Epic Room Makeover Tufted Headboard Tutorial: How To Paint Fabric

What do you do when you find an incredible tufted headboard on Craigslist that is bright bad velvet valentine chocolate box red and you want it to be white?  Well, you obviously can reupholster it (if you are up for that task) or you can paint the fabric!

How To Paint Fabric Tutorial

The problem with painting fabric is that well, you are painting on fabric.  The whole point of having fabric on something is to make it nice and soft, otherwise we would upholster everything with blue tarps.  Did you know that you can paint fabric so that it is still soft-ish?  Its true!  My girls Jilly and Mia are pros at this one.

This is what Kelsey’s headboard looked like on the Craigslist ad:

kelsey headboard before

We had no idea that in real life it looked like this:


(no that picture was not color boosted.)

We scored this baby for $120 from a nice guy named Ingo.  He even helped us load it into our car (and  somewhat willingly posed for pictures)

Tufted Headboard Ingo Collage

So we found our headboard.  Now it was time to start on the makeover.

You will need:

Latex paint in the color of your choice

Textile Medium (can be purchased at any craft store)

Spray Bottle with Water

High Quality Brushes


Start by getting your piece ready to paint.  We cut the legs off and vacuumed it to remove as much dust and dirt as possible.

Then lay it out flat.

Ok ready for this?  Its time to mix your paint.  This is where people get nervous.

This is the fabric medium that we used:


For your first layer you want to use 1 part fabric medium to 1 part latex paint. Mix it really well and then add .5 parts water. (For example you would mix 1 cup of paint, 1 cup of Fabric Medium and 1/2 cup of water.)

How To Paint Upholstery

You want your paint mixture to be fairly thin (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon) (also did you notice I used foodie lingo? I don’t cook so this is HUGE.)

Use your spray bottle to dampen the fabric.  For the first layer you want it fairly wet (not wet enough to  squish water when you push on it, but wet enough that if you touch it it will leave water on your hand.)

Then start painting.  Make sure your brush strokes go with the grain of the fabric (or in the case of our velvet we made sure that it was laying the same way.)

After your first coat is completely dry lightly sand it with 220 grit sand paper.  This is VERY important if you are using fabric that has a longer nap like Velvet.

Once your first coat is dry light mist your piece again with your spray bottle (I found it works best if you do it in sections) and paint on your paint mixture (still foodie thin)

Once your second layer is dry lightly sand it.  Also you will most likely be needing more paint.  Mix 1 part paint, 1 part textile medium,  1/4 part water for the remaining layers.

Spritz your piece again so that its slightly damp and go to town.

This is what our headboard looked like after 3 coats…white over flaming red is a long process choice…



And 5 coats…


And 6 coats…


And 8 coats…

How to paint fabric or upholstery

Yes, it took 8 coats of spritzing, painting, drying and sanding to get this puppy painted.  It is no where near as stiff as it would be had we just painted it without the whole process.  It feels like a heavy duty outdoor canvas fabric and is great for a headboard.

Industrial Global Modern Master Bedroom Makeover

Make sure you check out Jilly and Mia’s post about painted fabric  here and here (it wasn’t as high contrast and the fabric was much thinner.  They turned out great!)

Have you ever painted fabric?  What is your favorite tip?

Vintage Revivals-Epic-Room-Makeover-Horizontal

Love Your Guts, Mandi


  • Kenz @ Interiors By Kenz 05.12.2012 at 17:38

    i LOVE this tutorial! One time I bought fabric spray paint… and it was an EPIC FAIL! I was spray painting wing back chairs.. and the pattern completely showed through. And that fabric spray paint was expensive. It would have been way cheaper to do it this way. If you look at this post and scroll to the bottom, there’s a picture of the chairs.

    • Jenni 05.12.2012 at 17:59

      Oh girl…I tried to paint an entire sectional couch with fabric spray paint!! Big fail…the pattern totally showed through and it barely covered, needless to say I never finished it…lol!!

