How to Paint Outdoor Cushions – Exterior Fabric Renovation Tips

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There’s nothing better than sitting on a comfy sofa outdoors on a beautiful summer’s day! Not all sofas are meant to be used outdoors though, and some tend to get damaged pretty easily if left outdoors. Thankfully, you can paint your sofa cushions to not only provide an additional layer of protection for your couch, but it gives you the opportunity to upgrade them aesthetically too! That’s why we’ve created a short tutorial detailing how to paint outdoor cushions, what you’ll need, some of the options you should consider, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of painted cushions.



Why Should You Paint Your Outdoor Cushions?

There are many good reasons to paint the surfaces of outdoor cushions, and you could actually end up having some fun if you’re the type of person that enjoys a challenge. Painting outdoor cushions is also a lot cheaper and far less time-consuming compared to other methods of restoring upholstered surfaces. That being said, here are a few more advantages to painting outdoor cushions.


No Need to Sew or Stitch

Generally, when outdoor cushions get a bit worn out the first thing people think to do is reupholster them or simply sew new cushions on their own. If you don’t have the skills or a sewing machine, this can be quite the learning curve for you, which is why painting the cushions after giving them a good clean is often a better idea. If your cushions are damaged, they can still be spot repaired using a needle and thread.

Painting vs Making New Outdoor Cushions


You Can Paint the Cushions Any Way You’d Like

Unlike sending your cushions away to be reupholstered, you have much more freedom of creativity to repaint them on your own. Whether you’d like to add patterns, or character designs, or simply paint them a solid color, you won’t have to wonder whether someone else’s design is going to look good on your cushions. Plus, painting can be tons of fun!


Paint Acts as a Protective Layer

Just like painting wood, when the fabric is painted the paint provides the fabric with a protective layer that ensures it will not be easily damaged by impact, abrasion, or friction while in use. Cushions are generally used quite a bit and can take on a ton of damage due to people and pets getting up and sitting/reclining on them all the time, so a layer of extra protection can be highly beneficial.

Paint to Protect Outdoor Cushions


Painting Your Cushions Is Cheaper Than the Alternatives

Getting your cushions recovered professionally can be surprisingly expensive compared to painting them. How much more expensive, you ask? Well, some decent fabric paint is going to cost you anywhere between $50,00 to $100,00 depending on the amount and quality, but getting your cushions recovered professionally can cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars depending on the size and intricacy of the job.


Painting Can Take Less Time Than Reupholstering

Getting your cushions recovered means that you’ll have to get your cushions to a professional, pay them, wait for them to recover your cushions, and then collect them again. This can take some time considering that they’re running a business that likely has many other customers. Painting your cushions yourself can be done on a weekend, by yourself, with far fewer logistics to consider.

Paint Outdoor Cushions Quickly b



What Are the Pros and Cons of Painting Outdoor Fabrics?

Painting your outdoor cushions might not be the biggest project in the world but it can be labor-intensive and quite time-consuming. Taking this into consideration, you might be wondering if it’s worth it, and that’s why we’ve prepared a list of pros and cons of painting your outdoor cushions to highlight a few things that you should keep in mind.


Pros of Painting Outdoor Cushions

One of the most attractive pros of painting your outdoor cushions is the fact that it is much, much cheaper than having it done professionally. You can save hundreds of dollars simply by getting some paint and applying it to your outdoor cushions when compared to having it redone professionally or having the entire set of cushions reupholstered.

The second most attractive thing about painting your outdoor cushions is how easy it is.

At the end of the day, all you’re really going to be doing is cleaning, priming, painting, and sealing a few cushions. Even if you have very little experience working with a paint sprayer/spray paint can, it’s really easy to get the hang of even if you just have a few hours to practice and prepare.

By the way, you can also paint indoor cushion, for example for your diy kitchen chair cushion.

Spray Painting Cushions is Fun

The third most attractive thing by far is how quickly this can be done. If you have a free weekend or have some free time at the end of a workday, you should be able to prepare the cushions on one day, and then spray and seal them on another. This is lightning quick when compared to waiting a week or two to get your cushions back from an upholsterer or professional painter.

Lastly, it’s just fun. You won’t be limited to the designs laid out by someone else. If you fancy painting your cushions all the colors of the rainbow or plain black you can do so! There are also various tints and tones for you to choose from, so if you’d like to paint your cushions different colors and really liven up your outdoor furniture, you can do that too.


Cons of Painting Outdoor Cushions

While there are advantages to painting your cushions on your own there are some notable disadvantages as well. As you can imagine, unlike painting “solid” surfaces like wood and metal, cushions are far less rigid and therefore tend to create a lot of mess when being painted.

However, preparing both your workspace and the cushion adequately can greatly minimize mess.

