DIYdiy projects

diy project: shades-of-blue ombre chair

by Kate Pruitt

Tights, furniturehair — ombre fades are everywhere! I hope the trend continues; I think everything could benefit from a little ombre experimentation. I love the three-tone fade on this ombre dining chair tutorial from Jesse Dresbach of Nine Red Design. Jesse has a knack for brining modern techniques to found pieces of furniture — you may remember this painted table from our Before & After column. We’re thrilled to have such a wonderful and thorough tutorial for this technique. I’m guessing that Grace, Amy and I will all want to grab a plain wooden chair and try this out. Thanks for sharing, Jesse! — Kate

If the DIY doesn’t appeal to you but you love the look, you can purchase this very chair through Jesse’s Etsy shop for $75.

The full how-to continues after the jump . . .

I had seen this post on Design*Sponge featuring an ombre chair from Anthropologie, and immediately knew I wanted to try it. I had searched around for tips on painting this way, but didn’t find much. I figured I could just go for it, and make a tutorial of my own if it all worked out. Luckily I had a spindle-back chair waiting to be redone, so I got started right away! I really like it and would love a matching set. I think what was great about this project is that you get really satisfying results fairly quickly, making it a rewarding project, as well. Start to finish, it only took about 4 hours. Spray paint is really fun! You can see also see the original tutorial on my friend’s site, The Divine Minimalist. — Jesse


  • wooden dining chair
  • steel wool (paint-removal grade) or sandpaper
  • drop cloth
  • gloves
  • mask and goggles
  • spray paint primer
  • 3 colors of spray paint (I chose gloss white, blue and navy blue.)
  • spray clear coat (gloss)
  • Optional: sawhorse, electric sander and pads, spray paint trigger



1. Wearing gloves, begin sanding your chair with the steel wool. The steel wool may seem soft, but without gloves, after a few minutes you will see little shards of steel poking out of your fingers, so I highly recommend wearing gloves. Since we are painting over this coat, we’re just looking to smooth it out and then rough it up a bit so the paint will stick better. You can also move to an electric sander during this step if you have one; it will go much quicker. The third image below shows what it should like when done.

2. Now start priming in thin, even coats. You can re-coat a few minutes apart. Read the directions on your can of spray paint, as some brands will vary. Be sure to wear a mask and goggles and do this in a well-ventilated area! The image below shows one coat, but you’ll want a couple coats.

3. You can flip your chair over and get in all the nooks and crannies. Be sure to pad your sawhorse if you use one; otherwise it will scratch your seat. An optional tool that is inexpensive and will save your fingers is a trigger handle. It snaps onto any spray paint can and costs around $3.

4. After your primer coat is dry (I waited about 25 minutes, until it wasn’t sticky), you can start on colors. Plan out roughly where you want these to start and stop. I chose to split the chair in thirds. Take your top color, in this case white, and start coating past the limit of your white section. You don’t need to do the whole chair, since we will be painting over that. Remember, thin coats! It’s better to do many thin coats than to do one gloppy-drippy one. I did about four thin coats on the top half of the chair. If you do get drips or strange textures, just take your steel wool and gently smooth it out, and then paint over it again.

5. Once satisfied with the top color, move on to the blue. The goal here was to get the middle third in royal blue. Focus on getting the center of that section solid blue first. You’ll notice that the overspray is already starting to create the fade. Just focus on that center now, back and forth, in very thin coats. Below is a close-up of the seat. Notice that I haven’t gone up or down the spindles yet; I’m just focusing on a solid blue seat.

6. In little spurts, start spraying the spindles, moving quickly upwards and away from the chair. If you want, practice this paint job on cardboard first, though by now you probably have a good feel for the behavior of the paint, since you’ve painted the seat. The only real challenge here is avoiding a clean line and keeping your color heights even.

Try standing back a little and pulling the trigger in very short intervals. Now you can decide how far up and down you want this to go. I started low, because I had to keep adjusting my heights to get them even, which ran the color higher up the back! Do the same moving downward. Remember in the downward direction to spray past the point where you want your navy blue to reach. We want the lower white area to be gone, so spray a good 4–5 inches past where you’d like the blue-to-dark blue fade to happen.

7. I should have flipped my chair before my third color and done the bottoms of my royal blue. So after your blue is dry, I suggest you flip the chair and get that color on there. Or do it before you do the top blue. Either way, just get it done before the third color. This particular chair didn’t need extra protection, but if yours does, cover any areas behind your spray range with cardboard or paper bags.

Once you are satisfied with your middle blue, do the same technique for your third color. I started at the bottom of the chair and worked up. Once the area you want solid is complete, you can use the fade technique from above to spray up and away into the middle color. You’re almost done!

8. I used the sawhorse again to raise my work surface, but this would work as well on a protected floor. While your chair is drying, give it a good inspection (you can see my missing spot on the back leg below). You want to make sure your fades are around the same height.

9. Let it dry for 24 hours or longer if it still feels sticky to the touch. Then clear-coat the chair, again in many thin coats. I chose high gloss for maximum protection. Let that dry another 24 hours or so, and enjoy!

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