Painting Upholstery Fabric With Success

Beautiful design, killer price, perfect fit, UGLY FABRIC! You sigh and walk away. NOT ANY MORE! I’d like to share my success in painting upholstery fabric.I found this very sturdy, high-end furniture, at a thrift store for $15.00. It was made for commercial use, primarily waiting rooms. We needed some new seating in our church foyer, and with the right finishes, I knew it would be perfect.
Before the magic
The fabric on the two-seater and single seat chair (not shown) was ugly, but it was very sound, (no holes or tears).

I disassembled the entire chair. I then sanded, painted, and lightly distressed the hardwood. DONE!

Up next- Ugly fabric transformation. I vacuumed and wiped each piece with a damp cloth to remove any dirt - I was now ready to paint.

Using an empty, plastic, quart, container (purchased at Home Depot, or Lowes) I mixed together 1/2 quart of regular ole ACRYLIC Paint and an 8 oz. bottle of Textile Medium (found at any craft store). The project took the entire quart of paint and (2) 8 oz. bottles of medium. I only mixed half at a time.
The textile medium transforms acrylic paint into a washable fabric paint. It is flexible and non-cracking. It penetrates fibers for permanency and will not bleed.

NOTE: Latex paint and Acrylic paint are not the same. The properties are a bit different and the medium is designed to work best with acrylic paint. Behr paint from Home Depot is 100% Acrylic. I am sure there are plenty of other brands available. Also, for my paint, I used an Eggshell finish but Satin would work as well.
I did not wet the fabric beforehand as a couple of other folks have done. I simply used my regular paint brush and painted the dry fabric just like I would a piece of wooden furniture. Three coats of paint were required for full coverage, with drying time between each coat.



Yep, the sanding makes the fabric soft and supple. I used 220 grit* sandpaper on the back and sides and 400 grit* on the seat, lightly sanding the entire fabric surface after each coat. Probably took a total of 3 minutes, it was that fast. The sanding smooth’s and softens any crunchy-ness that might be there.

*At the start, the solid fabric on the seat was a very smooth cotton while the printed fabric was heavier and more textured.

The final result is a buttery-soft, leather texture. You simply cannot tell that it has been painted.
The photos are a bit blown out, you really can’t see the details in the hardwood transformation.
I have been painting fabric and vinyl for YEARS and have NEVER had a problem with cracking, peeling or anything else. Think about that drop of paint you got on your clothes, did it flake off? OH NO! you couldn’t get it off with anything other than paint remover. See, that’s how well it will adhere to your new furniture piece. ENJOY!
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  3 questions
  • Tutti Davis Tutti Davis on May 09, 2016
    How much of the textile medium - the picture shows a 2 oz bottle but the directions say you used 2- 8 oz bottles. So basically I would need 8 of those small bottles? I have a similar size chair.

  • Valerie Micki Bain Valerie Micki Bain on Oct 31, 2016
    Do you think there would be any problems using this method on car seats?

  • Linda sherman Linda sherman on Mar 17, 2017
    Have you had problems with sanding some fabrics? I painted a chair with dark colors (burgundy) and when I started sanding the fabric began to look worn. I'm wondering if it's the darker color or the fabric itself?

Join the conversation
2 of 15 comments
  • Felicia Felicia on Sep 05, 2016
    I'm loving the look! I'm leaning towards this for two chairs that I just rescued. Do you use a power sander or hand sand?

  • Anna Ibarra Anna Ibarra on May 11, 2020

    They came out great. Good for you to helping your church out.