Are you bored with the colors of your leather clothing items, or does your leather furniture need a facelift? Whatever the reason, painting your leather items can be fun. You can also personalize those items, making them more unique and a great talking point amongst friends. To help, we will be going into further detail about how to paint leather, so read along!
Table of Contents
- 1 Painting Leather
- 2 How To Paint Leather
- 3 How To Paint Delicate Designs on Leather
- 4 How To Remove Paint From Leather
- 5 Helpful Tips for Using Acrylic Leather Paint
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
Leather is a popular material for artists or DIY enthusiasts who want to create something different, such as key rings, labels, shoes, jackets, gloves, belts, handbags, and even leather furniture. However, it will not work if you take ordinary watercolor paints and start painting your leather handbag or shoes. Some steps need to be followed and a specific type of paint must be used.
So, let us guide you through the correct process so that your project will be the talk of the town.
Best Paint To Use for Painting Leather
Paint is one of the best materials to use on leather items, as it adds beauty, and it also protects the leather, and gives many different types of finishes to the leather surface. There are four different paints you can apply when painting leather.
Enamel paint is a very smooth and versatile paint, and it leaves the leather surface with a beautiful finish. When painting leather, enamel paint is preferred by a lot of artists and DIY enthusiasts as it leaves you with a surface that has no brush marks and only requires two coats.
However, enamel paints are oil-based, which means it is toxic and takes longer to dry.
When you use oil paints on your leather surface, it will add natural beauty to any matte or gloss surface of the leather. However, when using oil paints, it takes a lot more time to dry than other types of paints and requires a lot more additional coats to get the right finish and satisfactory results.
To get the best results with latex paints, you need to have a perfectly dry surface. Also, if you apply too many layers, then the paint tends to crack and peel off. Therefore, using latex paint for leather is not the best option.
Acrylic paint is the most popular choice for painting leather items as it dries quickly, is water-based, easy to clean, and will not damage your leather surface. It is also a very versatile and durable paint, and also comes in a large range of colors and shades. Acrylic paint on leather is the perfect way for painting leather as it will not crack, peel off, or ruin your leather items. So, if you are going to wear or use the leather item you are painting, like shoes, belts, jackets, or even furniture, it is advisable for you to use acrylic leather paint.
Acrylic leather paint is very durable and is designed to stain your leather. It will also stay on your leather clothing for a very long time, and it will not damage the leather surface. Take note that when you paint your leather, it is more of a staining process than a painting process.
Acrylic leather paint is the right paint to apply as it is formulated to soak into the surface of the leather. The paint is also easily available at most craft and hardware stores and comes in a wide range of colors and shades. If you want to paint your leather items, it needs to be leather paint, and most leather paint is acrylic based. However, it is advisable not to use ordinary or regular acrylic paints that are used for paper, wood, or canvas, as the proper acrylic leather paint is specially formulated to adhere to the leather, making it more flexible so it will not crack or peel off.
However, normal acrylic paints can still be used to paint your leather items, but it tends to be a lot thicker than acrylic leather paint and needs to be watered down before you use them. Normal acrylic paint is not as durable as acrylic leather paint and may crack or peel off. It, therefore, requires a lot more preparation work before painting. Before you start, you need to make sure that the leather you want to paint has a finished, or unfinished surface, especially with clothing and accessory items. If the item has a protective layer on the surface, you need to first remove the clear and shiny coating before you can apply the acrylic paint on leather.
Best Leather Acrylic Paint: Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint Set
One of the most popular and highly recommended acrylic leather paints is the Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint. This is one of the best acrylic leather paints on the market, preferred by many leather painters and artists. The set includes 12 vivid colors including, blue, black, lilac, brown, white, orange, red, pink, turquoise, purple, green, and yellow. These are perfect for any leather clothing project, and if they do not have the color you are looking for, you can always create the shade you want.
This acrylic leather paint is flexible and will not rub off, crack, or peel off, and is also scratch-resistant, wearable, and waterproof when applied. The paint is simple to use, water-based, and easy to clean. Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint is perfect for restoring shoes or even couches and can also be successfully used on cotton.
How To Paint Leather
Acrylic leather paint is very easy to use, and the leather itself is easy to paint on. Therefore, to paint on any of your leather items, there is no need for expensive tools or equipment, and you do not need years of experience to do the job. Below are some leather item ideas.
- Leather shoes
- Leather jacket
- Leather wallet
- Leather bag
- Leather bookmarks
- Leather belts
Materials Needed To Paint Leather Items
The number of supplies that you will need for painting with acrylic leather paints will vary according to the type of item you are going to paint, as well as the surface condition of the leather. For instance, if you are going to paint a couch, you will need more supplies than if you are going to paint a handbag or leather belt.
The supplies we list here are more for how to paint leather shoes and other smaller leather items.
