How to Paint Upholstery Fabric–Black Velvet Chair

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Painted fabric: black velvet thrift store chair
If you’re a regular here, then you’ve seen that I’m working on updating our living room, with a palette of black, white, gold, coral pink, and a little teal green/blue.  Doesn’t that sound like a wild color combination?!  I promise, it’s going to work!  Here’s a sneak peek:

Glam living room--black, white, gold, and pink
You can see pictures on the progress here and here.  I’ve finished trimming the faux built-ins (the befores are here) and will post on that later this week.  We do this in every single house we live in, and it’s a great DIY trick to save money!  (Here’s our master bedroom in our Nashville house, complete with built-ins.)

Part of the process of making our living room prettier and more functional is to add extra seating.  As you all know, we’re a military family, and we entertain A LOT.  Whether it’s 50 ladies coming for a luncheon reception, or neighbors coming over for drinks, we do it all–and it’s lots of fun.  But I’m always short on seating, and for some reason no one wants to sit on the floor with the dogs!

Enter my “new” thrift store chair:

Gold velvet thrift store chair

I scored this chair back in April at the Salvation Army thrift store, and “she’s” been sitting in my garage patiently ever since.  I LOVE the shape, and it’s really a very comfortable chair.  I did my usual weird thing and sniffed the chair in the store (you can’t be too careful with used furniture, right?!), but all smelled fine and so I wrestled her into the back of my car.

My husband just shakes his head and parks in the driveway; God bless him!

You’ll remember that I tried reupholstering for the first time with my daughter’s loveseat {here}:

loveseat with table

And while I love how that project turned out, I wanted a quick fix.  You’ve probably seen how I painted this thrift store chair, and I decided to use the same technique on my gold chair.


Besides, I was curious as to whether velvet would be harder or easier to paint.

For the step-by-step details, I’d like to refer you to the post on how I painted the gray chair, and the post I wrote to answer the hundreds of questions that I got about the project.

I started by taping off the legs and giving them a quick once-over with sand paper, and then a shot of metallic gold spray paint.  I then mixed a 1:1:1 mixture of black acrylic craft paint, fabric medium, and water, and started painting:


I used the same technique:  first, spritz the fabric with water, then, apply the paint/fabric medium/water mixture using a regular 2″ paint brush.  I found that the velvet took the paint really well on the first coat, and that the black almost covered the gold completely with the first coat.  So, here’s the first thing to take away from this project:  the darker the paint color you’re using, the fewer coats you’ll need.  Common sense, I know, but just realize that if you’re using white or baby pink to cover something like this gold, it’s going to take you five (or six, or seven…) coats of paint.

Because someone always asks, this is the fabric medium that I use, and you should estimate about 1 bottle per coat for a chair this size:

Here it is after the first coat:


OK, so at this point I LOVED how it looked, but I HATED how it felt!  My gray chair feels like a naugahyde or leather restaurant booth–you get the idea, right?  Velvet that has been painted feels like you’re sitting on velcro or sandpaper!  Speaking of sandpaper, I used it to try to sand the rougher areas.  I also tried a wire brush.  No dice.  My only suggestion for you is to up the amount of fabric medium to 2 parts, keeping 1 part paint and 1 part water.  That’s what I’ll do next time.

I think it’s so stiff because it’s a nice, thick velvet pile, and my other chair was a very smooth fabric.  That makes sense if you think about it.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t go back and soften it up, but since I wasn’t having much success, I went ahead with the second coat (at 2:1:1 fabric medium/paint/water, although it was a bit late for that by now!).  I covered the whole thing in two coats and let it dry.

I will say that she looks beautiful:

Black velvet painted chair

And she’s got great legs:

Chair legs painted gold

This is the gold paint I used, by the way (along with the rest of the supplies for this project):

Here’s the funny thing, though.  Even though she’s still a bit bristly, I sit in this chair every. single. night. to watch TV and read.  I love it!  I just don’t sit on it wearing shorts, or a short skirt!

{UPDATE:  three years later, I had the chair recovered in blue velvet.  See the new “after” here}

Oh, and be sure to follow us on social media (the black buttons underneath my picture) or via email updates (the envelope button under my picture) if you’re interested in seeing the rest of the living room as work progresses.

(Disclosure:  Amazon affiliate links used in this post)


UPDATE:  As promised, here are the other posts on this room update:

Living Room:  The Room Reveal

Built-ins, part 1

Garden Stool

Couch and Pillows

Gold Vase

Tutorial on Built-ins (part 2)

Thanks for stopping by-

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  1. LOVE IT ALL!!

  2. have you tried a spritz of fabric softener mixed with water to soften it up a bit? just a thought

  3. Love it!! I’m a lover of black/white/gold. The grey chair was awesome and this one is as well.


  4. I’m using a 2:1:1 ratio, fabric medium:water:paint, but I’m finding it dilutes the colors intensity. Instead of black I have a slate gray. I happen to actually like the gray but am wondering if anyone has advice on how to remedy the issue. Thanks!

  5. Thanks south for the Info in your blog. I picked up 2 chairs at an estate sale with intensions of recovering. After pricing there was no way I could bring myself to pay that! My sister-in-law sent me the link to your blog and the next day, I got to painting! So excited with the results!!!

  6. Have you successfully tried the 2:1:1 fabric medium:water:paint mixture on anymore painted fabric projects? Just wondering if I should try this on our RV cushions. They are a velour type fabric, and I don’t want them to be scratchy. Love the post. Thanks!

  7. This was so helpful! I just got a chair similar to this at a thrift store for $6. Can’t wait to try this.

  8. Wonderful project, Diane. I have two simple, upholstered side chairs that I’ve been wanting to jazz up. Your instructions are easy to follow. I will be trying this soon.

  9. Love it Christy!!! Looks fantastic!

  10. what about some rit dye ?? will that work for a velvet chair

  11. I am going to try this technique on an old velvet chair I have. I have a question though.
    What would happen if you added a liquid fabric softener to the paint mixture? Do you think it would help make the fabric softer?

    • Sheryl, I honestly don’t know. Is there an area on the underside where you could test it out? Another option I’ve read about, but haven’t used myself, is to use chalk paint followed by a coat of clear wax. I think if you did a quick search on Pinterest you might get some great information, though. Sorry I can’t help more–good luck with your project! Christy

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