Image for article titled How to Paint Upholstery

Photo: Yuliya Sham (Shutterstock)

When it comes to updating the interior of your home (especially on a budget), paint is your best friend. A few coats can transform a room or a hallway, and make tired, worn furniture look new.

But don’t limit yourself to painting wooden bookshelves and metal tables: You can also paint your upholstered furniture, like fabric chairs and sofas. Here’s what to know.

What kind of upholstered furniture can you paint?

While most upholstery can be painted, when you’re working with fabric, a tighter weave tends to produce the best results. Velvet, suede, and microfiber can all be painted as well.

But before you get into it and spend the time, money, and effort painting a piece of upholstered furniture, do a thorough inspection of the piece. The paint may cover up stains and the previous color, but problems like holes, flat cushions, and broken springs will remain. So if the furniture has problems like those, and you decide that it’s worth moving forward, fix the issues before painting.

What kind of paint works best?

There are several different types of paint that can work on upholstery, so a lot comes down to the material and personal preference. Highly pigmented chalk paint, latex paint, and a mixture of latex paint and fabric medium are popular choices.

Charlie Leanna Murphy, an interior designer and owner of The Pink Penthouse—a studio space in Kyle, Texas—regularly paints upholstered furniture to match the rest of her rosy interior, and after some trial-and-error, found that one coat of interior latex paint works best for her. “I use latex paint because when it dries, it acts like fake leather,” she tells Lifehacker. “I’m able to wipe it clean.”

In the past, Murphy has used chalk paint on upholstery, but found that it would crack. Similarly, in her experience, fabric spray paint tended to rub off.

How to prep the furniture

Before getting started, take off any removable cushions or pillows and vacuum everything thoroughly. Then, tape off the parts of the furniture that won’t be painted. Next, wet down the fabric (a spray bottle filled with water works well).

“This helps the paint absorb into the fabric so you don’t have to do as many coats,” Murphy explains. She also primes the upholstery fabric—though some people skip that step and do two or three coats of paint instead.

How to paint the furniture

Once the piece is prepped, mix your paint (if necessary) and do a small patch test on a hidden part of the upholstery to ensure that your paint and technique achieve the results you want. Assuming they do, it’s time to start painting.

Apply the paint in small sections, taking the time to work it into the fabric. Don’t forget to paint along the seams, around buttons, in the corners, and in other crevices.

Here’s Murphy in action:

If you skipped the primer and are doing multiple coats of paint, use a sanding sponge or sandpaper (about 220 grit) to work the paint into the upholstery between coats.

Then, leave the piece of furniture alone until it’s completely dry. After that, some people like to apply a top coat of wax or liquid patina to seal the newly painted upholstery, but again, it comes down to personal preference.





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