I was had. I believed the tutorials. They said things like, “It went so fast,” or “It was a lot softer than I thought it would be.”

Liars. {I’m sure they are lovely in real life, just for the record}.

I bought this couch for $35.00 because I wanted a cute little couch for my office. It was the perfect size, and the tufted back had me at hello.

thrift store couch

Although I have reupholstered before, I thought painting the couch was a better idea for some reason.   As a result of my brilliant plan, I searched the web for tutorial after tutorial to learn every possible thing about painting a couch. I read multiple tutorials to make sure I did this project “right.”


I followed the tutorials to a T. I mixed the paint with fabric medium, filled my spray bottle with water and went to town. Heck, we even made it a family affair.


This is what the couch looked like after 12 man  hours of painting.

don't paint a couch

Yes, you read that correctly…12 HOURS.

The funny thing is that at this point I was still pro-couch painting.  My husband was not on my team, and was thoroughly enjoying the show. I even recruited my amazing friend Jo to help me paint this bad boy, and her face was priceless when she showed up. Like a good friend would do, she went along with my terrible plan and helped me paint for 2 hours.

I let the couch dry over night and decided to start painting again the next morning.

It’s amazing what a few hours of sleep will do, and I came to my senses overnight. I decided to give it one more chance and I sat down on the couch. If it was everything I hoped it would be, I would finish the job.

The couch is CRUNCHY. It’s terrible. I would NEVER want to sit on this couch and read a book or relax.

PROJECT FAIL. Good times.


Take my advice, don’t paint a couch.




    • Lynn Yost says

      Only caveat that I observed: Don’t paint a VELVET or VELVETEEN couch (as in this project)! Other fabrics that are smooth, shiny, leather, or vinyl work well (see Addicted to Decorating website). I will be painting a couch.

      • Cheryl says

        I agree. 😉 I’ve read too many success stories and even talked with a friend who has had excellent results.

  1. Lori says

    I’m sorry but I had to chuckle at your comment about your husband “thoroughly enjoying the show”! That is how my husband would have been too!

  2. says

    I have seen the same tutorials and wondered how a painted couch could actually be soft. Sorry it was such a big fail. But thanks for sharing, so that I didn’t have to learn the hard way! One more DIY crisis averted. :)

  3. Janet says

    Thank you for having the courage to share this! I’m often nervous about tackling a project since most everything posted online is so perfect and lovely, and I know it’s just not going to turn out like that in real life. Kudos to you for giving it a go!

  4. Naomi J says

    So since the painting was a no-go, are you planning on reupholstering it? Or is it destined for the scrap heap? Just curious. It looks like it was a fairly comfy couch at the beginning though :(

  5. says

    Oh my goodness, I’m sorry to say this is the funniest post ever! I never would have thought to paint a couch and I give you credit for trying it. =) I will definitely heed your warning! The color would have been lovely though!


  6. cherie says

    Thank you for the “real” look at a tutorial! I really do get sick of everything that is blogged being perfect and beautiful!! We all KNOW that EVERYONE has a total fail every once in a while!! thank you for showing us the not so wonderful side to painting a couch, always sounded too good to be true!!
    I always know I can turn to your trusted blog, thanks!

  7. Jacquelynn says

    I’ve also seen so many tutorials on painting sofa’s etc… I was also contemplating doing it as well… I’m so glad I read your blog first! Thanks for letting the rest of us “DO NOT ATTEMPT”! But at least you tried:))

  8. says

    I’ve always thought painting fabric furniture was so odd.
    Was your couch upholstered with ‘regular’ upholstery fabric or was it that crushed velvet-velour-straight-outta-my-grandma’s-living-room fabric?

  9. Emily says

    Lol so I am not the only one!! I bought an awesome vintage couch for $35 at the Salvation Army.
    It was in good shape but the fabric was very faded. I didn’t want to reupholster it… Too much $$ and really, not a DIY
    type of job. Then I came across a tutorial where a woman painted her chair cushion. So I went off to do it. I did it differently than you, though. I bought t-shirt paint- I think it was Tulip “So Soft” or something. I had to get the method down, but it got easier as I went. I just watered down the paint and used a cheap foam brush to apply. In the end, it actually looked so much better but it was not soft by any means! I do have pictures of it somewhere, too! I ended up selling it on Craigslist to a woman who was going to use it in her photography studio. Hey, it’s not just anyone who can say “I painted a couch!”

