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Painting Upholstery Fabric With Chalk Paint

Looking for ways to fix up furniture pieces without breaking the bank? Try painting upholstery fabric before recovering it. It is an easy DIY project that is inexpensive to do and the result is amazing! Learn how to do it here.

We have this beautiful antique bench in our front entryway that was passed down to us by my husband’s family.

It was not very pretty when we received it so we recovered it about five years ago to coordinate with our cranberry, sage, and gold home decor.

When we renovated our home from a ranch to a center hall colonial 15 years ago, we opened up the first floor to create an open living concept.

As time went by, I started updating rooms to move to a lighter and brighter color palette.

It started with remodeling the kitchen.

Because the kitchen looked amazing, I had to paint the living room too. And then because I had some paint leftover, I painted the dining room and the front entry.

Now that the first floor is more neutral, the bench does not work in the space anymore.

For a quick fix, I tried using different throw pillows and blankets but nothing hid or helped this floral pattern on the bench.

I contemplated recovering it again.

But that required spending a lot of money on something I just did a few years ago.

And nobody wants to spend money if they don’t have to. Am I right?

I also considered deconstructing the piece but that would entail a lot of time and effort that I did not want to do.

So I decided to paint the upholstery fabric with chalk paint.

And wow did it turn out amazing!

Have you ever painted upholstery fabric before?

Wait until you see how easy it is to do and how incredible this piece looks now!

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What Kind of Paint Do You Use for Upholstery

I’ve seen creators use different types of paint like latex or chalk paint.

But I prefer painting fabric with chalk paint and thinning it out with fabric medium.

What Kind of Fabric Is Good For Painting Upholstery

Since I refinishing this particular bench a few years ago, I applied chalk paint to other upholstery and have an opinion on what works best.

When painting fabric with chalk paint, smooth cotton or poly blends seem to work best. The finish is smoother and they accept the paint better than thicker, velvety type fabrics.

Before applying chalk paint on fabric, I strongly recommend testing a piece first. I know that may be difficult if it’s an antique. Try to find a similar swatch or pillow that comes close to the piece you have.

Testing the technique out first will help you get a feel for how to apply chalk paint on upholstery fabric.

Vintage heirloom bench before painting the fabric with chalk paint -Painting Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint
Antique bench before the refresh.

While you can paint fabrics with greater texture like woven or velvet, it is more of a challenge. When the paint dries, the fabric can feel a little rough so you’ll need to sand it.

As much as I love the pieces I refinished with thicker fabric, I don’t think they feel as good or as smooth as this antique bench.

Testing the fabric before painting will help you know what the result will be.

Want to see how those pieces look?

You can check out how chalk painting upholstery on thicker fabrics turned out.

And if you have some more questions about it, you can check out this post where I answered a lot of painting upholstery fabric with chalk paint FAQ’s.

antique bench before painting fabric with chalk paint in front entry -Not even a blanket and pillow could calm down the pattern on this heirloom vintage bench in rustic farmhouse

So Why I’m Painting Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint

My sister-in-law inspired me to start painting fabric with chalk paint. She has done this before and the pieces she refinished look seriously AMAZING.

This bench is hardly used.

It sits in the front entry hall, nobody really sits on it, and is mostly used to lay coats and bags on when people visit.

Not gonna lie…I was a little nervous to apply chalk paint the on the fabric. Since this bench is an heirloom, I did not want to wreck it.

But I reassured myself that the worst-case scenario was having to recover it.

Although I have never done a project like this before, this pep talk is how I mentally prepared myself to “just do it.”

What did I have to lose right?

I wanted the bench to look like it was recovered with a light, neutral fabric.

There’s a trend to use drop cloths as window treatments and upholstery fabric, so that’s the look I wanted to achieve without actually recovering the piece.

supplies needed to paint fabric with chalk paint
Painting supplies: fabric medium, chalk paint, paintbrush, mixing container, and water bottle (it is not Windex – I cleaned it out and filled it with water).

How to Paint Fabric With Chalk Paint

Now that we covered why I started painting upholstery fabric with chalk paint and the different types of fabrics that work with this technique, let’s chat about what you need and how to paint it!

Here’s what I did.

Supplies for Painting Upholstery Fabric

  • Fabric Medium
  • Chalk Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Water
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Disposable Container to Mix Paint and Fabric Medium
  • Spray Bottle with Water (I recycled a Windex bottle)
  • Clear Wax
  • Wax Brush or Cloth – figure out what works best for your fabric. I preferred working with an old sock.
taping off areas on heirloom vintage bench that should not get painted when Painting Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint
Taped off the bench before painting.

