How to Paint Upholstery (Latex Paint and Fabric Medium) - The Kim Six Fix

How to Paint Upholstery (Latex Paint and Fabric Medium)

How to paint upholstery
I finally am sharing my tutorial for painting upholstery that I used when I re-did the glider in the baby’s nursery.

I know there are a lot of other bloggers who have shared their method for painting upholstery, but no two are the same.  I have seen people use chalk paint, spray on paint, Rit dye.. etc.  But this method (from Hyphen Interiors) is the one I most closely followed.

The reason I used latex paint and fabric medium is that the consensus is that it gives you the softest finish to the fabric.  Other methods tend to leave you with a stiffer, more leather-like finish, and since this was a rocker that I was going to use with my baby, I wanted it as soft as I could get it.  I was starting with a cotton gingham fabric, so I knew it would take paint really well and didn’t need to slather it on; diluted latex would be perfect.

Here was what my chair looked like when I started.  It was a minty green gingham I had used for both of my daughters.
Chair before
It had a lot of stains from the kids crawling all over it for the past 8 years:
Dirty chair arm
Yeah.. Gross. I know.
Stains on upholstery
That is why it needed a makeover.

The supplies you need:
1 quart Latex paint: I used semi-gloss

2-4 (8 oz.) bottles of Fabric/Textile MediumI ended up only using 2, but it would depend on how many coats you need and how large your chair is
Spray Bottle
Measuring Cup(s)
Good stiff bristled brush (or foam brush)
Large mixing container
Sand paper (I used 200 grit)
Painting a fabric chair
Use a ratio of 1 part paint : 1 part fabric medium : 2 parts water.  I measured them in paper cups and mixed them in a large disposable salad bowl.
What you need to paint upholstery
To apply the mixture you first want to pre-dampen the fabric with the spray bottle.  It just needs to be damp since that helps when you bush on the paint.  If you try to paint the diluted mixture on the fabric directly it will tend to run, and this process is messy enough without your paint dripping off the fabric.

Here is what my chair looked like at the start of the process.
Half painted chair
And here it is when I had a large section finished:
Painted soft chair
This was only one coat and so you can still see a little ’splotchiness’ and the pattern of the gingham showed through.
Painting uphosltery coat 1
After the first coat was completely dry, I noticed I had a lot of pilling of the fabric.  Here is what the seat cushion looked like:
Painted upholstery before sanding
I used the sandpaper and sanded the fabric to remove the pills:
Painted upholstery after sanding
I know most people only sand at the end of the process to soften the fabric, but I think sanding in between coats is a good idea.  Not only did it knock down the pills, but it broke down the fibers and helped the second coat of paint stick.

I sanded quite a bit.  I noticed the more I did it, the better the fabric felt and I didn’t see any loss of color.  I guess you could over-sand, but you would have to be really overzealous.  (Also this would be fabric dependent, since some fabrics are more delicate than others.)

After sanding, I applied another coat using the exact same method.  I only needed that second coat to completely hide the pattern and stains.  The number of coats you need depends on the color/pattern of the chair, the color of your paint, how thick you apply it etc, so your experience may require additional coats.
Painted upholstered chair
I am really impressed with how great it turned out.  The entire makeover only cost $30 (for paint and textile medium).  This chair wasn’t worth a much bigger investment than that.
Painted upholstery
Even the baby likes it.
Finished painted upholstery

EDITED TO ADD:  The most common question I get on this post is where to find the Fabric Medium.  I found mine at Michael's but many people said they couldn't find it there.  So here is the EXACT stuff from Amazon (affiliate link).. so it should be available to anyone (at least anyone in the US):

How to Paint Upholstery (Latex Paint and Fabric Medium) Reviewed by TheKimSix Fix on 11:02 PM Rating: 5 I finally am sharing my tutorial for painting upholstery that I used when I re-did the glider in ...