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Debbie Hayes

How to Upcycle Upholstery with Chalk Paint®


Chalk Paint Upholstery. How to paint and stencil furniture with Chalk Paint®

What do a French Floral Damask stencil, Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan and an old raw silk loveseat have in common? Well not much individually, but together they can create an all new look in a day! Look what I created with the French Floral Damask Stencil, half a quart of Paris Grey Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan and a sample pot of Old White! It’s a Chalk Paint Upholstery Upcycle miracle!! Were you aware that Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan can be used to paint upholstery? Did you know that you can also use it to stencil? If you’ve been reading up on this exciting news, terrific. If you are shaking your head in disbelief, stay tuned and I will share all.

Chalk Paint Upholstery. How to paint and stencil furniture with Chalk Paint®

First things first before I divulge all of the details so you can try this.

Chalk Paint® upholstery painting is a very satisfying project, and something that anyone can do easily. Re-painting the sofa with Chalk Paint here was a breeze, but stenciling it WAS a bit tricky, especially because it was over a padded and piped cushion. Also because tape doesn’t stick well on rough fabric…. So that said, if you love this idea, I recommend you start out with a partner or a small item and go for it! If you have never stenciled before, I would check out some of the simple but simply gorgeous stencil project how-to’s here on Paint+Pattern first!

Now that we’ve dispensed with introductions, here are the instructions-

How to: Chalk Paint Upholstery


  • Your choice of Chalk Paint® colors, one for the loveseat and another for stenciling. I used Chalk Paint® in Paris Grey for the loveseat and Old White to stencil the pattern.
  • A wonderful overall pattern stencil like mine – the Small French Floral Damask from Royal Design Studio.
  • Large Stencil Brushes (also from Royal Design Studio)
  • Miscellaneous: Good quality paper towels like Bounty, clean towels, a small clean container, a pencil, a squirt bottle of water and a measuring tool.
  • When your project is complete, use a product like Motsenbachers Lift-Off 5 to easily clean your stencil.

FIRST, choose your piece to paint. It could be a chair or a partially upholstered item. Clean it, dust it, vacuum it, sand it, repair it, whatever it may need. Then turn it upside down and paint the underside and legs first. Lastly, paint the top/

Chalk Paint Upholstery. How to paint and stencil furniture with Chalk Paint®

TOP LEFT: This is what I started with – a cute little loveseat I brought home from work that I had already previously painted with two coats of Emile Chalk Paint® but decided I was ready for a color change. TOP RIGHT: Assuming your piece has not been painted, pour some paint into a clean container and add about 20% water to help the paint absorb into the material instead of sitting on top of it. I also used the water bottle to mist more water on the piece as I worked to help it sink in. BOTTOM LEFT: For this project, the Chalk Paint® covered so well, I only did one coat. For yours, count on two at least depending upon the fabric and the color you chose. BOTTOM RIGHT: I removed the large cushion so I could work on the kitchen counter. I measured where I wanted my design to fall, keeping into consideration the front of the loveseat and how the pattern would look there. Since tape was not sticking (it may stick on your piece) I drew some of the design right onto the piece to be sure I did not slip when holding it in place to stencil.

Chalk Paint Upholstery. How to paint and stencil furniture with Chalk Paint®

TOP LEFT: I used a heavy piece of pottery to help hold the stencil – it is big! TOP RIGHT: I stenciled the entire design, including the funny little partial designs here and there on the outside edges. The best stenciling method is to dip your brush straight down into the paint to pick up just a small amount of paint on the bristles. Immediately swirl the brush on the paper towels until it is almost dry to avoid pushing paint underneath the stencil. Then, swirl the brush in a circular motion on the stencil design. BOTTOM LEFT: These are “registration” marks. They are actually part of the pattern so you can pick up the stencil and move it up and down or sideways and find where the design matches up. If this is your first time with an allover stencil, no worries, it may take a bit to locate the repeats in the pattern, but you will quickly get the hang of it! BOTTOM RIGHT: Keep stenciling until all of the piece is done.

