How to Paint Upholstery Fabric Using a Chalk Paint Type Product

Do you have a piece of furniture that you love, but not the color or finish? Don’t fret, you can change it. Let’s talk about how to paint upholstery fabric using a chalk paint type product.

painting upholstery using chalk paint type product
before painting fabric
What the bed looked like before painting the upholstery

Can I Paint Fabric Furniture?

I love how, if you want a change, there is always a possibility. Of course, budget is always a factor. So what if you have an upholstered piece of furniture that you love the shape and overall usefulness, but it’s just not the color scheme you want?

And you are on a budget, so reupholstering it is not an option? Enter, stage left, PAINT!

Paint fixes everything right? Or at least that is the thought. But painting upholstered furniture is a different animal, and you might be unsure.

SO let’s dive in and answer all the questions of why we should or shouldn’t do this.

painting upholstery fabric

To Paint or Not to Paint?

Being able to paint upholstered furniture seems like a game changer, but there are some things to note.

First, painted upholstery is not the best option for an item that you would actually be sitting on daily, like a fabric chair.

Next, it would take a ton of time and even more paint to paint something extremely large, like a sofa. And once again, painting an item that would be used everyday to sit on is not the best idea.

painted fabric on furniture
Before painting the fabric, I painted the wood frame too

This project that I did was an upholstered headboard, so it was a great solution to get it to the color that I wanted.

With this upholstered furniture piece, it’s not anything I would actually sit on, since it is a vertical surface. It’s important to be strategic when painting upholstered furniture.

I started this project by first painting the wood. The upholstery would come next.

slanted ceiling with beadboard

Step by Step to Painting Upholstery

  • Remove any dust from fabric
  • Paint the edges near wood or welting
  • Completely cover area with paint
  • Use a spray bottle with water if needed
  • Paint more coats as needed

What Furniture Should I Paint?

Let’s talk about fabric furniture that would be great to paint.

An upholstered headboard would be ideal because of its vertical surface.

Chairs can be great options for painting fabric, especially those with wood frames. Chairs that have wood frames with fabric seats and are more for display rather than sitting would make a great painted upholstery project.

Remember, chairs with removable cushions will require all sides painted and will require multiple coats. This can take a lot of paint!

painting a fabric chair

A light colored chair that doesn’t need full coverage, as much as it needs some personal style, would be a great project.

Check out this post of a chair one of our paint retailers painted ombre. This painted ombre was done with thin coats of paint while using a spray bottle, since the original color was light.

If you need full coverage like I did for my project, I did not spray water directly on the fabric as this dilutes the pigment of the paint. However, using a bit of water could help your paint flow better across the fabric for the first coat. Grab some tools here.

painted fabric

Leave your favorite chair alone. If you use it everyday, it is best to reupholster and not paint.

What Type of Paint Can I Use?

To paint upholstery, of course I would suggest using a chalk paint type product. Our Bungalow 47 Furniture Paint paints furniture and so much more.

Our paint is a highly pigmented chalk paint with clay in it too that paints a variety of surfaces. I would not suggest latex paint for this.

painting fabric on furniture

Over the years, we have seen many pictures of items our retailers around the country have painted and shared of painting upholstery.

Painting fabric uses a lot more paint than painting wood, especially if you are painting a light color on a dark fabric. And the type of fabric medium it is will yield different results.

Real or fake leather turns out great, along with fabric that is canvas like.

painted tufted fabric

Painting Fabric – Colors and Textures

Painting upholstered furniture from a dark color to a light color will require more paint to cover the dark fabric. Covering light to dark may require only one coat, provided the coat is thoroughly painted for the fabric texture.

When painting fabric, the fabric will become a bit stiff. It feels like a canvas, but harder depending upon how much paint you needed to cover the color. I used the color Layered Linen here.

painting fabric creates a canvas like texture

Textures that are short and tight woven work well for painting fabric.

Do not attempt to paint upholstery that is very thick and nubby. Not only could lint be an issue, but this will end up requiring soooo much paint, and once you start painting, you can’t really go back.

If the fabric is smoother and has a detailed pattern like a damask, this will still be visible even after painting.

painted wood frame and painted upholstery

Tips for Successful Upholstered Furniture Painting

Here are my best tips for a successful project:

  • Use a chalk paint product. Shop here for my favorite.

  • Do not use latex paint.

  • Have multiple size brushes on hand. I definitely needed a fine detail one to paint the double welt on my headboard.

  • Wait until your first coat is completely dry before applying more coats. Depending on what color you are covering/painting, multiple coats may be mandatory.

  • If the paint is too thick, it can be thinned with water. Remember, too much water will dilute the pigment.

  • Do not glob paint near the edges. If the part that you are painting can be removed from the furniture frame, like a chair seat, remove it before painting.

  • Apply paint to the fabric using circular motions to work the paint into the fabric fibers, especially if the fabric is a bit textured.

  • If painting removable cushions, I would not paint the zipper! This could affect how it works.

  • Paint your furniture, inside, right in place. Do not paint in direct sunlight or in a hot environment, as paint will dry too fast to move properly on fabric.

painting fabric on furniture

Should You Attempt Painting Upholstery?

Only you can answer this question on whether painting upholstery is worth it. But if your project falls within the criteria we discussed, then I would say GO FOR IT!

A chalk paint is your best bet, and of course, Bungalow 47 Furniture Paint works beautifully for this process. A highly pigmented chalk paint is key to giving you the depth of color needed in painting upholstery.

I used a quart of white paint to paint all the rails and trim of this queen sized bed. Because I was painting over a very dark color, I used two quarts of the color Layered Linen to paint the upholstery of this bed, which was the headboard and footboard. I painted both sides of each.

paneled ceiling on slant

When your project is complete, you can look back on the transformation and be proud of yourself. When doing a big project like I did (both sides of the head board and footboard) the last coat is the best coat! Paint really does fix everything!

Check out this Pinterest board for painting inspiration. Have you ever painted upholstery before? Would you consider it? Tell me in the comments.

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  1. I wouldn’t have guessed that painted fabric would look that fabulous! It’s gorgeous!

  2. Thanks! It sure made a difference in changing the style of the piece.

  3. Which shade of beige did you use on the head and footboard set with the white wood trim?

  4. It is called Layered Linen and is a classic light beige, linen color. The wood frame of the bed was done using the white color called Farmhouse Sink.

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