Before you put that old accent chair that no longer matches your color scheme out on the curb, take a second to consider something—if it was a different color, would you want to keep it?
If so, don’t stress about trying to figure out a way to completely reupholster it.
Instead, why not paint it?
Sound crazy? Well, read on to find out more about painting upholstered furniture!
First Thing’s First—Is It Possible?
While you might’ve guessed we wouldn’t have an entire post about the impossibility of painting upholstered furniture, I want to make something crystal clear.
Painting upholstered furniture isn’t just possible; it’s actually pretty easy!
Before You Start
Before you start slapping paint on your upholstered furniture, there are a few things you need to do.
Look at the Fabric
Not all fabric is created equal, especially when it comes to painting upholstered furniture. Some fabrics will take and hold paint better than others, and you need to know what you’re working with before deciding whether to do the project or not.
As a general rule of thumb, the tighter the weave of the fabric, the better results you’ll have. It will act as more of a solid surface, resulting in an even finish.
When thinking of tight weave, think of something like a smooth cotton or a poly blend.
Also, take a good look at the amount of wear on the fabric of the furniture. Thinner spots will take paint differently than regular fabric.
More challenging fabrics include very textured ones like velvet or tweed. The texture will be difficult to get a great result from. It may end up spotted or stiff due to the extra paint needed to fully saturate and cover the thick fabric.
Don’t be discouraged; you can’t paint upholstered furniture in this case. Instead, investigate if you want to try to dye it with RIT dye and color fixative instead. That process is completely different than painting and may leave you with your desired result.
Choose Your Paint
Now that you know you’re ready for painting upholstered furniture, it’s time to pick what type of paint you’ll use.
No matter what type of paint you use, here’s an important note about color. It’s always going to be easier to take a light fabric darker than it will be to paint a dark fabric lighter. If you’ve got an already dark piece of furniture, this may not be the right project for you, unless you plan to paint it another dark color.
Completely and solidly covering the dark fabric with a light color would take so many coats of paint that the fabric would feel strange and uncomfortable to sit on.
Latex Paint with Fabric Medium
If you’ve got extra latex paint lying around from painting the walls of your house, you could mix it with fabric medium to make your own upholstery paint.
This is usually budget-friendly since the paint is already in your home. But take note that the results may be a little more challenging. This often leaves you with splotchy paint jobs and crunchy, uncomfortable fabric.
Upholstery paint is paint formulated specifically for use on fabrics. Many boast of non-crunchy outcomes; however, painting furniture typically does change the texture in the end, no matter what paint you use.
This all-in-one option is most certainly convenient!
Spray Fabric Paint
For very small jobs, think of a few stool tops or chair seats; spray fabric paint is a quick and easy choice.
The spraying factor makes it easy to layer multiple, thin coats. This typically leaves you with a softer fabric in the end.
It’s less than ideal for large jobs because you’d have to buy so many bottles to get the job done that it’s not very cost-effective.
While you can skip sanding steps with chalk paint on fabric as on other furniture pieces, you still need to seal it with something. A thin coat of soft wax should do the trick.
Collect Additional Supplies
You know you’ve got a piece of furniture that you can paint the upholstered fabric, and you’ve chosen the paint you’ll use. Now it’s time to gather additional supplies.
A good paintbrush is important for a good final product when painting upholstered furniture.
It’s a good idea to have a few different sizes in order to reach different parts of your furniture easily. Big brushes are good for large, flat surfaces, and smaller brushes are important for taking care of smaller details.
We’ve got a list of some of the best paintbrushes on the market for you to choose from.
Painter’s tape will help keep anything you want to keep the paint off of paint free. Use it to tape off wooden or metal legs, or the hard back of a dining chair.
Using painter’s tape when painting upholstered furniture also helps keep the lines crisp between the painted fabric and other parts of the piece. It cuts down on paint bleed and leaves a much more professional-looking finish.
Many of the paint options require something to be mixed or diluted.
If you don’t have any unwanted large cups in your cabinets, grab some 32-oz deli containers. Many even come with lids, which can be used to store unused paint overnight.
Since a lot of paint needs to be diluted with water, it can drip before drying. A drop cloth will protect the floor underneath while painting upholstered furniture.
To get more bang for your buck, use a canvas drop cloth you can wash and reuse over and over again.
While water is a big no-no when it comes to painting most furniture, it’s actually your best friend when painting upholstered furniture.
Instead of ensuring you’ve got a completely dry canvas before getting started, you’re actually going to want to spray all the fabric down with plain water in a spray bottle to get it damp.
Damp fabric will more easily absorb the paint, hopefully leaving you with a softer end result.
Sanding the paint between coats is another important step in painting upholstered furniture to lead to a softer finish.
Sanding sponges make it easier and more comfortable for you to do all the sanding.
How to Paint Upholstered Furniture
It’s time to get to it! Here are the nitty-gritty details you need for painting upholstered furniture.
