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Leather Paint Types – The Right Choice For Your Project

These days, you can find leather paint types in a rainbow of colors, earth tones, and, of course, black and white. Leather paints also come in metallic, pearlescent, and glitter paints. There are paints you brush on, spray paints, markers and dyes. They are all pretty inexpensive and easy to use.

Leather paint, a courant made especially to adhere to leather, comes in a variety colors, types, and finishes. They include acrylic, metallic, pearlescent, paint markers, and spray paint. Leather paint finishes help to seal and protect the painted surface, while also making them water and stain resistant.

Do you want to paint your leather shoes or couch? There are many wonderful, economical leather paints for every kind of leather and objects of every shape, size, and use. Let’s explore more.

What is Leather Paint?

Quite simply, leather paint is paint that is specially formulated to use on leather. That said, as you will see below, there are many different types of leather paint. It comes in a wide variety of colors. You can find metallic, glitter, and pearlescent paints, too.

Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints with Deglazer and Brushes and Daubers - Liberty Leather Goods
Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints with Deglazer and Brushes and Daubers

Some leather paints, like Angelus brand, can be used on any type of leather as well as pleather and a variety of other surfaces. DecoArt makes paint especially for use on patent leather. There are leather markers for more detailed work. And if you want one solid color, you can also use leather spray paint.

Other paints and markers that are not specifically for leather can be used, as well. Sharpies and other permanent markers, some kinds of acrylic paints and even Rustoleum oil-based paint will also work. It’s a good idea to check manufacturer recommendations to see if the specific paint you’re considering is recommended for use on leather and if you need to do any special preparation or finishing.

All kinds of leather need some special preparation before applying paint. Always read the instructions first! But you will always need to start with a clean, dry surface for paint to adhere properly. And often, you’ll need to use a surface prep product to get the leather ready to accept the paint. 

Types of Leather Paint

Acrylic Leather Paint

Most leather paints are acrylic-based. They are the easiest to use, long-lasting and economical. I did come across a couple leather artists who use Rustoleum Oil based enamels, but most leather artists use acrylic leather paints.

Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints with Deglazer and Brushe Set - Liberty Leather Goods
Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints with Deglazer and Brushe Set

Metallic Leather Paint 

If you like shiny and metallic (and who doesn’t!) try metallic paints. Angelus has 6 different colors of metallic paints. A 1-oz bottle costs around $3. Jacquard Lumiere paints come in over 30 colors. These paints, though not specifically for leather, will work beautifully on leather. And they are opaque—for good coverage—and flexible, lightfast and weather-resistant. Dharma Trading sells these paints for about $4 for a 2 ¼ oz bottle.

Pearlescent and Glitter Paint for Leather

If you want other kinds of sparkle or glimmer, try glitter or pearlescent leather paints. Angelus makes both. Their glitter paint costs $4.40 for an ounce and is semi-transparent, so you’ll want to use a matching color underneath. Their 7 colors of pearlescents cost around $3 for a 1-oz jar. Springfield leather company also sells glitter paints for $8 for a 1-oz bottle

Leather Paint Markers

Leather paint markers are great to use if you want to add details or add color to a tight space. Angelus sells empty markers that you can fill yourself. They come with 3 different sizes of tips for wider or narrower lines. A pack of 3 costs around $4. They don’t work for metallic or neon colors but will work with dyes.

You can also buy leather dye pens in limited colors as part of leather repair kits. But these could also be used for decorating if you want. A 6-pack of Realeather dual tip dye markers—in earth tones—costs $16 on Amazon.

Also, you can generally use any kind of permanent markers on leather. If applied to clean leather, and if they’re really permanent, they should last. You can use Sharpies (inexpensive!) or Copic markers—a lot of artists use these and they come in a ton of colors.

Posca paint pens, which I’ve used for flat paintings but not on leather, also come in a lot of beautiful colors and should be permanent of leather if heat set either by ironing on the wrong side or using a hair dryer.

Leather Spray Paint

If you want to apply one color to your leather—shoes, couches, whatever—leather spray paint can  be quick and easy. You will need to apply at least 2 coats. If using spray paints, make sure that you have good ventilation and put newspaper or a drop cloth or something to protect the surface beneath.

Brillo Shoe Color Spray, TRG Super Color Spray, Meltonian Nu-Life Color Spray are all spray paints made for use on leather, vinyl or plastic. They all come in about 50 different colors and cost $8-10 per can.

Leather Paint Finisher

Applying a finisher to your painted leather will help to protect it from scuffs, scratches, and weather.

