Leather painting can beused to restore tired or scuffed items or to create fantastic designs on everything from shoes to couches. Here you’ll find what you need to create lovely, long-lasting designs.
Leather paint is a paint specifically formulated to adhere to leather and other flexible surfaces like vinyl, fabric, or pleather. It can be used on upholstery, clothing, purses, handbags, shoes, sneakers, and craft projects. The right steps can result in a beautifully finished piece.
Leather paints come in a wide variety of colors and in several different sizes to accommodate any project you want—large or small, single-colored or a whole rainbow. Learn the simple steps to follow and what products you’ll need for both painting and finishing as you read on.
What is Leather Paint?
Leather paint is paint specifically formulated to adhere to leather and other flexible surfaces like vinyl, fabric, or pleather. It’s flexible and durable once it’s dry, so it can be used for things like shoes, clothing, and furniture.
Most leather paint is acrylic based, which means it’s easy to clean brushes and spills using a damp rag or running water—although spills need to be cleaned up quickly before the paint dries.
You can buy leather paint in jars in many colors and also in different sizes, depending on the size of your project. Leather paint differs from leather dye in that the paint stays on the surface of the leather, while dye actually changes the color of the leather and changes it chemical structure.
When you use leather paint, it’s important to prepare the leather before applying paint. And some kinds of paint also need to have a finisher applied on top of them—but more about that later.
What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Leather?
Leather paint comes in liquid form—that you apply with a brush, but you can also buy leather spray paint and leather paint markers. You can make your own markers, too. Angelus offers empty markers that you can fill with paint and then apply. ($4 for one or $10 for a set)
What is the Best Leather Paint?
Note: All of these products can be bought either as individual bottles or in kits.
Angelus is the brand most often recommended by leather artists. It comes in 4 different sizes, from 1 oz. (which costs around $4 for “standard colors”) to a quart ($25). They offer around 80 standard colors, 27 colors in their collector’s edition, 12 neon colors, 7 pearlescents, and 19 glitter colors. In addition, they carry great products for preparing and finishing your painted leather projects
2. Jacquard Lumiere and Neopaque
Aalthough made for fabric, these are highly recommended for leather painting. The Lumiere paints are metallic, come in 33 colors, and 3 sizes, from 2.25 oz ($4-6) to 1 gallon. ($125). Neopaque paints come in 21 colors and the same range of sizes and prices..
3. Fiebing’s Leather Colors
These come in either 2 oz., 32 oz, or 1-gallon bottles ($7.00-110.00). They offer 11 different colors. They also offer a good selection of products for preparing and finishing painted leather.
Leather Painting and Finishing Tips
How to Paint Leather Furniture
Here are the basic steps for painting leather furniture:
1. Prepare the leather
If the leather is dirty, wash it with a rag or sponged dipped into a mixture of mild soap (like dish soap) and water or use a leather cleaner.
Then apply a cleaner and deglazer, like Angelus Leather Preparer and Deglazer ($4 for 5 oz) or Fieblng’s deglazer (4 oz-1 gallon for $6.25-$65)
2. Apply the Paint
using a foam brush or a flat brush, apply the paint in thin, even coats. You’ll probably need to apply 3-6 coats to get good coverage. Allow the paint to dry between coats until if feels dry to the touch. This should take from 15-30 minutes.
You can paint your furniture all one color or use as many colors as you like. You can use the colors straight from the bottle or mix your own. If you mix your own color, be sure to mix enough for your whole project, as it can be challenging to recreate a color.
3. Let the Paint Dry
Let your furniture dry for 24 hours—at least.
4. Add A Finisher
Add a finisher to seal and protect your painted furniture. Finishers come from high gloss to matte, depending on the look you want (and how slippery you want your furniture to be!). Fieblng’s makes Leather Sheen protective finisher, which you can buy from 4 oz to 1 gallon ($7-$78) . Angelus offers 4 different finishes in sizes from 4 oz to a quart ($4 to 17.60)
5. Let the Finisher Dry
Let the finish on your furniture dry for 24 hours before using. This will allow the surface to thoroughly cure and provide a strong, durable layer above the paint.
How Do You Paint Leather Shoes?
Painting leather shoes follows pretty much the same steps as painting leather furniture, above—with the following differences:
In Step 1—First, remove shoes laces and anything else that’s removable from the shoes before cleaning and painting. In addition, it’s a good idea to use painter’s masking tape to cover any parts of the shoe that you won’t be painting and to keep your edges clean—do this after deglazing.
The remaining steps are the same. But add these steps:
- Treat your painted and finished shoes with leather cream or leather polish to rehydrate the leather. Apply with a soft cloth, then wipe off any excess and buff with a clean cloth or soft brush.
