How to Paint Leather – A Comprehensive Leather Painting Guide

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For those who did not know, you can actually paint on leather and other soft fabrics! This comes in handy when wanting to revamp old furniture, handbags, accessories, and even items of clothing. The options and projects for painting leather are quite extensive. In this article, we will explore some great techniques as well as the best paint for leather.



Paint for Leather

You may be asking what the best paint for leather is? Well, there are certain product ranges made for painting leather specifically. These are usually acrylic leather paints and work the same way in which normal acrylics would. Using artist-grade acrylic paint on leather is an option too, and is probably a little more cost-effective.

The only downside is that where leather acrylics are made to be more durable for this fabric, using normal acrylics will require some preparation and sealing for added durability. If you are looking to paint a leather jacket or another item of clothing that will need to be cleaned, then using acrylic leather paint is probably a better choice. These are made to withstand moisture and heat elements such as steaming or dry cleaning.

The type of leather you use also plays an important role here. This will determine the preparation you need to work through before you can get started with your acrylics. Certain leathers have been pre-treated or they have a coating over them. These will need to be cleaned and prepped so that your acrylics can hold onto the surface properly. Options for doing this include the use of certain alcohols or even leather deglazing solutions.

Painting Leather


Types of Paint for Leather

There are at least four types of paint that one can use on leathers. Each has its own pros and cons. Acrylic, as we know, is the most well-known leather paint option. The reason this paint is so popular is because it is water-based and easy to clean up if you have made a mistake. Acrylics are also safe and non-toxic options to use for various painting projects around the home.

Leather dyes are also widely used and available for DIY projects. These are best used for touch-ups or covering rips in furniture. While this option certainly has fewer colors to choose from than that of acrylic paints, it is the most permanent. Leather dyes are easily absorbed into the smooth leather surface and are locked in once dry.

Metallic and pearlescent leather paints are also an option. Metallics are mostly used in cars or motorbikes, where they are mixed with vinyl paints for a glossy metallic finish. The pearlescent kinds are used for painting the interior of these vehicles, as they offer a softer sheen than the metallic versions. These are great for using as accents or enhancements in clothing designs too.

Paint for Leather



Instructions for Painting Leather

Painting on a surface like leather is pretty easy to do. The only danger is not knowing the risks involved and messing up your expensive fabric. Because this material is often very smooth and soft, it can be difficult for the paint to adhere to it, which can lead to peeling or cracking off after a while. There are, however, some ways you can prevent this. Below, we will walk through some helpful techniques on how to paint leather correctly for a long-lasting new look.

Leather Shoes Paint


Preparing Your Fabric

Before starting with your paints, there are some steps you will need to follow in order to ensure that your leather is ready to receive them. The best way to know how your material will react is to use a small area for testing. This way, should anything go wrong, it is not your entire project that is ruined.

  • The first step in preparing your surface is to wipe it down. Use a damp cloth and wipe off any dust or dirt on the surface.
  • Next, you want to wipe it with an alcohol solution, namely isopropyl. This will get rid of oils or waxy substances that are coating your leather fabric. You can use an old cloth, cotton balls, or even a wool dauber.
  • Be sure not to soak the fabric, but rather go over the area lightly with your solution. As these are alcohol-based, they tend to dry fairly quickly.
  • Should your project require a little more elbow grease to get rid of hard substances on your surface, you can use a gentle sandpaper and lightly go over the surface.
  • Once done with all this, wipe it down with a damp cloth again.
  • Now, you want to use another clean cloth and wipe down the surface with a leather deglazing solution. This can be purchased at certain crafting stores or online. It is this solution that will allow your paint to stick to the leather surface. These are also known as sealants for leather.


How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Leather

The term sealing when painting leather is not the same as sealing paintings or other crafts. This step is usually done after you have finished painting. When looking at how to seal acrylic paint on leather, we are looking at ways to get the paint to stick to our surface before we start painting.

  • This method uses different ingredient alternatives for preparing and sealing your leather surfaces before painting them.
  • This method requires the use of harsh chemicals, and using a mask and gloves will be beneficial.
  • You will need to mix a water and leather bleach solution. The ratio should be 1 part of the bleach to 10 parts water. Make it up in a spray bottle if this is easier.
  • Now, you can spray the mix onto the surface and use a cotton ball or wool dauber to wipe it over the entire area, removing any dirt or marks as you go.
  • If your leather is already a dark color, you may notice fading once this has been applied. This is normal when using these chemical solutions and will not affect the quality of your paint.
  • Once you have allowed your surface time to dry, you can start the painting process knowing that your acrylics will adhere well to the leather.

Preparing to Use Paint for Leather


Using Acrylic Leather Paint

Using acrylic paint on leather is pretty easy, but when painting certain surfaces, it can require different techniques or methods of application for the best results. Whether you have opted to use normal acrylics or an acrylic leather paint, the methods will be the same. There are some simple rules to follow when using acrylic paint on leather. Let us take a look at these below.

