I normally don’t buy pillows from stores, since I can almost always make them more cheaply, and I hate their polyester wadding insides and lack of removable covers, but I just HAD to have this one. I’m a pretty big fan of graphic florals for my spring and summer decorating, as well as Lotuses and Peonies, both of which are featured here. The fabric is my favourite: linen (or at least a linen blend), and they were also only $10, so I got two. There was really only one problem: the colours. I loved the blues, but the dark brown just looks awful with the warm wood tones that are prevalent in my house. However, even if it had coordinated with my wood, I consider dark brown to be a fall colour, so I still would have painted the pillows.
Step 1: Decide which colours you want to use. Because there were two shades of blue flowers, I bought two shades of green fabric paint at Michaels. The paint directions said to wash the fabric before decorating it, so cleaning the pillows became Step 2. I just tossed them in my washing machine on the delicate cycle. If you don’t wash stuffed pillows on a delicate cycle, with a less aggressive spin, they will come out all lumpy, and who wants to lean against a lumpy pillow, right? Not comfortable, which is sort of the whole point of pillows.
Step 3: Start painting!
This kind of fabric painting is very easy, because the shapes are already there for you. It’s basically like an incredibly simple paint-by-numbers kit! You can’t see the type of paintbrush I was using in the picture above, but it was a round brush with synthetic bristles. The general rule is: acrylic paints – synthetic bristles; oil paints – natural bristles. The number of contours and points in the floral design made the round brush tip the best choice, since rounds come to a nice point at the end and flex nicely around curves.
Since dark colours have more visual weight than lighter ones, I used the darker of the two greens that I bought for the Lotus and larger leaves. I used the lighter green for thin leaves and stems. I had to paint two layers of the light green, and three or four of the darker green to fully mask the brown, because it was a more translucent pigment. I also ended up buying a light blue fabric paint to paint over the light blue flowers on the pillow, because the original print job wasn’t very strong in that colour.
I could only paint one side at a time, so with multiple coats of paint needed, on two pillows, with two sides each, this project took about a week with drying time. The actual painting part was only about half an hour a day though, so it really didn’t take up a lot of active time. The first coat of paint takes the longest, since the fabric really sucks it up, and you have to be quite careful about where you’re painting. Subsequent coats are much faster and easier.
When all of the paint was thoroughly dry, I followed the directions on my paint labels and washed the pillows again. Apparently this was necessary, and actually helped “set” the fabric paint. Seemed odd to me, but I tend to be a label-reading, instruction-following gal, and it generally works.
Finished! As you can see, I ended up painting a few of the thin leaves light blue instead of green, because I felt like it needed a bit more of the light blue to balance things out.
I love how well the colours go with my green linen pillow and my favourite periwinkle blue throw from Chapters! Plus I tend to gravitate to solid-coloured fabrics, so having the graphic floral print in the mix really helps liven things up.
I did these pillows about two years ago, and they have held up very well to being leaned against, sat on, washed, and occasionally thrown. (I have three kids, remember?) None of the paint has cracked or peeled off, and even if it does, I kept the extra that was left in the bottles for touch-up purposes.
They just might be my favourite printed pillows since their make-over!