This post was written in collaboration with 2 Chicks and a Toolbelt but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Wait until you see how to paint fabric and transform a piece into something amazing on a budget.

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

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 The upholstery fabric is out of date, dingy, and could use an update.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.

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.

And painting fabric is such an inexpensive way to update a piece.

The final result is a dramatic change.

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How to Paint Fabric Upholstery

Before the Makeover

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.

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

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.

Much like the other two pieces where I painted the fabric, this is a low traffic piece, so it is perfect for this technique.

Two Chicks and a Toolbelt

About Two Chicks and a Toolbelt Chalky Furniture Paint

The ladies behind Two Chicks and a Toolbelt perfected the consistency of their chalky furniture paint to spread like butter, achieve great coverage, and quicken the drying time.

After working with their chalky furniture paint line, I am amazed at how well it distresses.

Wait until you see how great my antique chair turned out!

How to Paint Fabric Upholstery

How to Paint Fabric Upholstery with Chalk Paint

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

Chalk Painting Fabric Supplies

  • Fabric Medium
  • Chalk Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Aged Glaze
  • Water
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Disposable Container to Mix Paint and Fabric Medium
  • Spray Bottle with Water (I used a recycled bottle with spray nozzle)
  • 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

Step 1 – Prepare the Piece and Set-Up Supplies Before Painting

  • Tape 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.
YouTube video

Step 2 – 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 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.
How to Paint Fabric Upholstery

Step 3 – Applying Aged Glaze (Optional)

  • 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

Step 4 – 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.
upholstered chair painted with chalk paint: finished product with throw pillows and greenery as decor

Painting Upholstery Fabric Tip

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

If you want to learn more about painting upholstery, CLICK HERE for some FAQ.

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How to Paint Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint
How to Paint Fabric Upholstery with Chalk Paint

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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!