How to Paint Upholstery and Keep It Soft!

by | Feb 28, 2023 | Blog, Create, Furniture, Home, Paint

If you have ever tried reupholstering a chair or piece of furniture, it can be very time-consuming, frustrating, and sometimes just not worth the effort. I have reupholstered many pieces in my years of “upcycling” furniture, sometimes with excellent results. But some projects turn out looking like a group of preschoolers helped with the stapling process, and always end with lots of cuts, ruined fingernails, and exhaustion. Fortunately, all that experience has taught me how to paint upholstery and keep it soft to the touch!

I am always up for an extreme makeover challenge. I love diving headfirst into a furniture makeover for a piece found on the side of the road, in a Dumpster, or free on social media. In the years I have been upcycling furniture, I have learned a few hacks and shortcuts to transform an old piece of furniture into a functioning work of art. Emphasis on functioning. What good is a gorgeous painted chair if it’s too rough and scratchy for anyone to enjoy?

Enter my favorite product that I always go to: DIY Paint.

Which Paint to Use to Paint Upholstery to Keep It Soft

Fantasizing about an easier and faster way to transform your old upholstered furniture? DIY Paint is the answer to your upholstery dreams.

I was gifted two French Chairs with gorgeous but very dirty and stained toile fabric. Unfortunately, the chairs had been stored in an Old Barn with lots of old stuff stacked on top of them, so there was no redemption for the fabric and I knew it had to be painted. If you have tried to paint an upholstered piece with any paint on the market, chances are it was “crunchy” and not super soft to sit on. DIY Paint is different because it contains no latex, no acrylic, and no silicone fillers. You can use DIY Paint to “dye” your fabric! With nine naturally derived ingredients and pigments, you get all of the color without any of the chemicals.

How To Start Painting On Your Upholstery And Keep It Soft With DIY Paint

There is an old saying; “it’s all in the preparation.” Make sure your fabric is as clean as possible, you can use a vacuum to remove excess dust. To prep your material, you want to ensure it is very wet. This will allow the paint to act as more of a dye so it can penetrate the fabric rather than just sitting on top of it. I recommend using a Water Girl (Continuous Mister Spray Bottle) as it will give you even saturation.

Painting Your Fabric Upholstery

I paint fabric the same way I paint my furniture, using long brush strokes. Each time I unload my brush, I make sure to give the paint a thorough misting with my Water Girl Mister and keep that going until I have covered all the fabric.

Depending on the color of the fabric you are painting, you may need to do two or more coats. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly, then repeat with each coat. I painted the chair with DIY Paint in Prom Queen for this project. All the DIY Paint colors are highly pigmented, so it only took two coats to get complete coverage! You can stop here if you like how it looks or add whimsy to your chair using fabric scraps.

Choosing A Style For Your Painted Chair

Along with being a broken furniture hoarder, I am also a fabric hoarder. I raided my stash and found some gorgeous floral fabric and some red and white striped ticking. I wanted the look of flowers blooming over the chair so I cut the floral design out of the scraps and set it aside.

I chose some of the bright florals, cut out some of the leaves I would use for the arms of the chair, and included some of my favorite red ticking fabric. I taped them in place first to get the arrangement I wanted.

How to Decoupage Fabric over Painted Fabric

I used DIY Paint Clear Patina for my decoupage medium. Clear Patina is a versatile product that acts as a top coat, gel medium, and decoupage medium. It can also be tinted to make a glaze. Clear Patina has serious superpowers! I prefer DIY Paint Patina over any other decoupage medium because it is 100% natural and easy to work with. It has a longer open time, so you can move things around and smooth out wrinkles and bumps.

Start by coating the back of your fabric scrap with Clear Patina. Next, coat the area where you want to place your fabric with Clear Patina. It’s easy to put your fabric on, smooth it out, and rearrange it if necessary. Brush over the entire thing with more Clear Patina and wait for it to dry. Once it’s dry, it will become one with your piece.

Repeat this process until you have achieved your desired look. I don’t like wasting fabric scraps that might have a life as another project, so I cut out the leaves from the same floral fabric. I added some to the floral areas and then layered more leaves on the arms of the chairs.

Once the fabric areas were dry, I top-coated the entire painted fabric area with Clear Patina to protect it from dirt or spills.

How to Paint an Upholstered Chair

The wood on the chair was too light for my taste, and I wanted to carry the painted, whimsical theme. I taped off the sealed fabric area and painted the wood frame with two coats of DIY Paint in Tarnished Pearl. Once the paint was dry, I lightly sanded it smooth with a piece of 320-grit sandpaper, then used a piece of 220-grit sandpaper to further distress the high points.

There is no plastic compound in DIY Paint so it will sand off in fine dust. I keep a big fluffy chip brush nearby to remove dust and lightly wipe it down if needed. I top-coated the entire frame with one more DIY Paint Clear Patina coat.

Adding Details to your Painted Upholstery

I believe most projects look better with a touch of bling and, for this project, I wanted the welting to stand out. I used one coat of DIY Paint in Gold Patina (it’s Clear Patina with Mica powder mixed in). Gold Patina is translucent with one coat and becomes opaque with multiple coats. I did one coat just to highlight the edges.

Paint Upholstery with DIY Paint

Once I had all the details in place, sealed the entire piece, and allowed it to dry, I wanted to step back and give myself a high five! This project is one of my favorite DIY Projects I have done, and there have been hundreds! It’s deeply satisfying to transform something old, stained, broken, and unloved into something new, beautiful, and cherished.

I hope I have shown you how easy it is to paint upholstery and keep it soft! With only bit of DIY Paint and some imagination, I promise you can make something gorgeous that will have you giving yourself a high five, too!

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Karen Berg
Karen Berg

Karen is the kind of person who will talk to anyone in a grocery store line, dance in public to a good song, laugh so hard she cries, doing all of these things on a fairly regular basis. Karen’s nickname in High School was “Good Time Charlie”, (given by her Great Grandma for someone who is the life of the party), she still lives her life this way, always searching for joy and fun wherever she goes. View Karen’s Full Bio

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