Transform your old furniture without sewing! Learn how to paint fabric and give your home a fresh look with this beginner’s guide.

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 After lightening up the whole my main floor, some pieces looked very outdated so I gave them a quick facelift to compliment my neutral home.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

So now I’m turning my attention to this vintage chair. Learn how to transform any piece of upholstery fabric by painting it with these simple tips.

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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!

Painting Chair Fabric

Paint Upholstery Fabric: An Unconventional Upgrade

Upholstered furniture often serves as the centerpiece of our living spaces, but over time, the wear and tear on fabric can lead to a less-than-desirable appearance. Traditionally, the solution has been to recover the fabric entirely, a process that can be time-consuming and costly. However, there’s a creative and cost-effective alternative that’s been gaining attention: painting upholstery fabric.

The idea of painting upholstery might initially seem unconventional, but it’s a trend that’s been embraced by many DIY enthusiasts and interior design aficionados for its transformative and budget-friendly nature. Here’s why painting upholstery fabric is gaining popularity and why the results can be simply stunning.

  • It’s a cost-effective makeover
  • You can customize it with lots of different creativity
  • It’s an eco-friendly approach because you are reusing the piece instead of tossing it
supplies needed to paint fabric upholstery

How to Paint Fabric Upholstery With Chalk Paint

When done with care and creativity, the results of painted upholstery fabric can be breathtaking. Imagine an old armchair transformed with a gorgeous new color, a faded sofa revived with an eye-catching pattern, or a once-dull ottoman turned into a focal point with intricate designs. The possibilities for revitalizing furniture through paint are endless.

The key to achieving stunning results lies in preparation and technique. Thoroughly clean the fabric and ensure it’s free from dust and debris before starting. Use light, even coats of paint, allowing each layer to dry completely before applying the next. Experiment with different painting techniques like stippling, brushing, or even stenciling for added depth and visual interest.

The finished product can rival the appearance of newly upholstered furniture, and the satisfaction of having accomplished a stunning transformation with your own hands is unmatched. Follow this step-by-step tutorial to paint fabric upholstery.

Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric

Step 1 – Gather All Supplies

Before getting started, be sure to gather everything you need to paint furniture fabric.

Chalk Painting Fabric Supplies

Painting Chair Upholstery Fabric - taping up the chair

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.)
  • 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 Fabric with zibra brush

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.

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.

Conclusion:

Painting upholstery fabric presents an innovative and cost-effective way to breathe new life into tired furniture. It’s a creative undertaking that not only saves money but also allows for a unique and personalized touch in your home decor. The stunning results achieved through this method showcase the potential for reinventing and beautifying spaces without the need for an extensive budget or professional assistance.

Next time you consider replacing worn upholstery, think about the artistic possibilities of painting it instead. With a splash of color and a stroke of creativity, you can turn your furniture into personalized masterpieces that add vibrancy and style to your home without busting the budget.

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.

More About Painting Fabric Upholstery

Have you ever tried painting upholstery fabric before? If so, I would love to know more in the comments below.

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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

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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.

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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.