How to Paint Upholstery Fabric With Chalk Paint

7 Materials
3 Days

Have you ever painted upholstery fabric before? Me neither...but my sister-in-law has! She painted a whole chair that was covered in fabric and it looked incredible. If she can do it, so can I. So I gave it a shot and the result is amazing!

The antique bench before

We have this beautiful antique bench in our front entry way that was passed down to us from my husband's family. It was not very pretty when we received it so we had it recovered about five years ago to coordinate with our cranberry, sage and gold decor. Since I refreshed the entire first floor with a lighter coat of paint, the bench does not work in the space anymore.

For a really quick fix, I tried using different throw pillows and blankets but nothing really hid or diminished the pattern on this bench.

I contemplated having the bench recovered again. However, that would require spending a lot of money on something I just did a few years ago.

I also considered deconstructing the piece but that would entail a lot of time and effort. Since I wanted to make a quick fix to this bench, deconstructing it was my second choice.

So I decided to paint the upholstery fabric.

Tape around the edges if necessary.

Making the Decision to Paint the Fabric

My sister-in-law has done this before and the pieces she refinished look amazing. This bench is hardly used: it is in the front entry hall, nobody really sits on it and is mostly used to lay coats and bags on when people visit.

I'm not going to lie...I was a little nervous to paint the upholstery fabric. Since this bench is an heirloom, I did not want to wreck it. To build my confidence, I told myself that the worse case scenario was having to recover it. Although I have never done a project like this before, this pep talk is how I mentally prepared myself to "just do it." What did I have to lose?

I envisioned the bench to look like it was recovered in a light, neutral fabric. There's a trend to use drop cloths as window treatments and upholstery fabric, so that's the look I was hoping to achieve without actually recovering the piece in drop cloth or similar looking fabric.


  • Fabric Medium
  • Chalk Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Water
  • Painter's Tape
  • Disposable Container to Mix Paint and Fabric Medium
  • Spray Bottle with Water (I recycled a Windex bottle)
  • Clear Wax - I used Minwax Paste Finishing Wax
  • Wax Brush or Cloth - figure out what works best for your fabric. I preferred working with an old sock.
First coat is on.


  • Tape up any areas where you do not want to apply paint.
  • Vacuum and remove as much lint, dirt, etc. as possible before starting.
  • Mix 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts chalk paint.
  • Start with the back of the piece. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to begin any project with the back, inside or a place you don't regularly see. This gives your room to tweak the process or fix mistakes before you get into a rhythm.
  • Spray the fabric lightly with water in the area that you are working on. Rub the water spray into the fabric so the fabric is lightly damp. The paint will glide on and soak in to the fabric better if it is damp.
  • Paint fabric and allow it to fully dry in between coats. I had to do three coats to cover the floral pattern.
  • Give painted fabric at least 24 hours to dry before top coating with clear wax. Although the bench looked really good after painting, it is important to protect the color with a top coat.
  • Apply wax with a wax brush or cloth. I usually use a cloth when I apply wax - it's a personal preference. Again, start with the back of the piece or in a spot you won't regularly see. To apply, I started with a blue shop towel and it left a blue film so I switched to a white paper towel. The paper towel left too much lint on the painted surface so I wound up grabbing one of my husband's athletic socks and that seemed to work best.
  • Play around with how to apply the wax. Different fabrics may work differently so see what rhythm works for you. I applied it then buffed it out to even out the finish.
Needed three coats to cover that pattern.

The Result

I am amazed with how good this bench looks!!! I still need to clean up the edges where the paint seeped under the tape but overall, I love it!!! The bench looks more traditional, cleaner and coordinates with my decor. I am still working on how to decorate and warm up the space, but am very happy with the result.

After completing this project, I have to say I would TOTALLY do it again. For me, it was worth trying to paint this bench before deconstructing or recovering it. I knew if the paint did not work or did not look good, I could easily fix it by deconstructing or recovering it. I would not do this if we were planning to sit on the piece a lot because I am not sure how the finish would hold up to serious traffic.

Since this project turned out so well, I am planning to paint a few other outdated low traffic pieces we have so they match my decor. Why replace these items when we can inexpensively refresh them?

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Stacy Ling | Bricks 'n Blooms
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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 8 questions
  • R R on Oct 25, 2020

    I would suggest trying a layer of rubber cement, applied thickly in perhaps a thin opening between 2 pieces of tape, pulled off before the glue is dry, to form a waterproof barrier to the paint that can be rubbed off when the paint is dry. Try it on a piece of scrap fabric first.

  • Peggy Campbell Peggy Campbell on Oct 28, 2020

    Could you expand on the Minwax Finishing Polish....I only see it in natural and dark. That looks like it would give a brownish wood tone to the finished piece. Or does the natural dry clear?

  • Trish Stib Trish Stib on Nov 07, 2020

    Can you use it as a chair to sit in or is the paint going to crack?

Join the conversation
2 of 40 comments
  • Anastasia Anastasia on Oct 27, 2021

    Such a beautiful job. You have given me the motivation to tackle two chairs that I have been dreading reupholstering. I'm going to give it a try!

  • Carol Cole Carol Cole on Oct 25, 2022

    You did a fantastic job. 👍️