Yes, you can Paint Fabric!

I have upholstered fabric chairs before. It turned out great. I hated every minute of it!

If this rings true for you or… you’re firmly in the ‘not ever gonna do it camp’… here’s a great way of updating your cloth furniture, without having to learn to sew! Paint it. The wood, the fabric… the whole thing!

For this project I used DIY clay paints from Debi’s design diary but I have also used Annie Sloan chalk paint as well. Both worked just fine. For this project then you will need…

Paint – any Clay, Mineral, Chalk paint of your choosing
Paint Brushes – there’s no magic to this and no need to invest in any super expensive brushes since you’re going to be ‘staining’ the fabric and we’re not worried about brush strokes. That said, you may want a couple of different sizes since you are also going to want to paint the ‘wood’ parts of your chair and will need some ‘smaller’ brushes for this.
Painter’s tape
Plastic wrap
Water spray bottle (any old spray bottle will do)
Wax – I used Annie Sloan wax in clear for both chair projects – it’s what I had on hand, but you could use one from another Chalk Paint line if there’s one you prefer!
Fine Sanding pad, block or paper

For the Daisy chair pictured above the only ‘wooden’ pieces I needed to consider painting were the legs of the piece. I will typically always suggest that you paint the wood first since it’s easier to tape off and protect from any of the painting you do on the fabric than is the reverse. If, however, there is a piece you’re working on that isn’t this straight forward then consider using the plastic wrap to protect your painted fabric when painting some of the wooden sections. Tuck it down into the crevasses, nooks and crannies… whatever you need to do.

Since there are often sections of fabric you may have to pull ‘back and away’ from some of the wood I typically like to use some of the plastic wrap as a barrier when I have to ‘release’ the fabric – which means it’s now touching ‘wet paint’. We’ll be painting over it when we paint the fabric but… it just makes life a little easier.

For this project I simply (and cautiously) painted the legs in a bright white (White Swan from DIY) in two coats. I sanded the dried paint lightly with a very fine sand paper only to smooth out the finish, not to distress, and then applied wax, allowed it to dry and buffed smooth. I then wrapped them in plastic wrap and taped them off with the painters tape to protect the finish.

Now for the fun part!

This is a picture of the 'before' of 
the chair.  It was a 'damask' type 
raised patterned dusty rose.  
Though I would be covering over 
the rose colour, the actual texture 
of the fabric would come through 
in the final product.  I liked that -
 it would add a bit of detail, but 
know when you are selecting 
your project that we aren't going 
to be altering the textured 
patterning of the chair.  Also, 
heavily coloured patterns, even 
on a flat fabric, may create 
'shade' variations in your final 
painted finish, depending upon 
the colour you choose.  I like this 
also - you decide for you!

Remove the cushion and put off to the side. You will be painting it and treating it the same as the rest of the chair but easier to do separately. Although we are going to be applying paint, we are actually ‘staining’ the fabric with the paint. In order to get the product to ‘sink into’ the fabric we must lightly we the surfaces before and during the application of the paint. In addition, you will need to water your paint down so that it is better able to sink into the fabric.

DIY paint is very heavily pigmented and is very thick. For that paint I used closer to a 50/50 ratio of water to paint, periodically watering it down some more as the paint thickened. Annie Sloan has great colours but it not quite as pigmented and is a little thinner requiring me to use less water but you really need to eyeball this. Your paint could have been sitting around longer and be thicker than mine… you’re just looking for a fairly runny consistency while not diluting your colour too much!

Take your spray bottle, dampen the area you want to start painting (note the word ‘damp’ not ‘soak’!) and then begin painting the area. I found it useful to paint in a circular motion, rather than back and forth, which seemed to help the paint get down into the texture and nap of the fabric. Continue this over the whole piece.

The pic of the chair here is 
after applying one 
(watered down) coat of 
DIY's Bohemian Blue.  You 
can still see some of the 
original pink showing 
through and definitely see 
the 'raised pattern' of the 

Allow this coat to fully dry 
before proceeding.

Once the fabric is dry you need to lightly sand it, all over, using a very fine sand paper/pad/block. I found using the block easiest to use over the large sections but switched to sandpaper to get into the tighter areas. This is just a light sanding but is important to help your next coat adhere well and, most importantly, to sink into the fabric. We don’t want the paint to simply sit on top of the fabric – that’s what would make it feel ‘hard’ or ‘crunchy’ in texture afterward. Sanding eliminates any of the paint sitting on top, allowing your next coat to sink down in, staining and not painting, the fabric.

