How to Use Upholstery Paint without Fabric Medium | i should be mopping the floor
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How to Use Upholstery Paint without Fabric Medium

This post about Upholstery Paint contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Affiliate, I make a small portion when these links are used, at no additional cost to you.

If you've never used upholstery paint, or you've used it with a fabric medium, this new tutorial I'm sharing today is totally up your alley. I scored a couple of thrift store chairs earlier this year and I've finally had the time to try a new and unique style of upholstery paint on them. The results have been good, but I've got lots of "learning tidbits" to share, as well. Plus, today is also Thrifty Style Team day, so you're getting LOADS of great thrifty ideas from all of my friends, too. 

How to Use Upholstery Paint without Fabric Medium
Eight years ago, I posted another tutorial on Painting Upholstered Furniture. I had worked with my bestie to give her nursery chair a makeover. We had great results, but man, it was a lot of work, a lot of steps and a lot of mixing. When I stumbled onto these thrift store chairs recently, I started researching different ways to paint them (without all of the extra steps and ingredients that my previous method required). I found a paint online that worked well for this. There are definitely some pros and cons to both methods, but overall, this is the one I would use again. See how I used this upholstery paint below.

Upholstery Paint without Fabric Medium

The biggest difference in today's method versus my previous fabric painting tutorial is the lack of a fabric medium. A standard way of applying paint to fabric is using a fabric or textile medium to change the consistency of acrylic paint to one that can be used on fabric without the stiffness factor. The issue with that method is that it is a *somewhat* elaborate series of steps...involving mixing the paint and medium, along with spraying the fabric thoroughly with water throughout the entire process. And, honestly, it's kind of a mess. 

Tulip Fabric Paint
I found this particular brand of paint (this is not a sponsored post, I just found this paint through trial and error...and umpteen Amazon orders) that did not require a fabric medium and had a velveteen finish (which honestly, that may be a bit subjective on exactly how velvety the results really are, but I'll touch more on that). But, this paint enabled me to do this project in one step. Please note that this paint has multiple finish options, be sure to look for the Velveteen version for this particular tutorial. 

Blue Club Chair

The paint I used today is Tulip Soft Fabric Paint in Velveteen Finish (I also tried their matte finish, but didn't care for the results on these particular chairs...I do plan to use it on another project). To be totally up front, this paint is only available in four ounce bottles, so I'm *pretty* sure it's only meant for smaller projects like t-shirts and such (I'm kind of a rebel). AND, the cost of each bottle doubled on me in the middle of this project when I realized I'd need a lot more of the paint (I think this was because of what's happening in the world right now, but I'm not 100% on that). Originally, I bought it for $4.99 a bottle, but it's now sitting at $11.99 a bottle. Neither price is exactly ideal for the amount of paint I needed in the end, but I've had to just go with it (especially since the price increase was after I was at the "no turning back" part of the project).

A Little Project Advice 

  • My first piece of advice is to have lot of patience with this process. This one chair took me a couple of days and it was pretty monotonous, overall, but worth it in the end (at least, in my opinion).
  • My second piece of advice is to really think about your cost on this and if it's really worth it to you (and your budget). I ended up using six bottles of paint on just one chair. Originally, the paint was $4.99 a bottle. I initially bought just five bottles (honestly, I thought that would cover both chairs...ha!). So, the rest of the seven bottles I bought were $11.99 each since the price of the paint went up on me mid-project. So, I spent well over $100 on paint (which wasn't the way I saw this going). But, honestly, this was cheaper than reupholstery and I was able to save the neat texture of the chair. So, in my case it was worth it. Just a side note: Amazon capped the amount of paint I could purchase at a time (crafter problems). I had my neighbor ordering for me, too, just to get all of the paint I needed. 
  • Another thing to consider is the original fabric of your piece of furniture and how porous it is. My fabric was actually very porous which probably accounts for the massive amount of paint I needed. You could order one bottle and test an inconspicuous spot to see how that goes. 

Old Chair Makeover
I started with a cream colored sateen-like club chair (pictured above left) that I scored at a thrift store. Actually, I scored a pair of them and will be painting the second one soon (when I can talk myself into it). The chair's shape was wonderful, but the finish was a bit discolored here and there. But it had a unique texture that proved helpful with the end result...the chair kind of looks like textured velvet. But again, it was also a very porous texture...soaking up loads of paint.

