Painting Upholstered Furniture

I remember the first time I saw someone paint upholstery. I was watching TLC’s Trading Spaces with my mom YEARS ago and one of the designers painted a couch. My mom and I both gasped. “You don’t paint upholstery!”

Lately I have seen a ton of tutorials for it. It seems to have gained popularity. Most tutorials have a lot of steps and seem complicated. I have very little patience and if I was going to try it out I wanted it to be simple.

Back when I was doing my one year anniversary giveaways I was working with DecoArt. I discovered that they have a paint made specifically for fabric called SoSoft. Now, I have used their fabric paint medium for a LOOOONG time and I love it but I had never tried their new SoSoft paint.  I contacted them and asked if I could try it out.

Remember that $5.00 chair I got from the ReStore? Well, I painted it :)

Just a reminder of what it was before….

Buy Sosoft Paintson Amazon – affiliate link

I used the color called Indian Turquoise and then I mixed it with Grey Sky.

Here is how I did it:

1.First of all, upholstery fabric is thicker than regular fabric. So I watered the paint down a little to help it sink in.

2.I used a foam brush to apply it. A regular brush would work too. I used what I had on hand. Keep it pretty thin. The heavier the coat, the stiffer it will be when it dries.

3.The key to making this work was after I brushed it on, I got a terry cloth wash rag and rubbed it into the fabric. I really worked it in there. I rubbed in every direction.  If it sits on the surface it will be stiff.  If you are worried that you got too much paint in an area, then get a wet rag and rub with it.

That is basically it. Because this chair was velvet, after rubbing it into the fabric I did wipe the rag all in the same direction so it would dry laying the same way.All in all it took about 20-30 minutes.  I let it dry over night before sitting on it.

I am happy with how it turned out. It obvioulsy is not as soft as the original velvet, but it isn’t crunchy like I thought it might be. The main problem is that you can’t throw it into the washing machine to soften it up. Like I said, I have painted fabric for a long time (pillows, blankets, etc) and after being washed they soften up even more.  Maybe I will scrub mine with soapy water or something to test it out. Who knows!

*** UPDATE: After a few days of sitting n the chair the seat really softened up! So I got to thinking, how could I get some wear on the rest of the chair? I decided to SAND it! I did! I used sand paper and went over the whole chair. I didn’t over do it because I didn’t want to damage the fabric, but it totally worked. ***

*Oh, another thing to consider is the color of the original upholstery. If you have a black chair, you probably won’t get it to turn a perfect white. This chair was gold and I think the blue was the teeny tiniest greener because of it. Just a thought.

But I love it! I can’t wait to add it to my office. Which is coming along nicely :) I also stained the legs with Minwax’s Gel Stain and sealed it with Minwax’s Wipe-on Poly.

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  1. says

    Oh, thank you for such a great tutorial! Wonderful tip about rubbing it into the fabric – that makes so much sense, and I would never have thunk it. I am so going to try this!!!

  2. Alyssa says

    Oh my gosh, I remember Trading Spaces and Hildy painting the couch magenta. Isn’t that ridiculous that I would know exactly what you’re talking about! The chair looks fab–I never would have thought to do it!

  3. says


    I remember when Hildi on Trading Spaces painted that couch! You could always count on her for an interesting performance; do you remember when she glued white feathers, floor to ceiling, on all 4 walls in a master bedroom? I digress …

    Your chair looks fantastic! I was planning to head to a craft store today to look at fabric paint; I have an ottoman that I was going to recover, but there’s nothing wrong with the fabric (it just doesn’t work in the current location) so I thought fabric paint might be a good idea, or at least a good experiment prior to reupholstery ;) Thanks for the tip about the terry washcloth and pushing the paint into the fabric … have a feeling that could make a big diff on my project. I guess I’ll have to post about mine too, good or bad.


    • Stacy says

      Oh Hildi! I remember that too. And then there was the time that she glued straw to the walls. I always appreciated her thinking outside of the box but she clearly did not have children. And it was never very practical. Oh, and then there was the bathroom that had silk flowers glue gunned to the walls. Crazy lady :)

  4. says

    I have several “painting upholstery tutorials” saved to my computer…but I haven’t had the opportunity to try them out yet. I did buy two of the ugliest ever chairs from Craigs List with the plan to use Cutting Edge Damask stencil in a warm orange onto painters canvas and then use it to recover them. I have never seen the product you used before…LOVE the color , I’ll have to give it a try.

  5. says

    Nice short and simple guide! In future I will be less iffy bout second hand used upholstered chairs :D

    btw, last night I bought and installed one of those toilet water saving adapters from HD & installed. Never would have known about them if you hadn’t posted it! Thanks!

  6. says

    I totally want to do this!!!I wanted to paint my chairs orange and their original color is dark green… I don’t know how they will look, maybe I should consider another color, darker… anyways, your chair looks great! Thanks for the tips!

  7. Jusa says

    Looks great. Thanks for trying out a “soft” paint. I’ve been dubious about others who used house paint. Now I realize I could have done this to my red ottoman, duh. Tried a quicky diy throw tied at the bottom (dorky) and now have an Ikea cover from the thrift shop (dull). Love seeing you try things out and report on the results.

  8. April says

    I have a plaid fabric couch that I crying to me for some help. Can you get that in a big bottle?? What wou;d I need to do for a sofa different if anything??

  9. says

    Hi Stacy,

    Just found your blog after a google search for painting upholstery. I have one question….you may have answered it already and I’m sorry if I missed it……how many bottles of the paint did you use for your gorgeous chair?

    Great tips! Thank you so much!

  10. Rachel says

    Love the chair! I have some just like it. You said it was upholstery fabric? I’m not sure what that is. Mine are microfiber. Could you paint that?