  • When applying your paints to leather, try to use thin coats. These will stick better to the smooth surface and allow for it to dry faster.
  • The best way to do this is to mix your paint with water for the first coat. Your acrylics should now go on the same way watercolors do.
  • Applying thicker layers of paint onto this fabric will result in cracking and peeling. Thick coats of acrylics often do not dry well or form clumps. This will affect the consistency and finish of your project.
  • This paint is also affected by heat and moisture elements. If it is applied too thickly, your acrylics will not be able to properly contract and expand during temperature changes.
  • Using an acrylic leather paint will make for a more durable and resilient medium compared to using normal craft acrylics.
  • Using an acrylic fabric painting medium mixed with your acrylic options will enhance the flow and finish of your paint on the leather surface. Acrylic mediums can also alter the drying time of your paints on certain surfaces.
  • Ideally, after your first wash coat has dried, you want to apply another thicker layer without water added.
  • It is useful to flex and bend your leather item once dry and in-between each new layer of paint. This way, the material does not dry too stiffly and will not crack once it is used.
  • Based on the outcome, you may like to apply some more coats of paint. Depending on your surface, you can use up to seven.


Preserving Your Leather

Once you have finished the above steps, the only thing left to do is to apply a finisher to your surface. This may not be necessary for all leather projects, but it will be helpful when thinking about how to paint leather shoes, for example. Items that are used often or may get damaged will do well to have a protective finish applied after being painted.

  • This step must only be done once your material is completely dry. This could take a day or two.
  • For this step, you will be making use of an acrylic leather finisher. This product is readily available and affordable.
  • Apply this directly to your surface using a paintbrush. Depending on the brand you are using, drying times may vary.
  • The finish you have chosen could vary too. Some products offer options from matte or flat finishes to semi and high gloss ones.
  • No matter your preferred finish, your shoes and other clothing items will now look great and last a long time.

Leather Shoes Paint



Tips to Remember When Painting Leather

Now that we have covered all our bases, let us take a quick look at some top tips to keep in mind before you go ahead and start those leather painting projects!

  • Always remember to prepare your surface correctly before starting. Painting onto a surface that has not been wiped down or sanded will lead to messy and unprofessional results.
  • When looking at ways on how to seal acrylic paint on leather, keep in mind that using deglazing solutions and alcohols can fade or damage your leather surface. Be very careful and always test an area before starting properly.
  • Be sure to add some water into very thick paints to thin them out. Applying layers that are too thick will prevent your items from drying correctly. It will also make them more prone to cracking and peeling.
  • Using thinner layers makes the adhesion easier and will ensure a long-lasting paint job.
  • Applying a finishing solution over your leather surfaces will protect them in the long run. Based on what sort of project you are doing, these solutions and their finishes may differ.
  • Deciding on specialized acrylic leather paint or leather dyes will provide more permanent finishes that can withstand more wear and tear.
  • Some types of paint for leather will require heat to set them instead of a painted finish. This will be especially necessary for certain items of clothing.
  • Be sure to read the instructions on your products before purchasing to see what they are compatible with and how best to use them.



How to Paint Leather Shoes

This is a hot topic for leather lovers everywhere. We have all had that favorite pair of shoes become faded, scuffed, or downright impossible to clean. Well, by using leather shoes paint, you can now transform those outdated old favorites into modern shoes that you are proud to wear again.

The tricky part about knowing how to paint leather shoes is that not all leathers are exactly alike – some shoes are made from different textures or even materials like faux leathers. There are also some that have been stained, treated, and dyed. These will all require different levels of care and preparation in order to achieve the best results.

Because shoes are an item that get a lot of wear and tear, they are a must when it comes to being protected. When you are done painting your leather shoes, applying a fixative or topcoat will ensure that they are protected for long-term use and daily wear. You can alter and revamp your tired leather shoes using the methods stated above.



Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Best Paint for Leather?

Leather is quite a smooth surface generally, so the paint you use will need to be able to stick to it properly. There are a few good options for painting on leather, including acrylic leather paint, craft acrylics, and leather dyes or stains. The one you pick will be based on the leather surface you are panting and what you are using the item for.


Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Leather?

You can use craft acrylics or a special acrylic leather paint to refurbish or redo outdated leather items. This would include clothing, furniture, or accessories like bags and gloves. Using a craft acrylic will require the use of a finishing solution to make sure it is sealed and protected. This will also allow clothing to be washed. When looking at the best leather shoe paint, an acrylic leather paint would be the most durable option for daily use.


How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Leather?

Sealing acrylic paint on leather is done before the paint is applied with the use of an alcohol solution. Using either isopropyl alcohols or deglazing solutions will effectively act as a sealant as they have an alcohol base, allowing better adhesion of your paints. Not all paints or all leathers will require this step, however. For example, if you are using an untreated leather it may not be necessary.


How to Paint Leather Shoes?

Painting leather shoes would require the same method as painting other leather items. It is important to prep and clean your material before you start. This would require the use of an alcohol solution to get rid of the coating or treatment currently on the leather. Once that is done, you could start painting with a leather shoe paint. This would require a few layers, as this paint tends to be quite thin. Once you are happy with the outcome, your shoes will need a finisher to seal them for daily use.


There you have it, the ins and outs on how to paint leather. We hope you enjoy trying out all these tips and techniques.