How to Paint Upholstery


  • Tulip Soft Fabric Paint in Velveteen Finish (read my above advice on the amount of paint to purchase), also make sure to look for the Velveteen finish also comes in matte, glitter, pearl and glow versions
  • 2" foam paint brushes (I found it helpful to have a BIG pack of these because they ripped quite a lot in the process)
  • cotton swabs (this is just for chairs with pleating, you'll only need a couple of them)
  • drop cloth
  • paper plate or bowl for paint
  • garment steamer (you can see my notes on this in the below directions, I definitely recommend this over the steam setting on an iron)


  • Start by thoroughly cleaning your fabric. I used the attachment on my carpet's steam cleaner and then let the chair dry thoroughly before proceeding.
  • The directions on the bottle say to use a piece of cardboard under your fabric. This wasn't really ideal for a large piece of furniture, so I skipped that. It didn't seem to affect my outcome.

Using Upholstery Paint
  • Work section by section on your piece and remove all cushions to paint on their own.
    • You'll need to paint one side, allow it to completely dry (preferably overnight), flip the cushion, and paint the other side.
  • I was able to take short strokes all over the fabric. The technique I liked best was laying my foam brush on its flat side and brushing on more paint at a time (pictured above).
  • For detailed places like piping, use the triangular point on the brush to really get into the grooves.

Painting Upholstered Furniture
  • If your piece of furniture has pleats, a cotton swab loaded with a bit of paint is the perfect tool for these areas (as pictured above).
  • My chair also had skirting around the bottom. I just held it up while I painted it. There wasn't a big rhyme or reason to it.

Using Upholstery Paint without a Fabric Medium
  • The directions on the bottle of the paint mention the possibility of a second coat. In order to save as much paint as possible, I opted to just spot paint any places that needed it.
  • As you can see pictured above (you'll have to look closely), after the paint soaked in a bit, I would often see these tiny little spots of unpainted fabric poking through. I just touched them up as best I could. I really attribute this to the heavy texture of my particular fabric. This may not even be an issue for you.
  • I found it helpful to turn on the flashlight on my phone to make it easy to see any bare spots like these.
Steaming a Chair
  • Allow your chair to completely dry before the last step.
  • While the bottles of paint say to use an iron on its steam setting, I opted for my garment steamer. When I initially used an iron on its steam setting, I used it against the fabric in the distance mentioned on the bottle, but my iron's holes were visible on the fabric (even after the steam evaporated). This was frustrating because I had to repaint that spot and start over with the process in that area.
  • The garment steamer made this so much easier and allowed me to finish quickly. It also didn't leave any spots, like the iron did.
  • Just go over the entire piece of furniture with the steamer, about two inches from the surface.
  • Ideally, this is supposed to create a velvety texture. While, yes, it definitely softens the painted fabric, I'm not sure that velvety is the word I would use to describe it. I actually have a blue velvet sectional sofa, and this doesn't feel anything like it. But, it was still a step that I wouldn't skip. It does, indeed, soften the feel of the paint.

Painting Upholstered Pieces

Questions About Painted Fabric

After my initial painted fabric post, I had a lot of reader questions that were questions I, myself, had before the process, too. I'll try to think ahead here and address some of these for this particular process below. Feel free to leave me a comment with any additional questions, as well. 
  • What does the painted fabric feel like? Is it uncomfortable? 
    • It feels similar to outdoor fabric...stiffer than the original fabric that was on the chairs. The steaming/velvet aspect does help with this a bit, especially compared to my last experience with painted fabric. But, it is definitely stiffer and a bit scratchier. If I were to curl up here for a movie, I may add a throw blanket to make it less stiff. Not uncomfortable...but not totally cozy, either. But, if you had a guest sit on a painted piece, they may not really notice...they may just think it's a really stiff fabric.
  • Does the paint come off on your clothing when you sit on the chair? 
    • No. I have sat on this chair in my white jeans with no issue. Once it's dried and steamed, it's almost like it's sealed. This is just my experience. But, let it dry for a day or two before trying this out on your best dress (wink).
  • What other pieces would you use this paint on? 
  • Can you paint darker fabric a lighter color? 
    • I honestly don't have a great answer with this particular brand of paint. I would initially say yes, but with the caveat that you may need more than one coat for complete coverage. In my previous Painting Upholstered Furniture tutorial, we did successfully go from dark to light, but it was an entirely different process.
  • Will the piece retain a strong paint odor? 
    • Mine did not. But, this paint did not have an overwhelming odor at all, even in the painting process.

