Stacy Ling

Painting Upholstery Fabric With Chalk Paint

· Step-By-Step DIY Antique Bench Refresh ·

Have you ever painted upholstery fabric before? Me neither...but my sister-in-law has! She painted a whole chair that was covered in fabric and it looked incredible. If she can do it, so can I. So I gave it a shot and the result is amazing!

We have this beautiful antique bench in our front entry way that was passed down to us from my husband’s family. It was not very pretty when we received it so we had it recovered about five years ago to coordinate with our cranberry, sage and gold decor. Since refreshing the entire first floor with a lighter coat of paint, the bench does not work in the space anymore.

Antique bench before the refresh.

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

I contemplated having the bench recovered again. However, that would require spending a lot of money on something I just did a few years ago.

I also considered deconstructing the piece but that would entail a lot of time and effort. Since I wanted to make a quick fix to this bench, deconstructing it was my second choice.

So I decided to paint the upholstery fabric.

Making the Decision to Paint the Fabric

My sister-in-law has done this before and the pieces she refinished look amazing. This bench is hardly used: it is in the front entry hall, nobody really sits on it and is mostly used to lay coats and bags on when people visit.

I’m not going to lie…I was a little nervous to paint the upholstery fabric. Since this bench is an heirloom, I did not want to wreck it. To build my confidence, I told myself that the worse 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?

I envisioned the bench to look like it was recovered in a light, neutral fabric. There’s a trend to use drop cloths as window treatments and upholstery fabric, so that’s the look I was hoping to achieve without actually recovering the piece in drop cloth or similar looking fabric.

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


  • 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 top coat.
  • 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.

Taped off the bench before painting.

First coat of paint on the upper portion of the bench.

The bench after two coats of paint. Since there was a dark floral fabric, it took three coats of paint to completely cover the upholstery.

The bench prior to removing the tape.

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.

The antique bench after the refresh.


Painting Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint

After completing this project, I have to say I would TOTALLY do it again. For me, it was worth trying to paint this bench before deconstructing or recovering it. I knew if the paint did not work or did not look good, I could easily fix it by deconstructing or recovering it. I would not do this if we were planning to sit on the piece a lot because 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 other outdated low traffic pieces we have so they match my decor. Why replace these items when we can inexpensively refresh them?

More Related Posts

Before and After of My Home


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How to Paint Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint

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Stacy Ling

Stacy Ling is a master gardener who loves home decor and creating beautiful spaces. She provides easy-to-follow, easy-to-do garden, home decor, lifestyle & DIY inspo.


  1. Reply


    May 8, 2019

    The chair is beautiful, what an excellent idea, love it.

  2. Reply


    May 9, 2019

    The chair is beautiful, I love what you did with it!

    • Reply


      May 10, 2019

      Thank you so much Laura!!!! I love how it turned out!

  3. Reply


    May 20, 2019

    It’s nice to read a wonderful work like this, keep posting!! Everyone will surely appreciate and love all your next works. If you want to know more about upholstery cleaning this website is also the best for you. We also offering services in affordable price. Thank you , Godbless and more power!!