Ditch the slipcover! Breathe new life into tired furniture with easy chalk paint! No sanding, no mess, just stunning results. Wait until you see this incredible before and after upholstery fabric makeover.

Breathe new life into your thrift store finds or furniture treasures without breaking the bank! Forget the dreaded (and expensive) reupholstery route – painting upholstery fabric with chalk paint is the magic makeover your tired decor dreams of.

It’s like waving a budget-friendly wand over your faded pieces, transforming them from dusty ghosts to vibrant stars of your home.

And the best part? The incredible transformation before your eyes! Just wait until you see the “before” and “after” of my own heirloom bench, its fabric boasting a stunning metamorphosis from dowdy floral to a chic, modern masterpiece.

So buckle up fellow DIYers, because you’re about to witness the power (and ease!) of painting upholstery fabric!

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Why I’m Painting the Upholstery Fabric on an Heirloom Bench

Now you might be thinking, why on earth is she painting fabric upholstery in the first place? 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 I had it 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. It was pretty much like that book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?

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.

My Inspiration

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

This bench is hardly used. It sits in the front entry hall, so 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 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. 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!

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

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. I usually already have that kind of paint on hand and it’s so easy to do.

You could use fabric paint or upholstery paint, but I don’t usually have that on hand and I’m kind of lazy getting that kind of stuff when I’m in the moment and decide I want to do something like this.

What Kind of Fabric Is Good For Painting Upholstery

Since I refinished this particular bench a few years ago, I applied chalk paint to other upholstery pieces since and have an opinion on what type of fabric 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.

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

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

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 where you are working. 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 the 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.
Heirloom vintage bench after coat of chalk paint on upholstery fabric
The bench after two coats of paint.

Can you believe how much better it looks after the first coat of paint? I mean….Wow!

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.

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, and cleaner, and coordinates with my neutral decor.

I cannot get over how much better it looks after painting the fabric upholstery on this vintage beauty? 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.

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

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

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

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

Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today and every day.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

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before of bench before painting fabric with chalk paint -Paint Fabric Upholstery
heirloom vintage bench after painting the upholster fabric with chalk paint
The antique bench after the refresh.

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22 Comments

  1. 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!!

  2. Stacy,
    I love this project. As much as I use chalk paint, I’ve never painted an upholstery piece. It looks great.
    Rachel

  3. This looks amazing! I’ve been wanting to try painting fabric with chalk paint myself so this tutorial will come in very handy. Pinned for later!

    1. I’m so glad Jayne! You’ll be glad you tried it! I still can’t believe how good that paint bench looks! xoxo

  4. Hi, Stacy, your bench looks terrific.
    Last summer I used chalk paint to “renew” my worn out, faded ten year old loveseat, chair and ottoman set. This furniture was going to the curb for free, but when I saw the price on a new, similar set in white , I decided to try painting it. It took several days, and four coats of paint, but totally transformed it from a dated floral to a brand new looking white. I discovered that the more you sit on and use the painted upholstery, the softer it gets.
    I have a dog and two cats and love how easily pet hair and dirt paw prints wipe off the painted fabric.
    I wouldn’t recommend painting velvet or plush, but I could be wrong, lol.

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  7. Stacy,
    I’ve done this before. It’s amazing how well the paint holds up. Great transformation.

    1. Thank you! I am going to get your ear about the dining room set this week. I want to redo them sometime in August or September if I can!