Angelus makes acrylic finisher in Matte, Gloss, Satin, or Normal—depending on how shiny you want your painted leather to be (costs $4 for a 4 oz bottle).

LeatherWorld Technologies offers a top coat in 3 different glosses for $20 for 8 oz,. while Weaver sells a clear, glossy leather sealer for $23 for a quart.

For shoes, clothing, saddles—anything that will be exposed to weather—you can use Scotchguard or Mod Podge Outdoor. If you use the Mod Podge, be sure to apply it in thin layers so as not to make your colors cloudy! 

Black Leather Paint

All the different brands and types of leather paint come in black. Black leather is definitely a classic. It also makes a great background for colors. Just make sure that the colors you put on top are opaque.

Black Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint - Liberty Leather Goods
Black Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint

Patent Leather Paint 

There are paints that are made specifically for painting patent leather. DecoArt makes a special patent leather paint that comes in 13 colors, including 3 metallics. It costs about $3 for a 2-ounce bottle. To use this paint, you only need to clean the surface before applying the paint—no additional preparation is needed. 

You can also use  regular leather paint to paint patent leather, but it will need special preparation to make it stick.. Otherwise, the paint will tend to peel off. Angelus brand recommends sanding with fine-grade sandpaper first. Others recommend using wet 320 grade sandpaper.

Make sure to get rid of any dust before proceeding! Once clean, the patent leather needs to be deglazed. You can use specially made deglazer—such as Angelus leather prep. Fieblings also makes a deglazer that costs around $11 for 4 ounces.

Some folks use nail polish removed, however, acetone can damage your leather—so if it’s something important to you, it’s probably worth tracking down some leather deglazer. Angelus then advises applying 2 to 3 coats of adhesion promoter before putting on the paint.

You can also use spray paint on patent leather. Just clean the patent leather first. You can deglaze, too, but spray paint should stick even if you don’t.

Grey Leather Paint

Grey is another classic color for leather. All of the various brands and types of leather paint come in grey—or silver, if you want metallic.

Leather Paint Colours

You can find leather paint in all the colors of the rainbow. And if you don’t find a color that you like, you can mix your own! If you’re mixing your own color, make sure to mix enough for your whole project. Also, it’s probably best to mix colors of the same brand. 

Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints and Preparer Deglazer with Brushes - Liberty Leather Goods
Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints and Preparer Deglazer with Brushes

Helpful Items to Begin Leather Painting

Here is an easy-reference table with paid links to items that I trust – these are a great place to start with the various types of leather paints.

Acrylic PaintAngelus 12 Color Starter Paint SetView on amazon
Metalliic PaintAngelus Metallic Leather Paint SetView on amazon
Pearlescent PaintAngelus Pearlescent Leather Paint SetView on amazon
Paint MarkerAngelus Empty Refillable Acrylic Paint MarkerView on amazon
Spray PaintNu-Life Leather/Vinyl/Plastic Color Renew SprayView on amazon

Leather Painting Insights

How do you seal painted leather?

As detailed above, it’s a good idea to seal your painted leather to protect it from scratches, scuffs, and weather. There are specialized products to protect the leather and you can also use products like Scotchguard to protect things you’ll use outdoors

Does Leather Paint Crack?

If applied properly, leather paint should not crack with normal use. It’s oimportant to use a paint that will be flexible when dry, so that it can move slightly whenever the leather items is used, and help prevent cracking.

How Do You Keep Paint From Cracking On Leather?

It’s very important to prepare leather properly prior to applying leather paint. You should also apply the paint in thin layers, make sure the paint is dry before adding the next coat, and seal the painted leather at the end. Take good care of your painted leather, as you would any other leather, and it should last a long time.

What’s The Difference Between Leather Dye And Leather Paint?

The difference between dye and paint is that paint stays on the surface of the leather. Dye soaks in. and actually adds a layer of surface color of the leather itself.

Yellow and Blue Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint Drying - Liberty Leather Goods
Yellow and Blue Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint Drying

Can You Paint Leather With Chalk Paint?

Yes! Chalk paint can be used to paint leather furniture or even shoes. For painting shoes, thin the paint with water. Make sure to apply the clear wax made for use with chalk paint after painting.

Can I Use Oil Paint On Leather?

Some leather artists use Rustoleum paint, which is oil-based. Some permanent markers are also oil-based and fine to use on leather. But regular oil paints can damage leather and may not work well on leather that needs to move—shoes, couches, jackets, etc. Besides, acrylic paints are cheaper, less fumy, easier to clean up after, and  they come in so many colors.

