Painting Upholstery – How I Painted an Armchair

I followed a tutorial for painting upholstery to paint an armchair. All you need is a spray bottle, paint, and fabric medium.

painting upholstery

One of the features of our house that we fell in love with when we first saw it was the lofted upstairs hall. It’s extra wide and there is room for a little lounge/sitting area. I immediately started dreaming up a little nook with a high back armchair and stenciled wall.

I figured that it would take a while to find “the chair” but then I stumbled upon a tutorial from Kristy at Hyphen Interiors for painting upholstery! (Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Kristy or her original tutorial is online any longer!)

When I found a nice chair I really liked on Craigslist a few weeks later I knew I had to give painting upholstery a try!

painting upholstery

Here was the chair a few weeks ago after I picked it up on Craigslist for $25. I loved the pattern in the fabric and the shape of the chair and legs, but the color wasn’t right for my vision for the nook. It was also faded and yellowed in a few spots.

Painting Upholstery Supplies and Tutorial

Supplies

– 2 6oz. bottles of Fabric Medium (I used the Martha Stewart brand and loved it!)
– At least 6oz. of acrylic paint in your color of choice
– A sample size of latex paint (the kind you paint your walls with) that matches your acrylic pretty closely
– A 2-inch paintbrush
– A spray bottle of water

Tutorial

Painting upholstery involves mixing different paints with water and fabric medium. It’s not very difficult though. The first coat is equal parts fabric medium and latex paint. I used about 3 oz. of each and mixed them in a cup from our kitchen. Then I filled my spray bottle with water and headed out to the garage. 

Before you start painting make sure you clean off your surface really well. You don’t want dirt, dust, or pet hair getting stuck in the paint!

I’d also recommend painting the seat cushion first, just in case you aren’t a fan of the color you can just flip it over and try again!

First, generously spray water on your surface. I let my water drip and then rubbed it into the chair a bit. Then, paint the fabric with the latex paint and fabric medium mixture in thin even coats. 

painting upholstery

Follow the same process for painting the upholstery of the chair. Thoroughly dampen the chair with water, and then paint on the latex paint and fabric medium mixture in thin, even strokes.

painting upholstery

The latex coat of paint is basically your primer, so after you finish with that coat you’ll want to let your chair dry for at least 24 hours. You should have basic light coverage, but will still be able to see the original color coming through. 

When painting upholstery, sometimes there are issues with the fabric becoming stiff and uncomfortable. Due to the material of my chair, I didn’t have any problems with stiffness or the paint clumping. If you have an issue, lightly sand the stiff areas with a 220 grit paper before moving on to the next coat.

painting upholstery

For the second coat, mix acrylic paint with the fabric medium. Again, mix them in equal parts. But you’ll need twice the amount of paint that you used the first time. So I used 6 oz of acrylic paint and 3 oz of fabric medium. You’ll also need to add a few thimbles of water to the mix. You want the mixture to be thin, but not runny.

Paint this coat in thin, even strokes like the first. Be sure to cover every nook and cranny of the chair with paint. 

painting upholstery

Let the fabric dry for 24-48 hours before using. I also wouldn’t recommend sitting down in light colors or white the first few times, just in case. I didn’t have problems with my chair rubbing off on clothes, but I still recommend caution!

The legs of my chair had seen better days and didn’t match the new color very well, so I decided to paint those too. I debated for awhile what color to do, but I finally decided to spray paint them oil rubbed bronze (aka ORB)!

painting upholstery

The metallic sheen of the ORB will look really good with the gold/brass accents I want to use around the chair. And just for your viewing pleasure, I did a little photoshoot of my chair in the back yard 🙂 

painting upholstery
painting upholstery

I taped up my chair with some grocery bags and did a few quick, even coats of spray paint, then left everything in the yard to cure for a few hours. 

I brought the chair in and put it in its little nook in that hallway. I’m in LOVE! I love the rich color and the glittery sheen of the legs. It makes me so giddy! 

painting upholstery

Now all I need to do is get some paint and stencil on the wall behind it, find and hang a gold sunburst mirror, find a little table for setting books on and get a gold-ish pillow for the chair! 

painting upholstery

And to save you some time scrolling up and down, here’s the before & after! 

painting upholstery

The total cost of this project was a little less than $50! $25 for the chair and then roughly $25 for the fabric medium, paints, and ORB spray paint!

