Painting Upholstered Furniture with Chalk Paint

I've painted on fabric before but haven't painted upholstered furniture. Until now that is! I've seen other blogs where it was done and was sort of curious about, but it wasn't on the top of my to-do list. Then my friend Camille recently posted a chair she painted with an acrylic paint (check out her project here!) and she inspired me to give it a try. But I decided to use chalk paint on my project. I'll share with you my step-by-step process to help you decide if you want to give it a try, too.


My aunt's neighbor was going to throw this chair away, but she snatched it up for me instead. I brought it home and was mulling over what to do with it. The fabric was worn and stained, so I considered trying my hand at re-upholstering it (not my forte) or more likely a slip cover. 

I put the project aside (a year ago!) for a later date but then noticed the chair was missing. My husband commandeered the chair to use in his game room. Apparently the chair was the perfect height for him to sit at and view his game board. Obviously he cares more about function than design!

So when I saw Camille's project, I thought about this chair and thought "why not?" I'm not going to sell it, so there's no pressure if it doesn't work out, so this is a good project to practice a new technique on. Plus I figured I could always slipcover the chair if all else fails. 


The fabric has a tight weave to it and the tea cup pattern is slightly raised. So I knew from the start that the tea cups wouldn't disappear altogether, but they should fade into the background. Also, as you can see in the photo below, there are areas on the fabric that are worn away. If it was wood a little sanding or wood filler would do the trick, but for this project I would just have to make do with what I have to work with. 

Worn fabric.
  I decided to paint the base first since I didn't want to tape off the painted fabric later.

I chose Emperor's Silk for the base color. I actually just bought this paint for another big project and it's a bold red for sure, so I wanted to test it out first.

Here's a totally random photo of my outdoor summer workshop. The beach towel is hanging up to block the afternoon sun. If I had known you'd be dropping by I would have tidied up first. :-)

And here's the red drying after two coats. The paint had good coverage, but reds usually (almost always) require at least 3 coats. I'll apply the 3rd coat after I paint the fabric.

I used Old Ochre as the color for the upholstered area. The key to using chalk paint over fabric is to make sure the paint isn't too thick. So before applying paint I dampened the fabric thoroughly with a wet wash cloth. Next, I thinned out the paint with water. For the first coat I used 1/2 cup paint mixed with 2 TBSP water. It was very thin, so I had to be very careful of spattering. I had just enough paint mixed to cover the fabric with the 1st coat. I let the paint dry overnight.

After 1 coat of paint.
For the 2nd coat I used another 1/2 cup paint but this time I mixed it with 1 TBSP water. I didn't wet the fabric beforehand for the 2nd coat, but I had a container of water on hand to dampen my brush when necessary.

Applying the 2nd coat of paint.
The photo below shows the 2nd coat as it is drying. I later touched up a few of the tea cups with undiluted paint. If I was going to sell the chair I would have applied a full 3rd coat, but since my husband is going to use this (and he honestly couldn't care less), I decided to save my paint for another project.

The paint at this point is un-waxed, and if you are familiar with Chalk Paint it has a chalky feel to it, but the fabric is still supple and doesn't crack. I pressed down on the fabric and took a photo to try and demonstrate this for you. 

Next I went ahead and gave the base the 3rd coat of red. I snapped a photo to show how much darker the paint looks after it dries.

Once all the paint was thoroughly dry I applied a coat of soft clear wax. First to the upholstered section and next to the base.


It's difficult to describe the final feel of the painted upholstery. It almost has a feel of leather, but it's not as smooth because it still has the woven texture of the fabric. It reminds me of an oilcloth which is like a vinyl but with a canvas type of texture. When I was a little girl in elementary school we used to use large scraps of oilcloth in art class to cover our work surfaces.

Here's a close up of the where the fabric was worn. Notice you can still see the texture of the tea cups and the worn area. Paint doesn't hide that, but the pattern and imperfections do fade into the background. 


Here's a final look of the before and after:

If I was going to offer a painted upholstery piece for sale, I think I would definitely try it but with one where the fabric is in better condition with little to no wear. But overall it was an easy project that made a dramatic change, so if you have a similar piece then go ahead and give it a try. My cost estimate for this project (not including labor) is $13.50 (paint, wax, and misc supplies). Thanks for stopping by!


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