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Acrylic Leather Paint – Why It Helps Your Leather Project

One of my favorite parts of leathercraft is making unique gifts for my friends and family. I have recently wanted to make more personalized goods by incorporating small icons into my projects. Acrylic leather paint provides the best opportunity to accomplish this by offering various colors.   

Acrylic leather paint is a water-based colorant applied to leather. The paint allows colors to dilute and offers some resilience due to the acrylic. Acrylic leather paint sits on the fabric’s surface rather than penetrating the material. Many pigments are available, starting at $3 for 1 oz.

Acrylic leather paint is a great option when customizing leather projects. Let’s look at the best time to use the paint and how to use it properly. 

What Is Acrylic Leather Paint?

Acrylic leather paint is a creative material used to decorate leather. Leather paint is made of a water-based acrylic formula because products containing oils or alcohol could affect the leather’s finish.

Acrylic leather paint is specifically designed to adhere to prepared leather surfaces and be resistant to peeling and cracking. The paint comes in a wide variety of colors but can also be diluted to create a specific hue by adding water to the paint. 

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • When You Might Use Acrylic Leather Paint
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Quick Reference Table
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Types and Variations
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Characteristics
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Pros
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Cons
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Costs
  • Alternative Options to Acrylic Leather Paint
  • Experienced Tips for Working with Acrylic Leather Paint
  • My Personal Research with Acrylic Leather Paint
  • Acrylic Leather Paint Care and Maintenance
  • Helpful Acrylic Leather Paint Insights
  • Key Takeaways
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Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints with Brushes

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

A significant worry that people have about acrylic leather paint is it wearing off quickly or bleeding. While this is possible, most issues with leather paint stem from not applying the paint properly and not adding a finishing coat.

The paint will stick much better to the surface of properly prepared leather. Adding a finish coat to the paint will provide much-needed protection from water and other wear areas. Acrylic leather paint can be durable if these steps are followed.

When You Might Use Acrylic Leather Paint

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Acrylic leather paint is solely a decorative part of leather craft. It is often used in tandem with carving to produce elegant pieces with colors that pop. It is often used by those wanting to customize leather products they may already own.

Acrylic leather paint is perfect for both of these situations. Crafters may also choose acrylic paint over leather dyes, as the paint sits on top of the surface, and multiple colors can be applied. As leather goods wear, acrylic leather paint may also be used to treat small areas where color may have faded or peeled. 

Acrylic Leather Paint Quick Reference Table

CharacteristicDetails
ToolAcrylic Leather Paint
Component MaterialsPigment, acrylic resin, and water
Common Sizes1 oz, 4 oz, Pint, Quart
Cost Range ($)$3–$30
Recommended MaintenanceClean the caps, brushes, and anything else that may come in contact with the paint
Recommended StorageThe paint should be stored sealed in its original container  in a cool environment away from heat
Common UsesCustomizing leather products, repairing worn leather, highlighting tooling marks, creating artwork on leather
How Long It Lasts (on average)If opened, the shelf life is up to one year. When left sealed, paint can last up to three years
Acrylic Leather Paint Characteristics

Acrylic Leather Paint Types and Variations

The main variation in acrylic leather paint is color. Each company will have specific pigment ratios that will provide a different hue to the paint. Unlike other acrylic paints available, those made specifically for leather only provide water-based solutions, as alcohol may damage the dye or leather finish. 

Acrylic Leather Paint Characteristics

Acrylic Resin

Acrylic leather paint is made of three main parts: a pigment, acrylic resin, and water. Acrylic resin is a thermoplastic resin, meaning under high heat, it becomes a liquid; however, when cooled, it will become hard again. These characteristics are ideal for making durable paint.

Like pigment, acrylic resin is insoluble in water. When used in acrylic leather paint, the resin mixes with the pigment to create a colored resin. It is then carried to the surface by the water. Once applied, the water will evaporate, allowing the colored resin to harden and become a durable surface. 

Pigment

Pigment is a fine powdered material that produces color but is insoluble in water. It can be artificially created or found naturally in plants and ground to produce the pigment. In acrylic leather paint, pigment and resin are applied to the leather by water. Once dried, the pigment will stay on the surface, mixed with the acrylic resin. 

Water

Water in acrylic leather paint acts as a transporter and prevents the mixture from hardening before necessary. The mixture of the materials is applied to the surface of the leather, where the water will dry, leaving behind the pigmented acrylic. Since neither acrylic resin nor pigment is water soluble, keeping the bottle of paint closed after use can preserve it for up to a year.