Chalk Paint Upholstery. How to paint and stencil furniture with Chalk Paint®

TOP LEFT: I put the cushion on the loveseat, and placed the stencil in position on the pattern beginning in the middle, allowing it to drop down at the front of the sofa. TOP RIGHT: Holding in position with one hand, I stenciled with the other hand until the front was complete. BOTTOM LEFT & RIGHT: Yes, the sloped back was tricky since I was working alone. So, I tipped the whole thing over on top of the coffee table, found the center of the piece and the design, and continue on.

Chalk Paint Upholstery. How to paint and stencil furniture

I had planned to stencil the entire piece but when it came time to do the scalloped back, I dropped in the cushion to see how it was coming along and – Ta-Dah! It looked awesome as is with just a fluffy white Mongolian pillow in a corner. Plus, stenciling into all those nooks and crannies wasn’t something i was looking forward to!


How to paint and stencil furniture with Chalk Paint®

So, what was my biggest challenge for this Chalk Paint upholstery project? Other than working by myself, it was keeping my four curious kitties out of the process. Afterwards, they all stopped by to try out their new bed.


Depending upon the fabric of your piece, you may choose to add a coat of Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax. I chose not to do it because I was happy with my results. But wiping on a coat of the wax – particularly on leather or “pleather” and possible chintz might add a desirable patina to the look. With a clean soft cloth, wipe on a small amount of the wax, working in small areas. Pretend you are putting on hand lotion spreading it until it is all gone with no residue on the surface. Turn your cloth often while removing all excess wax. Let the piece sit for 15 minutes or so, then buff to your desired sheen.

Finished Chalk Paint Upholstery.

Painting fabric is a fun way to transform a piece, but it does tend to stiffen the fabric somewhat. Before you begin, you may want to try this process on some scraps first to be sure you get the look you like.

If you have completed a similar project, do a happy dance at this point. Congrats! It was a challenge and the results are amazing!! We would love to see photos of your work.

Royal Design Studio Wall Stencils and Paint Supplies for DIY Projects


  1. Regina

    This is SO cool! The results are gorgeous, Debbie!

  2. Love this!! We have had success using chalk paint on upholstery too. Love the stenciling. Great job!

  3. Debbie Hayes

    Hi Dana, would love to see pics of your projects!

  4. The only thing prettier than a tufted love seat stenciled n floral damask is the same love seat with beautiful Lacey Jane! Debbie, what a gorgeous result!

  5. Debbie Hayes

    Anna Edmondson and Melanie Royals you know me so well!

  6. I’m reading this while on vacation in Kauai…and cannot wait to get back to stencil an upholstered chair I have in storage. It was previously painted by someone else with fabric paint and I wasn’t sure what to do with it…now you’ve inspired me! It’ll be my first painting project when I get get back…thank you for the great tutorial and inspiration. Now back to RDS to shop for the perfect stencil!

    • Melanie Royals

      Well first, congratulations on being in Kauai!! How inspiring. Second, I am sure you will do something fabulous with the Chalk Paint® and stenciling upholstery idea Denise, so be sure to share it with us!! 🙂

  7. I loved that loveseat in Emile, but it is gorgeous now. What a great job…

  8. So glad I saw this to solve my dilemma of needing new cushions that are custom for my rattan dining chairs. The fabric is in good shape, just slightly discolored and no zippers to remove for washing. i think I would do finishing wax so they could be wiped clean. A beautiful solution.

  9. Love the impact of the contrast between solid and damask as well as the watercolor effect of the stencil on fabric. Is it possible to spot clean the love seat when the chalk paint is not waxed? If so, how? Same question if the chalk paint is waxed.

    • Melanie Royals

      Hi Suzi, once the Chalk Paint has cured it is VERY durable, with or without wax. Either way, you could spot clean with a warm, damp rag. That said, I would recommend this technique for chairs, etc. that don’t hard receive daily use and constant food spill, i.e. the couch your entire family sits on to watch TV. 🙂

    • Debbie Hayes

      Hi Suzy, I left this project unwaxed since we only have kitties and adults at home and I love it as is. To clean I would just wipe with a damp cloth and and maybe a drop of dish soap. Worst case, it is so easy to touch up the original Paris Grey and then add the stencil on top, whether waxed or not. The beauty of Chalk Paint® and the ability to paint on top of the Soft Wax!