  10. Britt says

    Hahahaha!!! I have always wondered if the whole couch painting thing actually works…. Not brave enough to try it. Glad you did though, cause if it didnt work for you then everyone else MUST be lying;). So sorry for the list time and frustration:(

  11. says

    OMG! So sorry you had to go through all that time and effort AND end up disappointed! I have painted quite a few upholstered pieces but I use homemade chalk paint and wax. Velvet is a tricky beast but many, many fabrics turn into a soft, buttery leather-like feel. I pinky-promise.

  12. says

    I have to admit, I was laughing {inside} the whole time! This sounds like some of the projects I’ve tried after reading about them on blogs from pins I’ve found. It is so frustrating weeding through tutorial after tutorial and never hearing the behind the scenes {frustrations, disappointments, blood, sweat & tears} versions of what really happened. Thank you for the honest, laugh after the fact truth! I will take your advice and never paint a couch! I think I’ll just save my money and buy one some day… or take an upholstery class at the college.

  13. says

    OH what a bummer! But thank you for sharing! It’s nice to see the reality of some projects :) Hope you’re able to reupholster it, or find a new one!

  14. Susan Krauss says

    Oh, dear!!! I tried REALLLLLY hard not to laugh at this and I’m sorry to say that I failed miserably at it! lol ! I remember years ago, on an episode of “Trading Spaces”, one of the designers, named Hildy Santo-Tomas decided it would be a ” fabulous” idea to paint her homeowner’s couch!! As I recall, their reaction was exactly the same as yours, at the finished product. It was a real head scratcher, for sure! Although her idea to line all four walls of a bedroom with feathers ( yes, you read that correctly) took the cake for the strangest “decorating” idea I’d ever seen!

  15. says

    I painted a chair. I read all the tutorials too, bought the fabric medium and spent hours on that chair. It is usable, a bit on the crunchy side, but not something I will ever do again!! Thanks for sharing.

  16. says

    ohmygosh perfect timing for me – i’ve been on the look out for a couch for my master thinking i would only need to paint it to make it perfect. O.O yikes. so sorry! it was a cute couch! can you, or are you going to try to reupholster it?

  17. Susan says

    I have seen DIY about painting cushioned furniture and I could never figure how they finished product would feel soft and fabric-like. I thought Emily’s use of t-shirt paint might be the solution, but even her attempt was less than successful. It always sounded suspect to me and you have confirmed it, sorry that you had to learn the hard way. Thanks for warning others.
    Oh, and thanks to Susan Krauss for reminding me about Hildy Santo-Thomas! I missed the feathers episode but I saw the bathroom walls that she covered in fabric flowers…can you imagine? Or the time she plastered a kitchen with wine labels and the owners did NOT drink. OMG, she was something! I used to wonder why someone would trust someone else to re-do their rooms. I used to like to see some of the train wrecks that resulted, though there were some good reveals, too.

  18. TJ says

    Thank you!!!! I have two upholstered chairs that I would love to change to a different color. Both are super comfortable so I’m not ready to give them up. I wondered so often if those tutorials were really telling the truth or if Murphy would visit my house yet again, so I’ve been putting it off.

    I’ll be making slipcovers instead :)

    Thanks again for posting!

  19. says

    Thank you for being honest and sharing your experience.

    In my mind whenever I had read such a blog post I thought “There is no way that this can be true.” Followed by “Is there any way possible that after a few repetitious sitting sessions the paint would not begin to crack, crease, chip, etc?”

    SO glad I didn’t go there. :)

  20. Deane says

    Oh, my I have made slip covers in less time. Nice try and thanks for sharing your experience. I too have wondered about painted sofa’s and chairs.