Sizes

Leather paint comes in a wide variety of sizes, from 1 oz to a quart. The 1 oz size is a small test sample and will not be enough to complete most leather painting projects. A 4 oz size will be the more common choice for those wanting to paint leather.

It offers enough paint to complete large projects while not being wasteful if not used often. The pint and quarter sizes of acrylic leather paint are production sizes. These will be most useful for those who paint leather often or as a job and can be beneficial with discount pricing when buying in bulk. 

Acrylic Leather Paint Pros

Acrylic leather paint is a great option for those looking to customize a leather piece. It excels at inspiring expression by offering various colors that can be used. Leather paint can also be applied to chrome tanned leather, which no other leather dye or stain can do. Acrylic leather paint is also important for repairing worn leather goods. It can be used in small areas to help restore faded or peeled color. 

Acrylic leather paint is specifically designed to adhere to prepared leather surfaces and resist peeling and cracking.  

Acrylic Leather Paint Cons

While acrylic leather paint can produce a customized leather product, they are still limited by only laying on the surface of the leather. Being on the surface will create a texture that will not sit flush with the rest of the leather and, more importantly, will be more prone to wear.

Acrylic paint, unlike leather dye or stain, is not a lifelong solution and will degrade over the years. Additionally, to apply acrylic leather paint properly, you need to remove the leather’s finish.

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This may not be a problem for crafters, but those looking to customize a leather product they own can damage the leather by doing this improperly. 

Acrylic Leather Paint Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made

Acrylic leather paint starts by grounding a pigment into a fine powder. This powder will give the paint its color. The more powder added, the more saturated the color. The pigment powder is then mixed with an acrylic resin. The pigment will begin to color the resin while being absorbed. This process will continue until the mixture is perfectly smooth, with no grittiness left.

Water is added to this mixture, which keeps the paint from drying and hardening and acts as the transportation method when applied. This also means water can be added to acrylic paint to dilute the formula, lightening the color.

Vodzinska O Ksana, Bilotska Larysa, Vorona Nadiia, and Donchenko Svitlana, from the Kyiv National University of Technologies and Design, in Kyiv, Ukraine, compared different acrylic paints and their properties. They showcased that changes in the paint’s ratios can cause undesirable properties and make it difficult for them to stick to various materials. 

Acrylic Leather Paint Costs

The cost of acrylic leather paint is decided by how much of it you need. Most paint brands will have a 1 oz test size. These small paints cost $3 but would likely not be enough to complete any projects. A 4 oz size is the next one up and is more standard for painting uses.

The 4 oz size costs $7. Past 4 oz are much larger sizes, including a pint and quart. These sizes are for those that need acrylic leather paint for production and cost $20–$30.

Alternative Options to Acrylic Leather Paint

Stains, dyes, and antiques are good alternatives to acrylic leather paint. They can provide color to your projects and be used in targeted areas. Regular acrylic paint can also be used instead of leather acrylic paint, but it may experience more wear over time. 

Experienced Tips for Working With Acrylic Leather Paint

  1. Follow the instructions, especially those that state how to prepare the leather surface
  2. Mix water with water-based paints to create lighter colors
  3. Always use a finishing coat when painting leather to protect, and prevent the paint from bleeding

In this helpful video, Angelus explains how to use their acrylic leather paints on different materials and provided helpful tips for each material and what to avoid.

My Personal Research with Acrylic Leather Paint

While I had seen online how acrylic paint could bond to some leathers, I decided to test if this was true for different leather types. I wanted to compare the paint on different surfaces, oily and textured. To try this, I took three leather pieces, including natural vegetable tanned, oil tanned, and pebbled leather, and applied three coats of leather paint, then looked for any differences. 

Vegetable Tanned Leather

I knew that vegetable tanned leather would have no issues when applying the paint, so I used it as my control piece to compare to the other leathers. With no finish on it, the deglazer I purchased to prepare the leather was a quick process and did not remove much of anything.

Applying the paint was also simple and covered the surface in a single pass. By the third coat, I was happy with the results and knew it would last.

Oil Tanned Leather

Oil tanned leather was my biggest concern when using leather paints. Deglazing the leather was much more work than with the vegetable tanned piece. I rubbed the surface with more product, but the cloth only got dirtier. After the fourth time trying to prepare the surface, I decided it was good enough. The towel was mostly clean, and the surface looked much less oily.

Painting the leather was also different. The surface made the paint seem more watery during the first coat. However, once dried, it looked as good as the vegetable tanned piece did. After the third coat, there were no visible differences between the vegetable tanned and the oil tanned. 