- If your shoes will be exposed to a lot of water or snow, it’s a good idea to add water proofing. Angelus offers a water and stain repellant (at $6 for a 5.5 oz can), and Fiebing’s sells Water Protector in 5.5 or 10.5 oz cans ($6 or $9). Or you can use something like Scotchgard (heavy duty water shield, 10.5 oz for $5.50). Mod-Podge Outdoor is highly water resistant, but not waterproof. It’s a liquid, unlike the others, which are sprays. .If you use it, be sure to apply thin coats so it doesn’t become cloudy ($14 for 8 oz).
How Do You Use Leather Paint?
Leather paint should be applied in thin even layers. Using thin layers helps the paint to adhere to the leather and to the layers below. Plan to apply at least 3-6 layers to get complete coverage—allowing each layer to dry before adding the next one. For most acrylic based paints, this should take 15-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the layer and also the humidity.
How Can I Paint My Leather Seats?
Follow the steps listed above in “How to paint leather furniture.” If you’re just painting the seats, remove the seats, if possible. If you can’t remove them, protect the other parts of your furniture with masking tape or if they’re too big, cover them with paper or plastic, taping with masking tape as needed.
How Do You Seal Acrylic Paint on Leather?
There are products made especially for finishing your painted leather. Finishers come in different levels of shine from high gloss to matte. Fieblngs makes Leather Sheen protective finisher, which you can buy from 4 oz to 1 gallon ($7-$78) . Angelus offers 4 different finishes in sizes from 4 oz to a quart ($4 to 17.60).
After you finish painting, let your painted leather sit for at least 24 hours. Then apply your finisher of choice. You can apply it using a brush or rag in a thin even coat. Let it dry for 24 hours before you use it or add leather polish or water proofing.
How Do You Prepare Leather for Painting?
Proper preparation is key for creating a successful project—one where the paint sticks! Leather needs to be cleaned if it is dirty—this can be done with soap water and a rag or leather cleaner. Then it’s important to remove the finish.
The easiest way to do this is to apply a leather preparer/deglazer like the ones made by Fiebing’s or Angelus. These can be applied with a soft rag (especially if you have a large area to cover) or cotton balls or pads. You can also try acetone or non-acetone nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or lemon juice.
Leather Paint Spray
Leather spray paint is another way you can paint leather. It can be used on any kind of leather object. There are some leather spray paints made especially for use on shoes. And others made for use on furniture or leather (or vinyl or fabric) car seats.
Brillo Shoe Color Spray, TRG Super Color Spray, and Meltonian Nu-Life Color Spray all make excellent spray paints for leather shoes. Each offers around 50 colors to choose from. Rustoleum fabric and vinyl paint or Color Bond paint will both work on furniture or leather car seats..
How to Paint a Leather Purse
To paint a leather purse, follow the same steps as for painting leather shoes (see above). Be sure to remove straps or any bits or pieces that come off. You can paint them separately. Cover up any hardware with masking tape to protect it from getting painted. And if you do get paint on places where you don’t want it, wipe it off immediately with a damp rag.
Here is an insightful video demonstrating artistic painting on purses:
Painting Leather Furniture with Chalk Paint
You can also paint your leather furniture with chalk paint. Be sure to use the recommended wax or finisher to seal your furniture and protect the paint, so it will last for a long time, and look great during use.
How to Paint Faux Leather Furniture
All the paints that work on leather also work on faux leather.They may need additional preparation, though. Angelus recommends sanding pleather before deglazing. They also recommend that you apply 2 or 3 coats of adhesion promoter to the surface before applying the paint.
Dupli-Color Vinyl and Fabric spray paint includes an adhesion promoter ($13.50 for 11 oz)—as do other spray paints made especially for vinyl. Or you can buy a can of adhesion promoter on its own and then apply leather paints as described above. Dupli-color, for example, sells a clear adhesion promoter primer at about $13 for 11 oz.
Leather Couch Paint Repair
If your leather couch needs repair, there are several ways you can DIY. If it is ripped, you can use leather tape to patch it. This tape comes in many colors. You can also fix scratches or scuffs by applying leather paint—you’ll need to prep first. There are leather repair kits that you can buy which include everything you need to patch and repair leather.
How to Paint a Leather Case
To paint a leather case, follow the steps for painting leather shoes listed above. You’ll probably one to complete one side and then do the other. In other words, don’t turn the case over to paint the second side while the paint is still wet!
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.
Now you know how to start and finish your painted leather creation. Just add your own imagination and colors and have fun creating beautiful, useful, long-lasting painted leather. For more on one of the best paints, click here for my guide to Angelus leather paints. For step-by-step details on painting click here for my guide on how to paint leather.
Can You Paint Leather Seats?
Yes, leather seats can be painted. Remove the seats, if possible. If you can’t remove them, protect the other parts of your furniture with masking tape and paper or plastic, as needed. For larger repairs, a leather patch might be more effective.
Can You Paint Leather Clothing?
Yes, leather clothing can be painted. Using a quality acrylic paint, such as Angelus, will allow the dried paint to be flexible and thus move/flex when the clothing is worn. Painting leather clothing can be a great way to repair or decorate favorite items.
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