Directions for Applying Chalk Paint on Fabric

  • Tape up any areas where you do not want to apply paint.
  • Vacuum and remove as much lint, dirt, etc. as possible before starting.
  • Mix 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts chalk paint.
  • Start 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. Rub the water spray into the fabric so the fabric is slightly 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 between coats. I had to do three coats to fully cover the floral pattern.
  • Give painted fabric at least 24 hours to dry before top coating with clear wax. Although the bench looked really good after painting, it is important to protect the color with a topcoat.
  • Apply wax with a wax brush or cloth. I usually use a cloth 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. To apply, I started with a blue shop towel and it left a blue film so I switched to a white paper towel. The paper towel left too much lint on the painted surface so I wound up grabbing one of my husband’s athletic socks and that seemed to work best.
  • 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.
How heirloom vintage bench looks after 1 coat of chalk paint on upholstery fabric
First coat of paint on the upper portion of the bench.

Can you believe how much better it looks after the first coat of paint?

The coverage is not bad, but looks like it will need a few coats.

I allowed the paint to completely dry before applying the next coat of paint too. So painting this upholstery fabric took a few days because of the drying time.

Heirloom vintage bench after coat of chalk paint on upholstery fabric
The bench after two coats of paint.

But after two coats of paint, it looks even better doesn’t it?

Since there was a dark floral fabric, the print is still showing through.

So I needed to add another coat of paint to completely cover the fabric upholstery.

heirloom vintage bench after painting upholstery fabric with chalk paint

The Result

The bench looks AMAZING, doesn’t it?

I still need to clean up the edges where the paint seeped under the tape but overall, I LOVE IT!!!

The bench looks more traditional, cleaner, and coordinates with my neutral decor.

Can you believe how much better it looks after painting the fabric upholstery?

heirloom vintage bench after painting the upholster fabric with chalk paint
The antique bench after the refresh.

Every time I walk by it, I am in awe of it!

The piece looks so much better now.

And the painted upholstery fabric brings out the pretty details in the wood frame.

Painting upholstery fabric is totally worth trying before deconstructing or recovering a piece.

If applying chalk paint on fabric doesn’t work out, the piece can easily be deconstructed or recovered.

vintage heirloom bench after Painting Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint in farmhouse front hentry hall with houseplants and peonies

That said, I would not do this if we sat on a piece a lot. I am not sure how the finish would hold up to serious traffic.

Since this project turned out so well, I am planning to paint a few more outdated low-traffic pieces we have so they match my decor.

Why replace these items when we can inexpensively refresh them?

After completing this project, I decided to paint chalk fabric on another piece and this chair.

Wait until you see how they turned out!

vintage bench after painting fabric with chalk paint in farmhouse with area rug, houseplant and peonies

Painting Fabric with Chalk Paint

Looking for ways to fix up furniture pieces without breaking the bank? Try painting upholstery fabric before recovering it. It is an easy DIY project that is inexpensive to do and the result is amazing!
Prep Time30 mins
Active Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Keyword: paint fabric with chalk paint, painting upholstery with chalk paint
Calories:
Cost: 20

Equipment

  • 1 Painters Tape
  • 1 Paint Brush
  • 1 Plastic Cup

Materials

  • 1 16oz Chalk Paint
  • 5 Bottles Fabric Medium
  • 1 Roll Painters Tape
  • 1 Spray Bottle
  • Water
  • 1 Can Clear Wax
  • 1 Wax Brush

Instructions

  • Tape up any areas where you do not want to apply paint.
  • Vacuum and remove as much lint, dirt, etc. as possible before starting.
  • Mix 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts chalk paint.
  • Start 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. Rub the water spray into the fabric so the fabric is slightly damp. The paint will glide on and soak in to the fabric better if it is damp.
  • Paint upholstery fabric and allow it to fully dry between coats. I had to do three coats to fully cover the floral pattern.
  • Give painted fabric at least 24 hours to dry before top coating with clear wax.
  • Apply wax with a wax brush or cloth. Start with the back of the piece or in a spot you won’t regularly see. Apply with a cloth or wax brush.

Notes

For more painting upholstery fabric with chalk paint projects and answers to FAQs:

Want to Learn More About Painting Upholstery?

To learn more about how to paint upholstery, check out these painting upholstery FAQ’s.

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before and after photos of bench where fabric was painted with chalk paint -How to Paint Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint
before of bench before painting fabric with chalk paint -Paint Fabric Upholstery

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