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How to Paint Fabric the Easy Way with Chalk Paint

My first thought when I heard of someone PAINTING FABRIC was, “WHAT, I would never do that, I can’t imaging it actually looking or feeling ok.” I know painting fabric has become more popular lately, but I just didn’t think it would ever be a project for me….until I got desperate. Let me show you how to paint fabric with chalk paint.

This summer I “restyled” my front porch, and the current color of my cushions just didn’t look right with the new decor.  More importantly, outdoor cushions are expensive y’all, so buying new was just not in the budget.

You can also use this technique to paint indoor furniture upholstery too.

Painting fabric can look and feel good, but not all fabric or upholstery can be painted.

In my opinion, the best fabric to paint is smooth with little texture. I’ve seen a lot of fabric painting go wrong with upholstery like velvet or heavily textured fabric. My best piece of advice is to test a small piece of fabric first with the WHOLE process. I know that might be extra time consuming (because the process can take days) but it will prevent you from ruining a good piece of fabric.

By the way; If after reading this post, painting fabric still seems a bit daunting, you can learn how to use Rit Dye to dye fabric here.

how to paint fabric with chalk paint

So now that my little disclaimer is out of the way, let’s start with how I painted my outdoor fabric, shall we?

A couple of the before pictures so you can see where I started:

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the cushions before the paint
the cushions before the paint

This was the original pattern with black and white colors. These cushions have a smooth fabric that has no texture.

By the way, below is my Jenny Lind Crib to bench makeover.

How to create a Jenny Lind Crib to a bench
A few different ways to style an old Jenny Lind Crib

Fabric painting materials

  1. sand paper- I used a 160 grit. You DO NOT NEED A COURSE GRIT sand paper because it will pull the paint off.
  2. Paint brush
  3. Paint- I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in the color Duck Egg Blue
  4. Top Coat- use furniture WAX. I made the mistake of starting out with a water based clear sealer because I ran out of wax, DO NOT do this. I don’t know what I was thinking, because when I applied one coat to the bottom of one cushion (thank goodness I didn’t do more) it created a very “vinyl” feel and did not bend at all. Lesson Learned, if you want breathable, bendable, soft cushions, use wax.
  5. Spray bottle or cup of water.

Here’s a quick video sharing how I started painting the cushions with chalk paint.

Is chalk paint good for painting fabric?

Absolutely! When PAINTING FABRIC, you need a “breathable” paint. Chalk Paint, for example, is considered breathable because it will soak into the fabric. If the paint sits on top and does not penetrate the fabric, when you sit on it, or bend it, it will probably crack. So, Chalk Paint will be my choice of paint.

Tips for Painting fabric

  • Sanding between coats while PAINTING any upholstery is a must. This is very important especially with Chalk paint because you want the actual pigment to remain and not all the chalky residue. This also makes the fabric nice and soft.
  • Depending on the material you are painting, the fabric might end up feeling a little like “Vinyl.”
  • Always use a top coat, otherwise the paint might bleed…..this might be tragic to the person sitting on it!
  • Wet the fabric or cushions first with a spray bottle, or dip your paint brush in water and lightly dampen the material. This allows the fabric to soak up more paint.
  • Use a mixture of half water and half paint. Once again, this allows the fabric to really soak up the paint.
  • Wait at least 24 hours in between each coat- this ensures that all the fabric is dry, especially if the paint soaked deep into the fabric.
chalk painting outdoor cushions and fabric

The pictures above are shown after the first coat. The square bottom cushions were MUCH easier to PAINT and required less coats. The top pillows on the right soaked up the paint and required one more coat than the bottom cushions.

painting fabric with chalk paint

This is what they looked like wet after the first coat.

FYI: I did not have a spray bottle so I wet a paint brush and lightly covered the fabric with water before I started PAINTING MY OUTDOOR CUSHIONS.

Another note; I used an old tupperware dish to mix the paint with water.

How to paint fabric or upholstery

  1. Lightly wet cushions with spray bottle
  2. apply 1:1 water/paint mix
  3. wait 24 hours to dry
  4. sand with finer grit sand paper
  5. repeat until desired color is achieved
  6. Apply 1-2 coats of wax

I did not sand after the final wax coat (and I did not dilute the wax), but I did sand in between every other coat.