Another thing to consider is that because you’ll be spraying your outdoor cushions by hand is that the finish will not be perfect. This shouldn’t discourage you though, as even professional spray painters operate within a margin of error, and even though your finish will not be perfect, with a little bit of practice we’re sure that your finish will look pretty close to it.

Customize Outdoor Cushions with Paint

Keep in mind that you will also be working with either a spray can or a dedicated paint sprayer. These are ideal for spraying relatively rigid objects but can be frustrating to use when spraying cushions, so be prepared to spray at some weird angles and tackle sections that you missed if you haven’t clamped the covers down in some way.

Lastly, depending on the type of paint you use, it could result in you paying a bit more than you expected. Some fabric paints can be really cheap, but others can be really expensive depending on the brand, quality, and type of paint being used. However, like most things, the top-quality stuff is going to run you a bit more than run-of-the-mill fabric paint.



What Do You Need When Painting Outdoor Cushions?

Before showing you how to paint outdoor cushions we thought we’d show you a few of the things you need so that you’re adequately prepared for the task at hand. Remember that your finish will largely depend on how you execute your paint job, so even though premium paint and primer will help, concentrate on your application and preparation to achieve the best results.


Fabric Paint

It should go without saying that if you’re going to be painting cushions, you’re going to need some fabric paint to get the job done. There are various brands, qualities, and finishes when it comes to fabric paints, so choose one that suits the overall look and feel you’re going for. Regardless, aerosolized paint will look way better than using a brush, so it’s best to go with that.

Fabric Paint for Outdoor Cushions


Fabric Primer

Aside from your paint, primer is arguably the most important expense when it comes to painting fabric of any kind. Not only will this ensure that your paint adheres to your cushions, but it will also ensure that your final coat has a nice even tone to it. Primer tends to be the same price as most fabric paints, but we recommend going for the top-shelf stuff if it’s within your budget.


Paint Brushes (Optional)

While we do recommend painting your cushions by hand it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to paint them using a paintbrush. If you are going to be using a brush, we recommend one designed for painting fabric, or at the very least one with fine bristles to prevent it from leaving behind brush strokes. The size of your paintbrush won’t matter too much, but you’ll obviously cover more surface area with a larger brush. If you plan on adding details such as images or patterns, you will need an artist’s brush.

Brush for Painting Patterns on Outdoor Cushions


Masking Tape

As with painting any other workpiece, the trick is to cover the parts you won’t be painting using some painter’s/masking tape. This tape can be applied on areas you want to remain unpainted whether to be a zipper or certain parts of the cushion’s surface if you’re trying to create a pattern. Most paints/masking tape variations should work on fabric pretty well.



How to Spray Paint Outdoor Cushions

Now that we’ve covered what you’ll need to get the job done, it’s time for us to finally show you how to paint outdoor cushions. When painting fabric, remember that preparation is extremely important as it ensures that your paint will adhere to the surface of your workpiece and that your finish will have an even tone and texture to it.


Prepare Your Cushion

It might seem like overkill to prepare a cushion for painting but it’s actually one of the most important steps you can follow when painting any type of fabric. Why? Cushions tend to pick up a lot of dirt and grime over the course of their lives, simply priming and painting a cushion without cleaning it would result in your paint adhering incorrectly and an overall shoddy finish. How do you ensure that your pillow is clean then? You’ll need to wash the surface of your cushions before you do anything else. If you have removable cushion covers, we recommend taking them off, even though they might be considerably more difficult to put back on.

Wash Cushion Covers Before Painting

Once you have the cover removed, dilute some fabric cleaner and get to work with a clean cloth or scrubbing brush. Give each cushion/cushion cover a thorough cleaning and allow them to dry completely once you’re done. If you don’t know what cleaning solution to use for your cushion covers we recommend this one. If you can’t get your hands on some, fabric cleaner will do, or some good old-fashioned soap and water if you really don’t have any other option.

Simple enough, right? Once you are sure your cushions are nice and dry, it’s time to mask up your workpiece. Using masking tape (or painters’ tape) secure the sections of your workpiece that you don’t want any paint getting on.

Apply pressure to the tape as you apply it, especially if the surface of your cushion cover is ribbed. Once your tape has been applied, use your thumb and rub down the length of the tape one more time to ensure its security. Once you’re happy, move on to the next step in the process.


Painting Your Cushions

Painting your cushions can be tricky, but if you’re patient and thorough when preparing your paint and cushion, things have a pretty good chance of going well. Unlike when painting wood or metal, you won’t be applying your primer to the cushion first and then applying your paint. Instead, you’ll be mixing your paint with your primer (also known as fabric medium) and then applying this new mixture to your workpiece. Okay, what ratio should you mix your paint and medium in? Generally speaking, the ratio should be two parts paint to one part primer, but it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions if any have been provided.