  21. Cindy says

    I’ve seen the posts online how this can turn out so great … and I wanted to BELIEVE! I even saved a couple of tutorials, and have the perfect $5 chair to try it … but I hadn’t had the time (or the guts I guess!). wha-wha. thanks for the honest, and i’ll let you know if and when I try it on my crappy chair (you know, just for kicks and giggles). (and love your new pic!)

  22. says

    Dudette! I laughed all the way through this post… because I just KNEW where you were going with it. HAHA! I’ve had so many failures, and the more time I waste on it, the more COMMITTED I am to make it work! Foolishness. Bravo for sharing! :) And see you in TWO DAYS!

  23. says

    This is such a giggle! I think the color of that couch looked fantastic!

    How was the foam in it? I’m finding it quite amusing that it feels crunchy, kinda reminds of food. Haha!

  24. says

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one!!! I tried it and it was a COMPLETE fail, I gave up after spending so much money on paint and having nothing to show for it. WORST IDEA EVER! and all crunch and nasty

  25. says

    On no! Hahahahaha! So glad you only spent $35 on the couch to begin with! If you took the fabric off now, would you still be able to reupholster? Love the green color you were going for, anyway. :)

  26. Swan says

    Sorry to hear this didn’t work out, Brooke, and thanks for sharing. Hope you’re already brushing off the dust. Cheers to your next success and may there be many more!

  27. Terri says

    Painting upholstery is one of those projects I’ve seen before, too. There are some things I would never even consider–that is one off them! I’d go for slipcovers 😉

  28. penny says

    This too was one of my many great ideas gone bad! I finally gave up,after multiple coats still had the original color showing through. I thought this was the perfect solution to saving me the agony of trying to make a slip cover. As it turns out, I enjoyed making the slip cover, and it turned out great. Lesson learned!!

  29. Mindy says

    I actually just brought materials to paint a couch… so far I just painted chevron stripes on a dropcloth, half water, half paint. Dropcloth idea is from East Coat Creative.

    I also wondered how it could come out soft. I may try a pillow.

  30. annette says

    This story had me in stiches !!! Thanks for sharing. I WILL not do this project, but better to have tried and failed than not give it a go.

  31. MsWilder says

    I had to laugh at your misadventures in couch painting. From the very first image of your chosen couch I could see the disaster waiting to unfold. It really is a fine line between comedy and tragedy and I must thank you for sharing your tragedy.

    If you want to know WHY…
    The type of fabric on your couch is the reason it failed and failed miserably. In order for paint on fabric to be successful, the fabric has to be a small thread and tight weave with a smooth finish (and optimally in a solid color); large threads in the fabric, an open weave in the fabric, soft and fuzzy fabrics, fabric with nubs, and loose upholstery or the soft over-stuffed upholstery are all fixings for disaster. Also, the tighter the upholstery the better the success rate. If you have the right fabric on your couch, your upholstery painting can result in a faux leather type of finish. The finished soft factor will depend on type of paint and fabric medium, how heavy or light, how many layers, how well you sanded between layers, etc… It can be soft-ish and get softer over time… I have plenty of latex paint splotches on clothing to prove that.

    Personally, I would always chosen to slipcover or reupholster rather than paint, but I have the skills to do those things and not everyone does. But…. I am very curious how a painted upholstery would hold up in the harsh AZ sunshine as compared to the outdoor fabrics which are only listed for about 500-1500 hrs (not even 6 months of day in day out sunshine). Anyone have any experience with that?

  32. says

    Hey Brooke!
    I thought it was perfect that your blog post came around the same time I read this blog post: http://www.320sycamoreblog.com/2014/04/how-to-paint-fabric-chairs.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+granvillehouse+%28320+*+Sycamore%29

    Maybe you’ve already seen it. Maybe not. Either way, now I have a fair perspective on what might happen if I decide to paint a chair (though I’m leaning more towards your husband’s side of the fence right now). Thanks for sharing!

  33. Elise says

    I’m reupholstering my dining room chairs and painting them. I’m using watered down chalk paint with soft wax and they are turning out awesome! Have you tried painting with chalk paint? I was so scared and nervous! I would have been even more terrified if I would have found this post first. Hopefully you have another go at it and it works! Thanks for the post, it lets me know that things can go wrong no matter your original intention!

