New cushions for an outdoor patio set are expensive. If you have stained or ugly patio cushions then this simple guide on how to paint outdoor cushions can really come in handy and extend the life of old outdoor patio cushions.
To paint patio cushions clean cushions until they are free of debris, then use 2-3 coats of Heirloom Traditions Paint which is appropriate for exterior use. Only paint smooth fabric as this will allow for best results.
We have had this outdoor patio furniture for many years and it has endured year round weather and elements. A few seasons ago, I painted the metal furniture (not the cushions) with Rustoleum spray paint. It has held up beautifully.
But the old fabric had a stain here and there and frankly I had simply grown tired of the cushion color. After pricing replacement cushions, I determined painting was an affordable way to give these chair cushions an extension of life.
The old outdoor cushions were Sunbrella fabric and still had good bones. Since I no longer loved them, paint seemed to be a good solution to give us a new look.
If you have priced a new outdoor cushion, you understand why painting is a viable option.
Related: How to Spray Paint Outdoor Furniture
The Easiest Way to Paint Old Outdoor Cushions
After much research I opted to use Heirloom Traditions Paint (HTP) in the color Cobblestone. This particular color is a true gray (half black, half white), but this line carries a number of different paint colors.
See more furniture updates here.
It has a matte sheen finish and is made for interior/exterior use. It is NOT a latex paint.
HTP is considered a primer, paint, and top coat all in one. It sounds too good to be true, but I’ve used it on a few interior projects and it has held up very well. I’ve also used it to paint some exterior planters (pots) with very good success.
NOTE: If you have any hesitancy, please test this process on an inconspicuous part of your cushion, such as the back side near the zipper or on an exterior throw pillow made of similar fabric before diving into the whole thing.
While this was a huge improvement for our cushions, it does feel stiff to the touch. Something I could live with, but be aware that it’s definitely different.
BEFORE: Red Patio Cushions
Sorry. That’s the best before picture I could find. I’ve been blogging since 2017 and I still forget before pictures on occasion!
- 2 quarts of Heirloom Traditions Paint in color of choice (I used Cobblestone)
- Paint brush
- Dish soap and water to clean cushions
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Damp rag (to wipe up drips, etc.)
It is not necessary to remove all the stains prior to painting. But, you will need to remove any dirt, lint, and/or debris from the cushions, otherwise your cushions will not have a smooth finish. If yours are pretty dirty, consider using a vacuum first.
I took a tiny bit of Dawn dish soap and water and scrubbed my cushions. I didn’t allow them to get very wet, but just enough to give them a nice cleaning.
My cushions did not have removable covers to allow me to throw them in the washing machine, so a wipe down was good enough.
If you need to rinse yours with a hose, go for it! Just ensure you allow them to completely dry prior to painting.
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Once your cushions are fully dry after cleaning, you are set to begin your first coat of paint.
Don’t forget to protect your workspace with drop cloths or towels.
Using a good paintbrush, begin applying the paint, getting in all the nooks and crannies of the cushion edges. This paint is thick, but it is still paint on fabric.
There was certainly some absorption that occurred with the first coat. Brush the paint on with your brush going in different directions and work the paint in.
There is no need to use a fabric medium with this all-in-one paint, as the company suggests it can be used for outdoor fabric paint.
It was pretty clear, after the first coat that I would require ~3 coats for full coverage since I was going from a darker red to a light gray. This meant more time AND more paint. But, it still was significantly less money than if I would have had to purchase multiple patio cushions.
The bottom cushions were a bit easier to paint as they didn’t have the buttons to paint around like the back cushions.
Allow first coat to dry. Mine took 30-45 minutes.
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Light Sand Between Coats
When first coat is fully dry, use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth cushions.
It WILL feel coated and stiff to the touch. Sanding made a pretty big difference in making the cushions feel less stiff.
Use 220 grit sandpaper or even heavy craft paper to soften the cushions.
Wipe away any dust from sanding and you are ready for your second layer.
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Second Coat of Paint
If you are painting over a light color, two coats will likely give you good coverage and it will take you less time to paint your entire set.
However, if you are like me and going to a lighter color, OR you are painting over a design, you may require 3 coats plus touch ups. Two quarts of paint should still be sufficient if you have a loveseat and two chairs in your patio set.