The bottom cushions took 2 coats of paint and the top cushions took 3 and I only used one coat of wax to finish them off.

I’m much more pleased than I ever thought I would be because, #1 this was a free project and #2 they still feel like fabric. I’ll be honest, they don’t feel AS soft as they did before, but they DO still feel like fabric. I was worried they would feel “Crunchy” you know what I mean? Oh, and a side note; this weekend we had torrential rain and the cushions got drenched. Guess what, they held up beautifully and look the exact same as they did when I first sat them on my porch!

Overall I’m super pleased with how my PAINTED OUTDOOR CUSHIONS turned out.

I would definitely do it again and recommend it to anyone.

A few Final pics:

how to paint fabric with chalk paint

So I can officially say I’ve taken my DIY skills to a new level with painting fabric.

That’s part of the fun though, trying something new and different, right? Have you ever completed a project you swore you would never try?

For now they will sit on my front porch and we will see how they hold up!

EDITED ONE YEAR LATER TO ADD:

It’s been an entire year of these cushions sitting on my front porch in all the elements in south Alabama (high heat, humidity and lots of rain). They have held up better than I ever expected. Pictured below is after one year. I did clean them up with soap and water before taking this picture, but that’s it!

painted cushions one year later
painted outdoor cushions

How to paint fabric the easy way

how to paint fabric with chalk paint

A tutorial on how to Paint fabric or any other type of upholstery with an easy step by step tutorial using chalk paint and wax.

Prep Time 1 hour
Active Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Difficulty Medium
Estimated Cost 75

Materials

  • sand paper- I used a fine 160 grit
  • Paint brush
  • Paint- I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in the color Duck Egg Blue
  • Top Coat- use furniture WAX
  • Spray bottle or cup of water

Tools

  • No tools

Instructions

  1. Lightly wet cushions with spray bottle
  2. apply 1:1 water/paint mix
  3. wait 24 hours to dry
  4. sand with finer grit sand paper
  5. repeat the paint steps until you get the desired color
  6. Apply 1-2 coats of wax

Notes

  1. when PAINTING FABRIC, you need a "breathable" paint. Chalk Paint, for example, is considered breathable because it will soak into the fabric. If the paint sits on top and does not penetrate the fabric, when you sit on it, or bend it, it will probably crack. So, Chalk Paint will be my choice of paint.
  2. Sanding between coats while PAINTING any upholstery is a must. This is very important especially with Chalk paint because you want the actual pigment to remain and not all the chalky residue. This also makes the fabric nice and soft.
  3. Depending on the material you are painting, the fabric might end up feeling a little like "Vinyl."
  4. Always use a top coat (wax preferred), otherwise the paint might bleed.....this might be tragic to the person sitting on it!
  5. Wet the fabric or cushions first with a spray bottle, or dip your paint brush in water and lightly dampen the material. This allows the fabric to soak up more paint.
  6. Use a mixture of half water and half paint. Once again, this allows the fabric to really soak up the paint.
  7. Wait at least 24 hours in between each coat- this ensures that all the fabric is dry, especially if the paint soaked deep into the fabric.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ve learned something,

Lindsey**

Amy Kirn

Wednesday 7th of July 2021

What kind of wax, and how is it applied ? Thank you in advance.

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Thursday 8th of July 2021

Hey Amy, any furniture wax will do but I used Annie Sloan clear furniture wax. I applied it with a lint free cloth and rubbed it in really well.

Jana

Friday 2nd of April 2021

I’m in love with the color, what is it!

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Saturday 3rd of April 2021

Hey Jana, it's Duck Egg Blue by Annie Sloan chalk paint!

Kathleena

Tuesday 9th of March 2021

You talked about using a wax. What kind of wax

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Wednesday 10th of March 2021

I used Annie Sloan chalk paint wax!

louisa cranmore

Monday 1st of February 2021

Would chalk paint also work on clothes? Ie is it washable? Thanks!

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Monday 1st of February 2021

That's a really good question and I'm not sure the answer to. I don't know that I would use it on clothes since there are so many paints made specifically for lighter fabric like clothes.

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