Mixing Paint for Outdoor Cushions

While this doesn’t apply to all types of fabric paint, it’s a good rule of thumb to slightly wet the surface of your fabric workpiece before attempting to paint it. Why? The moisture will help the paint set into the fabric. Water and fabric primer act as catalysts for fabric paint to bind with its intended surface.

Once your paint has been mixed, you’re going to want to throw your paint and medium mixture into your hopper and get to spraying the surface of your cushions. When using a paint sprayer, start by spraying off the workpiece and then slowly moving your wrist in one smooth, uninterrupted motion across your cushion cover from one end to the other. Ensure that you apply even pressure throughout the pass and only release the trigger once you’re slightly off the cushion cover once more. Repeat this process until the entire cushion has been sprayed, and ensure you have enough paint in your hopper after each cushion has been sprayed.

Aerosol Spray Paint for Outdoor Cushions

This method can be applied when using the aerosolized spray as well, just ensure that you have applied some fabric medium to your cushion beforehand if the spray you’re using is not self-priming. As you can imagine, self-priming paint would be ideal, but you’d know that it is generally more expensive.


Painting With a Brush

If you are painting your cushion covers with a brush, the same preparation steps apply. Mix your fabric paint with your fabric medium in a 2:1 ratio. Once your mixture is ready, get some on your paintbrush and start painting the surface of your cushion. Be sure to apply your paint evenly, working from one end of the cover to the other, following the direction of the fabric’s texture/stitching.

How many coats should you apply? This depends on the type of fabric you’re working with. If you are painting a fabric that was made with patterns like flowers or other designs on the surface, it could take as much as five coats to obscure the design and create an even finish. If there is no design and your cushions are a solid color, it could take as little as two coats. Regardless, ensure that you allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

Supplies for Painting Outdoor Cushions

Once you’re happy with your final coat, allow it to dry for the manufacturer’s recommended time period. Finally, to ensure that your cushion covers aren’t too rigid, give the painted surface a light sanding using some 120-grit sandpaper and use a clean cloth to remove the excess paint dust before moving on to the next step in the process. If you still aren’t happy, repeat the painting and sanding process until you feel it’s just right.


Drying and Finishing Your Cushions

Now that the bulk of the work is out of the way it’s time to ensure that your hard work doesn’t go to waste. Sealing your cushion covers is important, especially if they’re going to be outdoors and exposed to the elements, but how do you even go about sealing fabric? The good news is that if you choose to use acrylic paint to seal your workpiece, all that you need to do is apply heat to the surface. You can do so by using a heat gun. Simply apply heat by running the gun over the surface of your cushions at a medium distance until you feel the paint has solidified and set into the surface of your cushion.

Dry Painted Outdoor Cushions with Heat Gun

If you haven’t used acrylic paint on your workpiece things might be a bit more complicated. It’s nothing to worry about though, all that you need to do is use some sealing wax on the surface of your cushions and you’re pretty much good to go.

Apply your wax to the surface of your workpiece and rub it into the paint using circular motions. Repeat this until you have evenly covered the entire surface of your cushion. Allow the wax to set in for a few hours and use a paper towel to remove any excess.


What Should You Do with Leftover Paint?

The nice thing about fabric paint is that once it has been dried out completely it can be thrown away with the rest of your garbage. All that you need to do is leave the bottle unopened on your windowsill for a day or two and the sun will take care of the rest. Once it’s dry simply reattach the cap and throw it away with the rest of your waste!


Now that you know that it’s possible to paint fabric, why it’s a good idea, some of the drawbacks of the exercise, and how to go about it, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test! Remember to always ensure that your workspace is well-ventilated, and that you’re wearing gloves when working with any type of paint.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Paint Is Best for Outdoor Cushions?

Wondering what kind of paint to use on outdoor cushions? Generally speaking, when you’re trying to spray paint outdoor cushions, the best thing for the job is acrylic fabric paint. Not only is it hard-wearing, but the texture suits most outdoor upholstery too.


Can You Spray Paint Outdoor Cushions?

Absolutely, if you were asking yourself what kind of paint to use on outdoor cushions and your mind landed on spray paint, you would be right. There are special spray paints that have been specifically designed to work on both fabric and vinyl workpieces, that work wonderfully as patio cushion paint.


Can Patio Cushions Be Painted?

Virtually anything can be painted if you have the correct paint for the job. The best patio cushion paint on the market at the moment is acrylic fabric paint, which is sold by most major brands and even comes ready to use. This means that there’s no need to add fabric medium, as the mixture is self-priming straight off the shelf!