Turn an Old Tablecloth Into a Modern Throw Pillow

5 Materials
45 Minutes

New throw pillows can brighten and freshen up any room. Hand-painted throw pillows can provide an inexpensive and artistic focal point unique to your room. These hand-painted throw pillow covers were created with a few simple items you may already have on hand. In fact, my pillow covers were actually FREE. Yes, you read right, I used a stained tablecloth for my fabric, leftover paint, and painters tape to create these fabulous pillow covers. Just see how easy decorating a pillow with paint can be.

The inspiration for these pillows came while I was browsing online. I was looking for some inspirations for  decorating my living room for summer. The pillow covers were a little too pricey for me. At $56 for each pillow cover, I knew I could easily recreate the design and save myself more than $100.

Supplies for Decorating a Pillow with Paint

First you will need to choose either fabric or just a solid pillow cover. I used an old linen tablecloth for decorating a pillow.

Somehow my table cloth came out of the washing machine stained with black marks. 🤨 I tried to remove the stains, but to no avail. However, I decided to hang onto it to use for projects. 

Another option would be a drop cloth, they are inexpensive and will give you great texture as well.

Whatever fabric choice you use, you will want to wash it first to remove any sizing that may be in the fabric.

  • Fabric or Pillow cover
  • Painters tape
  • Paint (acrylic or fabric)
  • Fabric Medium
  • Paint brush

If you are more of a visual learner, we’ve created a short video tutorial.

Step 1: Mark Fabric for Design

I began by cutting my fabric into a 19″ square for a 18″ pillow. Then I marked the center of the fabric with a pencil.

Then place a mark 2″ in on each side.

Step 2: Apply Painters Tape

I then began to apply painter’s tape to the fabric. The first 2 strips of tape were aligned with the center mark and the marks that were 2″ in from the edges of the fabric.

Next apply another strip of tape aligning it next to the first strips. This strip of tape will be removed, but will act as a guide for placement of the next row.

Continue and apply another strip of tape, this strip of tape will need a crisp point. See the photo below. Repeat with 2 more rows of tape.

At this point you will have 5 strips of tape forming a point or arrow shape.

Then remove the 2nd and 4th strips of tape. This will be the area that we will paint.

Finally, before applying the paint, press firmly all of the edges of the tape. You will not want any seepage to get under the tape.

Step 3: Painting the Design

You can use either fabric paint or acrylic paint. Acrylic paint comes in a wider choice of colors and usually you may have acrylic paint on hand. For my pillows I used some left over acrylic wall paint. Don’t be afraid to use whatever acrylic paint you have. It will work just fine.

To make acrylic paint bond to the fabric, you will want to add a fabric medium. This can be found in the craft paint section of any craft store. 

Follow the directions that are on the bottle. The fabric medium I used said to mix 2 parts paint with 1 part fabric medium. I mixed 2 tablespoons of paint with 1 tablespoon of fabric medium. This was plenty of paint to paint 2 pillows.

I applied the paint with a paint brush, but it can also be applied with a foam roller. For instructions on how to apply paint with a roam roller on fabric,  click here.

To get an opaque finish, I worked the paint into the fibers, brushing over an area repeatedly. If you want more of a distressed look, you can let it be more blotchy.

Pro Tip: To help prevent bleeding, pull the brush from the tape towards the fabric. 

Once the design was finished, I removed the tape and allowed it to thoroughly dry.

Pro Tip: You can speed up the drying time with a hair dryer.

When the paint is completely dry, repeat the pattern on the other side of the fabric. The points will line up at the tip of the design.

Step 4: Heat Set the Paint

Once all the the design is painted and it is completely dry you will want to heat set the paint. This will ensure that the design will be permanent on the fabric and be washable. However, you will want to wait 7 days before laundering.

To heat set the paint, place a press cloth or old towel over the design. Then press with a hot steam iron, over the entire design.

If you are working with a very large fabric piece like a drapery panel, you can heat set the design in the dryer. Just set it to a high heat and let it tumble for about 20-30 minutes.

Step 5: Stitch Pillow Cover

I like to make pillow covers, so I can easily change out and store my pillow covers. This way it doesn’t take very much space and I can easily change the look of my living room or bedroom by swapping out my pillow covers.

If you just want to make the pillow without a zipper, you can just go to the next step.

I like to use an invisible zipper on my pillow covers. There are instructions with every zipper purchase. They are really fairly simple to install, just remember that the right side of the zipper will be placed against the right side of the fabric. Stitch in place on the front and back of the pillow cover using a zipper foot.

With the zipper closed most of the way, align the edges of the pillow front and pillow back, pin in place.


Then begin at the bottom of the zipper and begin stitching around the pillow cover, pivot at corners and end at the top of the zipper.

The final step is to clip the corners. Make a diagonal cut close to the stitching line at each corner. 

This will allow the corners of the pillow to have a nice point.

Turn right side out and press with an iron. Insert pillow form, zip closed and enjoy!

Is this something you would like to try? Any geometric design would be easy to recreate. If you like a more farmhouse style you could easily recreate the look of an old grain sack. If your style is more modern, stripes would also be simple to do. Just let your imagination flow!

Would you like to try painting a design on a larger scale? See how we painted these curtains, by clicking here.

Resources for this project:
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  • Cheryl Cheryl on May 28, 2020

    Thank you for sharing. I have a ton of leftover drop cloth pieces (used them for a bedskirt and curtains in a spare bedroom). Look out bed...here come the pillows

  • I also free-hand paint designs onto fabric. Let kids paint scraps of fabric in various colors of a planned design. Do all the steps to set colors. Draw design on each color of the part of the picture (such as a tree, a flower etc. then cut out and use fabric glue to make your scene. Mom can stitch edges and finish pillow or frame the "art".