Prep the Furniture
Paint cans shouldn’t even be opened if the furniture hasn’t been prepped correctly.
First, it’s got to be thoroughly cleaned. Use a vacuum to get into all the cracks and crevices. Wipe the piece down with a microfiber rag to get rid of any dust or debris that may get stuck in the paint.
Next, clean pesky stains that may mess up the paint later. They don’t need to be perfectly erased, but they should have some of their bulk scrubbed out.
Then, use the painter’s tape to tape off any areas that don’t need to be painted.
Finally, use your spray bottle to get the fabric evenly wet. Remember, we’re looking for damp, not dripping.
Paint First Coat
Before you paint, you’ll need to figure out the dilution ratio that works best for the paint you chose. Start with a 3:2 ratio of paint to water and adjust from there. You want the paint to have the consistency of pancake batter.
Once your paint is diluted, it’s time to add the first coat!
Use long, even strokes, adding a very thin layer of paint. Don’t be scared if it looks splotchy or you can still see other colors bleeding through. That’s why you’ll do multiple coats.
Allow it to dry completely before moving on.
Use a sanding sponge between 320-400 grit and give every square inch of paint a good gentle scrub.
Doing this should help give your final product more of a leathery feel instead of a scratchy, painted feel.
Repeat thin coats of paint, allowing it to dry completely, and sanding it until you’re happy with the results.
Ideas for Painting Upholstered Furniture
Nobody ever said painting upholstered furniture had to be a single color. There are plenty of ways to add a bit of zing and pop to your next project!
Colorblocking just means taking bright, unexpected colors and putting them together in one piece.
The colors can vary depending on what works in your space, but here are a few ideas of how it could work on an upholstered piece.
- Wingback chair– one color for arms and back, contrasting color for seat cushion
- Couch– a different color for each “section” of the couch
- Dining chairs– keep the back and legs of the chair the same color and use a different color paint for each seat cushion
If you’re an artist painting upholstered furniture, use your gifts to go above and beyond and paint flowers onto your project.
If this is on a part of the furniture that won’t regularly be felt (the back of a chair or the side of a couch), feel free to use thicker acrylic paint to make the process easier and quicker.
This can turn a plain piece into something really feminine with soft colors and delicate flowers, or make it pop with bright colors and bold outlines.
Similarly to the floral idea, consider adding something unexpected on the side or the back of your freshly painted piece using painter’s tape and bright colors.
Use painter’s tape to make straight-edged shapes. This can be as exact or free-from as you’d like it to be. Maybe try a chevron pattern if you want an “exact” look! If you’re feeling wild, just make a lot of geometric shapes with the tape.
Use complementary colors to fill in the spaces created by the tape. Keep it simple with one color, or add multiple. Once everything is dry, gently remove the tape and admire your creation.
This technique for painting upholstered furniture may take some trial and error on scrap fabric.
Working in small sections, paint roughly one-third of the way up the furniture. While the paint is still fresh and wet, add the next color. Use a dry paintbrush to blend the two colors together where they meet.
Make sure to move quickly because you’ll need to add the third and final color to the top and blend it with the middle color before it dries.
Again, it may take some extra practice and experimentation, but the results could be breathtaking and truly one-of-a-kind.
Caring for Painted Upholstered Furniture
After painting upholstered furniture, it’s important to know that caring for it will be a little different than regular furniture. The paint is more delicate than the original fabric and requires different cleaning techniques.
Your vacuum will be your best friend when cleaning your painted upholstery. A weekly once-over with a vacuum will keep dust, dirt, and other debris from getting settled into the fibers of the painted fabric.
Make sure not to use unnecessary pressure. The last thing you want to do is gouge or chip your paint job with a vacuum attachment.
Use Baby Wipes
Do not use traditional cleaner on painted upholstery. I repeat: do not use traditional cleaner on painted upholstery.
The chemicals in regular cleaners could break down the paint and leave you with a splotchy mess.
Instead, if there’s some grime you need to get off the furniture, use a baby wipe. The best-case scenario would be using one of the sensitive wipes because they have even fewer ingredients.
Baby wipes will give you the slightest bit of texture for scrubbing and dampness for removing the mess without removing any paint.
Less Is More
After painting upholstered furniture, you should take a less is more approach to cleaning in general.
That means being ok with not completely cleaning it every time you’re doing household chores. The fact is, painted fabric is different from unpainted fabric and is much more delicate. It can handle regular scrubbing or harsh cleaners.
Gently clean off any messes you can see and let the other ones go.
Wrapping Up Painting Upholstered Furniture
Now that you know that painting upholstered furniture isn’t only possible but easy, a whole new world of projects is opened for you! Whether you’re saving a piece from the curb or upcycling something you found at the thrift store, the same principles apply.
The right products, preparation, and process will leave you with an essentially brand-new piece of furniture to enjoy for a long time! If you want to explore more into the world of painting furniture, scroll through our Painting Furniture page.