  11. Cynthia says

    I was happy to find your site. I’ve wanted to paint my furniture for a while now. Since reading and seeing your results, I have gotten up the nerve to do it. I’m going to follow your instructions. I want to paint it a turquoise but the ottoman I am going to paint is a salmon color. But, if the turquoise doesn’t take and it turns some shade of purple I can live with that too because I’m going for a colorful room. I’ll let you know the results after it’s done. Thanks again for your posting.

  12. Laine says

    in the original pic it looks like there are some marks on the white fabric. If there are, did the paint cover them up?

    i’ve just bought a cream wingback chair from a secondhand store and would love to change the colour but it’s got some water marks on it.

  13. Lkat says

    Hi Stacy!

    So excited for this suggestion buying a cream colored microfiber sofa from a friend that needs some tlc & was thinking of using the crimson color of decoart sosoft paint- would you be able to tell me how many bottles of the turqoise you used on the chair- it will help me guesstimate better how much i may need– and did you order directly through their website or order online? Many thanks for the awesome suggestions!!!

  14. tausha says

    Hi! I love this!!! How many bottles did u use? I just ordered 3 to paint a chair…hopin its enough! Any help would be great, thx much!!! :)

  15. says

    Hi! I’m about to embark on my own upholstry painting journey on a cute (but hideous pink) chair I inherited from my grandmother. I was reading through the comments to see if you’d answered the question of how many bottles you used and I didn’t see a response. My chair looks to be about the same size, so it would really give me a good start.

    Also, how much water did you use to water it down, and did the temperature of the water seem to matter?

    Would love your feedback. Thanks for posting!

  16. says

    Even in these financial times you can still
    make your home look great and we have several ideas to assist you with procuring a cheap dining chair which looks fantastic.
    Another key challenge lies in determining whether the second hand mobile being purchased for resale is in good working condition, and the extent of
    repairs required, if any. Well, this begins to add up, and that means so do your options.

  17. Terry Clark says

    Love the look of your chair! I’m wanting to paint a favorite rocker of mine that was stained with shoe polish and then when trying to remove stain some of the color came out of fabric. How many bottles did it take you? Also, how much did you water it down? Where can I find SoSoft? Would this work in my AMAZING SPRAY SYSTEM by Preval that I bought at Home Depot? It is a system to make any paint a spray paint by diluting it.

  18. Misty says

    I’lll ditto the question above–how much paint did you need for your chair? I’m contemplating painting a wingback chair so I’m trying to figure out how much paint to purchase. Any online retailer that you’d recommend for the paint? Thanks for your post! I’ve been apprehensive about painting my chair with household latex and feel a lot better at using the DecorArt paint.


  19. Oriana says

    Your chair looks great! I have a chair that I would like to paint, but there is a lot more fabric to cover than on your example. Could you please share how much paint was needed? Thanks a million!!

  20. Chris says

    I need some help!!! I just bought a textured fabric cream color love seat at an auction from a model home. Its in great shape but the fabric is a little yellowed from sitting in the sunlight for several years. I am very intrigued by this painting fabric idea. Since the fabric is textured, can I still do this? Any color (which I haven’t picked yet btw) should work since the seat is cream now. The room I’m putting it in has bright yellow walls, and two print pictures (from the old Southern Living) with big yellow and red flowers. I’m leaning toward a red couch, but then I couldn’t paint it but so many colors again if I should change my mind down the road. Thoughts…hints?

  21. Karla says

    Hi. I’ve been painting furniture for years,but,never could figure out how to soften fabric that is stationary. Your sand paper idea works great!! I’ve a sectional couch and reclining chair I just refurbished(painted). They feel as good as they look,now. Physically and spirituely(yes an ‘e’).

  22. Jen says

    Thanks for this! I’ve been drooling over a turquoise wing back chair online for weeks but it is just way over my budget. I’ve been thinking about the idea of spray paint, and even found a cheap cream wing back on craigslist tonight. But then I couldn’t actually find turquoise fabric spray paint and the spray paint I DID find had some awful reviews of stiffness and scratchiness and bad coverage. I love this idea so much more because I have better control over the color and application. And your chair looks awesome!

  23. Abbie says

    Hi, just curious- cause I see a lot of DIY on painting furniture but little on the actual fabric that’s being painted… I have an ugly polyester chair & ottoman I’ve been wanting to try this out on & I’m not sure if this material will take the paint/dye/stain. I know I can test it out on a hidden area- but before I go spend money on just any paint- I also wanted to know if polyester can be painted, what is the best paint to use? If anyone knows email me thx much- [email protected]. Again, thanks to any tips! :)

  24. says

    Currently using chalk paint on some chairs, and so far so good. I also painted a grain sack stripe on some chair fronts of dropcloth and did sand those lightly, I think that is the key. I will sand these wing backs I’m working on too, and maybe try the water wipe as well.

  25. Barb Cunningham says

    Hello! I was doing some research on painting upholstery and was reading some negative reviews saying that the fabric turned out crunchy and stiff. I have a large couch and two chairs in velvet that I was wanting to do and I was impressed with your way that you did your chair. By wiping the paint into the fabric it seemed to make it softer. I was just wondering how much paint you used? The bottle looks pretty small! Thanks!

  26. Molly says

    Did you seal the upholstery with the wipe on poly, or the legs? And how many bottles of paint did you use?

    Great Tutorial!

  27. MaryBeth says

    How much paint did it take to do one chair? I have four ugly rose pinky chairs I’ve tried giving them away but no takers that’s really ugly ;) I’m excited to try this.

  28. says

    I am concerned if it only can be used to certain fabric materials or on any materials. I have a couch I want to do
    and it is polyester or some heavy material do you think it will work on it and also does this wash out of materials?