Let's Update an Old Chair! How to Paint Fabric Using Chalk Paint

Deer Run Revamps
by Deer Run Revamps
8 Materials
2 Days

Did you know that you can paint fabric with chalk paint!?!

I was asked to donate a piece to a gift auction to raise money for a local teacher who has cancer and needs a pricey elective surgery done. This woman taught my son in the 4th grade, 6 years ago! He adored her!

I found a 1930's occasional chair that I fell in love with. Now, I've never drawn or painted any design freehand before, I've always used stencils or transfers. But I had a vision. And this vision forced me out of my comfort zone and made me freehand a blooming tree branch. Here is how I took an old outdated chair and turned it into a one of a kind piece 😍

First...clean your piece really good! If using a chemical cleaner, wipe down with water after.

The most important thing to remember when painting fabric with chalk paint is...you want to "stain" the fabric, not "paint" it. This means water is your best friend!

Gather your supplies...a spray bottle filled with water (I'm using an old rinsed out 409 bottle right now), a mixing cup, your paint, a large paint brush, and a couple of small artist's brushes to get into the little creases.

Pour a good amount of paint into the mixing cup and water it down 50/50 mix and mix well. Working in smaller sections, spray your chair with water. You don't want to soak it, but be sure every part has been spritzed with water before applying paint. Now, it's time to paint!

I used all "ooops" paints from home depot and mixed them with calcium carbonate to make chalk paint. So I don't know the names of the colors I used for this project.

Your first coat or two, or even three depending on how light your color is, will look terrible! It won't cover much and you'll ask yourself if you made the right decision. Trust me, you did! Keep spraying water in small sections and applying your paint until you have the first coat finished. Now take your small artist brush and get into all the creases and cracks.

It will take quite a few hours for this to dry. I had a fan going to speed up the process, but be prepared to wait at least 2-6 hours.

Once the first coat is dry, sand with 220 grit sandpaper or sanding block. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! This is what makes the surface soft!

Dust off the piece, spritz with water, and apply your next coat and be sure to get into all the crevices.

Once dried, sand again with 220 grit sandpaper.

Continue these steps until you've reached your desired coverage. For my piece, it took 4 coats.

I decided to paint a flowering tree branch cascading down the backrest to signify a new beginning. You don't have to do any design, but if you do, do that step now.

Be sure the surface is sanded good and free of any dust. I didn't spray water while doing my design in fear of it running. I just painted with non watered down chalk paint.

Now it's time to paint the frame. I used a creamy off white, it compliments the tiffany blue just perfectly!

Using 220 grit sandpaper, do a quick sand. This scuffs up the wood enough for the paint to adhere really well. Wipe down with a wet rag to get rid of any dust.

Tape any areas you don't want to get this color on and paint away! You may need a small brush to get into small areas like where the legs meet the fabric.

Once dry, sand with 220 grit sandpaper. This will smooth out any brush marks.

Do additional coats as necessary, sanding after each.

I decided to do a good amount of distressing to the areas that normally would get worn. This really helped bring out the details. I love the contrast of the wood peeking through.

If your chair has upholstery tacs, paint them now.

I used the same color as the frame to really tie it all in

You made it to the final step!!

This is as important as sanding! This step will make the paint feel like leather and keep it looking gorgeous for years!

I used behr clear wax. This stuff is awesome! Easy to apply and leaves such a beautiful sheen when buffed.

Using a round wax brush (or whatever applicator you prefer), apply the wax to the entire chair, frame and seat! Don't forget the back! After about 10 minutes, using my favorite tool in the workshop, an old clean cotton tshirt (or preferred method), buff the wax (lightly rubbing in a circular motion) until you've achieved your desired sheen! You may want to add another layer of wax if you want more shine. You can do that 30 minutes after you finish buffing the first layer.

Depending on the type of fabric and how much water was used, the chair can feel like leather (like mine, less water), or it can still feel like a fabric.

This is how I took an old unwanted chair and turned it into a meaningful money maker that will be donated to a good cause!

If you have any tips or tricks, or any questions about this process, let me know in the comments!

Please, if you try this, let us know you're experience and thoughts on the process! At the end of this page is a link to my Facebook page. You can contact me there 😉 Excited to see other painted chairs!

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Frequently asked questions
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3 of 54 questions
  • Frumie Frumie on Dec 30, 2020

    I painted my chair like you said but the cushion (which is removable) got all cracked and peeling. What did I do wrong?

  • Celia Celia on Jan 01, 2021

    Could you use chalk paint & wax to paint a Lloyd Loom or wicker chair?

  • JanM JanM on Oct 29, 2022

    Do you always use chalk paint, or can you use crafting water based acrylic paint like you’d use on canvas? If you can, then do you still mix it with the calcium carbonate and use the same ratio?

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2 of 214 comments
  • Lois Lois on Sep 25, 2022

    It's beautiful.

  • Kathy Kathy on Nov 11, 2022

    Wish I had done this your way. I bought Tulip spray fabric paint at Hobby Lobby to spray my old chair. Stayed sticky even after several months. 😪