Once sanded I took a dry dust brush and brushed the piece all-over lightly to remove any of the paint dust. And then… repeat the painting process, using your spray water bottle to dampen the fabric and a circular motion to apply your diluted paint. Allow to dry, sand, brush the dust free and then check your piece to see if it requires more coats.

For the Blue Daisy chair I just needed some touch ups in a few areas and not a full third coat. For the chair I did with Annie Sloan, where I was using a ‘taupe’ colour, rather than the dark blue above, I required a third coat.

I chose to add hand painted
daisies to my final piece, using 
the same white as for the legs of 
the piece. These were painted 
free hand.  Once they were dry I 
lightly sanded and brushed any 
dust residue free from the piece. 
Again... this required a couple of 
The final step is to seal the 
painted surfaces.  For this 
you need to use a product 
that allows the fabric to 
move and breather - Wax.
Apply the wax firmly in a 
circular motion to get it 
down into the fabric. This
will serve to seal the paint 
and prevent it from 
bleeding out at all.  I know 
people are concerned that 
the colour might come off 
onto someone's clothes but 
if it is sealed... it stays put!

Allow the final piece to cure for a couple of days before using. The final texture will depend on the fabric of the piece itself, but will be reminiscent of leather, with a supple buttery feel.


Upping Your Moulding Game!

Making a Floral Mirror

I had been scouring local Restores and Resellers looking for a small round mirror for quite some time.  Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to finally stumble upon just the one I wanted for a particular project I had in mind.  For this project consider using any mirror or picture frame for a similar look but also think outside of this scope a little – what about updating a tired old plant pot or urn?  What about an old teapot? Perhaps a decorative plate?  Options are endless!

Old mirror or frame
Creative Paper Clay
Floral Moulds from IOD
Wood Glue
Paints (Modern Masters Metallic Bronze, Annie Sloan Old White Chalk Paint)
Brushes (chippy brush, wax brush)
Cotton Cloth
Wax for sealing

NB:  some of the moulds I used are older and not readily available but consider using any moulds that fit a theme… florals, butterflies, seashore, wings…

To start, make sure your mirror is clean and free of dirt and oils.  For this you simply need a little soap and water, even a wet wipe would do.  This was my mirror, washed and ready to start!

I like to apply my moulds when they are still soft and somewhat malleable – important when applying to a curved surface such as this mirror. I will therefore only make a dozen or so pieces at a time, glue them in place and then begin making more. 
Take out a small amount of the paper clay and knead it slightly to soften and smooth it out.  Press firmly into one of the mould designs, ensuring that you fully fill the cavity. Smooth the back off since this is the side you will be adhering to your piece.  (I will often use an old credit card to ensure the back of the mould is level).
To remove your design from the mould flip it over so that you are able to slowly peel the mould away from the clay.  If you find your clay sticking to your moulds at all brush a little cornstarch into the moulds first, which will make removal easy!
Brush on some wood glue (usually what I use) or even some white craft glue, ensuring that you take it right out to the edges of your designs to ensure there is no curling of the clay as it dries.

Lay your moulded pieces around the frame ensuring that you are alternating shapes, and working them fully edge to edge.  As you can see in this picture I leave a number of gaps that I go back and fill later with smaller flowers and leaves, typically laying larger flowers and leaves first, spacing similar flowers around the circumference of the mirror to create interest.

Continue to make and add more moulded pieces until your design is as full as desired. For this piece I knew that I was planning on distressing back to a base colour.  In this case I wanted a subdued metallic look for the base so I used Modern Masters Metallic paint in Bronze. Use a small chippy brush to dab the paint down into all of the crevasses in and between your moulds.  I did one full coat and then, once dry, used a smaller brush to touch up edges and areas I missed on the first pass.

Allow to dry fully.  The Modern Masters Metallics dries to a hard finish, allowing you to distress back to the metallic finish without risk of removing that layer of paint.  If you are using a different brand of paint and do not want to risk distressing back to the paper clay layer then you should consider doing a light single coat of a Polyacryllic to form a protective barrier prior to the next paint step. 
I also chose to highlight some of the raised aspects of some of the florals and leaves with some gold metallic paint I had (Americana Décor Metallics) but it proved unnecessary – it’s too subtle to see in the final product!

