painting leather

How to Paint Leather and whats the Best Paint for Leather

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A really fun craft is learning how to paint leather. You can transform old and tired leather items like shoes, bags, clothing, furniture and more, to give them a brand new look with very little effort. The following article will teach you about painting leather and the best methods to use for your project.




Best Paint for Leather

Not all types of paint fair the same way on leather products, there are specific types of paint designed for use on leather. These paints are generally acrylic and you would go about using them in the same way that you would your usual artist acrylic paints. That said, your normal acrylic paints can also be used for painting leather and this works out to be less expensive than specific acrylic leather paint. Acrylic leather paint is however specifically designed for painting leather; therefore it is much more durable and hard-wearing. Normal acrylic paint requires a little more work in terms of preparing the leather properly and then effectively sealing the paint. Should your project involve an item of clothing that will need regular cleaning then proper acrylic leather paint is your best option as these paints are designed to be durable when it comes to heat and steam in the case of dry cleaning.

There are various types of leather that also need to be taken into consideration. Some leather is treated or has a film over it. These types of leather will need to be prepared properly before you begin so that the acrylic paint adheres to the surface of the leather properly. This preparation would involve using alcohol and specific leather stripping solutions.

paint for leather


Varieties of Paint for Leather

The most common type of paint for leather is acrylic paint, the good thing about acrylics is that they are non-toxic and water-based therefore easy to fix mistakes and clean up. Specific dyes for leather are another option, these are usually used to hide tears and for furniture. With these dyes you do not get the same color palette as you would with acrylics but dye is the most permanent and durable as it permeates the leather and is confined to the material once it has dried. You can also get leather paints that are iridescent and metallic. Both types of paint are generally used for bikes and cars. The metallic’s are used for the exterior and the iridescent paint used for a more gentle shine on the interior. Both are also great options for clothing.



Paint for Leather

We have now covered the various types of paint that you can use for painting leather; the next step is to explore some products that will get you well on your way with your project and choosing the best paint for leather.

how to seal acrylic paint on leather



ANGELUS Leather Paint Set – Best Acrylic Leather Paint

Angelus is a set of 12 colors suitable for any leather clothing projects. They are acrylic, therefore water-based, durable and safe to use. The colors are easy to mix and blend different shades. These sets come in a variety of pigments and in different sizes based upon your projects and requirements. They also have finishing products to maintain the leather after painting.

ANGELUS Acrylic Leather Paint Set
  • Set of Angelus Leather paint in twelve colors, 1 oz jars
  • Ideal for athletic shoes, boots, jackets, purses, tack
  • Non-Toxic Leather Standard Paint, Made in the USA
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  • High quality
  • Various finishing products available
  • A light gloss finish to the dried paint
  • Inexpensive
  • High quality
  • Long lasting
  • Large color palette


  • A sealer is required to protect the paint
  • These paints are not waterproof


JACQUARD LUMIERE – Iridescent and Metallic Paint

These paints come in a set of nine colors and are particularly good for materials like paper, tiles, wood, leather and fabric. They require a heat setting when dry but are thereafter durable and able to be washed. These paints come in small bottles but very little paint is required so they tend to last a long time. Iron is used to seal the paint, however, if your items are used outdoors you may require a liquid sealer to prevent damage from the elements.

JACQUARD Lumiere Exciter Pack, Metallic and Pearl Colors
  • Applicable to various surfaces such as paper, polymer clay cotton, leather, wood
  • Intermixable, highly pigmented and super-smooth consistency
  • Can be applied to various surfaces with brush, spray gun, stamp and sponge
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  • A wide palette range of 33 colors
  • They can be used on a variety of surfaces, so are very versatile
  • Well priced
  • They are water-resistant and durable
  • Shiny hues suitable for any project


  • For fabrics, heat setting is required
  • You have to buy an entire set should you run out of a color
  • They are packaged in small quantities, so better for use on small crafts

how to paint leather



KAPS Super Color Professional for Synthetic and Natural Leather

Kaps leather dye paint is a thinner version of your classic paint for leather, this makes it easy to use and it dries faster than leather paint. It is designed to absorb quickly into the leather, making it perfect for shoes and bags. This brand has a 70 strong color palette and the dye is long-lasting and durable. The bottles are small are accompanied by a small brush which makes touch-ups very quick and simple.

KAPS Color for Natural And Synthetic Leather Shoes, 70 Colors
  • Quality dye with primer for natural and synthetic leather
  • Suitable for shoes, bags, leather accessories, can be used for textiles too
  • Excellent for covering abrasions and scratches
  • Dyes and restores color permanently. Does not crack. Ready to use after 24 hours
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  • Inexpensive
  • Wide color range (70 colors)
  • Includes a touch up brush
  • Useful on small furniture repairs
  • Good absorption qualities
  • Easy application
  • Even finish


  • Best for small projects as the bottles are very small



How to Paint Leather?

Leather is quite pricey, so although painting on leather is fairly simple, you need to know what you are doing so as not to mess up your project. Leather is very soft and even which means that sometimes the paint does not adhere properly and then flakes or cracks. You can however prevent this using a few different methods of how to paint leather to keep it durable.

acrylic paint on leather


How to Prepare Your Leather?

Before you begin with your leather painting project you will need to prepare the leather to ensure that the paint adheres properly. It is best to test a small section of the leather first to ensure that the leather does not react and you do not ruin your whole project.

  • You will need to begin by cleaning the leather with a damp dish cloth to get rid of any dirt particles.
  • Following this, the leather will need to be wiped with alcohol. The alcohol eliminates oil and wax on the surface of the leather. This can be applied with a dish cloth or cotton wool.
  • Ensure that you do not soak the leather, rather clean it gently with a little solution so that it dries quickly.
  • If the leather you are using is in particularly bad shape, you may need to use a light sandpaper to remove any deposits on the surface. After sanding, be sure to wipe down the leather once again.
  • The next step is to use a deglazing or sealing product, this is available at most craft shops. These products allow the paint to adhere to the leather surface.



How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Leather?

When working with leather it is a little different to normal painting techniques. On leather you need to seal the surface before painting to ensure that the paint adheres properly. With other types of paint crafting, you would generally seal the paint afterwards, this is why acrylic paint on leather is the opposite way around.

  • In learning how to seal acrylic paint on leather, you will require protective gloves and a mask as chemicals are involved in this process.
  • Bleach for leather is combined with water, usually 10 parts of water to 1 part bleach. It may be useful to use a spray type of container.
  • Spray the solution onto your leather surface and wipe it gently with cotton wool or a soft cloth.
  • Should your leather be a darker color, the solution may make it fade somewhat, this will not affect the paint in any way.
  • Allow the leather to dry and then you are ready to start painting.

how to paint leather shoes



How to Use Leather Acrylic Paint?

Applying acrylic paint on leather is fairly simple, whether it is normal acrylic paint or specifically leather acrylics, the process remains the same. For the best outcome there are a few techniques that need to be followed when applying the paint.

  • Try to use as little paint on your brush as possible, the thinner the paint the more adhesive it will be and it will dry faster.
  • For the first application, add some water to your paint to thin it out, this gives a sort of watercolor effect.
  • Try to avoid thick paint as it does not tend to dry properly and will often crack and peel off the leather.
  • Acrylics are sensitive to environmental changes, so the thinner the application the better, this allows for expansion and contraction.
  • Proper leather acrylic paint will last longer than regular acrylics.
  • Having done your first watered-down coat, your next coat should be a little thicker without water.
  • Try to bend your leather between coats of paint to prevent it from stiffening too much and cracking.
  • You can easily give your project seven coats of paint, depending on your desired outcome.

acrylic leather paint



Maintaining the Leather

When you have finished the aforementioned process, you will require a leather finisher. Not all leather items require a finisher but for items that need greater durability, like clothing and shoes it is advisable to give them a little more protection.

  • A finisher can only be applied when you are certain that the leather is properly dry. This may take up to two days.
  • You will need to purchase a leather finisher for acrylics; this can be found at craft shops and is fairly inexpensive.
  • Using a paintbrush, brush the finish onto the leather on top of the paint and allow to dry. The time your finish takes to dry may depend directly on the finish you purchase.
  • Different finishes may also affect the overall result, some are shiny and others have more of a matte appearance. Whichever you choose your leather shoes paint and clothing will be protected and long-lasting.
ANGELUS Brand Acrylic Leather Paint Finisher
  • Semi to high gloss top finish for use on all smooth leathers
  • Just apply with a sponge, rag, wool, spray gun, or brush and let dry
  • Water-based product cleans up with soap and water
  • Original formula, will not rub off, crack, peel, or streak
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Pointers for Painting Leather

Since we have learned a lot already, there are a few other tips and pointers that you might find useful about how to paint leather.

  • Be sure to properly ready your leather surface before you begin. If this step is missed, your project will not be very high quality or durable.
  • Make sure to read the labels on the products you will be using, this will ensure that they are suitable for the type of leather you are using.
  • Painting in multiple thin layers as opposed to one thicker layer will allow the paint to stick properly and give you an even finish.
  • In order to thin your acrylics down, add a little water. Using very thick paint prevents proper drying and leads to chips where the paint peels away from the surface.
  • Should your project require more durability, for example clothes and shoes, it is a good idea to consider using dyes for leather or acrylic paint for leather as opposed to normal artists acrylic.
  • Certain projects, such as clothing will need to be heat set rather than using a finisher.
  • When deciding how to seal your work, remember that alcohol and deglazing the leather may discolor the surface, be sure to do a small test before you begin.
  • Finishing products will definitely make your leather projects last longer, this does however, depend on your specific project and what results you want from a finisher.

best paint for leather



How to Paint Leather Shoes?

Many people have a much loved old pair of leather shoes that they simply cannot bring themselves to get rid of. The great news is that you can transform these old favorites into something brand new once you know how to paint leather shoes. There are also some wonderful ideas for leather shoes paint out there and hand-painted children’s shoes make wonderful heartfelt gifts. When it comes to painting leather shoes, the most important thing is to consider the type of leather that they are made from and whether or not they have been colored or coated. This will be important in how to decide to treat and prepare the leather. As shoes need to be quite durable, they will need a protective coating or finish to seal in the paint and keep them long-lasting.


Now that you know all the tips and tricks on how to paint leather, it is time to get creative and begin your first leather project!

leather shoes paint


Take a look at our painting leather webstory here!



Frequently Asked Questions


Is Leather Paint Better Than Acrylic Paint?

Leather paint is a type of water-based acrylic paint specifically designed for painting on leather and even faux material. Leather paint is less likely to chip or crack than acrylic and is similar in cost to artist’s acrylics. As long as you prepare the leather properly, normal acrylics can definitely be used as well.


Do Acrylic Paints Wash Off Leather?

In order to maintain your acrylic work on leather, you will need a sealant or finisher. You can choose your finish, anything from shiny to more matte and this will protect your leather project.


How can I Prevent  Paint From Cracking on Leather Shoes?

Be sure to paint in thin layers by watering down your paint; always allow this to dry naturally and properly. Stick to one brand of paint as different brands have different properties when mixed. Try to paint in a single direction, towards where the shoe will crease. Always seal your paint once you are finished and it is completely dry.


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