How to Paint Patio Cushions and Pillows

I wanted to end this summer by saying thank you for reading…and by sharing another fun before-and-after project that I started at the beginning of summer. This article on how to paint patio cushions and pillows shows a bright and cheery project, and I feel like we can all use a little bit more happy in the world right now.

Have you priced outdoor patio cushions and pillows lately? The good outdoor seat cushions can be nearly $100 each or more! I had two sets of cushions that look pretty horrible but are still fluffy enough. I had a little bit of Annie Sloane Chalk Paint in my favorite color, Provence, so I thought, what the heck? Let’s give it a go.

Why Paint Outdoor Patio Cushions

There were only three problems with my cushions when I started:

  1. They are faded.
  2. They are dirty (and not cleanable).
  3. I’m ready for something new.

How to paint patio cushions


I’ll give a shout out to my friend Kim whose wildly popular article years ago about how to paint upholstery uses a little different method. I’ve wanted to try this for years. She’ll be happy to know she’s inspired another painted cushion makeover. I hope to inspire you in the same way.

How to Paint Patio Cushions and Pillows

The first step is to prep the surface by wetting the fabric. Use a spray bottle filled with regular water (and get your kid to do the spraying). There are detailed instructions on how to paint fabric with chalk paint on the Annie Sloan site.

How to paint patio cushions- spray with water


The next step is to mix your paint with water in a paint tray. This is a bit more of an art than a science. If you must have a recipe, then I’m going to say start with half water and half paint. What you are doing is thinning out the chalk paint so it soaks into the fabric but doesn’t become crusty. Surprisingly, adding water doesn’t really reduce the color much at all.

How to paint patio cushions- Annie Sloan Chalk Paint


With both your paint watered down and your cushion wet, apply the paint directly to the cushion with any regular paint brush. The fancy round Amy Howard paint brush (affiliate link) I’m using here feels lovely in your hand and covers quickly, but you can use nearly any bristle brush. I would not recommend using a sponge applicator to paint patio cushions, since you have to apply a bit of force to work the pigment into the fabric. You also need the bristles to get in between the piping and fabric.

How to Paint Patio Cushions-paint strokes


Here’s just a few seconds of video to show the technique for painting fabric on patio cushions or anything else.


After one coat, it already looked pretty awesome. I’d need more coats, but I knew the color transformation on the white piping and blue fabric would both look good in the end. Below, the before is on the left, and after the first coat is on the right.

How to Paint Patio Cushions-after one coat


The second coat was looking much better.

How to Paint Patio Cushions-after 2 coats


The next day the color had faded a bit, so we added yet a third coat (on the right). Remember, you want it to work into the fabric, not just stay on top.

How to Paint Patio Cushions-third coat


Yes, those are the same cushions and the same color. If you want to understand why they look like a different color (and why it’s so hard to choose paint colors for your home), check out my blog post on metamerism.

Don’t forget to paint the little tabs that tie the patio cushions to the chairs, if you have them, and the sides.

How to Paint Patio Cushions- after


Luckily, I had some help with the painting. My mini-me has become quite the painter during quarantine, so I was putting those talents to work! We painted one side of each cushion, and then let them dry before doing the other side, so it took two days to finish.

How to Paint Patio Cushions


The before and after is pretty dramatic. The fabric and piping ended up the same color.

How to Paint Patio Cushions- before and after


How Do Painted Patio Cushions Feel?

How do painted patio cushions feel, you want to know? Not bad. The patio cushions aren’t scratch or crackly, and they don’t stick when you sit. Painting my patio cushions was definitely worth doing. This one additional step improves the comfort: use a fine-grit sandpaper to very gently knock down the paint on the fabric. If you’ve painted furniture, it’s the same step that you use between coats. Lightly sanding will give your fabric flexibility as it loosens the hold of the paint. Be sure to use a very light touch, and change sandpaper between projects. I used the same sandpaper on the blue painted patio cushions and the ones below, and there was some unfortunate color transfer, seen as the white shadows on the photo below.

You don’t wax chalk painted fabric like you wax chalk painted furniture. There’s no need. However, I did spray with Thompson’s Water Seal on all sides, which didn’t make the cushions stiffer. This stuff is amazing. The water just beads right off.

How to Paint Patio Cushions- Thompsons Water Seal Spray


How do painted Patio Cushions Hold Up the Weather?

I waited until the end of summer to let you know how it turned out, because I wanted to know if the paint stood up to the weather, and if they faded. No, they haven’t faded at all. Yes, they are standing up to the weather just fine. If I get another few years out of them, I’ll be happy.

How to Paint Patio Cushions with Patterned Fabric

The blue outdoor cushions weren’t the only cushions I painted. This pair of outdoor pillows was also way beyond cleaning, and I wanted to see how painting would cover over a pattern. I had a tiny little bit of Annie Sloan Emperor’s Silk, and below you see it still wet, with only one coat. You can’t see how filthy the unpainted cushions were, but already, this was a big improvement.

How to Pain Patio Cushions-with pattern


Below is after two coats; sorry the photo is a little glarey. You can see a bit of the pattern close up, but it’s not very noticeable from across the room…er, from across the yard.

How to Paint Patio Cushions


Here’s another shot on a cloudy day. (We’ll just ignore that my bench needs a bit of a paint touch up, too. That’s a project for another day.)

How to Paint Patio Cushions- before and after


Painting these cushions not only made them feel instantly cleaner, but it allowed me to pair them with some other print cushions that they wouldn’t have previously paired with at all.

How to Paint Patio Cushions and pillows after


It helped that I already had the paint, but even with the time I invested, I still came out ahead on this project. It was worth doing, and it kept these cushions out of the landfill for a bit longer.

So, if you are hanging out on your patio this holiday wishing for an update, maybe this article on how to paint patio cushions and pillows will inspire your own transformation.

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How to Paint Patio Cushions and Pillows