Does Fabric Paint Work On Leather?

The short answer is—it depends. Jacquard paints, Lumiere –as mentioned above –and Neopaque, work well on leather. Other types of fabric paint may or may not stick to leather and may or may not be opaque enough to cover the leather beneath. You’re probably better off sticking with leather paints. 

Can You Spray Paint Leather?

You can spray paint leather. You can use the spray paints especially made for leather. Rustoleum makes a spray fabric and vinyl paint (around $5.75/can) that is flexible and works on leather. To make sure that your spray paint works, use one made especially for leather, vinyl or other flexible material.

What Is The Best Spray Paint For Leather?

Brillo Shoe Color Spray, TRG Super Color Spray, and Meltonian Nu-Life Color Spray all make excellent spray paints for leather. Each offers around 50 colors to choose from.

What Is The Best Paint For Leather?

I would recommend Angelus paints for leather. It works very well for many applications, has great color palette, wears well over time, and has bee used succesfully for years across leather projects and clothing types.

Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints with Deglazer and Several Brushes - Liberty Leather Goods
Acrylic Angelus Leather Paints with Deglazer and Several Brushes

Acrylic Paint Insights 

Will Acrylic Paint Come Off Leather?

If applied properly, acrylic leather paint will not come off of leather with normal use. This means cleaning and preparing the leather first, applying several thin coats of paint, letting the paint dry for at least 24 hours and then applying a sealant. If your finished product will be exposed to rain or water, it’s a good idea to waterproof, too,

Why Is My Acrylic Paint Cracking?

Exposure to too much heat can cause cracking. Putting on the paint too thickly and/or not letting it dry completely between coats can also lead to cracking.

Does Acrylic Paint Wash Off?

If you get acrylic paint in the wrong spot (or on your clothes—I speak from personal experience), wash it off with water ASAP. Otherwise, once it dries, it should be pretty permanent.

Does Acrylic Paint Fade Over Time?

Anything can fade over time. But acrylic paints fade more slowly than most other pigments.

How Do I Stop My Acrylic From Cracking?

Apply thin layers of paint and let each layer dry thoroughly before applying the next layer. Also, avoid extreme heat.

How Do You Fix Crazing Acrylic Paint?

Crazing means little cracks or lines that appear in paint after it dries. With proper application, you should avoid cracking and crazing, but if it does happen, probably the best thing to do is sand off the messed up paint and reapply with thin layers and plenty of drying time.

Adding More Blue Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint - Liberty Leather Goods
Adding More Blue Acrylic Angelus Leather Paint

Does Acrylic Paint Come Off With Water?

It will come off with water before it is completely dry, but once it is dry, it is water-resistant. That means that it resists coming off in water, but if it gets completely soaked—if you jump in a puddle, for example, it might come off. If you know it will be exposed to water, apply waterproofing

Does Acrylic Paint Wash Off In Rain?

Acrylic paint won’t come off in a light rain. But if your painted leather will be exposed to a lot of water, it’s a good idea to treat it with a waterproofing product like Scotchguard.

How Long Does It Take For Acrylic Paint To Dry On Leather?

Acrylic paint dries pretty quickly. It usually takes 15-30 minutes. When it’s dry, it won’t feel tacky when you touch it. Always allow the paint to dry for a full 24 hours before applying a finisher, though.

Here is an insightful video demonstrating application of paint to the details of tooled leather:

Regular Acrylic Paint On Leather

There’s no reason why regular acrylic paint shouldn’t work on leather. You need to prepare the leather the same way you do when using leather paint. If you have some regular acrylic paints on hand, give it a try, maybe on a small section of whatever you are painting. If you’re buying paint for the project, though, why not just buy leather paint?

You can use leather paint to create a masterpiece on leather or refresh old shoes, belts, chairs, or whatever leather things you have or find in a thrift shop. Leather paint comes in many colors, is easy to use, and not too expensive. Just always remember to prepare and finish your surface properly to insure a long-lasting product. For step-by-step instructions on applying color, click here for my guide on how to paint leather, or learn about where to use paints with my guide to leather paint uses.

Related Questions

Can Leather Be Painted?

Leather can indeed be painted. There are many wonderful products made for painting leather in a variety of colors and finishes. Angelus is one of the best, and is available in a variety of colors and finishes suitable for most leather painting projects.

Does Leather Paint Wash Off?

When leather paint is properly applied and completely dry, it’s water resistant, so a little bit of water won’t take the paint off. But if your painted leather will be exposed to a lot of water, it’s a good idea to apply water proofer.

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