- Acrylic leather paint
- Leather item
- De-glosser like Isopropyl alcohol
- Leather paint sealer
- Leather conditioner
Preparing the Leather Surface
When using acrylic leather paint, the preparation of the leather surface is of vital importance. If not done correctly, the paint will crack and peel off and your entire project will be ruined. Let us now consider in detail the first step of painting with acrylic leather paint. The very first thing you need to do is clean the surface of the leather you are going to paint, which means removing all the gloss and grease, which is in the form of wax or silicone. This can be removed by using the degreaser and de-glosser. If not done properly, it will result in your paint cracking and peeling off.
If there are still places that are not properly cleaned, use some fine sandpaper, and sand the surface very carefully, taking care not to damage the leather. If the leather still feels too hard, then use some leather conditioner that will soften the leather. Do not soak the leather as it is very porous and will take a very long time to dry properly.
Painting the Leather With Acrylic Leather Paint
If you are only painting a section of a shoe, a bag, or a jacket, then before you start to paint, you should mask off the sections of your leather item that you do not want to paint. This will protect that section from any paint and keep it clean. The most important thing to remember when painting with acrylic leather paint is to always apply paint to the leather in thin layers and allow the paint to dry completely before you apply the next coat. This will ensure that the paint dries perfectly and adheres to the leather, ensuring it will not crack.
Before you start rushing in and applying paint to the leather, it is advisable to first do a test run using a section of the item that will not be seen. From this, you will immediately notice what the color looks like and if the paint is sticking properly to the leather. You can then decrease it a bit more if needed.
The first coat should always be thin, even if you have to use a little water to thin it down. Then allow it to dry completely, which is normally around two hours. Once dry, you can paint on the next coat. Make sure you use undiluted acrylic leather paint for all of the other layers. When applying the paint to the surface of the leather, you need to ensure that you paint in the direction of the flex. Before applying any paint, flex the leather with your hands and note how it bends. Now you can apply the paint in the direction of that flex, ensuring that it will not crack and this will also give you a more natural look. Now apply this same process after each layer. By doing this, you are helping the leather to adjust to the paint, so it does not harden, causing the paint to crack and allowing the leather to harden. It will also help the paint to penetrate the whole surface area of the leather, giving you much better colors.
You can use ordinary flat paintbrushes to apply the paint. However, you can also use a foam or sponge brush, but be careful as the foam and sponge brushes hold a lot more paint and you need to make sure you only apply thin layers of paint. Lastly, make sure when applying the leather paint, that your room temperature is correct. This means it should be around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Centigrade). If your room temperature is not right, it may result in your leather paint cracking, with poor adhesion.
Sealing Acrylic Leather Paint
The last process when applying acrylic leather paint to your leather items is how to seal acrylic paint on leather, and if necessary, add a waterproofing coat. If done correctly, it will ensure that the paint on your leather item is protected and will last a long time without yellowing, or cracking. You can also wear it and keeping it clean is easier.
You can also follow this same process if you want to use leather shoe paint, or other items such as a leather belt, purse, handbag, or jacket. How to seal acrylic paint on leather?
- Ensure that the painted surface is clean and there is no dirt or dust.
- Once completely dry you can apply the acrylic leather finisher, which will protect the paint from cracking or fading, and allow you to keep the item clean.
- The finisher can be in a ratio of one ounce of acrylic paint finisher to one pint of water.
- Apply the finisher in thin coats using a brush, cotton wool, or spray. The finisher comes in four finishers from matte to high gloss.
- Apply about 20 coats of acrylic paint finisher and allow to settle for around five minutes between coats.
- If you want to wear the item you have painted and sealed, it is recommended that you also apply a waterproofing coat, which will provide more durability and protection. The waterproofing coat can also be applied using a brush, cotton wool, or spray.
- Once completed, you need to leave the item to dry completely before wearing it which is usually not less than 24 hours.
How To Paint Delicate Designs on Leather
You may feel that you do not want to paint the entire leather item, and all you want to do is paint a smaller and more delicate design. For this, you can do just as we have described above but use a smaller paintbrush. However, you can also use an acrylic paint pen. These acrylic paint pens or markers are specially for painting on leather. The pen’s barrel is filled with a large amount of acrylic paint, and because it has a small felt tip, it is ideal for delicate designs and detailed artwork on your leather items. If used on leather items that you are going to wear outdoors, then it is recommended that you apply a sealing and waterproof coat over the paint.
Unlike a paintbrush, the felt tip only allows a small quantity of paint at one time, so you will never have thick layers of paint on your leather item. The acrylic paint pens already come diluted, which allows the paint to flow easily and evenly. So, why use an acrylic pen?
Easy to Use
The acrylic paint pens and markers are very easy to use, and they are also a lot less messy than an ordinary paintbrush. All you need to do is shake the pen first, press down on the nib to allow the paint to flow and away you go. The pens also come in various nib styles and can be swapped when necessary.
Unfortunately, most of the manufacturers of the pens have designed the pens with a solid barrel so it is impossible to see how much paint you still have in the pen, and you may run out of paint before you finish.
Not only are the acrylic paint pens and markers ideal for use on leather, but they can also be applied to rubber, metal, wood, glass, plastic, and many more surfaces. It can also be applied to light, dark, rough, or smooth surfaces. You can also use it on T-shirts, keyrings, mugs, rocks, or any other personal items you may want to paint on.