  10. Absolutely gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t wait to do this to a few pieces in my home.

  11. Debbie – what a beautiful project. I always wanted to try this. Does it matter if the fabric is a damask already? I have a little loveseat that I painted the woodwork already with Old White and I was going to have it reupholstered ($500-600!,) the fabric is a cheap, shiny damask that is hideously ugly…and it has a bit of a texture.do you think this is a candidate? I guess I will just take a stab at it – if it doesn’t look right, there’s always Plan A!

    Thanks for posting!


  12. Debbie Hayes

    Hi Linda! The damask in your fabric should not affect the project unless it is really raised. Can you turn over a cushion and give it a try? Love to hear how it turns out!

  13. Hi Debbie. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your process. I love your results! I’ve been reading up on upholstery painting on & off for the last few months until I can find the time to try it. Still reading & still no time to try it ;-(.. Anyway, I’ve found several different approaches, one of which uses a fabric medium, lots of water from a spray bottle and requires several coats of paint (any latex paint, not just chalk paint) over several days to effectively dye the fabric. Until now I haven’t read anything indicating that the process alters the feel of the fabric in any way. In fact, everything I’ve read seems to go to great lengths to make a point that the feel of the fabric remains the same in all respects. But you mention that your process stiffened the fabric a bit, so I’m wondering why that might be & also wondering if any of your readers have tried any upholstery painting process & whether it altered the feel of the fabric. You mention you had already painted this piece once. Did the fabric stiffen a bit after the original paint coat? If not, do you think it’s possible that the 1st coat of paint might have had something to do with the 2nd coat causing the fabric to stiffen…maybe the 1st coat somehow affected the absorption of the 2nd coat? I would really be grateful for any insight you can provide. Thanks again for sharing your project. This is the first time I’ve EVER read anything that mentions the use of wax and that really intrigues me!!

    • Debbie Hayes

      Hi Greer,

      This was the most fun project. I did paint the loveseat before in Emile Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan for my office. After I moved it to our living room I wanted a new look. The original fabric was pink raw silk, so it was not especially soft to begin with. So, yes I would say even though I used watered-down paint for the very first coat to let the paint soak in to the fabric, it is a bit stiffer now that there are several coats. Because it is used primarily by our kitty menagerie, being ultra soft is not important. But it sure looks great! Some folks choose to use Annie Sloan Clear Wax after painting, but for this item, it truly was not needed.

    • Hi,

      Latex, acrylic and fabric paints do stiffen upholstery and even sometimes crack. Every site I read stated the same…I would be curious to see the sites that say they don’t…Some people say it feels like stiff canvas or leather.

      I for one, would be willing to try the chalk paint instead…it sounds so much easier and repairable.

      • Debbie Hayes

        Hi Bobbi!

        Painting with any paint is going to change the nature of the fabric. So to me it is a fun thing to do on a piece that I don’t worry about experimenting with. If you mist the fabric before beginning and water down the paint, it tends to sink into the fibers more, but not completely. Try and let me know what you think! Thanks for your comments!

  14. Love it! I am wantiing to paint a small love seat. Does the paint crack? I am not really wanting the crackle look. Also, how much paint did you have to use? Did it take more than 1 quart? Thanks!

    • Debbie Hayes

      Hi CJ!

      For best results, follow the directions in the post which include watering down the paint. I have never seen the paint crack in a project using this process. My project had already been painted once with Emile Chalk Paint®, but I am guessing you will need one quart without seeing your love seat. Have fun and send us photos!

  15. Looks incredible.
    How do you think this technique will work on a short, soft fuzzy, velour type fabric?

    • I missed the answer to painting upholstery with a pile. Have you attempted this? I have an old sofa that I would love to update. Also, does painting a fabric change the texture and feel of the piece once you paint it?

