Ever since the day this gorgeous, vintage round bed came to live at our East Nashville studio, we have debated about whether or not we should paint it. On one hand, the original lime green upholstery and gold trim looked SO vintage. However, the colors simply did not match the decor of our modern studio, which is decorated mostly in black, white, grey, and red. So, we decided to leave the upholstery as-is for a few months, do a few shoots with it, and see how we liked it.
While the green bed did, indeed, look beautiful, especially for clients who wore vintage lingerie for their sessions, we found that the lime green and gold combination was more often a problem, as it clashed with most of the lingerie that girls were bringing in (bold lingerie colors seem to be very in style right now, such as reds, bright blues, purples, etc.). The bed also clashed with the black drapes in our studio. Therefore, we ultimately decided that it would be best to paint the bed to better match our studio decor and to better compliment the majority of our clients' wardrobes.
Here are the materials that were used:
1. Black acrylic paint (This project took three full 16 oz. bottles.)
2. Fabric medium (This project took eight full 6 oz. bottles.)
3. Tap water
4. Water bottle
5. Plastic measuring cup
6. Plastic cup to hold paint mixture
7. 2" paint brush for larger areas
8. 1" paint brush for smaller areas
9. Plastic tarp
10. Vinyl gloves
11. Metallic black acrylic paint (This project took less than half of a 2 oz. bottle.)
12. Metallic black/nickel acrylic paint (This project took less than half of a 2 oz. bottle.)
13. Small brushes for acrylic paint (for the wood trim)
14. Fine grit sandpaper (I used 320.)
*Please note, I was not worried about getting fabric paint on the gold trim of the headboard or on the legs of the matching bench because I planned to re-paint all of the wood trim later. However, if you do not plan to re-paint the trim on your piece of furniture, you should use painter's tape to cover those areas before you get started.*
First, I spread out the plastic tarp to protect the floor, and then I placed the upholstered headboard and bench on top of the tarp.
Then, I mixed up the fabric paint using fabric medium, black acrylic paint, and water in a 2:1:1 ratio. For the first batch, I used 1 cup of fabric medium, 1/2-cup of black acrylic paint, and 1/2-cup of water. The reason I used twice as much fabric medium is because I wanted to try to keep the velvet upholstery as supple as possible. However, this ratio diluted the black paint so that the mixture turned out to be more of a dark gray color. This didn't worry me, though, as I knew I was going to have to apply at least two coats to the headboard and bench, and I assumed they would get darker with each coat of paint.
Before I applied the paint to the fabric, I used the water bottle and thoroughly soaked the fabric of the headboard with tap water. This is very important! The fabric must be saturated BEFORE you apply the fabric paint. So, as I sprayed the fabric with water with one hand, I used my other hand to rub the water into the fabric. (I wore vinyl gloves, but that is optional.)
Once the upholstery was thoroughly soaked, I dipped a 2" paint brush into the fabric paint and applied it to the fabric using an up-and-down motion. I did this for the entire back of the headboard, which was all relatively smooth. However, when it was time to paint the sides and top of the headboard, (after soaking it thoroughly with water first, of course), I had to switch to a 1" paint brush to get inside some of the nooks and crannies of the fabric.
The most difficult part of this paint job was definitely the tufted front of the headboard. After saturating the front of the headboard with water, I used the 1" paint brush to paint inside each tuft before switching to the 2" paint brush to then paint over the larger areas.
After the headboard was finished, I repeated the above steps to paint the matching bench. Once the first coat of paint was completed for both pieces, I left the furniture to dry for a full 24 hours. (Actually, it ended up being 48 hours due to the weekend, but generally speaking, 24 hours should be long enough for the fabric to dry.)
When I came back into the studio to begin the second coat of paint, I noticed that the fabric color had dried much lighter than I had expected, and the original green color was showing through quite a bit. As I mentioned earlier, though, I thought the second coat of paint would cover the green for good.
I also found that the fabric had dried to a rather stiff texture. Therefore, before I re-wet the headboard and bench, I used a fine grit sandpaper (320) to sand over the rougher patches of fabric. This actually did a great job of softening the texture of the upholstery.
Once I sanded out all of the rough patches, I re-wet the upholstery of the headboard with the water bottle, just as I had done previously, and then I mixed up a new batch of fabric paint using the original 2:1:1 ratio of fabric medium, black acrylic paint, and water. However, as I began to apply this second coat of paint to the saturated fabric, I could see that it still wasn't covering the original green color as well as I had hoped. I realized that the black acrylic paint was too diluted, so I decided to change the ratio of the mixture to 2:2:1, and I added another 1/2-cup of black acrylic to equal the 1 cup of fabric medium that was already in the mixture.
This new ratio worked MUCH better, and I was very pleased with the results of the second coat of paint. I knew that the fabric may dry a little stiffer than before, but I was confident that I could soften it up with sandpaper. Besides, even if I couldn't soften the fabric, I wasn't that worried about the texture. After all, these are essentially just photography props, and all that matters is that they look good on camera.
I completed the second coat of paint on both the headboard and the bench using the 2:2:1 ratio, and I was very happy when I left them to dry that evening. I was even more pleased when I saw that the original lime green color of the fabric was still covered when I came back to the studio the next day, and the fabric had dried to a very nice, deep gray color, but at the same time, it looked a little emerald green from certain angles and under certain light, which was actually kind of cool (you'd have to see it in person to appreciate it). Although we originally intended to paint the upholstery black, Jamie and I both really liked the way the second coat looked. So, we decided a third coat of paint was not necessary, and we got to work painting over the gold trim.
First, we went over the trim with a fine grit sandpaper so that the metallic acrylic paint that we chose would apply evenly. I mixed equal parts metallic black acrylic with a metallic black/nickel acrylic. (The reason I added black to the black/nickel color was because we didn't want the trim to be too silvery, and we found that this combination gave us exactly the color we desired.)
Using both small and medium sized acrylic paint brushes, Jamie and I worked together to paint over the original gold trim of the headboard and the legs of the matching bench with the metallic black/nickel paint. After just one coat, we LOVED the results!
And, voila! We now have a dark gray tufted headboard and matching bench with metallic black/nickel trim!
I had the opportunity to shoot on the newly painted bed for the first time yesterday, and I was SO happy with how beautifully it photographed! Not only did it look great in both natural light and under studio lighting, but our round bed now matches the drapes and coordinates with the other furniture in our studio, which means we can shoot even wider shots than before.
If you have any questions about this project or about painting upholstery in general, please feel free to ask in the comments below. I'm no expert, but this was my second time painting upholstery, and I'll be happy to tell you what I know from my own experience. :)