Directions for painting an upholstered chair

TerryArnApril 1, 2004

I picked up a couple of old upholstered chairs at a yard sale and I love the style, but the fabric is ugly. I read somewhere that you can paint the fabric. Any instructions on how to do this would be appreciated.

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Personally, I would not advise this. You could spray a type of fabric dye on the fabric, but I don't think it will cover well, and if you use any kind of paint that doesn't give well, the fabric will crack and possibly split. Then you'll have to take it all off in order to reupholster the chairs. You can reupholster right over the existing fabric or make slipcovers for them. If the chairs have good "bones"--if they are well made--it would be worth the money to have them professionally redone. If you don't have the funds right now, just toss on a slipcover until that piggy bank is full!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2004 at 4:54PM
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I've never done it but I've been told if you use Gesso and then paint it will work. Gesso is sold in art supply stores.
From the bit I've read on the subject you need to apply several thin layers of Gesso.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2004 at 5:55PM
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I painted my peach colored upholstered dining chairs & everyone raves over them. When in a townhouse people could see in if I had drapes open, and many knocked & asked where I got that gorgeous DR suite. Several commented they looked like a Monet. (It's been over 10 yrs & fabric is beginning to wear out but I love them so I tolerate the lil' tears.) My DH came home & saw them all muckeldy & thought I had finally lost it! I taped over arms & all trim, sprized them lightly with water, then using kitchen sponges roughly cut into flowers & leaves started sponging. Dye was watered down a bit to change intensity of colors. By going over one color with another, they blended to perfection. I used navy, & other blues, then came in with reds & pinks in several shades, same with the greens. I even touched up some spots I didn't like with fabric paint. Since this was strictly an experimental endeavor, I took my time, letting areas dry to see what else I needed to add or cover with another color, but I was working on all four at the same time & trying to make them pretty much look alike. Cost me less than $20! They had stains & being Hatian Cotton, no one would clean them.
I say give it a don't have much to lose.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2004 at 9:55PM
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I just saw a show on TLC that used fabric dye on old upholstered chairs to give them a facelift--they watered the fabric down first them spounged on the premade dye from a bucket. They used a pretty dark brown. On camera it looked awesome. If your fabric is intact without any tears or serious wear, I'd give it a try before you invest in slipcovers or reupholstering it.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2004 at 1:52AM
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Yes, you can paint the fabric.

Test in a hidden area, but the usual method is to put on a coat of slightly diluted latex as a base coat (to permeate the fibers) than apply several coats of undiluted top coats and whatever design you want. Finish with a couple coats of clear latex finish for protection.

OK ... it'snot as good as recovering, but it's cheap, fun and will get you sevreal years of wear out of the chairs, maybe more.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2004 at 10:21AM
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You can paint your chairs here's how you do it (so long as it's not velvet), you buy the craft paints like at wal-mart, in the same section is a substance called textile medium-mix with your paint as directed on the back of the bottle, then it tells you to let dry for 24 hours and set the paint with a warm iron. I think it will wear like iron, I painted faces on country bunnies for my kids and they have been through the wash many times and still look as good as the day I painted them. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2004 at 7:48PM
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Hmm, rather than painting it, would the chair make you happier if it was a single color? The same pattern but all muted by over-dying the fabric, color to be determined by present color and decor in room it will sit.

I once had a small boudoir (sp?)chair. It had a hideous pattern in swirls of orange, red and gold velvet that was extremely gaudy, BUT, I'd bought the chair for $5 and it was really in good condition and I loved the graceful shape of the chair itself. I didn't have the funds to refinish or order covers, since it had been so inexpensive I thought it was worth experiment with.

I added a regular bottle of chocolate brown Rit dye to a gallon of hot water and gently stirred thoroly mixed. I then filled and refilled an empty shoe polish bottle (the kind with the sponge applicator)and generously sponged the dye onto the fabric. The texture of the fabric beautifully disquised any variations in stain as a solid fabric might have done.

The browns came out with soft, muted shades, that reminded me of a tapestry with multi-shaded browns that looked quite rich with my taupe walls and white woodwork.

The dye was used generously and a few areas needed a couple of applications, when it was all covered, the chair sat outdoors in the warm sun until thoroughly dry... The dye did not rub-off on your clothing when the upholstery dried. BTW, pre-shampoo the upholstery before dying, dirty areas won't take the color the same as clean areas...and Wear Old Clothes and gloves! *S*, it is messy.

Good Luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   April 8, 2004 at 10:29PM
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Thanks for all the ideas. I think I will probably try the dye method since my fabric is a "velvet type". I didn't think about the texture not being good. Paint would probably make it very uncomfortable. If the dye looks bad, I can always try the slipcovers.
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   April 9, 2004 at 3:25AM
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CHECK THIS OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

