How to Paint Upholstery & Fabric

How to Paint Upholstery & Fabric

Painting tired upholstery can be a budget-friendly, easy way to refresh tired fabric without reupholstering. You can easily update fabrics and upholstered items with Cornish Milk Mineral Paint.

In order to achieve beautiful results, you'll want to consider a few things before you begin your project. Check out our best upholstery painting tips below.


The type of fabric you want to paint should be considered before you begin your project. Upholstered items made from leather or natural fabrics, such as linen or cotton, are the best candidates for painting, as these materials tend to accept paint more evenly and produce a more natural-looking finish.

The paint can also be applied to synthetic materials, such as vinyl, so if you're unsure what type of fabric you're using, or your furniture is upholstered in a synthetic material, we suggest testing a small area first.

Before painting, consider the furniture style as well as the type of fabric. When the fabric is pulled taut, it tends to hold up better than when the fabric has more give. A cushy leather sofa, for instance, won't last as long as a dining chair with a firm seat. When paint is applied to leather or other materials, any existing cracks or creases will still be visible.

Tape off the frame of your furniture with painters tape when you're ready to paint. If any drips occur, keep a wet cloth on hand to wipe them up quickly.

If you are working with soft, porous fabrics, such as linen or cotton, we recommend mixing about 40% water and 60% Cornish Milk Mineral Paint in a separate mixing container. The paint needs to be applied in thin layers, almost like a dye, to allow it to soak into the fabric. Before applying the next coat, sand the previous coat gently after it has dried completely (overnight if possible).

You may feel tempted to rush through your project, but taking your time will prevent the paint from forming a crust, which can feel stiff and crack under weight.

You can apply less water to leather to achieve a better coverage, but you must still sand between each coat to keep the paint flexible.

We recommend using a small oval paint brush for quick and easy application since the compressed oval shape holds more paint, so you can work faster while getting better coverage. Using your brush, work the paint in all directions, ensuring it seeps into the fabric's texture. If you have any tight folds, welts, or hard to reach areas, you may find that holding your brush vertically and stippling helps.

After your paint dries, you may notice that it becomes translucent or uneven. It's natural for the finish to be uneven after a few coats, and it will even out with more coats. You may need more coats if you are painting a lighter colour than your existing fabric.

You can also use stencils, design transfer, and even free-hand designs when painting upholstery. To prevent bleed-out, use Cornish Milk Mineral Paint at full strength (don't add water) and off-load some paint from your brush when stencilling.

You do not need a topcoat, but you can use finishing wax to make your painted upholstery look like leather.

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