How to Easily Paint a Couch for Under $20

Lately I’ve seen painted sofas, couches, loveseats and chairs of all sorts popping up on Pinterest. My imagination was sparked, and I knew immediately that I wanted to attempt to paint a dingy old Ikea loveseat that had previously lived in my boys’ playroom. We’re re-doing our entry room (hence the concrete floors and ripped off baseboards in the photos below!), and I wanted to give the sofa a new home there. I was intrigued by the idea of using chalk paint to give my loveseat a makeover, but I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money buying expensive supplies that I didn’t already have on hand, so I came up with another plan.

Ikea Sofa Before Painting

I started with this cream colored loveseat from Ikea. I had always intended on getting a slipcover made for it…until I discovered that they cost around $250! Like I said, it used to hang out in the boys’ play room, so even though it looked okay from a distance, it was a dingy mess up close.

Dirty Dingy Couch BeforeSee what I mean? This photo doesn’t even show how bad it actually looked in person. It was covered with loads of dirty spots and a few lovely splashes of green highlighter (thanks, Simon!) and marker.

Behr Emerald Lake Paint for Painted CouchI literally had a dream about painting the couch an emerald green, but during the following weeks I went through TONS of paint chips, and could never find a color that was just right. Last week my husband was cleaning out the garage and ran across some old cans of paint that a neighbor had given to us awhile back. Lo and behold, in the stack was a can of “Emerald Lake” paint that was JUST what I was looking for! Seriously, I opened that can of paint and gasped out loud – it was like I opened the can and heard angels singing a chorus of Hallelujah! Exactly the shade I was looking for! Unfortunately, that can of paint was a high gloss exterior paint, so I took the formula down to Home Depot and had them color match it in an interior satin.

Mix of Paint for Painting a CouchI mixed the quart of paint with 16 ounces of fabric textile medium. This allows the latex paint to permanently bond to the fabric while staying softer, less stiff and resistant to cracking. You can pick up the fabric medium at most craft stores – be sure to use your weekly coupon! You will need two 8 oz bottles of fabric medium for every quart of paint used.

painting a  white loveseat sofa greenStart by spraying a section of the sofa with water and allowing it to penetrate the fabric. I sprayed my loveseat a section at a time and allowed it to sit for about five minutes before painting. I used a 3″ foam brush which worked perfectly on the canvas-like fabric, but if your couch has a looser weave or more textured fabric you will probably do better with a regular paintbrush (I’d recommend this Purdy brush – they’re pricey, but they last forever!). As soon as I painted this little swatch I fell in love with it!

Painting a CouchContinue to alternate spraying the couch and working section by section until the entire piece is painted. Pay attention to your brush strokes, and paint with the grain of the fabric.

Painted Sofa After One CoatAfter the first coat – it definitely needed a second coat to provide more even and solid coverage, but I was already thrilled with the way it was shaping up! The process was a LOT quicker than I thought it would be too! It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to paint the first coat, and then I left it to dry completely overnight before adding a second coat.

Painted Ikea Loveseat Sofa CouchAfter a second coat it was smooth and gorgeous!ย  Any color variation that you can see in the photos is just from shadowing and sunlight in the room.

How to Paint an Ikea CouchI can’t believe this is the same sofa!

Before and After Painted SofaIt seriously looks a thousand times better than it did before! I’m sort of giddy that I rescued it from the To-Be-Donated pile and gave it new life!

Painted Ikea CouchI tested it out and rubbed the entire loveseat vigorously with a piece of white fabric, and there is NO paint transfer! I won’t lie and pretend that this is going to be the comfiest couch ever. It feels just like what it is, painted canvas, but I’ve read that over time it will soften up a bit. It can also be sanded lightly with a fine grit sandpaper to add more softness to it, but since this loveseat isn’t one that we sit on very often, it will work perfectly for us.

UPDATE: The sofa is still going strong after nearly 8 months of daily use! Come check out how awesome it looks in our newly made over front entry room!

Painted Ikea Sofa

If you attempt to paint one of your furniture pieces, I’d love to see it! Come share it on my Facebook page or drop me an email at!

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  1. The color is gorgeous and brave – good for you. My 3 dogs love to sit with me on our couches but their fur and smell is driving me crazy. Do you think the painted finish would reduce the fur clinging and keep smells from soaking in? Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Susan! The painted finish definitely provides a bit of a barrier that would probably help to keep out the smells and also reduce the amount of fur that clings. Their fur will still shed, obviously, but the paint helps to keep it from sticking to the sofa. I have a shed-happy cat that loves to sit on our painted sofa, and her fur just wipes right off with a damp paper towel or a lint roller. It sits on top of the fabric rather than clinging to it.

