Painting Fabric Furniture

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I haven’t put together an Ask Tim post in a few weeks so here’s the latest question for my DIY hubby.

Thoughts/tips on painting fabric? I painted a couch because I found it on a do-it-yourself blog and it looks beautiful but feels horrible!

A professional painter shares everything you need to know on how to paint a room with great tips for the beginner wanting to save time and money.

From Tim: I have never thought about painting fabric furniture!  But your question prompted me to do a little investigating, and the key seems to be something called “textile medium.”  I would also guess that, if you didn’t use this medium AND you used oil-based paint, your couch probably feels like you’re sitting in a pile of nacho chips. 

The latex paint would have a less dramatic effect, but a similar problem…the paint is sitting on the surface.  My gut tells me that dyeing is the way to go, but, honestly, your question is something I have no experience in.  A quick Google search yielded some great results, but you’ve already painted the piece.  You have, indeed, stumped the chump!

From Marty: Here’s a post I found about painting fabric which may not be as much use on a piece of furniture. Still worth checking out.

Here’s another post about a couch transformation using Simply Spray Upholstery Paint and one using latex satin paint and fabric medium.

Here’s a great post on painting upholstered furniture and a velvet chair makeover. Here’s a stunning chair makeover that you’ll want to check out using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

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You can see more of my husband’s fun projects in “our” chalk painted hutch, window table, den makeover and table made of fence posts. He’s one talented guy!

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  1. Pingback: Vittorio
  2. Hi! A question for Tim… I know how to paint or I thought I did. I know that you have to prime before painting. Especially when painting on paneling, darker colors, or trying to cover oil-base paint. I recently purchased a house. Primed the before painting. The problem is that the paint is flaking. Real easy to scratch off! So I switch to Oil-base paint thinking it would be better. Painted a different room with the oil-base paint but I’m having the same problem. Real easy to knock off the paint. The only difference is the oil-base paint will stick to your hand or clothing. Why is it not sticking to the wood (door frame, base boards, doors, ect) Moving furniture into this house is a nightmare. What did I do wrong? Please help!!


    1. Hi, Jessica. Here’s my hubby’s response:
      Sorry for your trouble! I know this can drive you crazy. If the primer is coming off with the paint, then there is an adhesion problem with the original surface. You MUST use oil-based primer! Not sure which you’ve used or if the primer is coming off, too, but latex primers can cause a water-to-water reaction. Maybe this is the problem. If you have used an oil-based primer and are having this issue you might try using a primer/paint combo. Most major suppliers offer this type of product, and I highly recommend the Behr Ultra Plus available at Home Depot. This may give you a bonus layer of protection and durability. One last thought is to not go inexpensive. Invest, if you can, in the better grade of paint.
      There may also be some environmental factors that are causing problems; high humidity, extreme temperature swing, bad paint or paint that has frozen and thawed too many times, etc. However, these would be unusual and may not even apply in your location.
      Not sure if I helped, but maybe gave you a couple things to consider.

  3. Ok, checked out the site and I’m going to get the White Pigmented Shellac Primer. It seems to be the optimal solution so I’m just going to jump right in with it. LOL Wish the site posted prices. Thankfully the store is close.

  4. Hi, this question is for Tim. I bought cabinets for my kitchen and they have knots in the wood. After priming them there was some time before I bought the paint for top coats. The knots show thru the primer so I looked it up. Seems knots are a problem and there were many answers but none that really explained how to keep them from bleeding thru the paint. Can you tell me what to do & all the steps so that I can finally finish painting my cabinets. Thank you so much. Enjoy reading both of you. Great site and oh so helpful.

        1. Nikita,

          The problem you are having is called tannin staining and is not unusual for new wood cabinets. The fact that you primed them and let them sit is actually good! However, it is important that you use an oil-based primer to seal the staining. Even so, you may have to go over those knots again before finish coating. Here is a good link to research your issue (

          So, from this point forward you want to lightly sand the stains and then prime with the oil-based primer. Let that dry and re-check for bleed-through. If necessary, lightly sand again and then finish with two (ideally) top coats of paint. I’m betting that this will solve the issue! Good luck! Oh, and if you still have the staining issue after priming (and before you paint) try bumping up the primer to the shellac-based product or even something called XIM primer. Both are heavy duty sealers and are available at Sherwin Williams stores.


          1. Hi, Wow!~ Thank you so much for the help. You put it very well because it finally makes sense to me. The sanding had me confused but since you’ve spelled it out for me I get it. Yay! Really, sounds silly but I’m serious. My paint is from Sherwin Wms. Unfortunately the guy selling paint that day talked me out of getting enamel and buying satin. Not happy that I got the satin so am going to buy the enamel when I can. For now tho I can at least get some XIM and get them primed. There are so many knots that I may be sanding for days 🙂 but knowing I’m sanding at the right time definitely helps. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me. I’ll let you know how it may be awhile before I get it all done but I put a shortcut to your site on my desktop so I don’t lose you two.

  5. I’m still learning from you, while I’m making my way to the top as well.
    I absolutely liked reading all that is written on your blog.
    Keep the stories coming. I enjoyed it!