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

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

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Ashley Poskin
Mar 9, 2015
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

So what's the deal with vinyl spray paint: does it work, or is it a waste of time? I put three different paints to the test on three of the exact same chairs and was pretty surprised with the results.

There are some pretty impressive Before & Afters floating around of old, ugly vinyl furniture having been given new life with paint. While I'd like to believe the painted furniture stays picture perfect, I just couldn't quite accept it was that easy —just paint it and that's it? I mean, paint dries hard, but fabric is flexible... I just couldn't believe that you could completely change the look of a piece of furniture for the price of a can of spray paint. So I decided to do a bit of my own research.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

I started with 3 almond colored, lightly stained vinyl chairs. Each chair was in the same condition, nothing major —just ugly. Once painted, I sat in, and encouraged friends/family to sit in the chairs every time they came over for two weeks. We wiggled, scooted, bounced and scratched. These are the results:

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Krylon Cover Maxx

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

This is not specifically a "vinyl spray paint" but the back of the can said it was intended for use on everything from metals and plastics to papers and fabrics. The main reason I wanted to try this paint was because it was offered in a range of different colors that the Rust-oleum brand didn't have. I knew I wanted to try to paint the welting in a different color, so it seemed like a good option.

Coverage: Meh. I ended up having to use two cans to cover over the original almond color of the chair. It comes out in a pretty thin stream and streaks very easily.

Texture: The paint was a satin finish, the chair turned out the same.

Flexibility: Good. Fabric was able to move without cracking, although I'm hesitant about the paint withstanding long-term use. I worry that since the coverage was so thin, minor cracks would start to show up eventually.

Chip test: Passed! I was unsuccessful in my attempts to knock any paint chips out of the chair.

Overall: Even with multiple layers of paint, the surface kind of felt flat and insubstantial. Compared to a paint designed specifically for vinyl, this paint was underwhelming, my least favorite of the bunch.

Rust-oleum Specialty Vinyl

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

This can said it would have a "flexible vinyl coating" and states that it can be used on simulated leather and some fabrics. It also says it won't crack, or peel.

Coverage: Awesome. The paint comes out in a pretty thick, steady stream for great coverage. I covered the entire chair in one coat and finished up by giving a few areas a second hit.

Texture: The finish wasn't labeled on the can but it turned out somewhat shinier than satin, but not quite gloss.

Flexibility: Good, fabric was able to move without cracking.

Chip test: Passed! I was unsuccessful in my attempts to knock any paint chips out of the chair.

Overall: While it's the most boring chair to look at (This was the last one to be painted, all my creative ambition was used up on the first and second chair!) it's my pick for best overall and it's the paint I would recommend if you plan to paint and actually use a chair or another piece of furniture.

Rust-oleum Fabric & Vinyl

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

This can says its for use on fabric & vinyl surfaces, simulated leather and some fabrics. It also says it won't rub off, crack, or peel. It seems more marketed towards automotive projects.

Coverage: Fantastic coverage. The best coverage out of all three paints tested. It's actually kind of unreal, it sprays out so thick and textured that you don't really have a lot of faith that it will find it's "glossy" finish. But it does.

Texture: I grabbed a can of gloss, and it truly is glossy -you might even say "high gloss".

Flexibility: Good. The fabric was able to move without cracking although it did take a while to get back to its original shape after being sat on.

Chip test: Normal chair/sitting behavior was fine, however when I put it to the same test as the other chairs (using my fingernail to pick out a paint chip) it failed. I was able to take multiple paint chips out of the chair. Bummer.

Overall: If I wouldn't have had an issue with the paint chipping, this can would have got my vote for "best in show". The coverage was fantastic, and could easily cover over a mended area on a seat. I would recommend it for use on a piece that you don't plan on using every day.

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