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You CAN paint upholstered furniture

Having done something similar in the past, I was quite surprised to come across an article in which an interior designer actually uses paint on fabric.


After purchasing a secondhand chair that is still in good condition, paint was applied to change the colour.

You can apply acrylic PVA to fabric taking into consideration that...
1. The paint can only be darker than the original fabric colour and

2. The fabric will become slightly stiffer. However, it will soften up with regular use, but never to its original state.

While acrylic PVA was used to paint this chair, I have previously used Rust-Oleum spray paint with equally good result.


Fabric or textile medium
Acrylic PVA or Rust-Oleum Painters Touch in your choice of colour
Suede brush or small nail scrubbing brush
Jug of water
Spritzer bottle of water
Fabric to practice on
Drop cloths

DIY Tip:
Before you start painting onto the actual fabric, mix up a batch of paint and test on scraps until you get the right consistency. You don't want the fabric to be too stiff once dry.






1. Give upholstered furniture a good clean before you start. Vacuum well to remove all dirt.

2. Mix fabric medium 1:1 with paint. Add water to the mix until fairly thin. You want the colour of the paint to stain the fabric rather than coat the fabric. Test on a piece of fabric to ensure the paint will stain and then apply very lightly to the surface with a paintbrush, working on small sections each time. Where you stop and start, have a jug of water handy to blend the two areas together.

If you are using Rust-Oleum spray paint, only spray a very light coat over the surface from a distance of no less than 30cm away. Let the first coat dry and then lightly brush over the fabric before applying a second LIGHT coat. You should not need more than 2 very light coats to cover the fabric. Finish off with more brushing to soften the fabric.

3. Let the first coat dry before rubbing with a suede or nail brush to soften the painted area.

4. The second coat should be slightly thicker than the first coat but not too thick. Again, we want the stain to be absorbed and not the paint.

5. Once the second coat is dry, brush lightly to restore some of the nap and soften the fabric.

Note: Paint is not recommended for use on fabric but it does offer a way to colour upholstery. Do try on a sample swatch or piece of fabric before you actually paint upholstered furniture.