What? Painted upholstery? And a furniture transfer on upholstery? Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But yes, you can paint upholstery and you can use a furniture transfer on upholstery! And wowza, what a difference it can make to update an old piece of upholstered furniture. In this post, I’ll share with you my chair makeover of a plain white upholstered chair. For this makeover, I painted the upholstery with Dixie Belle Chalk Mineral Paint and accented with a Redesign With Prima transfer.
Painted Upholstery Inspirational Posts & Videos
I had seen quite a few really nice makeovers using chalk style paints on upholstery. Here is a link to a post by Bella Renovare where she uses Dixie Belle paint to makeover a chair with a patterned upholstery. And here is another post by Denise at Salvaged Inspiration where she uses paint to make an upholstered chair look like leather. And lastly, I found a really cool makeover on YouTube by Debi’s Design Diary where she did a painted upholstery makeover of a vintage style couch and then accented with a Redesign With Prima transfer.
The Original Plain White Chair
I had purchased this cute plain white upholstered chair from a lady here in town with the intention of trying my hand at painting upholstery. I love to reupholster chair seats or cushions but I was not interested in reupholstering a whole chair. So I figured I had nothing to lose with trying the chalk mineral paint on this chair. And, this Redesign With Prima Peacock Dreams transfer was in my stash and I was really longing to use it on something. Therefore the idea for the Peacock Dreams chair was born!
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Dixie Belle Best Dang Wax in Clear
Dixie Belle Clearcoat in Gloss
Steps In The Process
- Vacuum the upholstery (in my case to remove any stray pet hairs haha)
- Clean any dirty spots on the upholstery with soapy water and rinse
- If your paint is thick you can thin your chalk paint with water to make it more spreadable
- I opted to melt some clear wax and mix with the paint to keep the fabric soft but this is an optional step. This was an idea I learned from Bella Renovare’s upholstery post.
- Mist your upholstery fabric and using the paint brush work the paint into the fabric
- Brush the paint into and onto the fabric using strokes in different directions, especially if your fabric has a pattern. You are actually staining the fabric with the paint. No need for neat strokes
- Allow it to dry and recoat with another coat of paint if needed for coverage. I used two coats of paint
- Apply the transfer. The transfers stick very easily to fabric so check placement before sticking it down
- Rub over your transfer with your fingers to make sure it is adhered well
- Apply a topcoat. You can use wax, poly topcoat, or spray wax. I used Dixie Belle Clearcoat in Gloss because I was going for a high-gloss glam finish. I then used a little Easy Peasy Spray Wax over the transfer areas to make sure everything was sealed
Did You Know You Could Paint Upholstery and Use a Transfer On Painted Upholstery?
Did you know before reading this post that you can paint upholstery? And use a transfer on upholstery? The idea of painting upholstery fabric is really cool and opens up all kinds of possibilities for makeovers. The cool thing about painted upholstery is the endless possibility of color options. Mainly I’ve seen upholstery painted with chalk mineral style paints, like Dixie Belle and Annie Sloan. So I can’t speak to how other paints types would do. And then adding a Redesign With Prima or other brand of transfer really adds character to your painted upholstery!
Step 1: Clean The Chair & Prep For Painting
For this chair makeover, the upholstery was in good condition. I started by vacuuming the chair to remove fuzz and pet hair. The chair was sitting in my garage for a bit before I started the project and my cat would lay on it when she got into the garage! It seems I battle pet hair on every makeover. Do you have that same issue? But we love our fur babies so thank goodness for vacuums, lint rollers and tack cloths! After I vacuumed I prepared my paint.
Mix The Paint & Get Your Painting Supplies Ready
I had read in Bella Renovare’s post that she mixed her paint with a bit of melted clear wax to help keep the material soft. So, I figured I would give this a try. I wanted a peacock blue color so I mixed Dixie Belle paint colors of Peacock, Cobalt Blue, and Mermaid Tail. I think about 1/4 each of the Mermaid Tail and Cobalt and about 1/2 Peacock was used But really to be honest I was just dumping paint in and mixing until I got a color I wanted! Then I melted about 1/3 cup of Dixie Belle Best Dang Wax in Clear and mixed that in. Once mixed I got ready to paint.
How To Paint Upholstery
So now let’s talk about painting upholstery. The trick I learned is to mist your furniture well before you brush on the paint. And if your paint is thick you may want to thin it just a bit with some water. You don’t want the paint drippy or too thin but you don’t want it thick and gloopy. Use a good misting bottle, like the Dixie Belle misting bottle or this comparable one from Amazon, to mist the upholstery. Then using a decent brush apply the paint using strokes going in different directions to get the paint down into the fabric. The paint actually acts as a stain. You work the paint onto and into the fabric with the brush. There is no set rule on which brush works better for this. I mainly used a Dixie Belle Synthetic Oval Medium brush.
Your fabric may need more than one coat of paint. I actually used two coats of paint. But I was painting over white upholstery so it took a full two coats of paint for full coverage because I wanted deeply pigmented upholstery. I did not want any white peeking through. Let your painted upholstery dry well between coats.
Do You Sand the Painted Upholstery Between Coats?
I’ve seen some painters recommend sanding between coats. Some fabric may need to be lightly sanded between coats of paint to keep the fabric soft. You can use a 220 grit sandpaper and sand by hand or use an electric sander. My upholstery has a nubby pattern and I tried sanding an area and it caused it to be rough. So I do think it depends on the fabric you are working with. I would suggest testing it out in a hidden area before going forward with sanding.
How To Apply A Furniture Transfer To Painted Upholstery
Once you are satisfied with paint coverage and your upholstery is dry, then you can move on to the next step. For me this meant applying the transfer to the painted upholstery. I planned the color of paint for this chair around the Redesign With Prima Peacock Dreams transfer that I had on hand. You can apply transfers as one large sheet or you can cut out the various sections you want and place them around as best fits your furniture item.