  2. My sis in law had a sofa, chair and ottoman that was leather and really scruffy looking, so since I had read about painting furniture, we got fabric and vinyl paint and painted them. We scrubbed them like you are supposed to and wiped them down with alcohol and spray painted them. They looked lovely, but quickly starting chipping! Does anyone have an idea what would cause this as I have read lots of blogs where people had great success. We wanted to do her fabric sofa next, but now we are worried!!

    1. Hi Christa, leather is different than fabric, and should be treated as such. There are special paints that are formulated especially for leather that will allow them to remain flexible and soft on leather goods (Angelus Direct is one that I can think of off the top of my head). This method should work great for her fabric sofa though! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. WOW, this is what I was looking for! I have the same exact love seat… plus far more dirt and stains. We recently moved and my husband told me to get rid of it but the creative in me said hold on to it. This painting is perfect at the sofa will be outdoors on on covered patio. I can hardly wait to begin. Thank you for the tutorial.

  4. I absolutely love this! Definitely going to try this on a chair I have. Unrelated question… Where did you get that rug? I have been looking for one just like that!

    1. Hi Cassandra! The black and white rug is from Ikea, and the car playmat rug is from Home Depot. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I just stumbled upon your blog and way to go on this project!! Isn’t such a great feeling when you take on a project that you are just not sure or familiar with at all, only to have such an awesome outcome?!
    I would love to attempt my old “bachelor brown” leather loveseat…perhaps one day….

  6. I love the color that you use, it is cool and pleasing to the eyes. I can’t believe that you did it with yourself, thank you for sharing your project.

  7. Dear Heidi,
    I have exactly the same sofa that you have. It’s small and quite comfortable sofa. However, I do not plan to paint over it. I thought of making a cover and I’m trying to search for the model of the sofa so that I can have all the measurement ready, but I just can’t find the name of this sofa. Do you know the name of this sofa?

    1. Hi Linda! The fabric was definitely stiff for awhile in the beginning (not the most comfortable seat in the house, but not uncomfortable or scratchy), but after over a year now it has softened up a lot. We frequently sit there now, and find it to be quite comfortable!

  8. I love this! I just saw this on pinterest. I have a couple questions for you. Now that about a year has passed, has it softened up? I have an ugly loveseat that is more of a woven fabric upholstery, so I know that I would add in the fabric textile, but just wondering how it would soften. Also, with my liveseat being the woven fabric, do you think that I would need more than a quart? I just wonder if this fabric would absorb more of the paint. And it is also an ugly plaid, kind of darker colors. Would I need to prime?
    Again, beautiful job on this project!

    1. Hi Jamie! I would guess that you will need more than a quart since I used every last drop of my quart to paint my canvas-type loveseat. It has definitely softened up over the past year, and it’s not nearly as stiff as it originally was!

  9. Gonna try this on a nasty hide – a – bed that was left in our basement from the previous occupants. The cushions were too gross… we burned them, but I wanted to keep the rest of it for a guest bed (with a new mattress, of course ). Will send before and after pics once completed… wanting to get it done this week!

  10. I recently purchased the perfect sofa for my bedroom from salvation army. I painted it summer grey by valspar. I’ll admit I was spooked even after the 2nd coating but to my surprise it final unveiled the beautiful outcome. !

  11. I have the same sofa from Ikea and was looking for a way to make it over without having to order the slipcover; I came across your idea and am so glad I did! I painted mine black using your steps and it looks amazing!!! I am so happy with it. I just got done, so can’t yet comment on the texture, but it looks fabulous! Thank you for sharing the idea! It’s currently drying after the second coat and am hoping it won’t need another. At the moment it looks nice and glossy and black, but I think the glossiness will go away when completely dry.

  12. This is so awesome Heidi! I have a bench I want to do in our upstairs master bedroom. It’s red and white and I think I just want to paint the red part…

  13. That turned out fantastic!! I totally want to do this now…but I’m terrified I don’t have the right kind of material on my couch, and if I ruin it…it’s our only couch, lol.

  14. Looks great! I tried this once with a velvety chair–it was a bust–but I’ll bet canvas works a lot better. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. OMG – this is seriously so awesome! I seriously want to go buy a white fabric couch from IKEA now & paint it something awesome! Great job – love the green too! ๐Ÿ˜‰