DIY Painted Rug: How to Make a Boring Gray Rug Colorful

Katy | LaughCryDIY
by Katy | LaughCryDIY

This week we’re doing something very bold, colorful, and crazy: making a DIY painted rug for my living room with a healthy dose of delusion. I'm trying to find the perfect rug for my living room. Unfortunately, thus far, it does not exist.

This is a big problem with rugs. You need a specific dimension, you want a specific style, you want a specific design… and for me, I have a very specific vision. I want a peacock rug. I finally found one but 50% of the rug is my mortal enemy, which is the color gray.

Let me show you what I mean.

I think if you were a neutral-loving minimalist who saw this rug, you'd be like, “Why is a peacock ruining my gray rug?” And if you're a color-loving maximalist, you're like, “Why is this gray ruining my peacock rug?” So let's just say that nobody is happy with this rug now.

I love the peacock design with the cascading feathers all the way down. I love the branch detail. I love the tufted detail and textural difference between the gray part and the blue part. But I cannot live with the gray.

I thought about cutting out the peacock and overlaying it over a different rug, but that’s very risky. I realized I only have one option: to paint over the gray.

So, can you paint a rug? Let’s find out.

Peacock rug before the DIY

I’ve painted a fabric ottoman to look like leather, so I know that fabric can be painted. But, if I just painted the background one flat color, it could look really boring. I could extend the branch design to cover more of the space, but painting on high-pile fabric means I know I won’t get clean lines.

I needed to do something that was simple, plain, and hard to mess up, but still fit the design. I popped the rug in Photoshop and played around with ideas and decided on a sunset background.

Ok, now let’s tackle all of your concerns:

How can you paint a rug and keep it soft?

Sand between the coats of paint.

How can you clean a painted rug?

Honestly, I don’t know, but I will be asking my rug guy. If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments.

Why don’t you wait until another rug comes along?

I’ve been waiting for months and this rug cost $100. I’m willing to make a $100 mistake if this doesn’t work out - and maybe I’ll learn something along the way.

Tools and materials

  • Rug
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • House paint
  • Fabric softener
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Painting tools
  • Sanding block
  • Mask
  • Chalk

1. Clean the rug

Clean the rug as best you can before starting any painting.

Cleaning the rug first

2. Mix the paint solution

Mix a solution that is equal parts regular house paint and fabric softener, with a little bit of water. You want a consistency like milk. I’m starting with a coat of white paint because a) It will block out the gray, and b) I can see how the rug takes the paint.

Mixing fabric softener and paint

3. Dampen the rug

Have a spray bottle of water on hand to keep spritzing the rug, as we need the fabric to be damp.

Spraying the rug with water to keep it damp

4. Paint the rug white

I used a roller, a sponge, and a paintbrush to apply the first coat. The rug takes a lot of paint, so however much paint you think you need, quadruple it.

Also, you really need to push the paint into the fibers. I went back in with a gloved hand to kind of massage the paint into the rug. Yes, it’s weird.

Even if the texture dries a little stiff, I won’t mind because it will make the peacock seem even more tufted.

Can you paint a rug?

The most difficult part is going around the detailed shapes.

How to paint on a rug

I let the rug dry overnight and the color has lightened. I could do another layer of white, but I really don’t want to.

Peacock rug with white paint

5. Sand the rug

Now, I’m going over the paint with a sanding block to combat the stiffness. Yes, this pulls fibers out of the rug, but that’s fine for me. Make sure to vacuum clean afterward.

Sanding the paint

6. Sketch the sunset design

First, I’m sketching the color blocks for my sunset with a piece of chalk.

Sketching the sunset design with chalk

7. Paint the rug with color

I did some color test patches first and I think it will work. It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s fine. The colors may come out a bit muddy because of the gray background, but let’s see.

The solution I’m using for the colors is a third paint, a third fabric softener, and a third water. This will dilute the colors a little and give me a nice runny consistency to make sure it actually seeps into the fibers.

How to paint a rug
Painted rug with a sunset peacock design
DIY painted rug

DIY painted rug

The paint is dry, the design looks great, and I’m so happy with the result. This was an emotional journey, but the difference between the gray and the sunset is huge. I love it.

What do you think of this DIY painted rug? Would you try and paint your rug? Let me know in the comments below.

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