  34. Niki says

    Lol!!! I just found your website today after googling about spray painting. Then I read this blog post and you just cracked me up. I’m sorry for your project fail! On the bright side, you now have a new subscriber! Thank you!

  35. Maria says

    I have not been on in awhile as I have been busy completing some of my projects you inspired. You know before it gets to 1000 degrees here in Texas. anyway I had seen a wingback chair paints and I was going to give it a whirl as soon as I found one on the cheap. Now I am glad I hadn’t found one yet. Your blog is awesome! It has inspired me to do a lot of DIY project I never would have tried before. And I am also contemplating a blog, but haven’t decided if I could add anything of importance for people to read.

  36. Jennifer says

    I painted a recliner, and I am really happy with the way that it came out. I used fabric medium, and I think that helped keep the fabric from being stiff once painted. Also, the fabric was smooth to start out with. I wonder if the velvet on your couch held more paint and made the finished project come out crunchy?

  37. Rachel says

    In every painted couch post I’ve seen, they recommend using fabric medium and water mixed in with the paint, and sanding the fabric between coats. That makes it much softer, although it should still rival stiff outdoor fabric. I’m planning to paint one of mine in the future, and I hope it turns out better! Good luck, all you other intrepid couch painters.
    Thanks for the post btw. Really made me laugh!

  38. Mandi says

    Ive seen several DIY sites with info on painting and even using wood stain to spruce up an old or dingy couch. I thought it seemed like a fun and interesting idea but was leery because my couches fabric is a very textured and it has these triangle things sown on, they are apart of the fabric but they are threaded onto it so separate from the base fabric. I’m curious, was the couch you used a textured fabric? From the picture it looks like it might even be a velveteen type fabric. Most of the examples I am finding seem to have a Jacquard type fabric on them so despite any designs in the fabric there would be no texture for the paint or stain to pick up on only the differences in color or direction of the weaving. I think if the couch you used had a textured fabric then my couch would also be a no go for painting. If you couch was indeed a velveteen type fabric then I might just have to do a test on a back corner of mine and see. Velveteen will get stiff and crunchy if you clean it incorrectly its very finicky fabric so that might have been the issue.

  39. s christian says

    just found your blog….I. have. never. laughed. so. hard. This post is priceless for us diy’rs!!! I thought this kind of stuff only happened to me! Thank you for sharing. I will come back to this post whenever I need a good laugh…..lol

  40. says

    I am so glad I found this post. I have saved about 6 “pro painting” posts on other blogs and was going to try painting an old upholstered chair I have. I was wondering about the feel of the fabric after painting, and it seemed like it would be yucky, but everyone seemed to love it. Glad to read about your “fail” because I am certain that’s how mine would have ended up. Reupholstering it is!

  41. Kathy says

    I am so happy to have discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading about your projects. Your experience of painting a couch is EXACTLY like mine! I read everything I could about painting a couch. I found a couch on the side of the road (from someone in my neighborhood). It was the exact same color/fabric as yours. The size was perfect. My family and friends could not believe I was going to paint a couch. I told them I read several articles about it and felt pretty confident. My only purchase was fabric/textile medium. I ended up using a lot more than the articles said I needed and spent about $30. It took me a lot more time than anticipated and it was HARD work. When I started sanding it after the 3rd coat before the 4th and final coat, which was recommended, my husband just shook his head and told me I was crazy. It LOOKS awesome but I ruined my cute little couch. It is so crunchy and uncomfortable. I say I will never do anything like that again, but then I keep reading about painting fabric with chalk paint. After this experience, I’m not sure I have it in me try.

  42. Kelly says

    Yikes….I have been wanting to paint fabric furniture but using the chalk paint. I’ll try a little foot stool or something first (rather than the sectional sofa).

  43. RT says

    Why on earth would anyone think that painting upholstered furniture would turn out anything other than crap? Sorry, the Amy Howard Paint also says you can paint the fabric but if anyone has ever seen it it looks like A– to say the least. Common sense people :)

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