Once your metallic layer is dry it is time to apply two coats of the Old White layer.  Because we will be wet-distressing these layers I strongly suggest using a chalk or clay-based paint for this.  The water will reactivate the paint allowing you to remove it, where you choose, with ease. 
Take one of your cotton cloths, dip it in water and rub gently on some of the high points of your flowers and leaves, exposing the metallic paint below.  The white paint will remain in the ‘low’ spots, while you will reveal the metallic in the ‘high’ spots, creating a lovely contrast. 

Remove as much or as little as you want, revealing the details of your moulds.  If you feel that you removed too much of the white paint you can simply repaint that area, allow to dry and distress again… no worries!
Once you have settled on the final look and determined it is distressed ‘enough’, allow it to dry and then apply your wax with a wax brush (I used Annie Sloan clear) to get down into all of the crevasses.  Dry overnight and then buff lightly with a cotton cloth.

(Links have been provided to help you access some of the more specialized products used – using them will not cost you anything more but I might make a few pennies!)

Adding Moulds Guide

Adding embellishments to pieces is a great way to dress up an otherwise plain or somewhat lacklustre piece.  Large flat spaces can be given new interest, providing you with areas that allow for more techniques to be used. 

For this little piece I created interest by layering paint colours and distressing back to reveal the hidden colours beneath but you could choose to use glazing, washes or waxes to create interest and highlighting the crevices.

Moulds (such as IOD, I used Escutcheons 2)
Paper Clay
Wood Glue
Painter’s Tape
Desired Paint
Fine Sandpaper

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is before.jpg
A simple piece

The Paper Clay is extremely malleable but does dry out quickly.  When not in use keep the rest of your clay covered to prevent it from drying out on you. Choose which mould shapes you are interested in adding to your piece, bearing in mind the size or your piece and the area you want to apply the moulds to.  You want things to be in balance. Know that you can use small moulds in a large space when you are adding a number of them – visually this will be the same as if you used a large mould and may prove more interesting, depending upon the finish you choose.

For the above piece I chose to add moulds to the front facing panel of the Demi Lune table – above each of the three legs.  I used a combination of two separate moulded shapes – a circular floral medallion and an Escutcheons 2 to frame the medallion and to make it larger.

To form the moulded shape take your paper clay and press into the desired mould, smoothing out the back to ensure that it is level and flat. I will often make use of an old credit card to scrape across the back of the filled mould to remove any excess clay. 

To unmold your clay turn the mould upside down and ‘peel’ it back and away from the clay.  If you find your clay sticking to the mould at all then lightly brush it with some cornstarch before applying the clay – it will help the clay to release easily.

I will generally apply the moulds to a piece before they have dried.  Although they shrink slightly when drying, I find it easier to shape them on the piece while still malleable. You can bend them around corners if needed and ensure they fit closely upon a surface with no gaps.

Apply wood glue (you could also use white craft glue if desired) to the back of your moulds and place them in the desired position on your piece. You could choose to lay your piece flat so the mould doesn’t slip from its desired location, or you could use your painter’s tape to hold it in the right spot!

Allow the moulds to dry overnight. Remove the tape and paint as you desire!

It’s that easy!    

Ultimately you are limited only by your imagination and, perhaps, the moulds you have available but know that any interesting shapes you have at your disposal can be used as moulds also.

The paint finish below was achieved by first painting in two coats of an olive coloured paint (I used Annie Sloan here) and a custom mixed mid-tone grey colour (a blend of Annie Sloan Chicago Grey, Graphite and a little touch of DIY Bohemian Blue) watered down to create a wash.  Using an extra-fine grade sandpaper, the grey layer was sanded back in places to reveal the olive undertone, which adds a depth to the grey that can’t be achieved with a flat grey paint alone.

Clear wax was applied and then polished to a sheen which creates an almost marble-like finished texture that I love!

Use a light hand when sanding the top layer of grey smooth – because it was applied in a wash it doesn’t take much to reveal some of the olive paint beneath.  Even where the grey paint remains the olive paint will echo through the grey, giving a richer finished colour.

(Links have been provided to help you access some of the more specialized products used – using them will not cost you anything more but I might make a few pennies!)