Painting Fabric 101


I love to upholster and bring new life to pieces in that way but sometimes as a busy mom, I just don’t have 20-30 hrs available to upholster a chair AND usually when I’m done with the upholster I feel like I need to place the chair in a room where my kids will never get it so that it doesn’t get dirty. UNREALISTIC.

So painting fabric is my other option and I will tell you I was skeptical at first! It ends up looking great, durable and its QUICK!

In my opinion, the best fabric to paint is smooth with little texture. I’ve seen a lot of fabric painting go wrong with upholstery like velvet or heavily textured fabric. My best piece of advice is to test a small piece of fabric first on the back or somewhere will others would not see the spot if it does not work before you start the WHOLE process.

So now that my little disclaimer is out of the way, let’s start with how I painted my old garage sale yellow and orange floral chair, shall we?

A couple of the before pictures so you can see where I started:


Materials needed for painting fabric:

  1. sand paper- I used a finer 160 grit. You DO NOT NEED A COURSE GRIT sand paper because it will pull the paint off.
  2. Paint brush
  3. Paint- I used Country Chic Peacoat Clay based paint
  4. Top Coat- use furniture WAX. If you want breathable, bendable, soft cushions, use wax.
  5. Spray bottle or cup of water.
  6. Plastic cup or bowl for mixing paint with water.


  1. when PAINTING FABRIC, you need a “breathable” paint. Clay or Chalk Paint, for example, is considered breathable because it will soak into the fabric. If the paint sits on top and does not penetrate the fabric, when you sit on it, or bend it, it will probably crack and start flaking off.
  2. When mixing your paint, you want half water to half paint= equal parts. Thoroughly mix your paint after you get the water in there.
  3. Wet the fabric or cushions first with a spray bottle, or dip your paint brush in water and lightly brush your fabric to dampen the material. This allows the fabric to soak up more paint.
  4. Wait at least 24 hours in between each coat- this ensures that all the fabric is dry, especially if the paint soaked deep into the fabric.
  5. Lightly sanding your fabric between each coat of paint is a must. This is very important especially with Clay/Chalk paint because you want the actual pigment to remain and not all the chalky residue. This also makes the fabric nice and soft.
  6. Always use a top coat, otherwise the paint has potential to bleed and get on your clothing if you sit on the piece.

FYI: I did not have a spray bottle around so I wet a paint brush and lightly covered the fabric with water before I started painting.

Another note; Depending on the material you are painting, the fabric might end up feeling a little like “Vinyl.” This is how my chair ended up!

method for painting My FLORAL CHAIR:

  • Lightly wet all fabric
  • apply 1:1 water/paint mix
  • wait 24 hours to dry
  • sand with finer grit sand paper
  • repeat- paint
  • wait 24 hours to dry
  • sand
  • repeat- paint
  • wait 24 hours to dry
  • apply top coat

I did not sand after the final wax coat but I did sand in between every other coat of paint.

The whole chair took 3 coats and I only used one coat of wax to finish them off.

I’m so pleased at the transformation of this chair! This was a $30 garage sale pick up that I loved the bones but the fabric (YUCK).

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel AS soft as it did before, but it does still feel like fabric.

I would definitely do it again and recommend it to anyone.

A few Final pics: