The Leather Painting Handbook: Tips, Tricks, and Trends


Painting leather is a creative way to customize your leather items or restore their appearance. It can be used to restore or change the color of almost any type of leather and add some fun designs. There's nothing complicated about it, and it's not expensive either.

Painting leather involves multiple steps, starting with preparation and ending with drying. First things first, a good set of paint tools will make painting much easier and will ensure a stunning outcome.

Types of Leather paint:

Various types of leather paint are available, each with its own characteristics and suitable applications. Here are some common types of leather paint:

Acrylic Leather Paint:

Acrylic leather paint is one of the most popular types of leather paint. It is water-based and easy to use, making it an excellent choice for beginners. It provides good coverage and can be mixed to create custom colors.

It dries relatively quickly and can be sealed with a leather finisher for added protection.

Leather Dye:

Leather dye is a liquid coloring agent penetrating deep into the leather fibers, resulting in a long-lasting, vibrant color. It is often used for larger leather items like furniture, car interiors, or large bags.

Leather dye requires multiple coats for even coverage and should be sealed with a leather finisher.

Oil-Based Leather Paint:

Oil-based leather paint provides excellent durability and flexibility once it dries. It is suitable for projects that require long-lasting results. It may take longer to dry than acrylics and often has a strong odor, so proper ventilation is essential. Oil-based paints are commonly used for leather shoes and belts.

Alcohol-Based Leather Dye:

Alcohol-based leather dye is known for its quick drying time and vibrant color payoff. It is often used for intricate leatherwork and fine detailing because it can provide sharp, crisp lines. Alcohol-based dyes may require more precision and skill to apply.

Water-Based Leather Dye:

Water-based leather dye is similar to acrylic paint in its water-based formula. It is eco-friendly and easy to clean up. It provides good color coverage and is suitable for various leather items. Water-based dyes can be sealed with a leather finisher for added protection.

Fabric Paint (for Leather):

Some fabric paints are designed to work on leather as well. These paints are typically water-based and can be used for lighter projects. They are less durable than specialized leather paints or dyes and may require more frequent touch-ups.

Angelus Leather Paint:

Angelus is a well-known brand that produces specialized leather paints. Their paints are popular among sneaker customizers and leathercrafters for their quality and color range.

How to Paint Leather Step by Step?

  • Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes from the paint or deglazer.
  • Cover your work surface with old newspapers or a drop cloth to prevent spills.
  • Use a leather deglazer or rubbing alcohol to clean the leather surface thoroughly. It removes any oils, dirt, or finishes that might prevent the paint from adhering correctly.
  • Lightly sand the leather with fine-grit sandpaper to help the paint adhere better.
  • Shake the leather paint or stir it well to ensure an even consistency.
  • Apply the first coat of paint to the leather using a soft bristle or foam brush.
  • Depending on the opacity of your paint and the coverage you desire, you may need to apply several coats. Allow each coat to dry before adding the next one.
  • Mix the acrylic leather paints on a palette or disposable plate if you want to create custom colors.
  • Once the paint is dry, apply a leather finisher to protect it and give the leather a more polished appearance.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the leather finisher or sealer you're using.

Care & Maintenance:

Proper care and maintenance of painted leather are essential to ensure your painted leather items' longevity and vibrant appearance. Here are some tips to help you care for and maintain painted leather:

Avoid Excessive Moisture:

Avoid your painted leather items from excessive moisture and water. Leather is sensitive to water, and prolonged exposure can cause damage, including color fading and warping. If your painted leather gets wet, gently blot it with a dry cloth and let it air dry naturally. Do not use direct heat sources like hairdryers, as they can cause the leather to crack.

Protect from Direct Sunlight:

Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause the leather paint to fade over time. Store your painted leather items away from direct sunlight when not in use, or consider using UV-protective products.

Regular Cleaning:

Clean your painted leather items regularly to remove dust and dirt. Use a soft, dry, or slightly damp, lint-free cloth to wipe the surface gently. Avoid harsh chemicals or cleaning agents, as they can damage the paint and the leather.

Use Leather Conditioner:

Depending on the type of leather and paint used, consider applying a leather conditioner periodically to keep the leather supple and prevent it from drying out. Choose a conditioner compatible with painted leather and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Store Properly:

Store your painted leather items in a cool, dry place when not in use. Use dust bags or soft cloth covers to protect them from dust and scratches.

Avoid Friction:

Be mindful of friction on painted leather surfaces, especially in areas that receive a lot of wear, like the corners of bags or the soles of painted leather shoes. Friction can lead to paint wear and damage over time.

Inspect and Touch Up:

Periodically inspect your painted leather items for any signs of wear, scuffs, or scratches. If you notice areas where the paint has worn off, consider touching up the paint using the same paint or dye used originally. Follow the same application process and allow it to dry correctly.

Professional Cleaning and Restoration:

For valuable or heavily worn painted leather items, it's a good idea to seek the services of a professional leather cleaner or restorer specializing in leather painting and restoration.

On a concluding note, remember that practice makes perfect, so don't be discouraged if your first attempt isn't flawless. Experiment with different techniques and color combinations to achieve your desired look when painting leather.