How to Make Painted Cushions

Ever since I saw these pillows from Wary Meyers I’ve been itching to try some painted accents for the home. As I mentioned in my recent Patio Low-Down, I had to get creative with one corner of my courtyard when I ran out of money. I loved the look of these chairs from Anthro and was inspired to put these old weather-worn folding chairs to work. Here’s how I made my own painted chair cushions.

1. Stretch a piece of canvas or duckcloth. Using upholstery staples, I stapled around the outside of the canvas on a piece of particle board. You will need a square of fabric at least 4 inches larger than your finished cushion, for each cushion. You will also need a second square of (washed) canvas for the bottom, a foam insert and ties for each cushion.

2. Using a paintbrush, coat your canvas with a generous layer of Matte Gel (available at most craft stores in the fine art section.) You can also use Gesso although I believe it dries opaque and I wanted the natural canvas color to show through as my base.) Let dry.

3. While my canvas dried, I sanded my chairs lightly to remove the grime that had accumulated over years of neglect.

4. All dry, so I started my painting. I used a variety of acrylic paints in colors that matched the patio decor. It was a fun way to pull it all together. I just went for it with a geometric, brush-y, abstract design but you can do anything. It would be a fun to include the kids!

Keep painting. If you don’t like something, paint over it. Acrylic paint dries quickly and is very forgiving.

Add more colors. Try not to get too muddy.

The pink and purple get a little 80’s but I kinda love.

Looking good.

5. Once your paint is dry, add another generous layer of Matte Gel over the entire surface of the painting. Once dry, add another layer for good measure.

It will dry clear.

6. Cut off your canvas inside the staples with a matte knife and there you have the top fabric for your cushions. Make sure you have a piece that is your finished cushion size plus at least 2 inches height and width.

Here is how I assembled the cushions.

7. Cut a square of foam to the finished dimensions of your cushion using a serrated (or electric) knife. I used 2″ medium density foam.

8. Cut off all of your edges at a 45 degree angle. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

As you can see. ha!

9. Now you have a top and a foam insert for each cushion, you also need a bottom square of washed canvas and 4 ties for the back. I used some white cotton rope but ribbon or fabric will work fine.

10. The top and bottom fabric should be 2″ bigger than the finished cushion. Place them right-side-facing.

11. Sew around with 1/2″ seam, leaving the back side mostly open. If your ties need to be placed at the back corners, you will want to sew them inside during this step.

12. Snip off your corners.

13. Turn right-side-out. Notice how there are no ties here? I had to seam rip and add them in. No biggie, but easier just to sew them in when you sew the cushion.

14. Insert foam and sew the opening closed either by hand or machine. With the tapered edge, it was easy to sew by machine.

There you have a finished cushion. I’m not sure how long these will last out in the elements, probably a better project for a low-traffic indoor area but I’ll keep you posted. On the bright-side, you can always repaint!

What do you think? Not too shabby for some old beat up chairs that my husband tried to toss on several occasions!




Ouah that is a great technique. I think I might even apply it to real textile paint to see the difference. I don't think I will like the slightly plastiquy texture of the matte gel (gesso? not sure hoe to call it here in France). I love turquoise, so this realisation really called my name. 🙂


I love it… I wonder if I can do this with fabric paints and white upholstery fabric?!? I would like to re-do my kitchen chairs.


JC! when u first sent me your patio after pics i was in love with these cushions and just assumed they were some fab new fabricworm fabric i hadn't checked out yet, and was waiting for u tell us who designed it so i could order some. i had no idea you were the designer much less hand painted them, AMAZEBALLS!!!!!

p.s. this is totally inspiring to create actual paintings for the home and makes me think how cool it would be to hang a painting like this outside!

p.p.s. can u turn this into a fabric i can buy?


great idea and so cute…i’ve been making my own chair cushions from a simplicty pattern and I gotta say i just love this website so much, all your super helpful tips and photos make the projects so easy to understand and gives me the confidence to tackle them. Thanks so much, my new favorite place to check everyday 🙂


Hi! I was wondering if we could get an update on how these weathered the elements? I LOVE them and am thinking about making some and putting them on our deck outside, but we’re in Texas (re: HOT!!). How’d these do where you live?

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Love the idea! Wouldn’t you like to update the paint on the chairs to either match the table or highlight the colors used on the fabric?


Great cushions. Many thanks for sharing the instructions. Can you wash the cushion covers??
Thanks, Noni


You can wipe them down (since you coated them in Matte gel). I’ve been to Jacinda’s years after she first made these and they still look beautiful! Even in the Texas sun!

100 DIYs to Give Your Home a Makeover This Summer

[…] Sometimes, we get in that spot when our patio furniture is too made over to paint again but too expensive to buy new. Create simple painted chair covers like these that will be easier on the wallet and give your chairs the makeover you didn’t think possible. (via Pretty Prudent) […]


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