Asked on Mar 16, 2014

Alternative to fabric medium?

Mary Hall
by Mary Hall
I have a great project in mind (painting upholstery), but will need fabric medium--lots of it. That stuff is super expensive (especially when I'll need to purchase quite a bit of it). Anyone know any less expensive alternatives to using fabric medium?
  20 answers
  • Z Z on Mar 17, 2014
    What type of upholstery painting project do you have in mind? Many, including myself, have used straight up latex over the past decade and others have used the chalk paints. I'm sure neither lasts forever with daily use, I know mine has stretch marks and a tear or two, but the great thing is they can easily be be fixed with a little more paint for no more cost than what you originally paid for the paint.
  • Sam Baty-Wright Sam Baty-Wright on Mar 18, 2014
    Make your own fabric medium by googling it. The recipe I know is on Pinterest! There are many more on You Tube! Happy painting!!
    • Wil347767 Wil347767 on Jan 26, 2015
      I've googled Diy recipe for making fabric/upholstery medium, but some the ingredients seem difficult to find. Do you have a recipe you wouldn't mind sharing? Thanks!!
  • Tracy Tracy on Sep 08, 2014
    not tried it yet but an artist i watch said you can use a mixture of vegetable glycerin and water, ratio is 1:5 then add your acrylic color
  • Viltcen Viltcen on Mar 08, 2015
    am searching, too. wonder if this helps
  • Tania Tania on Mar 17, 2015
    I used chalk paint (home made) on our dining room chairs 4 years ago, and we use it all day every say, I have 5 kids, they are still as beautiful and clean up fabulously. I thought about fabric medium until I saw the cost!!!
    • Dorothy Dorothy on Oct 26, 2015
      @Tania Does it leave the fabric very stiff feeling, and what do you use to make chalk paint, what is your mix ratio? I made some with lime but have not tried it yet. It seems very thick to me. Should it be thin to paint fabric, also a friend said to keep a bottle of water handy so as to not let it dry till finished. Sorry for so many questions, but I'm new to this.
  • Christine Christine on Jun 26, 2015
    I agree it's expensive. I'm painting my outdoor patio cushions right now, and after one coat I have already gone through 6 bottles of the Martha stewart fabric medium, and now I'm stuck with purchasing at double or tripple that amount to finish the job with the right amount of coats. It's starting to look like I should have bought new cushions instead of trying to refurbish the old ones. On the bright side, they do look great, and the fabric seems to be flexible as promised.
  • Rose Shinn Venci Rose Shinn Venci on Oct 01, 2015
    1 part glycerin to 5 parts water
    • See 2 previous
    • Stacy Stacy on Nov 30, 2020

      So you're about 5 yrs too late to help her but you can help me! What does adding lotion to the paint do? And how did your last project turn out?

  • User User on Dec 15, 2016

    Did you try this method ??

  • Jennifer Cierniak Jennifer Cierniak on Jan 13, 2017

    I have used ink with alcohol and sprayed the colors on. I do not know if acrylic paints can be thinned with alcohol but may not hurt to try on a scrap. I have some experimenting to do myself as I have several pounds of material I want dyed black. Not the easiest task on Poly/cotton blends.

    • Liz52328252 Liz52328252 on Aug 25, 2021

      Yes it can! I did a whole bunch of white masks with a spray bottle, rubbing alcohol, and acrylic paint

  • what if there is no glycerin available?

    • 春はる 春はる on Nov 20, 2020

      you can use other glycerins but personally I cannot gurantee the results but thats what I found online.

  • Perla Bonilla Perla Bonilla on Jul 10, 2018

    Avoid alcohol with water based paints (acrylic or latex) it breaks down the bond between the paint and mediums (already in the paint and any you add). Try Golden (brand) airbrush medium or glazing medium (gloss or satin) they will thin the paint but keep its integrity. Both of these mediums are milky so they will affect color a little (most mediums will). Start thin, test unseen portions first. You can add a little water but not too much - again it will affect the integrity but will also thin the paint so it will be softer/more pliable. Good luck.

  • Ona Ona on Jul 24, 2018

    I came across this and I am definitely going to try it - hope it helps some of you ladies....

  • Sharon Holmes Sharon Holmes on Feb 01, 2020

    Have not yet tried it myself but read in a forum for set designers that they use fabric softener. Makes sense, it relaxes the fibers for the paint to saturate more thoroughly. Fabric softner can be made from conditioner so this may also work as well

    • Rebecca Leahy Rebecca Leahy on Feb 22, 2020

      Hi, I read that fabric softener causes the paint to not set. Can you tell me where you saw this. Thank you

  • Shannon Shannon on May 16, 2020

    Could fabric conditioner and water help? I used it for Tie dying a t-shirt when I read it could be used as a fabric medium when mixed with acrylic. The colours were vibrant and though it bled a little when I hand washed it, it was still really good and the paint didn't stiffen the material. It was 3 parts water, 1 part acrylic and half part fabric conditioner but you probably won't need to water it down a lot.

  • Collyn Welles Collyn Welles on Jul 26, 2020


    I’m trying to paint my fabric Roman shades but I’d like to do it with latex paint. All the textile mediums seem to be for acrylic paints. Does anyone know of a medium for latex? A tested DIY recipe would be even better!! I have a ton of chalk paint additive also but I’m not sure if chalk paint works on upholstery fabric. I’ve heard it makes fabrics very stiff and as I’d like my blinds to still be functional after painting them, I’m not sure that’s the best route. Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have!!

    • Marla Weiss-walko Marla Weiss-walko on Mar 14, 2024

      FABRIC SOFTNER! The cheapest in whatever sent you like works well with latex paints. I found an acrylic paint color I love for my 2 old wingback chairs. That will be my next experiment … fabric medium is to expensive! Dollar tree fabric isn’t. So we will see

  • Sally gregoire Sally gregoire on Mar 12, 2022

    Fabric softener works great 2 to 1 paint to softener. Also put a coat of gesso first.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Mar 14, 2024

    As Sally said, 2:1

    fabric softener: 2 parts and 1 part paint

    Put a layer of gesso on the area you plan to paint, it is a primer that prevents bleeding through.

    If you'd like to read more on gesso:

  • Janice Janice on Mar 14, 2024

    I have read a lot of info about painting upholstery and some people have used either liquid fabric softener as part of the recipe or inexpensive hair conditioner. Maybe try a small sample of each of these softeners mixed with paint and some water and see which one gives you the finish you're striving for.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Mar 14, 2024

    Use Matt wall Paint + Fabric conditioner just to stop it going hard. Wants to be a rubbery mix. Helps if you spray all the item to be painted with water to stop it drying out to soon first. Makes paint more spreadable. Maybe you could also use Mod Podge?

  • Dee Dee on Mar 14, 2024

    Combine one part white vinegar, one part vegetable glycerin and two parts water together. So that's 25% vinegar, 25% glycerin and 50% water. That creates a homemade “fabric medium”. Then you mix that in equal parts with your acrylic paint.