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How to Paint Custom Chair Upholstery with Art

I reupholstered a chair in cotton duck and  I wanted to make a  DIY paint custom chair upholstery with art by painting a peacock image. It’s such a great way to customize a piece of furniture. I used fabric paint and love how it turned out!  I was going to paint the fabric before it was upholstered and realized I might not have a placement correct. I decided to throw caution to the wind and paint the peacock on the chair after it was reupholstered, and I thought I would share my process with you with this tutorial.

Paint custom upholstery on cotton duck

To cover the chair cushion, I used a thicker muslin canvas as my fabric base, but you can also do this on leather, or linen like on this custom pillow!

When painting upholstery, use a fabric paint.  You can also use acrylic paint, latex paint or chalk paint mixed with textile medium. It normally calls for a 50/50 ratio of part fabric medium and part paint,  but check your bottle for directions first for what kind of paint to use. Using a fabric paint or medium helps keep the painted fabric from having stiffness and cracking an allows you to use different colors for a custom mix.

I started by sketching out my image in watercolor pencil. That way when I painted the pencil will blend  and dissolve right into the paint. You can also use a transfer technique for your image. After outlining my image, I under-painted the image in black fabric paint on the seat cushion to add depth to the piece (under-painting makes the colors seem richer.),  and give a guideline for where to paint.

HOw to paint custom chair upholstery with art

When painting an image on fabric, mask the rest of the area off with a covering  and  some painter’s tape to keep drips and splotches from staining the surrounding chair fabric.

When painting a  custom chair upholstery with art start bu adding and layering my colors, and referring to my picture for the details. If you use different fabrics,  like upholstery fabric instead of cotton duck or even a drop cloth, always do a test swatch first as they will take the paint differently.  It just depends on the kind of fabric and how they absorb the paint.
I used a round paint brush to paint my peacock was painted on the chair and then let it dry completely. You don’t have to seal fabric paint to make it durable. This took a piece of outdated furniture and really made it a work of art. I added heavier paint  in some areas to add texture. Especially where the peacock feathers were at.
Painting a custom image with fabric paint on a chair

Once the base of the image dries, you can start  adding layers of paint as you would also paint on a canvas. The first coat of paint is always the scariest, and then after that, it becomes easier.

Custom painted fabric paint on a chair

The wood part of the chair I had painted and aged first with glaze before painting the chair seat.

To add a custom touch, I stitched red thread on the seat, especially along the edges to keep it from fraying, and used really cool upholstery tacks to attach it to the base of the chair. I love how  painting a chair upholstery with art creates a custom work of art and is a show piece for any home.

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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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