- We have to admit, the idea of transforming a piece of furniture that’s seen better days with just a little paint seems too good to be true. Believe it or not, painting upholstery actually works, provided you know the right technique. Here’s how you can achieve a soft finish and the best results.
Get Some Practice In
It might seem like a pain, but it really helps to try out painting upholstery on a “practice” piece of furniture before you try it out on a piece you’re set on keeping. Maybe a friend or family member has a chair, couch or loveseat they wouldn’t mind passing along. You can also scout yard sales and thrift stores for a great deal. If the piece is a similar color to the one you’re flipping for real, you’ll also have the added bonus of being able to swatch colors pretty accurately.
The Secret to a Soft Finish
You’re probably wondering if painting upholstery leaves it stiffer. In some cases, with certain materials, yes, you’ll definitely achieve a more leather-like finish that might even be prone to a little cracking. Our technique is designed to leave your furniture as soft as it was originally. And the secret? It’s just about the simplest ingredient you can think of: water. Yep, the key to treating paint so that it works more like a fabric dye is to dilute it with water.
For this project, you’ll need:
- A spray bottle
- Measuring cups
- A stiff brush
- 1 quart Latex paint in the color of your choice
- Fabric/Textile Medium (plan on two to four bottles for a chair and more like four to eight for a sofa)
- Large container for mixing (you may want to opt for a disposable bowl for easy cleanup)
- Sand paper
Step 1: Mix Up Your Paint and Get Your Spray Bottle Ready
You’ll be working with this ratio:
1 part paint : 1 part fabric medium : 2 parts water
Use your measuring cups to get the ratio right and mix everything in your container or bowl. Then fill your spray bottle up with water—room temperature is fine, don’t worry about going ultra-cold or hot.
Step 2: Apply the Mixture
Before you apply the mixture, you need to make sure that the fabric is damp, but not soaking wet. Getting the fabric damp will keep your paint mixture from running all over the place and creating a mess.
Don’t spray the entire piece at once. Instead, you’ll work section by section. Spray a section, then use long strokes to paint the mixture on with your brush. You’ll be adding multiple coats to take care of any splotches or patterns peeking through, so you don’t need to worry about applying it too thick. Just one thin layer will do. Allow the first layer to dry completely.
Step 3: Sand Down Pills
Once the first layer of paint is completely dry, you’ll probably notice a little pilling. Use your sandpaper to gently remove it. Sanding also helps keep the fabric nice and soft, so it’s not a bad idea to go over the whole piece. You shouldn’t notice much, if any, paint loss.
Step 4: Apply Another Layer
Using the exact same method described above, apply another layer of paint, first taking care to dampen the fabric. Allow it to dry completely and repeat the sanding process. You may find that two coats is enough, but it does depend on the type and color of the upholstery. You can repeat the painting and sanding process until you’re satisfied with the results.
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