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How to Paint Outdoor Fabric Cushions, Awnings, and More

Grey patio set on deck

Outdoor fabrics add softness and flexibility to the usually hard surfaces of the backyard. Whether you enjoy kicking back on a comfy patio cushion or sitting on a lounge chair, outdoor fabrics add a relaxed aesthetic. Unfortunately, though, the vibrant colors can fade over time.

If your outdoor cushions are still in good shape but looking a little older, you can paint them for a new update. If you're wondering how to paint outdoor cushions, it's an easy DIY project that will give your whole outdoor space a makeover. Change up the look of your outdoor fabrics with a little paint!


Why Paint Outdoor Fabric?

Swatches of fabric

Painting outdoor fabrics is a great way to transform your outdoor space. Add a few patio lights and some potted plants, and you can have a completely renovated spot to entertain and gather.

Outdoor fabric generally takes paint quite well, and it's a great option to customize your porch or patio with a completely unique look. In addition, it's a frugal way to update fabrics that have faded in the sun—and even covers stains and discoloration.

Painting your outdoor fabric cushions and other accessories will save you plenty of money too. Outdoor paint is inexpensive. You’ll get several more years of life out of your outdoor fabrics with a painted makeover.


Best Outdoor Furniture to Paint

If you’re considering painting your outdoor fabric cushions and furniture, you may wonder which furniture takes paint the best.

Furniture made from natural materials is the easiest to transform with paint. Wood, wicker, and even composite and metal furniture can take a new coat of paint well. As for fabric items, most outdoor textiles are paintable.

You can update canopies, awnings, umbrellas, cushions, and even outdoor rugs with a coat of paint. Items that receive more wear may need fresh paint more frequently. It's also important to note that paint can change the texture of fabric items slightly. They may feel stiffer and less flexible.

Painting your chairs, a bench cushion, or the cushions for your outdoor loveseat will give you a fresh look and let you create the custom patio furniture of your dreams.


How to Paint Outdoor Fabric

Before you start painting your outdoor fabric cushions and furniture, there are a few steps to take in preparation. By taking the time to set up the project, you'll have more success and won't run into streaking, running paint, and other issues.

The best paints for this project are those specifically designed for outdoor fabrics. While you could use regular acrylic or latex paint, they often won’t last as long. Look for an outdoor fabric spray paint for the best results.

To Paint Outdoor Fabrics, You’ll Need the Following:

Step 1: Determine if the Fabric will Respond to Paint

Most types of outdoor-friendly fabric will respond to paint. In general, natural materials like cotton canvas are ideal for taking on a new paint finish. The paint needs to bond with the fabric surface and bend with it. Slick and non-porous vinyl, sheet acrylic, and rubber products are particularly difficult to paint (even with a fabric backing).

Woven materials like canvas are likely to accept a layer of paint that will stay attached to the surface as the fabric bends rather than flaking off. If you're trying to determine if your outdoor fabric will work, search for information about that specific type of material. If you can't find any information from the manufacturer, it's best to test out the paint on a small hidden corner or underside of a cushion before committing to it.

As a general rule, it’s easier to paint an item darker than lighter. Solid items are easier to cover evenly than patterns. Choose a color that you love to brighten the look of your entire patio.

Step 2: Cleaning Outdoor Fabrics

Woman cleaning couch

Before you start to paint the fabric, it's essential to clean it thoroughly. If there is any dust, lichens, or mildew accumulated on the surface of the fabric, it needs cleaning before being painted. Most canvas manufacturers recommend using mild natural dish soap and a soft brush to remove dirt from outdoor fabric products.

If the covers slip off the cushions, try washing them in the washing machine with cold water to get them as clean as possible without damaging any UV-resistant coatings. It’s hard to paint brand-new canvas cushions due to their weather-resistant coatings, but older fabrics that are a little worn should be roughened enough to grab the paint.

If you’re working with vinyl or acrylic materials, clean them with an orange oil-based cleaner. Keep in mind that outdoor items made from these materials are rarely suitable for painting.

After cleaning, let the fabric dry completely before applying any type of paint. Many fabric paints for outdoor use require quick drying to bond to the fabric surface, so damp fabric or cushion filling will interfere with that process.

Step 3: Setting Up for Outdoor Fabric Paint

Painted blue patio furniture

When your fabric cushion is completely dry, it's time to set up your space to paint. Choose a spot away from other objects, as paint particles can sometimes disperse. Cover the ground with a drop cloth or tarp to protect it from paint.

Follow all instructions on the paint you've selected (including drying times). Typically, for fabric spray paint, you'll want to work quickly to spray an even thin coat of paint over your outdoor fabric item. If you are painting both sides of a cushion, pillow, or another fabric item, it's best to allow one side to dry completely before turning the item over and respraying it.

Once your item is dry, assess it for any streaks or missed spots. Some items may require multiple coats of paint to get full coverage. Be sure to give the cushions 24 to 48 hours before sitting on them to avoid any pigment transfer from the surface to your clothes.


Painting Awnings and Other Outdoor Large Fabric Items

Deck with shade

Awnings and canopies are particularly good outdoor fabric items to paint because they don’t receive the physical wear of patio furniture cushions and tend to be solid-colored rather than patterned. Look for an outdoor UV-resistant fabric paint designed for canvas fabrics.

The process for painting other outdoor fabric items is similar to painting outdoor furniture. Remove the canvas or fabric awning from the frame and spread it over a flat, clean surface. Spray the fabric quickly in thin layers, using even strokes.

Follow the directions and drying times on the fabric paint, but generally, you'll need to allow an hour to dry between coats. Some items may require up to 24 hours to dry completely, especially in humid climates. It's important not to apply more paint to fabric that feels tacky or damp to the touch.

You can paint other outdoor fabric items like pergola curtains, patio umbrellas, and covers. Depending on the item and its original condition, you may have varying levels of durability. While painted outdoor fabrics won't last forever, it's a great way to get a few more years out of an item and change its look.

Breathe new life into your patio furniture, décor, and outdoor fabric items in one short weekend. Do It Best has all the outdoor fabric paint and materials you’ll need to let your creativity shine.


While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.

 

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