How to Easily Make Over a Sofa With Paint

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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!  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. I can’t wait to try this!!! I’m a photographer. Buying the ugliest vintage loveseat you’ve ever seen and painting cream for Santa pictures with little ones.

  2. Love, love, love the couch’s new color. I have a cream rocking chair and Ottoman that my kids decided to treat like an easle. I want to give it a makeover. Do I have to use satin interior paint??? Can I use any paint???

  3. Thank you so much for your post. Im going to incorporate your portions. I was following a totally different recipe that was 1part(medium textile) 1part(paint) 2parts(water) its exausting this way and not to mention costly at $8+ for each bottle of medium textile. I will try your portions they seem a lot more logical. I will let you know how it goes.

  4. How beautiful all this is and what great ideas. I’m sooooo excited to start painting.

    Are you still painting upholstery ?? Any new thoughts??

    I’m reading a variety of tips, tricks using latex or acrylic. Any difference??

    What difference does sheen make?? Flat, satin, semi gloss.

  5. I have a white leather couch I was thinking about getting rid of to buy new furniture during my move but this idea is amazeballs!! I wonder if it would work well with leather. I was gonna buy an velvet emerald couch I saw at a local store but this would be even better! What do u think?

  6. Oh. My. Goodness. This transformation is amazing!

    How is it doing now? Did it soften up? Or does it still feel like painted canvas?

    1. Thanks, Carissa! The loveseat has softened up quite a bit over the past couple of years, and it’s still going strong! I still wouldn’t say that it’s the softest or most cushy couch in the house, but I sit on it almost every day, and I don’t even remember that it’s painted anymore. 🙂

    1. Hi Vanessa, I just wipe down the sofa with a damp rag from time to time to keep it clean. We haven’t gotten any major spills or dirty spots on ours, but it’s really easy to maintain!

  7. Hello…thanks for the great idea. I have the exact same love seat and I’ve been facing the same problem..cover too expensive, stained, want to paint,etc. How much paint did you use? I can’t wait to paint mine! Thanks again!

    1. Hi Dorene! I used a full quart of paint down to the last drop, and it was JUST barely enough. I would recommend getting two quarts just to be safe! 🙂

  8. Hello
    I want to paint sofa….tell me is this any special type of paint for fabric or just interior exterior…..I live in dubai UAE and yhere is not store like hone depot n I cant find Behr paint…..plz give me some clues….fabric meduim is necessay if I use fabric paint????
    Thanku…..really impressed by your work

  9. REALLY! You again!? GAAAAH! lol whenever I search for something on pinterest I ALWAYS find your blog! You’re so awesome! LOL Here I am searching for ways to PAINT an UGLY floral pattern couch set and I end up here! Thanks!!

    1. LOL I’m so glad that you’re finding everything you need here! Thanks so much for stopping by (again and again haha!)! 🙂

  10. This tutorial was the answer to a massive headache I’ve had about nursery furniture. I took your tips and everything turned out perfectly, so I’ll be posting it as a step-by-step on my blog with a link here to credit you for the tutorial! Thank you!

  11. hi i have an old suede chair that i would like to revamp and i was wondering can i use the fabric&vinyl spray paint to make it over !!

    1. I would recommend using a primer before using the blue paint just to ensure that there won’t be any color bleed through. It depends on the type of paint and the sofa fabric though. You may be okay without it, but I do highly recommend using a layer of primer if you are going to try to lighten the color.

  12. Hi Heidi.
    What made you chose a chalk paint as opposed to a fabric paint? I am planning to do my dining room chairs as the seats are in good shape (structurally) but SO ugly. It’s a course fabric and I am torn on the type of paint to use… Any tips are helpful. Thanks! J

    1. Hi Jill! I didn’t use a chalk paint for this. It’s painted with standard latex wall paint in a satin finish with fabric medium added to it (in effect making my own fabric paint). This combo worked really well for my sofa since it has a smooth finish, but I’m sure it would also work well on a coarse fabric – it just may take a few extra coats to get full and even coverage. 🙂

  13. In. Love. Do you recommend any sealer or anything on top to prevent stains? I’m thinking of doing an off white, but I have a tendency to spill… everything. Thank you!

    1. Absolutely! There are several different sealers that you can use if you feel the need to (depending on how much you’ll use the piece, etc.). I prefer to use Varathane sealers in the satin finish (available in both a paint-on and spray version) because they hold up well over time and won’t alter the color of your finished piece 🙂

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