Bright Blue Chair
I feel like the above image depicts the stiffer texture well. I still really like the outcome and would definitely do it again.

Vintage Yellow Couch

Where This Project Originally Started

My dad's tv room, in our home, is where my new chairs will be going. After dad passed away, my brothers wanted several of the furniture pieces in that room, which left the space kind of bare (this wasn't a bad thing...these weren't necessarily pieces I wanted and my brothers were all very kind in the process). The room sat empty for a bit and then one afternoon, we were over in another town settling some business for my dad's estate. We happened upon a little church thrift store having a big sale. I found the above pictured 1960s gold velour couch in absolute pristine condition for $40. It's an eight-foot couch, y'all. They don't make 'em like that anymore (and my boys are TALL, so that was a selling point). I bought the couch without thinking about the fact that it probably wouldn't fit in my Ford Explorer (definitely not for my lack of trying, though). I ended up having to rent a U-Haul on the spot to get the thing home (see how amused my son is!). Ironically, I spent a significant amount more on the U-Haul than the actual couch (how do I get myself into these situations?). I matched the couch with the gold, pink, and blue rug you've seen in many of the photos in this post. So I went with blue on the chairs to tie the entire room together. The chairs are a great height for the sofa, too. And the room is slowly coming around, again. My dad would've totally rolled his eyes at my loud and crazy color scheme, but he would've appreciated it for my personality, too. I can't wait to share it with you when it all comes together. 

UPDATE! We finished this entire room. See how it all looks together here. 

Vintage Chair Makeover
Incidentally, that rug I mentioned above and as pictured in the above photo was from Amazon. You can find it here in two different dimensions. For an inexpensive rug, we're really enjoying it and it works well.

Thrifty Style Team
Don't's Thrifty Style Team day. My friends below have some wonderfully-budget-friendly ideas to share, too.


  1. I have always wanted to try paint on an upholstered piece. Love the brilliant blue that you used to coordinate with your gorgeous rug.

    1. Thank you so much, Paula! I appreciate that. xoxo

  2. Love that blue and this process. I so love seeing older things getting new life! And Oh my goodness, that couch!!!! I CANNOT wait to see the entire room once you are done! That will be a HAPPY room for sure! <3

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn. Yes, that couch is currently my favorite thing...I am calling it my best thrift store score ever! ;) I really appreciate your kind words. xoxo

  3. LOVE this, it doesn't hurt to be one of my favorite colors!

    1. Awww...thank you so much! Blue is a fun one. xoxo

  4. Wow, what a fun color and great update Kristi!

  5. Ok, wow! I love the before and after photos! I just kept looking at them. This has inspired me...I've always wondered about painting fabric and what the best method is. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Kelly! Let me know if you decide to give it a go! xoxo

  6. I wonder if you could buy the 3-pack of Tulip slick white for $10.40 & tint it to your desired shade? It would save a lot of money!!

    1. It only worry is the consistency of mixing the shade for enough for a large piece?

  7. Do you know how fabric paint would work on a vinyl type material? I should show you a chair that was in my family home in the 60's - 70's. It's awesome but needs a facelift! (color)

    1. Hi Emily-- I worry that vinyl wouldn't be able to absorb the may be too "slick"? That's my only concern there.

  8. Hello! I've been wanting to try painting fabric, so I appreciate this tutorial.

    After having done both methods: with and without fabric medium--which is your favorite method? My impression is that this one is; however, I want to make sure before I purchase materials.

    Thank you!


    1. Hi Stephanie-- Yes, I would definitely say this one is my a lot. I actually just bought another round of these paints to do an ottoman I picked up. With the fabric medium method, you have to mix all of your paint at once so your color is the same and consistent. That can be tricky with larger pieces...trying to gauge the amount you would need. The outcome is the same, but I like this process quite a lot more. Hope this helps. xoxo