk paint instead!

I learned how to paint fabric on a family heirloom bench last year.

And this vintage chair.

Since that transformation was so amazing, I decided to chalk paint this antique chair too.

You won’t believe how much better it looks!

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric

About Zibra Brushes

I scooped up some great paintbrushes from Zibra and wanted to pass them along.

These brushes are a must-have if you paint a lot and your hands tire easily.

They are of great quality and very comfortable to work with.

When working on projects, my hands get really tired from gripping the brushes and working the paint.

But they did not tire at all using their brush on this project.

For this project, I used their 2″ round brush to paint the fabric.

The long soft bristles made the brush very easy to work with and helped apply the paint into the textured fabric.

Most round brushes I work with have shorter and stiffer bristles that require more physical labor while painting.

But the longer, softer Zibra brush bristles made it feel effortless and less tiring.

My hand was not stiff and sore at all after finishing.

Step 1 – Gather All Supplies

Before getting started, be sure to gather all of the supplies needed.

Chalk Painting Fabric Supplies

Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric

Step 2 – Prepare the Piece and Set Up Supplies Before Painting

  • Tape up any areas where you do not want to apply chalk paint on fabric.
  • Vacuum and remove as much lint, dirt, etc. as possible before starting.
  • Mix 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts chalk paint. (I eyeballed it.)
Painting Chair Fabric
  • NOTE: if you are working with raised textured fabric, I recommend applying paint in one direction. The painted fabric hardens a bit when it dries. Applying paint in one direction ensures a smoother, finished surface.
  • Decide what kind of brush to use. To me, this is a matter of preference. For this project, I used Zibra’s 2″ round brush.
Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric

Step 3 – How to Apply Chalk Paint on Fabric

  • Start applying chalk paint on fabric with the back of the piece. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to begin any project with the back, inside or a place you don’t regularly see. This gives you room to tweak the process or fix mistakes before you get into a rhythm.
  • Spray the fabric lightly with water in the area that you are working on. Rub the water spray into the fabric so the fabric is lightly damp. The paint will glide on and soak in to the fabric better if it is damp.
Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric
  • Paint fabric and allow it to fully dry in between coats. I applied three coats.
  • Allow the painted fabric to dry for at least 24 hours before top coating with clear wax. Although the chair looked really good after painting, it is important to protect the color with a top coat.
Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric

Step 4 – Applying Aged Glaze (Optional)

  • Before top coating, I wanted to enhance the texture on the fabric and give it more of a vintage vibe. So I applied an aged glaze to the fabric. If you do not want to apply an aged glaze to antique the fabric, then skip to the waxing steps below.
Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric
  • To apply aged glaze, dampen a paper towel, dip in the glaze and dab onto a section of the piece. Then immediately wipe it off with either a paint brush or wet rag. Because this fabric has such a heavy texture, I used the Zika 2″ round brush to help wipe off the extra glaze in addition to using a damp paper towel. Depending on the look you want, wipe off as much or as little as you want. I recommend using a light touch until you know how much you want to antique the piece. You can always add more glaze.
  • Allow 24 hours for the fabric to fully dry before top coating with wax.
Paitning Chair Upholstery Fabric

Step 5 – Top Coat the Piece to Protect the Color

  • Apply wax with a wax brush or cloth. I usually use a cloth (ie my husband’s old sock) when I apply wax – it’s a personal preference. Again, start with the back of the piece or in a spot you won’t regularly see so you see how it goes on the piece.
Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric
  • Play around with how to apply the wax. Different fabrics may work differently so see what rhythm works for you. I applied it then buffed it out to even out the finish.
  • Remove the tape and give the wax time to cure before using it.
Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric

Doesn’t it look amazing?

I love how the glaze brought out the pretty details of the textured fabric.

And it looks so much better with my neutral home decor.

As an aside, I’m happy I glazed the fabric after painting it.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that step or not, but once I took the tape off, the antique frame complimented the chalk paint on the fabric.

Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric

Want to Learn More About Painting Upholstery?

To learn more about how to paint upholstery fabric, CLICK HERE for some frequently asked questions.

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8 Comments

  1. That is so amazing Stacy! I can’t believe the difference! I’d love to do this with my sofa, but considering it’s only about 2 years old, I don’t think my husband would approve!

    1. Yeah probably not! lol! I think it works best on low – mid traffic pieces if you decide to try it! I’ve never done it on anything we sit on alot.

  2. Hi Stacy, if you were painting an outdoor fabric would you recommend using the wax or would you use an acrylic paint with fabric medium?

    1. Hi Jill! I’ve never painted outdoor fabric before so not sure how that would turn out or hold up. But I would try it if I had cushions I was planning to toss anyway. If you plan to do it just to try it, I’d go with chalk paint over acrylic.