DIY: Chalk Painting Upholstery

Published on 1 April 2024 at 15:47

By:  Kelly Lowthian

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Are you tired of searching endlessly for upholstered furniture in the perfect color? Fear not! With a little creativity and the magic of chalk paint, you can give any piece of furniture a stunning makeover that reflects your unique style. In this guide, we'll explore why chalk paint is the ideal choice for this project and provide you with step-by-step instructions to achieve professional-looking results.  In this post I am using my bar stools as an example, however, you could apply these steps and techniques to any upholstered piece.


Why Chalk Paint for Upholstery?

Chalk paint has gained popularity in recent years for its versatility and ease of use in furniture makeovers. When it comes to upholstered surfaces like bar stools, chalk paint offers several distinct advantages:

  1. Color Customization: One of the main reasons for choosing chalk paint for upholstery is its ability to be tinted to any desired color. This flexibility allows you to match your bar stools to any color scheme or design aesthetic.
  2. Adhesion: Chalk paint adheres exceptionally well to fabric, providing a durable finish that won't chip or peel with regular use.
  3. Texture: Chalk paint creates a soft, matte finish that is perfect for upholstered surfaces. It won't leave the fabric feeling stiff or crunchy like some other types of paint might.
  4. Ease of Application: Unlike traditional fabric paints that require heat setting or multiple layers, chalk paint can be applied directly to upholstery with minimal prep work, making it a beginner-friendly option.

Color Choice:

Chalk paint can be purchased at any paint store and tinted to the exact color you need.  This flexibility means you're not limited to pre-mixed colors and can achieve a custom look tailored to your preferences.

My barstools were originally light beige and I wanted them to be a specific shade of blue.  I purchased 1 quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Original color and took it to Sherwin Williams and had them tint it “Indigo Batik”.  I purposely chose a paint color that was darker than what I actually wanted because I knew that once it was thinned out, it would appear much lighter on the upholstery. 

Before committing to a color, it's a good idea to test a small area with the chalk paint to see how it looks on the item you're painting. Many paint stores offer sample pots or swatches that allow you to try out different colors before making your final decision.

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Upholstery

Now that we've gone over the benefits of using chalk paint for your upholstery makeover, let's dive into the process.

STEP 1 - Gather Materials:

- Chalk paint in your desired color(s)

 - Container to mix paint and water

 - Measuring Cup

 - Spray Bottle with water

- Fabric sealant (optional)

- Drop cloth or newspaper to protect your work surface

 - Wet rags and bucket of water

 - Q-tips

 - Fine sandpaper (optional)

 - Old toothbrush

- Paintbrushes - chalk paint projects come out best if you use brushes specifically made for this type of paint.  I have included a link to a set from Vintage Tonality which also includes guides on how to properly use the brushes and clean them.  It even comes with their signature brush soap!

STEP 2 - Prepare the Work Area and Bar Stools:

Start by thoroughly cleaning the surface of your bar stools to remove any dirt, grease, or stains. This will ensure proper adhesion of the paint.  Then, use painter’s tape to cover any edges that butt up to the upholstery.

If the upholstery has a smooth or shiny finish, you may want to lightly sand the surface to roughen it up and improve paint adhesion. Be sure to wipe away any dust with a clean, damp cloth afterward.

Place the barstools on a drop cloth, so that paint does not get on the floor.  The paint used for this project is quite thin and droplets tend to fly everywhere, especially if you are a messy painter like me!  

STEP 3 – Prepare the chalk paint:

Chalk paint is very thick so in order to get it ready for use on upholstery, you’ll want to mix it in a separate container.  I used this ratio:  1 part paint with 1 part water. 

STEP 4 - Apply Chalk Paint:

Prior to applying the chalk paint, spray the upholstery with water.

Test the paint on a small, inconspicuous area of the upholstery first to ensure compatibility and desired results.

Using a paintbrush, apply the paint to the upholstery in thin, even coats. Work in small sections, starting from one corner and working your way across.  Use light, even pressure when applying the paint to avoid saturating the fabric or causing streaks.

The barstools I painted had a nail-head border and I knew that I would not be able to cover every single nail head, so the alternative was to wipe the paint off each of them using the wet rags, q-tips, and toothbrush.  I was happily surprised that the paint wipes away easily, especially if you catch it while it’s wet.  Even if it dries a bit, a wet rag is all that’s needed to remove any errant paint.

Because the paint has been thinned out, it may take several coats to achieve the color you’re looking for.  Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying additional coats as needed. Chalk paint typically dries fairly quickly, but be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommended drying times.

If you're using multiple colors or creating a design, allow each color to dry before adding additional layers or details.

STEP 5 - Let Dry and Seal:

Once you're satisfied with the coverage and color of your painted upholstery, allow the final coat to dry completely.

Depending on the manufacturer's recommendations and your desired level of durability, you may choose to seal the paint with a fabric sealant.  Chalk paint is typically sealed using a furniture wax.  I chose not to do a sealer or wax on these bar stools and have had no issues with them.  I completed this project 3 years ago and the upholstery still looks as fresh as it did the day I finished the project.


With a little imagination and the right materials, transforming your bar stools with a chalk paint upholstery makeover is a fun and rewarding DIY project. Not only does it allow you to achieve the exact color you want, but it also breathes new life into old furniture and adds a touch of personality to your space.  My biggest concern about this project was that the paint would rub off on skin or clothing or that the upholstery would be stiff and crunchy.  I was happily surprised, that neither of these two things happened!   Follow the steps outlined in this guide, experiment with different colors and techniques, and get ready to enjoy your stylish, custom bar stools for years to come. Happy painting!

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