How to Paint Upholstery with Chalk Paint


I’m Holly
My mission is to help you create a timeless home that you love through interior design, DIY, and organization!
TOp categories

Looking for an easy way to makeover that old upholstered chair? Transform your old chair with a little chalk paint! With this easy step-by-step tutorial you will learn how to paint an upholstery with chalk paint.

There is nothing better than a good thrift store find. Some people love it and others, well not so much! I have found many great finds at thrift stores, but this one has so far been one of my favorites. Trust me, it was not much of a looker when I first got her, but after a little makeover she is good as new and better than ever! I like to call it trash to treasure and I want to show you a quick and easy way to transform those old upholstered chairs. Chalk paint is on of my favorite go-to makeover products and in this tutorial I want to show you How to Paint Upholstery with Chalk Paint!

How to Paint an Upholstered Chair

DIY - How-to-Paint-an-Upholstered-Chair-with-Chalk-Paint, how to paint an upholstered chair, painting fabric, caneback chair, chair makeover, painting a chair, painted chair

This post contains affiliate links. For more info, see my full disclosures here.

I know you’re probably thinking…how do you paint upholstery?! That is the same thing I used to think until I was introduced a few years ago to the amazing chalk paint! It is usually my go-to for furniture projects and I love everything about it! I have used it on many projects like my chalk painted chandelier and chalk painted vintage books and each time have been thrilled with the results.

Something that has been on my list of things to learn how to do is reupholstery, but I’m not there yet…far from it! So when my mom found this old caneback chair at a thrift store for $15, I knew I had to do something to bring it back to life that didn’t involve reupholstering.

Old caneback chair

The before pic is nothing special and it was hard for me to see through the “not my style” upholstery. You can’t really tell in this picture, but the chair itself was a nasty off-white color. It looks white in this pic but trust me, it was not! 😉

Old chair

My options at this point were to give reupholstery a try (which I have far from mastered) or try the whole chalk paint fabric trick! I have seen many other bloggers use chalk paint on their upholstered pieces and it turned out beautiful but this was my first attempt. I knew if I messed it up I would have to reupholster it but I thought I would give it a go!

If you’re looking for a super quick redo for your reupholstered pieces, this is it! This was a really quick project, and I finished it in around 2-3 hours.

How to Paint a Fabric Chair

Materials Needed:

So I am a really bad teacher because while painting the actual chair I forgot to snap some pics! But this is about painting the upholstery…so I guess I’m good!

Fresh painted caneback chair

All I did on the chair itself was take off the cushion and give the whole chair 2 coats of Annie Sloan Old White chalk paint and made sure to get every nook and cranny. You might need to bring out the painter’s tape for this part. I did end up dripping a few drops on the upholstery but I didn’t sweat it since I was going to paint the upholstery anyway.

Painted Upholstered Chair with Chalk Paint


The beauty of chalk paint is that you don’t really have to have a great painting technique. With chalk paint you’re going to see brush strokes, and that is ok. I think it adds to the character especially with older pieces. After letting the chair dry (another great thing about chalk paint is it dries really fast) I gave the whole chair one coat of Annie Sloan clear wax to give it a more durable finish. Then I took off the cushion and started painting the upholstery. I was super nervous, but kept thinking the chair was only $15!

Painting upholstery with chalk paint

I did take the cushion off the chair to paint it on the top side but I had horrible lighting in my garage, so for the back side I just flipped it over and painted it in the house so I could get a better photo for you all! After the first coat I was a little worried since it was such a light coat and the design on the cushion was bleeding through…a lot, but after the second coat I was good to go..it was like magic!

Painting upholstery

The chair was already starting to really come to life and I was already happy with the way it was turning out. But in order to give it even more of a vintage look I decided that after the chair was painted and fully dried I would distress it a bit with a sanding sponge.

Sanding down chair

I have used many different techniques to distress or age furniture, but sandpaper is usually my go-to. The key is to pick areas where you feel the piece would naturally get worn over time. Edges are always a safe bet. Make sure not to be too rough with it, lightly go over the edges to give it a natural distressed look.

