How to Paint Vinyl Upholstery

You may have a piece of furniture that you love that has vinyl upholstery that you don’t. Reupholstering pieces can be a lot of work. Good news: You can get a new, fresh look on your vinyl furniture simply by painting the vinyl! I have had a pair of black vinyl barstools for years and, while they weren’t terrible, they were simply too dark for my basement kitchenette. I wanted them lightened and brightened.

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DIY Level: Beginner

Materials Needed:

  • Vinyl upholstered furniture
  • Spray paint – paint + primer that adheres to plastic. Krylon and Rustoleum are two brands that carry this type of spray paint

Notes:

Some things you should know before embarking on this DIY project:

  • Painting on firmly padded (as in, not soft) vinyl seating will have better results than painting on vinyl that is required to give and flex a great deal.
  • Vinyl is plastic. Therefore, spray paint that specifically adheres to plastic should work for this project.
  • Fabric spray paint is more flexible than any other spray paint, but it is more expensive. This DIY project is done with plastic-adhering spray paint. The longevity of your project might be extended if you opt for fabric spray paint.

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Step 1: Move your furniture item to a well-ventilated area. I carried my barstools out to the garage and placed them on some well-used drop cloths.

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Step 2: Clean furniture thoroughly with grease cutter. I used LA’s Totally Awesome cleaner, and it did a fantastic job of cleaning things up. A product like Krud Kutter would produce great results as well. Let furniture dry thoroughly.

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Step 3: Paint thin base coat onto furniture. I used Kryolon Colormaster paint + primer in Classic Gray because it adheres to plastic and because the color selection matched what I had in mind better than Rustoleum. Tip: As you spray, push the nozzle while you’re aiming the spray can slightly off the edge of the piece, then move the spray lightly over the furniture. This prevents paint pooling.

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Step 4: Allow base coat to dry. Focus on keeping the base coat thin rather than even. The coverage won’t be even with your base coat, and that’s just fine! Tip: The thinner your individual coats of paint, the better they will adhere to the vinyl. (And the less likely they will be to crack.)

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Step 5: Paint additional coats as needed. Paint one thin coat at a time until the entire furniture piece is evenly covered. I did three coats on my barstools. Let dry thoroughly.

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Step 6: Get creative! Of course, you could easily be done with painting your vinyl upholstery after step 5. But I wanted to add a little more personality to my barstools. I decided to create an ombre effect, with some cobalt blue on the tips of the legs and moving up gradients into white at the top of the barstool seat back.

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Here is a closer look at the seatback. Tip: Ombre is spray painting’s best friend. Remember to keep all paint sprays light, and ALWAYS start and stop your spray while aiming at the air near, not at, the furniture. More solid components of ombre should be done with a higher number of light coats – not heavier coats – than the gradient sections.

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I carried some of the white paint onto the barstool seat as well, to create an overall ombre effect. I also added a fourth “color,” Smoke Gray, which is slightly darker than the Classic Gray of the base coat, to create more depth within that massive sea of gray on the chair. It’s subtle but important.

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Step 7: Let everything dry. It’s hard to wait, I know. But take this opportunity to clean up the area where your new favorite vinyl furniture is going to live.

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Ombre painted legs resemble dipped chair legs.

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I hope you can learn to love your vinyl furniture again with a little love! This idea would look great as a vertical or horizontal stripe, a buffalo check, an abstract, a geometric…the sky’s the limit, really. Have fun with this!