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Hand-painted Peacock Chair …The basics for painting your own upholstery….

I wanted to make a custom painted chair for the Nada Farm Sale. I’ve done pillows, but I wanted to tackle something larger and paint custom upholstery with fabric paint!
I found it was easier to paint it right on the piece for placement instead of upholstering it later. I used a thicker muslin canvas as my fabric base. I prepped the fabric by  clear gesso in the area I thought I was going to be painting over and let that dry.
I started by sketching out my image in watercolor pencil. That way when I painted the pencil will blend right into the paint. But you could also use a transfer technique for your image.

Paint custom upholstery

I under-painted the image in black paint to add depth to the piece and give a guideline for where to paint.
The peacock is complicated, but this works for simpler images too.

Painting custom upholstery

I started adding and layering my colors, and referring to my picture for the details.
When painting on fabric, using acrylic paint with fabric painting medium helps keep the paint soft.

While you can use art paint or even latex paint,
by adding a fabric medium to the acrylic paint, I could use any color I wanted instead of having to stick with straight fabric paints.

I painted, aged and stained the wood and finished the chair before-hand.

I upholstered the seat with the art work and then stitched out in red thread, to keep it from fraying.

I found these amazing vintage nail heads, I love how rough and textural it makes it look.
I was kind of sad to se this one go!


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  1. When you say you used acrylic paints and a fabric medium, where did you buy the medium or what brand did you use? Also, did you finish it with the clear gesso on top of the painting after you were finished? Or will that make it crack? Just wondering if it needs protected. Thanks

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I’m an artist and have just been asked to paint wing-backed chairs that are covered in a blank canvas material. I’ve never painted upholstery and found your BLOG piece about it. Do you have any other tips? How has the painting held up under usage? Where did you get fabric medium? What is it? What type of paint did you use – acrylic or oil? I’m just starting the challenge of investigating this so I appreciate any advice. Beautiful painting you did!!

    1. I used fabric medium and acrylic paint from Micheal’s I think the medium was a deco art product.. It holds up fairly well, but will crack if it’s applied way to heavy. I hope this helps! Good luck!

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