Painted Fabric (French Chairs) Tutorial - Lynn Fern

Painted Fabric (French Chairs) Tutorial

I recently posted about the chairs I painted.  Today I am going to show you how I painted them without removing the fabric.  Painted Fabric!!

Painting the fabric as opposed to reupholstering is much easier!  Plus if you are like me I am really not an expert upholster.

As I previously noted in my other post, I was originally going to leave them just the way they are seen here.  They look beautiful in the photos..BUT don't let that fool you!


When I purchased them I instantly fell in love with them.  The lovely lines, there was zero nasty smell, and they just cried out to me!!  I loved the legs and the tufted backs.

But, then I as I was wiping them down, I pulled up the cushions, and I found a big red stain. It was stubborn..would not come out no matter what I tried.

 The fabric then started to fade...

This gave me the idea to go ahead and paint the fabric.  Why not?  Right?  I mean if worse came to worse I'd just remove & give it go with fabric.. oh please let this work! 

Before starting I painted the wood area, but then I decided I wanted some of the darker grey showing throw the really light grey when I distressed.  So as I was painting over the fabric I also painted all of the wood area.  I didn’t realize this until I was on my second chair (learning experience).  Also I got a few drops of the lighter color on the fabric, and even though I was able to paint over it, it took several coats.  Just be aware.

Supplies I used –

Behr latex paint from Home Depot

Fabric Medium purchased at Michaels

Water in a spray bottle


I mixed 1:1:1 ratio of paint, fabric medium and water.  I first mixed my paint & medium to make sure it was mixed well.  I then added my water.  I did a ½ cup of each at a time for every time I made my mixture.  It is going to look runny.  That is what you want.

I made sure the entire chair was completely wiped down & clean.

 The fabric was a shiny smooth type of fabric, which made it really easy to paint.

As you can see I had painted the wood an off white color..wasn't the look I was going for.

 I worked in small sections at a time.  Using my spray bottle, I sprayed a small section with water. This helps the paint go on more smooth and even.  I then painted that section.  You are still going to see the fabric a bit under the painted area.  Key is making sure your fabric stays moist where you are painting.  It is almost as you are more dyeing the fabric as you are painting it.

I let the chairs dry overnight since I started late in the evening (that’s the hard part for me..waiting)!!

The next morning I lightly sanded using a fine grit sanding block.  And, then I repeated my steps above.  I know some tutorials do not spray more water, but I did.  I felt it just helped move the paint easier and helped me get in the tufted areas.  I let it dry between coats and did one more coat exactly as above.  Between each coat I lightly sanded.


Next I did a coat of just paint & water (not using the spray bottle).  Let it dry.  Lightly sand and then did a look over to see if there were any places I needed to touch up.

 (My bad.. I forgot to take a photo)
I now had all grey chairs.  I used a really light grey color and painted over the wood area.  I used a 1” brush and my artist brush to get the edges nice & clean.

 I added little jewels!

Once it was all dry, I lightly sanded the fabric and distressed the wood.

I then waxed the entire chair with clear wax.


This is what worked for me.


I love how they came out, and they have since gone to live with their new owner!  The fabric feels like leather to me.  Not hard or stiff.  I had many customers stop in & sit on them before they sold.  Each one would say with shock they expected to be stiff or they didn't realize the fabric had been painted.
All in all I loved doing these chairs.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I hope this helps.

~ Lynn

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