How to Paint an Ombre Effect on an Upcycled Chair

Have you ever seen a lone wooden chair at a flea market and dismissed it as nothing you could ever display in your home? Well, the next time that happens, turn around and buy it because this tutorial will upcycle that cast-off seat into something chic. Using three different shades of spray paint to build an eye-catching ombre effect, you can transform a ho-hum find into a trendy furniture piece in a couple of hours. Display it in your entryway or create a set for your kitchen — either way, this project will add a colorful detail to your home without spending a fortune.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

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Step 1: Select a Chair

Find a wooden chair you like. The cleaner the lines, the more the ombre-effect will show up, but the shape of the piece is a personal preference.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 2: Prep and Paint the Chair

Prepare the chair for painting. Clean it with a damp rag to remove any dust, grease or debris from the surface. If there's a sheen on the chair that you don't like, you can lightly sand the surface or use a liquid de-glosser to remove it. Then, to keep any stain on the surface from seeping through, use a shellac-based spray paint to prime the chair. Next, spray a light coat of paint from the bottom of the chair upwards, moving the can back and forth.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)


  • The key to spray painting an even, smooth surface is to hold the can at least 18 inches away from the chair. Then, use multiple light coats of paint rather than one heavy-handed coat.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 3: Choose Your Spray Paint

Choose your colors. The chair in this project has a three-color ombre effect done within the same blue color tone, but again, your shades are a personal preference.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 4: Create the Ombre Effect

To create the ombre effect, start at the top of the chair with the lightest of your paint colors. Holding the can of spray paint at least 18 inches away from the piece, quickly move the can back and forth to feather the surface with paint. Work a third of the way down the back of the chair. Next, leave a one-inch gap, and repeat this step with the medium-colored spray paint on the middle third of the chair. Finally, leave another one-inch gap. Repeat this step with the darkest spray paint on the lower third of the chair.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 5: Fill in the Gaps

Go back and fill in the two unpainted stripes with the two adjacent colors. Lightly and quickly spray the surface with one color, followed by the next, to create a blurred effect.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 6: Let the Paint Dry

Let the chair dry for a couple of hours, or longer, if needed. When it's completely dry, display it in the room of your choice.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)
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