Aging furniture after painting

So after the painting and distressing it was time for a little styling! When I was walking through Ikea on a mission to find something else I came across a couple of pillows that I thought would be perfect. I snagged them up along with a couple of pillow inserts and got to prettying (is that even a word?!) it up!

Farmhouse pillows on chair

Nothing says vintage farmhouse like a pretty french ticking pillow cover! 😉 I mix my pillows up often so not sure how long these two will stay here, but I really am loving them together in the space.

Using chalk paint to paint fabric.

I had someone ask me what the fabric now felt like since I have painted it, and the only way I can really describe it is that it has a leather consistency. I will say that even with the fabric painted it is still very comfy and the paint doesn’t crack when you sit on it. I was worried it would since it is paint, but I was so happy to find out that it is holding up nicely!

Vintage chair painted with chalk paint

The chair has found a new home in my home office and it is fitting it quite perfectly!

Helpful Tips For Painting Upholstery

  • Tip 1: You will need water. You can do this by wetting your fabric first or adding water to your chalk paint, or do a bit of both by lightly misting the fabric and adding water to your paint. This will help prevent any cracking.
  • Tip 2: Brushes are important – I used a larger angled brush for the larger areas, and a smaller round chalk paint brush for the nooks and crannies that were hard to reach.
  • Tip 3: Wait at least 24 hours before waxing. You will want the fabric to be fully dry to prevent sealing in any moisture. I do recommend waxing to protect your work.

What Kind of Paint Can Be Used on Fabric

  • Chalk Paint: This is my preferred paint for painting upholstery fabric. The process to me is easier and the results look a lot better. I like to feel like chalk paint is fool proof!
  • Latex Paint: If you choose to use latex paint you will need to mix it with a fabric medium. You will need to follow the instructions on the right amounts of each mixture. The only plus to this type of paint for fabric would be that you have more color options.

How to Soften Painting Fabric

  • Make sure that you sand between coats. This will help to soften the fabric. I recommend using anywhere from 100 to 220 grit sand paper.
  • Vacuum between sanding so you don’t get paint residue painted into your next coat.
  • After your last coat of paint sand down with 100 grit sand paper, vacuum, and then apply a light coat of wax to protect your beautiful work!

Pros and Cons of Painting Upholstery


  • Painting the fabric is much easier and cheaper than getting the piece reupholstered.
  • It is easy to keep clean. If you get something on it, just wipe it off with a damp rag.
  • Touch ups are easy. Just go back over with a small amount of paint.


  • Some fabrics just don’t do well with painting. I wouldn’t really try to paint over velvet or other thick woven fabrics.
  • If you’re wanting super soft fabric, this is not for you. You can soften it up a bit though.

Hopefully you find this DIY project to be an easy one and you already have a chair or two in mind to try this out for yourself! If you’re not in the DIY mood (I get it!) I have rounded up some other chairs you might love below and you can just click on an image for all of the product details!

Click any of the images below for product details.

Looking for More DIY Posts & Guides:



How to Paint Upholstery

How to paint upholstery with chalk paint

How to paint fabric with chalk paint

How to Paint an Upholstered Chair

Sharing at these parties!

This post contained affiliate links. For more info, see my full disclosures here.




Add a comment
+ show Comments
- Hide Comments
  1. Ashley says:

    So glad to have you back sweet friend! I love this post so much and cannot wait to try it myself.

    • Holly @ Life on Southpointe Drive says:

      Thanks girl! Feels good to be back even though I am just getting back from being in Cali for 3 weeks so slowed down a bit again!

  2. Megan says:

    Did you wax the cushions? I’ve heard that I need to do that too.

    • Holly @ Life on Southpointe Drive says:

      Yes Megan! I did give the cushions a light waxing after I was finished and made sure not to sit on it for a few days! Have a great day!

  3. Love this! And, yes, prettying is a word. 😉 Definitely. Also, does the chalk paint rub off on clothes… like black pants or jeans? I’ve always wondered that but never asked. 😉 Thanks for sharing at Homestyle Gathering, friend!

Get On the List

Just another way for us to stay in touch! When you join my newsletter you will get access to exclusive content, behind the scenes of my DIY projects, and subscriber only access to my printable vault!


Welcome to my online community where I share all things DIY, decor, and lifestyle!