Since acrylic paint pens are water-based, they are safe and non-toxic. They should not be used where food or drink is involved as it is not dishwasher safe, and the washing machine may damage the paint.
How To Remove Paint From Leather
While handling the paint, you may have accidentally spilled some paint on the leather surface or you may have made a mistake while painting and you need to remove some of the paint from the leather surface. You need to be careful when removing paint from leather as you do not want to damage the leather in any way.
Try using these ideas for removing paint from leather.
Using Warm, Soapy Water
Use a clean towel or cloth and soak it in warm soapy water, then wipe the paint off the leather. You may have to wet the paint and allow it to stand for about 30 minutes so that the paint begins to soften. Take a bristle brush with some warm soapy water and remove the paint, then wipe with a dry cloth.
Olive Oil or Cooking Oil
By using cooking oil, olive oil, or even baby oil, you can successfully remove paint from the leather surface. Use a cotton swab and dip it in the oil, then gently wipe the paint, giving the oil a chance to penetrate the paint.
Follow this process until the paint is soft, then carefully remove the softened paint using a mixture of vinegar and baking soda or a knife.
Use a clean towel or cloth and add a few drops of the alcohol to it and begin to wipe off the paint, making sure you only remove the paint in the effective area. As rubbing alcohol contains certain chemicals it may dry the leather out slightly, and if this happens you need to apply some leather conditioner. If you do not have any rubbing alcohol available at home, then nail polish remover will also do the job.
Take some petroleum jelly or ordinary Vaseline and apply it to the leather. Leave for a bit so it can soften the paint. Now take a knife and gently begin to peel the softened paint off the leather surface.
Finally, use a clean cloth to remove all the Vaseline or petroleum jelly.
Scraper or Knife
Once the paint has completely dried you will be able to remove it with a scraper or knife, but you need to do it very carefully to avoid damaging the leather surface. If you find this process is not working too well, then first soften the paint with some oil and then proceed to remove the softened paint.
Helpful Tips for Using Acrylic Leather Paint
The process of painting leather with acrylic leather paint is fairly simple, and we have covered most of the aspects above. However, you need to ensure that you follow all the steps to make your leather painting experience enjoyable and effective. Follow these tips to help you achieve good results every time.
- When applying the paint make sure you apply thin even layers.
- Acrylic paints from different suppliers are not all the same, so make sure you stick to one brand throughout the painting process.
- Before applying any paint, first ensure that your leather surface is completely clean to avoid the paint peeling off later.
- For protection, it is always advisable to apply a sealing and waterproofing coat over the acrylic paint.
- The paint must dry thoroughly before you paint another coat.
Applying acrylic leather paint to any of your leather items is a perfect way to enhance and personalize those items. Whether you paint the whole surface or just add a delicate design, the leather items will take on a whole new look!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Acrylic Leather Paint Take Long To Dry?
Acrylic leather paint dries fairly quickly. After about 15 to 30 minutes, you can paint on the next coat. You should wait for about 24 hours before painting on the sealer, and about 72 hours before you clean or wear the item.
Can Acrylic Leather Paint Wash Off Leather?
If you prepare the leather surface properly and apply the layers of paint, sealer, and waterproofing correctly, then the paint will not come off your leather item as it is formulated for use on leather surfaces.
Can You Repaint Leather Items After a Few Years?
If the paint has started to fade and yellow, then you can repaint it, but you first need to remove the old finishing coat and sealer to enable the new paint to adhere to the leather properly.
Can You Paint Your Leather Shoes?
The answer is simple: acrylic leather shoe paint works well on shoes and will give them a whole new look. When looking at how to paint leather shoes, the methods are the same as with all other leather items.
In 2005, Charlene completed her Wellness Diplomas in Therapeutic Aromatherapy and Reflexology from the International School of Reflexology and Meridian Therapy. She worked for a company offering corporate wellness programs for a couple of years, before opening up her own therapy practice. It was in 2015 that a friend, who was a digital marketer, asked her to join her company as a content creator, and this is where she found her excitement for writing.
Since joining the content writing world, she has gained a lot of experience over the years writing on a diverse selection of topics, from beauty, health, wellness, travel, and more. Due to various circumstances, she had to close her therapy practice and is now a full-time freelance writer. Being a creative person, she could not pass up the opportunity to contribute to the Art in Context team, where is was in her element, writing about a variety of art and craft topics. Contributing articles for over three years now, her knowledge in this area has grown, and she has gotten to explore her creativity and improve her research and writing skills.
Charlene Lewis has been working for artincontext.org since the relaunch in 2020. She is an experienced writer and mainly focuses on the topics of color theory, painting and drawing.
Cite this Article
Charlene, Lewis, “How to Paint Leather – A Guide to Using Acrylic Leather Paint.” Art in Context. March 16, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/how-to-paint-leather/
Lewis, C. (2023, 16 March). How to Paint Leather – A Guide to Using Acrylic Leather Paint. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/how-to-paint-leather/