Pebbled Leather

The last piece of leather I wanted to try was something with a textured surface. I used some chromium tanned pebbled leather for this. Deglazing the leather was not as difficult as the oil tanned leather, but it made the shiny coat on top lose its gloss. Once the piece was matte, I felt it was okay to paint.

As expected, painting the leather was more difficult due to the texture. The brush would want to fall into the holes, and after the first coat, I saw spots that went untouched due to the bumps. After applying the other two coats, the entire surface was covered, even the spots I missed with the first coat. 

Conclusion

Despite the differences in applying the leather paint, all the leathers came out identical. I was worried that oily leather would cause the paint to run or textures would cause unevenness, but these issues were solved with more time. Ultimately, vegetable tanned leather was the easiest to work with, but with proper patience, oil tanned and pebbled leather provided a great-looking result. 

Acrylic Leather Paint Care and Maintenance

How to Clean Acrylic Leather Paint

Painted leather products should be cleaned by the directions provided by the paint company. This usually involves the light use of water and a cleaning solution. Leather acrylic paint should have a top coat applied when finished, which makes cleaning the product much easier. 

How to Maintain Acrylic Leather Paint

To ensure the painted product lasts the longest, it is important to keep it away from heavy wear. This includes rain or abrasion. While acrylic leather paint products may be waterproof, the leather itself can still absorb water, dry, and crack, causing issues to the paint. Otherwise, acrylic leather paint may only need periodical cleaning. 

How to Store Acrylic Leather Paint

Storing acrylic leather-painted goods is similar to storing the leather itself, which is away from sunlight and moisture and in a cool temperature. When properly stored, the paint should not have any issues. Storing the paint product itself is also important. Keep the paint completely closed in its original container. Away from heat and at a mild temperature to not freeze. 

Painting with Yellow Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint - Acrylic Leather Paint - Liberty Leather Goods
Painting with Yellow Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint

Helpful Acrylic Leather Paint Insights

Can you use acrylic paint on leather?

Yes, you can use any acrylic paint on leather. However, leather acrylic paint will provide the best results as it binds to the leather better than regular paint. 

Is there a difference between acrylic paint and leather acrylic paint?

Yes, acrylic leather paint is formulated to adhere better to leather than regular acrylic paint. In addition, leather acrylic paint is more wear-resistant and less prone to cracking or peeling. 

What kind of acrylic paint do you use on leather?

If you use regular acrylic paints on leather, it is best to choose water-based solutions. This reduces the chances of unwanted damage to the leather’s surface, as alcohol-based paints may cause the dye in the leather to bleed.

How do you get acrylic paint to stay on leather?

The leather’s surface must always be prepped before applying any paints to the leather. A deglazer is often used to remove the leather’s finishing surface to provide a fresh, clean area to work with. Companies that sell leather acrylic paint will offer products and provide more information on how to prepare your leather surface for painting using their specific products. 

How do you prepare leather for painting?

The area must be cleaned and have any finish removed to prepare leather for painting. This is best done by dusting the material and using a deglazer to remove the finished surface of the leather.

How do you keep acrylic paint from cracking on shoes?

The proper application method is the most effective way to ensure the paint added to leather shoes will not crack. The surface will need to be prepared with a deglazer before attempting to paint.

Building up thin layers is most effective when painting leather shoes. It is important to let the paint dry thoroughly between each layer. Lastly, once the final layer has dried, the paint will need to be sealed with a leather finisher.

How do you seal acrylic paint?

Sealing acrylic paint will require an additional finishing product. The finisher will be applied on top of the painted leather in layers. Leather finishing products can be applied with a brush and must be left to dry before applying another coat or using the product.

Is acrylic leather paint waterproof?

Yes, when applied properly, acrylic leather paint should be completely waterproof. Angelus, in particular, has released a video showcasing the durability of their lather paint. Going as far as using a pressure washer to attempt to remove the paint. 

What can I use to seal paint on leather?

Companies that sell acrylic leather paint also sell their matching paint finishes. Resolene is a popular paint finisher that can be purchased in different gloss levels. Resolene is simply applied over the dried paint to provides wear and water protection. 

Can you make your own leather paint?

Yes, making your own leather paint at home is a fairly simple, three-ingredient process, requiring a pigment, resin, and solution. The pigment will be mixed with the resin before adding a solution, such as water, to create the paint. 

Key Takeaways

  1. The surface of the leather must be prepared before painting.
  2. A finishing product should be applied to protect acrylic leather paint best.
  3. Acrylic leather paint works on a wide variety of leather and is extremely durable. 

In Closing

Acrylic leather paint is a great choice when customizing leather as it allows for freedom of expression, making any leather product unique. Being designed specifically for leather, you can freely paint products without fear of it wearing quickly. 

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