What do you think?!? Anybody else want to try painting a chair? If so let me know how it turns out!

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44 Comments

  1. It turned out awesome! My mom painted all of her (used to be) white fabric dining room chairs with spray fabric paint. I was so shocked at how good it looked. I may have to try this on an old chair I have in our office.

  2. I love it! I really love that blue color and I’m a big fan of ORB. Maybe I’ll consider trying it one day but I’m always afraid to try something and then mess it up.

  3. Wow, that turned out great! I’ll try to do a post in the future and link to you! Love the orb legs! The question everyone asks – how does it feel?

    1. Thanks Kristy! I’m glad you were brave enough to try it first! And as far as how it feels, it’s a little softer than canvas, kind of like the material restaurants use for their booths.

  4. // ashley, this turned out fantastic! it looks so great – i might have to try this sometime soon! your tutorial is so thorough. 🙂 can’t wait to see the finished reading nook!

  5. The chair looks great! I love the color you chose and that you can still see the fabric’s texture & design through the paint. I’ve always been too nervous to paint fabric furniture but this could be a fun project since I’m too terrified to reupholster!

  6. This just blows my mind. I’ve not painted on fabric before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. But it turned out great!

  7. So much better!!! i love that you can just paint fabric now! i did a headboad once because i cannot reupholster. saves a boatload of money and work and effort! 🙂

  8. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that you were able to paint the chair to switch up it’s appearance! You did a fantastic job! Way to go, Ashley!

  9. I would never know you painted it if you hadn’t told me!! It looks that good!! I’m totally gonna have to try this next time I see a chair I like? Do you think it still works if the original color is darker than the color you want to paint it?

  10. That looks so good! Makes me want to buy all kinds of Craigslist furniture and paint it!

  11. Wow, that looks incredible! I’ve seen some people who have done painted fabric tutorials, but it always looked, well, painted! {And they mentioned that it crunched! ha!} – But this looks great – like the chair was meant to be that color – and I love the color you chose… especially with the legs 🙂

  12. Wow, I’m really surprised how good that came out. I never would have thought to paint chair upholstery. I have painted canvas shoes before though. It’s fun because if you ever just want a change in color, just paint it 🙂

    Great job, Ashley!

    ~Lisha

  13. What a great idea!!! And, you did a great job.

    I’ve just become your newest follower. Please come visit me at PICKINandPAINTIN.blogspot.com and hopefully you’ll follow back. 😎

  14. Ashley,
    I think it looks amazing! I love it! I have been waiting to see how it was going to turn out and I think it looks like you re-upholstered it.

    blessings,
    karianne

    PS Your pass it on project looks great too!

  15. Your chair looks great! I bought a pair of wingbacks last August and have yet to do anything to subdue their mauvey-pinkness. Must. pull. out. the. paint! Thanks for the step-by-step!

  16. I could not believe that I have the exact same chair…2 of them in fact, my husband bought them at a yard sale a few years back, I hate the color (same as yours) and now I think I know what I will do with them. Wish me luck, I am going to try this while my husband is gone for 2 weeks….hope it will be a pleasant surprise….otherwise I may be in trouble. LOL.

  17. I have a question: will the paint rub off or is that what the fabric medium is for? I’m so afraid it’d stain my clothes from sitting in it but yours turned out beautifully. I’ve been toying with the idea for almost a year now and this is the one thing that’s really holding me back. Tha is!

    1. It definitely doesn’t rub off on your clothes at all. The fabric will be a little stiff at first but once you sit in and break it in it’s totally fine! I’m still so in love with my chair and how it turned out!

  18. I was wondering if you think this would work going from a medium green color to a lighter shade like beige or white?

  19. You did a fantastic job on your chair. you are gonna love this…I have that same chair with the pattern. I want to redo my couch (gonna be a big project) But one day soon I will be up for the task, I will be coming back to this Pin. Thanks for sharing

  20. I love it. I have 2 chairs like this I want to paint and your post was very helpful. Has anyone tried to paint Herculon type fabric? I have a glider rocker with cushions that need replacing, but I would much rather paint them if they won’t be stiff. Thanks.

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