DIY Project Test Lab Results: We Tried 3 Fabric Paints On Upholstery and Here's What Happened

DIY Project Test Lab Results: We Tried 3 Fabric Paints On Upholstery and Here's What Happened

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Ashley Poskin
Sep 1, 2015
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Last time we tested paint on vinyl, this time we're testing it on softer upholstery fabrics. We've all seen chair makeovers on Pinterest and they look great —but just how comfortable are they? And how well does the paint hold up? Well, we've been wondering too, so we rounded up a couple pieces of furniture and put them to the test! Here are our results:

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

I picked up two matching footstools that had potential but were a pretty awful shade of green and decided to give a hand-me-down chair from my mother-in-law a ...less pink look.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

I found the paint for the black stool and blue chair at the craft store as well as the fabric medium for the turquoise stool. I picked up the latex paint for the turquoise stool at the hardware store because I wasn't sure how much I would need so I decided to get a quart.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Latex Paint + Textile Medium

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

The tutorials I came across in my research all said that the final product "looked great but was stiff and uncomfortable". No one wants a "stiff and uncomfortable" piece of furniture, but I tried it anyway because I liked the idea of being able to mix any shade of paint I wanted and have it transform into a "permanent, flexible, and washable" piece.

Fabric content: Wool blend tweed

Coverage: Coverage was rough. I applied three thick coats of paint to achieve the final result.

Texture: Hard and bendy like a stale taco shell.

Flexibility: You can absolutely sit on the stool —the fabric will flex, it's just not comfortable. It almost turns into a rough vinyl type of fabric.

Good to use on: For adding designs on curtains, wearable fabrics, or small pieces of upholstery. If you're looking to add color to a room but don't plan to sit on the furniture, go for it!

Overall: If you want to paint a piece of furniture you plan to use on a daily/weekly basis, don't waste your time on this method. It's uncomfortable and very time consuming — you could probably reupholster the piece in the same amount of time it takes to paint.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Supplies: Paint brush, 1 part latex paint, 2 parts textile medium, jar for mixing the two together.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Vacuum or lint roll your upholstery before painting. Brush the paint onto the fabric in generous, even coats.

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Let one coat dry completely before following up with an additional coat.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

This is the final product with three coats of paint. It took me about 40 minutes per coat, drying time will vary depending on your climate.

Simply Spray Fabric Paint For Upholstery

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This product is meant to be used specifically for painting upholstery. There's even a photo of a girl sitting on a cool chair to help drive home that point. It is intended for absorbent material and says it "stays soft". On the can, there is a list of items it can be used on: sofas, chairs, curtains, and auto interiors to name a few. Shake well before using!

Fabric content: Wool blend tweed

Paint color: Midnight black

Coverage: Very thin, you'll need to build up the layers to achieve a cohesive look. And just like with regular spray paint, you'll end up needing more paint than you think so bring home at least one extra can. I used an entire can on my stool and would have liked to give it 2-3 more coats. It's important to shake the can well, and often. My can kept spurting out droplets that would land on the fabric that I would have to blend in with a brush. I found this process to be really messy.

Texture: The can is right —it does stay soft; this is possible because the upholstery absorbs the paint that is sprayed on. It's very pliable, however there is this weird oily/filmy thing going on with my stool. It kind of feels like the color, or film or whatever is going on will rub off on my clothing if I sit on it. Let me clarify: it won't, it's permanent, it just feels that way. This could have everything to do with the fabric content.

Flexibility: Exactly the same as the original fabric. It springs back into shape as soon as you stand up.

Good to use on: Larger, substantial pieces of furniture like chairs or sofas made with dense fabrics. As always, test a spot before committing to the project!

Overall: If you have a project where you have no other option but to paint the upholstery, this is your best choice. If you are looking for a color besides black, plan ahead because you'll probably have to order that online. And keep in mind when choosing colors you need to paint your upholstery with a shade darker than your original fabric. Don't forget to order many, many cans because your upholstery will absorb a ton of paint.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Spot clean and vacuum your upholstery before painting. Shake the can well, for at least one minute before spraying. Hold the can at least 8" from the surface of the piece and spray in long, continual strokes.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

This is what my stool looked like after the first coat. I let it dry for about 2 hours (it took a lot longer than the latex + fabric medium method) and then hit it again with another coat.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

You can see that the spray allows the fabric to keep its texture, so it's possible to use this on a more fussy fabric like my wool blend.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

This is the final product after three coats. It could have used a few more because I feel like I can still see a bit of green coming through, but I was fairly satisfied with the results.

Simply Spray Soft Fabric Paint

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

I'm pretty sure this fabric paint is intended for embellishing t-shirts at birthday parties, but I really liked their "Caribbean Blue" color and wanted to see if it would work on upholstery. The label says that "Any absorbent fabric can be your painting surface" —but mostly illustrates how to use it on cotton t-shirts. It's also non-toxic, which is a plus.

Fabric content: Polyester/cotton blend

Paint color: Caribbean Blue

Coverage: Pretty decent. The paint will absorb into the chair, but I was working with a far less dense fabric than the wool/tweed so it seemed to go a long way. I only had to apply two coats to get the color I was looking for.

Texture: Stays soft!

Flexibility: Fantastic! It's a little bit more sturdy than the original fabric, but not uncomfortable in any way.

Good to use on: Small projects As always, test a spot before committing to the project!

Overall: I was really pleased with this paint. I think the combination of using it on lightweight, thin fabric on an overall smaller surface area was really what made it a success.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

I started by taping off all areas surrounding the fabric. If you are doing this, just go ahead and tape/cover everything you don't want paint on. The sprayer on the can is very wide and I ended up getting blue splatters everywhere.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

After you've shaken the can for a solid minute (don't skip this very important step, it's necessary!) start spraying off to the side of the fabric and then move the paint around onto the fabric in small circles, 8" away from the surface of the fabric. Don't let up on the trigger until you've moved the paint back off the fabric. The paint will sputter and you'll get little splatter marks on your fabric if you start and stop over the fabric.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

The nozzle of the can is really wide, so it can make getting into tight areas a bit difficult.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Wait until the paint dries completely to add another coat.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

After the paint has dried completely on both the fabric and the tape you can remove it and voila! Enjoy your "new" chair!

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