With the second coat, follow the same process as when you painted the first coat. I liked to brush in a variety of directions to avoid brush strokes. This truly wasn’t really an issue, though.
NOTE: If your fabric has a texture, this is probably not the best solution for you! This should be done on SMOOTH fabric for the best outcome.
Sand Again After Dry
As previously stated, depending on the fabric you are painting, two coats might be enough.
If this is the case for you, when your second coat is dry, spend the time to thoroughly sand down all of the cushions.
This will make a huge difference in how rough and stiff the cushions will feel. While it doesn’t eliminate the rough texture completely, it helps tremendously.
If your cushions are not fully covered with paint after two coats, just keep repeating the process until you are pleased (i.e., paint–>dry–>sand) with the outcome.
I want you to know what you are getting into, so I will be very honest. This is not a project everyone will love. My biggest complaint is the texture of painted fabric is hard to get used to. Even after sanding, they are still stiff.
But, not to the point that I have regrets.
If your cushions are in great shape, but just need a renovation because of fading, stains, or you are just certain you don’t love them anymore, this is a great way to extend their life and give them a little update.
- Stiff to the touch, even after sanding
- Obvious they have been painted
- Any textures will show through, so fabric must be smooth for good outcome
- Cushions sit differently after being painted. Hard to explain, but the release of air within the cushion is not the same. My husband says it’s like sitting on an air mattress with a slow leak.
Because we had our cushions for many years, they had provided us with a lot of use. Painting allows you to extend the life of your current fabric and save money in the process.
We have kept our painted outdoor cushions outside year round. They’ve endured rain, direct sun, snow, sleet, and still look pretty good.
Not perfect. But, good!
- Outdoor safe
- Water and mildew resistant / repel water and stains
- Block smells
- Easy to wipe clean
- Comfortable to sit on, just different
- Other outdoor furniture such as patio umbrellas can be painted to match
My teenagers love this furniture by the pool!
Other Outdoor Fabric Paint Options
I have not experimented with other outdoor fabric paints, but wanted to show you some I was considering when I began my journey to paint my patio cushions.
- Rust-Oleum Outdoor Fabric Paint (outdoor fabric spray paint). Amazon reviews were not very positive. Reviews indicated it takes approximately 2 cans of spray paint per cushion.
- Latex Paint mixed with fabric medium. (~ 2 parts paint to 1 part fabric medium)
- Regular spray paint
- Chalk paint
- Acrylic paint / acrylic craft paint
- Krylon spray paint
But, I will say, if I had to do it again I would still use Heirloom Traditions All-In-One Paint. It provided the outcome I expected.
I think all fabric paint will feel like painted fabric! But it’s still a great update that will keep patio cushions out of the landfill while saving some replacement costs.
To paint outdoor fabric you will need a paint that is suitable for exteriors as well as fabric. Heirloom Traditions Paint is a solid option for painting your outdoor fabrics.
Once fully dried, Heirloom Traditions Paint will not come off on your clothing.
To use regular latex paint on fabric, it must be mixed with fabric medium. The general formula is two parts paint to one part fabric medium.
More Outdoor Related Posts:
- Heirloom Traditions Paint (I used Cobblestone, 2 quarts for this patio set)
- Dish soap and water (to clean set)
- Damp rag for any wipe up needs
- Paint brush
- Clean patio cushions free of all debris, lint, and dirt prior to painting. Allow adequate time for cushions to dry.
- Apply first coat of HTP paint. It will absorb much of the paint as it is fabric. Allow to completely dry, ~30 minutes.
- Sand with fine-grit sandpaper (220 grit). This will make the cushions smoother and take away much of the stiffness of the painted fabric. Wipe away any dust from sanding.
- Apply second coat of HTP. Allow to fully dry and repeat sanding process. If you have an adequate coverage, this will be your last step. If you need more coverage, repeat the process of painting, allow dry time, then sanding.
For best results, only paint fabric that is smooth. Any texture will show through the paint. There are other methods of painting outdoor cushions such as mixing fabric medium with latex paint, but this process served me well. See this post for tips to spray paint exterior metal furniture.