  • Jenni 05.12.2012 at 17:39

    Haha!! Have I ever painted fabric?? Remember when I entered your room makeover? 😉 Yeah I have no good tips…but could try this out now!!

  • Vivian 05.12.2012 at 17:42

    I have a beautiful formal sitting chair that I picked up at the DI for $20. Only problem: it’s a mauve-y pink. It’s too intricate for me to attempt recovering it. I think painting is in order!

    • Vivian 05.12.2012 at 17:44

      ps- it’s also a velvet texture. Does that mean it’s going to end up like outdoor canvas? Would it be good to sit on?

  • Dear Emmeline 05.12.2012 at 18:32


  • Reenie 05.12.2012 at 18:40

    Wow….who knew. But, I totally love the red!! :)

  • 05.12.2012 at 21:12

    LOVE the finished result – a lot of hard work but a beautiful result. Great idea!

  • Mindy 05.12.2012 at 21:16

    hows about that now you taught me how to do this, you find me the fabric headboard of my dreams? you are amazing! i said so when i pinned this deal here on pinterest, but there was more emphasis on the amazing, whatwithit being in all caps, cause i meant it.

  • Angela Giaco 05.12.2012 at 21:34

    Wow, this is a great project! I will definitely have to try it with an old headboard we have in storage!

  • Cathy 06.12.2012 at 00:59

    Thank you, thank you, thank you…..this is the best tutorial that I have read. Now I guess there is not any excuse for not painting my ugly chairs.

  • Vanessa 06.12.2012 at 01:35

    Hi, Mandi

    It looks great, but will the paint over time wear off? Just wondering.


  • Vintage Resurrections 06.12.2012 at 16:03

    Boy! This came just in time! Getting ready to paint some grey velvet and wasn’t sure how, and couldn’t get a “clear” tutorial on the net. Thanks for the tip about the textile medium too! That makes smart sense using that.

  • cred 06.12.2012 at 19:06

    My advice for painting fabric- don’t! I tried it with a large sofa chair and while it looked much better, it was no longer comfortable. Fabric medium helps it from being hard but it still ends up crispy. A bit like outdoor canvas but even crunchier. I didn’t like it and think painting fabric isn’t for anything you plan on touching. Sometimes things look good in photos on the web but in real life they look like you cheaped out.
    It cheaper but time-consuming and likely will not turn out as you hope. I suggest a piece is either worth reupholstering, or slipcovering, or it’s not.

  • Anonymous 06.12.2012 at 21:47

    Just wanted to let you know that I loved how you had photos of the different coats. I feel much more confident to try a new technique when there is a detailed tutorial. Thanks!

  • Dacia @ Lemon Drop Life 07.12.2012 at 19:50

    Thanks for this tutorial, Mandi! I never would’ve thought you could get fabric THAT red to look so nice and white!!

  • Anonymous 19.12.2012 at 05:44

    Thanks for the info. Trying this out on a freecycle couch I picked up that’s vintage cool with very tired upholstery. Just wondering, where did you get the rug? I love it!

  • Leslie 19.12.2012 at 16:38

    Thanks so much for this post! I was getting ready to buy fabric spray paint to redo some dining room chairs. I am going to try it this way now!

  • ~alicia 22.01.2013 at 16:45

    Thanks for this post! I bought a cool, very mod, microsuede chair with ottoman at a garage sale for $20. The fabric has held up well for 3 years, but now it is uncleanable. I was going to get it reupholstered, but maybe I’ll try this method first on the ottoman. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll go back to plan A.

    Any thoughts on how this would work on a very tight microsuede fabric?

    Thanks again!


  • Behind The Scenes of a Shoot 03.12.2014 at 18:03

    […] it needed to be reupholstered anyway, and so what have I got to lose?) I didn’t use my fabric painting technique because it was leather, and yes it feels painted but look at the color!!  Its so […]


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