Applying The Transfer & Burnishing On The Painted Upholstery
With the shape of this chair I cut out various transfers sections and placed them strategically where they fit best. These transfers stick very well to upholstery. And they released very quickly from their backing sheet so make sure before you place the sticky side down that you have the placement you want. I do think it would be difficult to remove the transfers from the fabric if they were placed wrongly.
Once the transfer is placed sticky side down you begin burnishing it onto the fabric using the burnishing stick provided or a Redesign With Prima transfer tool. I also found for this upholstery that using my finger to gently rub the transfer down worked well. The dips and grooves in the upholstery required a bit more attention than a solid flat piece of furniture in order to make sure the whole transfer piece adhered well. Overall, these peacock transfers were really easy to apply to the chair upholstery! And it looks really neat!
Apply A Protective Coating To Your Painted Upholstery & Transfer
So, typically the next step in transfer application is applying a topcoat. For upholstery you would generally apply a wax. This could either be a spray wax, like Dixie Belle Easy Peasy Spray Wax or a solid wax paste applied with a wax brush or lint-free cloth. For upholstery a wax brush would likely work best. However, in the YouTube video by Debi’s Design Diary she explained how she top-coated the transfers on her painted upholstery couch with a glossy poly style topcoat. She did this because she wanted the shine along with the protection that the topcoat provided.
Choosing A Topcoat For Your Painted Upholstery
I was a bit afraid that a poly topcoat would make the material stiff, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t in this case. It might however be different for different fabric types. Certainly the fabric is a bit stiffer than it would have been if it wasn’t painted and topcoat applied, but the fabric is not crunchy at all.
After watching her video, I opted to go with a Dixie Belle Clearcoat in Gloss. I really wanted a glam look on this chair. This bright color and bright peacock print transfer is very out of my comfort zone, so I figured why not go big with the shine too! I therefore proceeded to apply the glossy topcoat using the Dixie Belle Synthetic Brush in Oval Medium. It went on nicely and I used water misting bottle just like with the paint to help the topcoat spread evenly.
Topcoats do go on hazy but remember that they dry clear. It is important to apply thin coats of topcoat and spread the coats out evenly to prevent drips and runs. Overall, it dried pretty quickly, although not as quick on the upholstery as it is on wood furniture. It really did add shine and the painted chair looks as glossy as I expected. So certainly this glossy topcoat did enhance the bright color and whimsical peacock pattern on the chair. After two coats of the gloss topcoat were applied and fully dry, I sprayed on a little Easy Peasy Spray Wax and rubbed it in to help promote softness.
Applying Gemstone Mousse to the Chair Legs
So now the only thing left to paint were the chair legs. They were still the white color of the original upholstery. I did tape them off when painting the chair to protect from spills. For these legs I opted to again go with the glam whimsical look. I had some Dixie Belle Gemstone Mousse in Golden Gem that I wanted to try out. This is a newer Dixie Belle product that is water-based and very pigmented! But really so beautiful. First you stir the gemstone mousse well to make it creamy and give it the mousse-like texture. Once stirred, you can apply. I use small disposable single use art brushes to apply.
The legs required two coats of Gemstone Mousse. It would have helped if I had primed the legs with maybe a metallic chalk paint or another base color close to the gold of the Mousse. The Gemstone Mousse, even applied thinly did take a while to dry thoroughly. I let each coat dry for a full day. If you try to apply another coat of Gemstone Mousse over the first coat that is not fully cured yet, then you will pull up the first coat with the brush. Once fully dry, you do not need to topcoat.
Summary & Tips For Painting Upholstery & Applying a Transfer
So, finally that is the full story on my painted bright blue “Peacock Dreams” chair! I hope you have found something helpful in this info. And in summary, here is a quick list of some things I learned painting this upholstered chair:
- You can paint upholstery with chalk style or chalk mineral paint
- Use a spray misting bottle and wet both your brush and your upholstery as you paint to help the paint spread.
- Make sure the paint is not too thick. The paint will act more like a stain, staining the fabric rather than “painting” it.
- Not all upholstery materials require sanding. Be careful to test a small area to see if sanding it roughs up your fabric too much.
- You can use wax or a poly topcoat on your upholstery. For a glossy shiny finish, go with a glossy topcoat. But if you want a more matte finish, use wax.
- Spray Wax, like Dixie Belle Easy Peasy Spray Wax, is really really easy to use.
- You can apply transfers to fabric! And they stick really well, so be careful to make sure you have them where you want them before you stick them down. They adhere super well to upholstery fabric.
- Don’t be afraid to paint upholstery! It’s messy but it’s really fun and the options are endless for updating old outdated upholstery styles with paint!
- If you want to glam up your furniture consider using Dixie Belle Gemstone Mousse on the legs or woodwork as accent. But I suggest if painting over white or light color wood, to do a base coat of darker paint first to reduce the amount of Mousse needed for coverage.
For More Info Check Out These Links
If you’d like to see more furniture makeovers using transfers, check out these posts below:
- How To Use Redesign With Prima Transfers
- Vintage Table Makeover With Chalk Mineral Paint Blending Technique and Redesign With Prima Transfer
- Vintage Desk Makeover Using Chalk Mineral Paint, Gel Stain, and Redesign With Prima Transfer
Transfers are such a fun easy way to add dimension and character to your furniture and home décor makeovers, so give them a try. My favorite resources for transfers are Amazon and Etsy. I love transfers from both Redesign With Prima and the new Dixie Belle line of transfers called Belles and Whistles. I’d love to hear more about your transfer makeovers!