Painted sofa

As for the paint, it's the cheap inside gloss paint from Walmart.
mix 6 (2oz.) small bottles textile medium to a 1/2 gal. of the paint. you can get textile medium at walmart or ac moore or michaels store.
Use a foam brush and really just slap it on, do one side of the cushions first and set them outside to dry. While that is drying, paint the rest of the couch, kept checking the cushions, when the are dry enough to handle paint the other side. It doesn't take long to dry either.
As for the texture of the couch, there may be some stiffness but nothing really hard and after a while the stiffness leaves. Guess with use anything will soften up, huh LOL
The sofa was terrible, dirty, stained but not torn.
Everyone that sees it can't believe it's painted.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2004 at 8:39PM
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Do you have any pics of your painted sofa I you could post? I'd love to see it before I do anything with my chairs. Also, what type fabric is your sofa? My fabric is in the velvet family, it is soft and kind of fuzzy. That's why I'm not sure about the paint now and thinking more about the dye method. Please send pics if possible.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2004 at 9:28AM
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I have two plush burgundy couches I would like to see become butterscotch and I'm wondering how well your couch is holding up a few months after painting it. I think the fabric is super-suede (fake suede). It sounds soooo easy and its tempting to by the paint before the family comes home from work and school. I'm debating whether to sell them and buy what I want. Thanks for your imput.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2004 at 10:23AM
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I have an old ugly couch that I would like to use in our living room - but it needs a new look. I would love to see some pictures of the painted furniture. Anyone take any pictures of their masterpieces.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2004 at 9:31PM
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Here are some instructions Magnaverde ( over on BHG a while back on painting a sofa:

""Forget all that nonsense about teensy bottles of expensive paint medium from the crafts store. You don't need anything more than regular latex semi-gloss paint--and a lot of guts. I found a beautiful Baker Chippendale camelback sofa, with cool curved arms and a fat down cushion, but it was covereed in a hideous glazed chintz in the ugliest colors I ever saw. I found some great yellow wool damask to reupholster with, but it would have cost me $3OOO just for the fabric and trim, so I painted my sofa instead.
Everyone freaked out when I told then the plan, but it worked. I was planning on painting my living room dark green, so I decided to go with red leather. First, I painted the whole thing with bubblegum pink semigloss latex paint, using the widest foam brush I could find, and brushing it on in long strokes front-to-back and up + down.
Think of that as the primer coat.

I let it dry 2 days, and sanded it super lightly with fine-grade sandpaper to get rid of the burrs--and there were a lot of them. When I couldn't feel any more sharp things, another coat of paint, spread thin. Dried and sanded again. Then spread--with my hands--a thin coat of raspberry red semi-gloss paint I had deadened a little with brown to make it a little less vivid. Because it was a deep color, there wasn't much white filler in the paint, so it was almost like a glaze or stain, instead of paint, which is just what I wanted anyway. I just smoothed it on, like suntan oil, and worked it into the pink paint. I let it build a little thicker at the back, on the inside of the arms and at the back edge of the loose cushion, so that the paler, thinner red took on an air of wear at the high points.

I let it dry 2 days, then CAREFULLY sanded the few new sharp things, and touched up those spots with my fingers. I let it dry 2 days, then waxed the whole thing with regular paste wax. After it was dry, I polished with a soft cloth, then dusted with talcum, and vacuumed it all off. It was a little stiff the first few days, but now it not only looks like red leather, it feels like it.

This worked great on my ugly glazed chintz, and probably would work on any smooth fabric, except that some may have more burrs and therefore require more sanding, but I wouldn't try it on anything with a heavy texture. And no, the paint doesn't peel off. And no, it's not stiff, either. Think about it--it's latex paint, and essentially, that's what's in those little bottles of fabric medium."

    Bookmark   September 12, 2004 at 7:39PM
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:) I've been painting on fabric for about 20 years now...

wet the fabric with a spray bottle, and prime it (gesso works, KILLZ' is way cheaper, and honestly, a better primer) let dry. sand gently (I prefer a scotchbrite sanding pad to paper) and run a 'tack cloth' over it to pick up the dust. after that... house paint, acrylic paint, those 50 cent tubes of craft all works. sponge it. stencil it. do whatever. let dry. scotchguard, or brush lightly with thompson's water seal.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2004 at 12:43PM
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This is one of those threads that will haunt me til I try it... see what you've started? LOL So as soon as ts's start I'll be off to find something worthy and able to be painted.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 11:34AM
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im so excited about this. some kind person sent me this link.i am wanting to paint my faded ugly patio chair covers.
do you think what has been mentioned above would work with them? they are waterproof fabric, sort of shiny as opposed to fabric that is soft and soluble. would i just start with a primer like kilz then paint in whatever color? then i guess a clear outdoor sealer? thanks so much for any help!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 8:17AM
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Wow, this is awesome. I need new furniture (moving and can't take my current stuff) and really can't afford it.

I'm scouring craigslist now for some free or nearly so "ugly" upholstery chairs to try this on.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 6:33PM
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Thank you for reviving this thread. I have some perfectly good but faded and stained pillows on my wicker chairs on the front porch. Its too late for this year (too cold to work out doors), but I'll have to try this in the spring.
Hmm, then there the cute little gold sofa and the comfy rocker with the faded cushion etc etc.
I'd be curious to hear how this has held up over a couple years if there is anyone reading this who did it that long ago.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 9:15AM
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Dharma Trading has real fabric dyes that are easy to use and are opaque. You paint them on. They leave fabric soft unlike most of the methods described here. I used it on two chairs. My sister dyes fabric professionally and she suggested this dye to me.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 11:52AM
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Yuck! Sorry....
I slip covered free chairs: I got the printed linen on sale, $1.99yd. Used 12 yards for 2 chairs....the cost was about what paint costs. :0) If you don't sew, thrift stores have donated sewing machines for about $20(everyone got rid of their basic sewing machines to get the new electronic ones, so thrift stores have an abundance).


    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 3:06PM
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