  16. Can you tell me where you purchased your stencil or did you design it yourself?Your results are really gorgeous!

    • Debbie

      Hi Eileen, glad to hear you love this design. It is by Royal Design Studio and listed under supplies in this post. Have fun!

  17. I too am concerned about the material becoming stiff afterwards. I am wanting to paint a wing back recliner which has some light stains but is in good shape otherwise. I don’t know if the chair would be comfortable stiff…it’s not a used chair now but I love the style and can’t afford to reupholster it. Any way to make it feel less stiff? Thanks!

    • Debbie Hayes

      Hi Rhonda, it is important to add about 10% or more of water to the first coat of Chalk Paint®. You can even lightly mist your piece first with water. Stiffness will be determined somewhat by the fabric you begin with and how thin your coats of paint are. Of course, adding paint will stiffen the fabric some, regardless.

  18. I LOVE your information! I am learning so much in a very short period, thank you!

    I am wanting to paint a medium to dark paisley fabric of a “Flexsteel” brand large chair and matching ottoman with a much much lighter color that would compliment my family room of lighter hard wood floors, tongue-and-grove wainscoting in white accented with our collection of walnut/oak/ash antique furniture with light blue walls and a white tongue-in-groove vaulted ceiling.

    The chair/ottoman fabric was factory treated (years ago) with Scotchguard. The attached instructions inside the chair/ottoman stated that cleaning with water based cleaners may shrink the fabric so it has been professionally cleaned. This chair/ottoman is over 10 yrs. old and the material which is a medium smooth textured (light tapestry type), cotton/polyester mix; has stretched a bit over the years.

    Would you advise attempting to paint this type of fabric with a dark paisley pattern? AND…..Would you use a updated painted fabric chair/ottoman in a room that is frequently used by my husband and I and less frequently used by others (adult children visit infrequently and no children expected for a long time ;(

    Thank you for your time and attention to my above questions. I appreciate your helpful comments very much!!

  19. Hi! I have a quick question!

    I was just wondering if there is a special method for cleaning upholstery painted with chalk paint. I have two kittens (I saw you have cats too), and if something gets spilled or, Lord forbid, there is a litter box issue, do you clean it like normal furniture, or avoid certain products? I am a novice DIY-er, so I’m sorry if this seems like a dumb question!

  20. I don’t see any mention of painting a velvet upholstery fabric. Can any fabric with a nap be painted? and do you think it would be stiff?
    I have never painted fabric , I would like to try it on a wing back chair. Thanks

  21. This article is truly an inspiration for me! Thanks so much for sharing this project.

    I know this is an older thread, but I am in need of some advice concerning a chair I’d like to paint. It is a fabric chair that has decorative upholstery tacks, and I’m not sure how to protect those from getting painted. They’re very close together, and there are a lot of them. I wonder if I should paint over them and then remove the paint? Or keep the paint on them? Or protect them with something that would keep the paint from sticking to them?

    I’m at a loss at where to start because of these confounded tacks! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  22. Can you use any chalk paint or does it have to Annie Sloan?

  23. How do you clean the chairs after they have been painted? Is it possible to use an upholstery cleaner or steam vac or will it lift the paint?

  24. I have two chairs I want to paint with ASCP. The material is microfiber, do you think it will still work following your post?! I’ve worked with ASCP before, but never on fabric and I cannot wait to begin this project. Your chair looks amazing and it is inspiring! Thank you!

    • Yes, that should definitely work, Martha! Let us know how it turns out! It will stiffen the fabric a bit fyi but will look AMAZING!

  25. Debbie, Love, love your ideas! Do you think I could add a design to the screen on my screen porch? Is this chalk paint suitable for outdoors? This would really dress up a ho hum outdoor area. Appreciate your feed back.

  26. I have a hand carved dining room set: table and chairs that are finished in Florentine crackle. The cushions on the chairs are in pristine condition. I believe the fabric is damask. The color needs to be changed, but I am afraid to try painting it, as the cushioning is very thick and I am afraid the paint would crack over time with lots of use. Have you done dining room chairs used, four times a week? How long have they held up?

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