Chalk Paint Tutorial-Painting Fabric

I had heard tales of people painting fabric and upholstery with the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®, but I found that any time I did it the result was less than good. The surface would become hard and not at all pleasing to sit on, or even look at. I just assumed that the rumors I heard were exactly that, rumors.

Until I went to the Chalk Paint class in N.C. and met a talented woman who had painted upholstery with the paint, and succeeded! She was nice enough to give me her secrets, and I’m going to pass them along to you. You’ll never again pass by an abandoned chair again, you’ll paint it!

Before I get started, there is a “but”. You can certainly paint fabric and upholstery, BUT, realize that sometimes the piece isn’t worth painting. Stay away from frayed or torn fabric. Sounds reasonable, but sometimes you’ll see a chair and say, this would look great painted! and forget to check for damage. However, most stains or fading will cover up beautifully with paint.

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way we can get started! This adorable little chair started its life with a horrible silver/blue velour fabric. It was dirty, stained, and definitely showed signs of age.

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Some of the velour was worn down, especially on the arms. A little wear is fine, there were no glaring rips or fraying edges.


It is a good idea to wash the upholstery before you get started. I used plain soap and water and a hose, but you can use whatever method you like best. Also a good idea to use your favorite fabric deodorizer, just in case! It was a really hot, dry summer day when I started painting, so my dry time was really fast. After I gave the chair a good soap and rinse I set her out in the sun to dry. Once the fabric and cushion underneath were dry I was able to start!

One of the keys to painting fabric is to really water down the paint, and I mean really water it down. If your paint looks like Kool-Aid then you’re ready! You almost want the mixture to be more water than pigment. You’re looking for about 20% paint to 80% water. Once you’ve got your diluted paint, go at it! I was amazed at the coverage that I was able to get with such a watery paint. As you can see, Emperor’s Silk is a major improvement over the original color!


If you’re painting over a smoother fabric, there’s a good chance one coat will do. Because I was painting over something with a higher pile, it was much more textured, it required two coats to get full coverage.


I would strongly suggest that if touch-ups are needed, just go ahead and apply another coat. The areas I touched up took on a whole different look, it was quite strange. So save yourself from aggravation, just do another coat.

Once you’ve achieved the desired coverage, and the surface is 100% dry, here’s the secret…take some 220 grit sandpaper, and lightly sand the surface. This will take away the rough, stiff feeling and replace it with a much nicer, softer, smoother finish. The higher the pile of the fabric, the more sanding it will take, but not that much more. You’ll be able to tell instantly where you’ve missed. When I was done the chair ended up feeling like a soft, aged leather.

To get rid of the fine dust I vacuumed the chair with my shop vac, do not use your regular vacuum! The fine dust is no good for conventional household vacuums. And finally I took a barely damp cloth and wiped the remaining dust from the surface, you don’t want to have a dusty bum!

That’s it! I tried waxing the surface, but I didn’t like the way it was looking. You may have better results with your painted upholstery, give it a try! The chair is holding up just fine without the wax for now, if anything changes I’ll be sure to say so! So there you go, painting upholstery with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®, no longer a rumor!

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