Discover simple fabric painting and achieve stunning, durable results with this step-by-step chalk paint technique for upholstery.

Are you ready to breathe new life into your old upholstered furniture? Fabric painting with chalk paint is a simple and cost-effective way to transform your home décor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again if you are considering recovering or deconstructing a piece anyway, why not try to paint fabric first? It’s no loss if it doesn’t work out, because you were planning to recover it anyway.

Painting fabric is such an inexpensive way to update a piece. The final result is a dramatic change.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the entire process, sharing my tips and tricks along the way.

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Before Fabric Painting: A Quick Look at Our Project Piece

Before diving into the how-to, let’s talk about the piece we’re transforming. Whether it’s an old, beloved chair that’s seen better days or a fantastic thrift store find with great bones but outdated fabric, this project is all about giving it new life.

This antique chair belonged to my grandmother. When she passed years ago, I wanted to recover it and use in my bedroom. Fast forward in time, I never recovered it. And has been sitting it in my daughter’s room today with an off-white blanket thrown over it.

The chair fabric upholstery has a velvety texture that has yellowed over time. It is in great shape and has beautiful lines, but needs an update. So I’m going to paint the fabric on this chair too.

Since fabric painting works best on low-to-mid traffic pieces, this chair is an ideal candidate for transformation, as it’s rarely used.

How to Paint Fabric Upholstery

Essential Materials for Fabric Painting

Before beginning, gather all of the supplies needed to paint the fabric. Here’s what you need:

Chalk Paint and Fabric Medium

You’ll need chalk paint and a fabric medium to ensure the paint adheres properly to the fabric and remains flexible.

Brushes and Rollers

Choose high-quality brushes and rollers for smooth application.

Additional Supplies

Gather drop cloths, painter’s tape, spray bottles, and sandpaper to prepare and protect your workspace.

My Chalk Painting Fabric Shopping List

  • Fabric Medium
  • Chalk Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Aged Glaze
  • Water
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Disposable Container to Mix Paint and Fabric Medium
  • Spray Bottle with Water
  • Clear Wax
  • Wax Brush or Cloth – determine what works best for your fabric. I preferred working with an old sock when applying wax.
  • Paper Towels
How to Paint Fabric Upholstery

Prepping Your Upholstered Furniture

Proper preparation is crucial for the success of your fabric painting project. This technique works best when you thoroughly prep the surface and get everything ready before you start.

Cleaning the Fabric

Start by thoroughly cleaning your upholstery. Use a vacuum to remove any dust and debris, and a mild detergent for spot cleaning any stains.

Repairing Any Damage

Inspect your furniture for any damage. Repair any tears or loose threads before you start painting.

Setting Up Your Workspace

Cover your work area with drop cloths to protect your floors and surrounding furniture. Ensure you have good ventilation.

Getting Ready to Paint Fabric

  • Tape any areas where you do not want to apply chalk paint on fabric.
  • 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.

Taking the time to prepare properly will make all the difference in your furniture transformation.

How to Paint Fabric Upholstery
Look at how dingy and stained this piece is!

Step-by-Step Fabric Painting Instructions

Now that we’ve gathered our materials and prepared the furniture, it’s time to dive into the painting process. Follow these step-by-step directions to transform your upholstery with chalk paint and achieve stunning results.

Mixing Chalk Paint with Fabric Medium

Mix your chalk paint with fabric medium according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This step is crucial for achieving a durable finish.

Applying the First Coat

Lightly mist the fabric with water using a spray bottle. This helps the paint absorb more evenly. Apply the first coat of paint using long, smooth strokes. Allow it to dry completely before moving to the next step.

Adding Additional Coats

Apply additional coats as needed, allowing each coat to dry fully before applying the next. Sand lightly between coats for a smooth finish.

Drying and Curing Times

After the final coat, let your upholstery dry and cure. This can take several days, so be patient for the best results.

Tips for Painting Upholstery 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 provides ample room to tweak the process or fix mistakes before getting 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 slightly damp. The paint will glide on and soak into the fabric better if it is damp.
  • Paint fabric and allow it to fully dry in between coats. I applied two coats.
  • Allow the painted fabric to dry for at least 24 hours before top coating with clear wax. Although the fabric upholstery will look really good after painting, it is important to protect the color with a topcoat.
  • If you are working with a velvety or textured fabric, you may want to lightly sand the piece down using a fine grit sandpaper (220 or 320) to smooth out the roughness before top coating with wax.
How to Paint Fabric Upholstery

Optional: Aging the Fabric For a Vintage Look

Before top coating, I wanted to enhance the texture of 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 paintbrush 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.

painting upholstered fabric with chalk paint

Finishing and Protecting Your Painted Upholstery

With the painting complete and fully dried, it’s time to move on to the finishing steps. These final touches will ensure your fabric upholstery not only looks beautiful but also withstands everyday use. Let’s chat about the finishing process to protect and enhance your newly painted furniture.

Applying Wax or Sealant

Once your paint is completely dry, apply a wax or sealant to protect your finish. This step ensures your upholstery will withstand daily use.

Tips for Long-Lasting Results

Avoid heavy use of the furniture for a few days to allow the paint to fully cure. Regularly clean your painted upholstery with a soft, damp cloth.

  • 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.

FAQs About Fabric Painting with Chalk Paint

  • Can I paint any type of fabric? Most fabrics can be painted, but smoother fabrics tend to work best.
  • How do I clean painted upholstery? Use a damp cloth for regular cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Will the paint crack or peel? Properly mixed and applied chalk paint should remain flexible and durable.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with careful preparation and application, you might encounter some challenges during your fabric painting project. In this section, we’ll address common issues and provide solutions to help you achieve the best possible results. Whether it’s dealing with uneven coverage or fixing brush marks, these troubleshooting tips will guide you through any obstacles.

Dealing with Uneven Coverage

If your paint looks uneven, apply additional thin coats, allowing each to dry completely.

Fixing Streaks and Brush Marks

Use high-quality brushes and sand lightly between coats to minimize streaks and brush marks.

Addressing Paint Bleeding

Ensure your fabric is clean and dry before painting to prevent bleeding. Apply thin, even coats of paint.

How to Paint Fabric Upholstery

Watch the Process in Action

For those who prefer visual instructions, check out my video tutorial to see each step in action.

Fabric Painting: More Before and After Furniture Transformations

If you are anything like me, I have so many pieces that need to be recovered. The upholstery fabric is out of date, dingy, and could use an update. Two years ago, I painted the fabric on this antique bench and it turned out amazing!

And because that bench turned out so well, I painted the fabric on this vintage chair too that I found on Facebook Marketplace for a steal.

Start Your Fabric Painting Project Today

Ready to transform your upholstery? Gather your supplies, follow these steps, and enjoy your beautiful, updated furniture. Don’t forget to share your results and subscribe to my newsletter for more DIY tips!

If you want to learn more about painting upholstery read this article that drills down on some painting fabric FAQs.

Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Enjoy your day! xoxo

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How to Paint Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint
How to Paint Fabric Upholstery with Chalk Paint
How to Paint Fabric Upholstery
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upholstered chair painted with chalk paint: finished product with throw pillows and greenery as decor

Are you looking update upholstered furniture on a budget? Learn how to paint fabric upholstery with chalk paint in 10 easy steps.

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  1. Really, what an amazing difference!! It’s a beautiful piece and I love that it was your Grandmother’s.

    1. Isn’t it amazing how paint can fix that fabric? It looks SO much better now. Thank you so much! xo

  2. This chair turned out amazing! I’ve always been afraid to paint fabric but not after seeing this! Nice job!