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Acrylic paint is one of the most versatile artistic mediums. You are probably familiar with its easy-to-use and budget-friendly characteristics. Acrylic is the paint that keeps on giving. This article will outline all the materials, steps, and tips you would need to start painting leather. Yes, you can use acrylic paint on shoes, bags, belts, and so much more.
Table of Contents
- 1 Is Acrylic Paint Suitable for Leather Surfaces?
- 2 Our Top Recommendations for Acrylic Leather Paint
- 3 Our Top Recommendations for Acrylic Brush Sets
- 4 A Step-by-Step Guide for How to Paint Leather with Acrylic Paint
- 5 How to Paint Shoes with Acrylic Paint
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
Is Acrylic Paint Suitable for Leather Surfaces?
Yes, Acrylic paint is suitable for leather. However, the success of your chosen leather painting project will depend on your technique, products, and patience. Acrylic paint will work best on leather when these four steps are followed. Firstly, you need to make sure that your leather surface is clean.
Secondly, if you have thick acrylic paint, you will need to thin it out so that it can be painted easily. Next, paint your surface with a number of thin layers, as this will help the paint dry faster. Finally, for your paint to last on a leather surface, it is best to use a liquid sealant or an acrylic spray sealer.
Acrylic Paint vs. Leather Paint
Although leather paint is specifically formulated to use on leather items most of these paints are acrylic based in anyhow. In other words, leather paint is just another type of acrylic paint. Your choice will probably depend on what item you are painting. If you are going to paint something that is prone to wear and tear, like shoes, it is maybe best to use acrylic leather paint for shoes. Acrylic paint can achieve the same effect on leather as its more expensive leather paint counterparts.
However, you may just have to add a few extra steps. We have created a pros and cons table for you to decide.
Our Top Recommendations for Acrylic Leather Paint
There are many different types of acrylic leather paint that you can use, but there are, of course, some that are better than others. Here we have created a list of three different types of acrylic paint for leather. One is the best value, another the most budget-friendly, and the final is our premium choice.
Best Value: ARTEZA Acrylic Paints
A great brand for beginners or seasoned artists as the paints are versatile and affordable. Even if you choose to purchase the 22ml tubes (just to try them out) the paints can be easily thinned with alcohol or water, making a little go a long way. Arteza boasts a wide variety of color and paint types. Some of their ranges include metallic, iridescent, and neon.
Similarly, their paints also come in a variety of different packaging depending on what you plan to do. Their paint pots may be easier for larger projects or backgrounds while their smaller tubes could be used for the finer details. This brand may work well on leather as you can thin the paints and work many layers onto your surface (as is the suggested method for leather painting).
Budget-Friendly: WINSOR & NEWTON Galeria Acrylic Paints
Winsor & Newton has been around since 1982. These paints were created before most houses had electricity; this means that these paints have stood the test of time. Although this paint may seem pricey at first, it has been listed as our budget-friendly option based on the quality and amount of paint for your money. Winsor & Newton are known for their extremely pigmented paints that have great lasting power. Although we are viewing the Galeria variety of acrylic paints, Winsor & Newton also have a professional-grade line too.
What’s more, if you are environmentally conscious Windsor & Newton use a rainwater collection system to make their paints, decreasing the amount of freshwater usage. Similarly, they offer a variety of cadmium (a toxic metal often used in the creation of paints) free options. This paint would work well in leather as it is thinner than most acrylics but is highly pigmented. This means that you may require fewer layers of paint to create your desired design. The extremely permanent nature of the paints would also be beneficial for clothing items that are worn repeatedly (like leather jackets, shoes, or belts).
Premium Choice: M. GRAHAM & CO Acrylic Paints
Graham & Co started out as an oil paint producer. However, since its conception 25 years ago, they have branched out into other mediums too, such as acrylic and watercolor. Their paints are considered artist-grade, but their paints are still reasonably priced and accessible considering they are designed with professional use in mind.
Graham & Co have acrylic colors that feel more like oil than acrylic. This is because they are designed to have a slower drying time and will remain wet on your palate for longer. This makes them easier to mix and blend on and off your working surface. These paints could be used to create interesting effects on leather as it is easier to paint wet on wet with them. Their high pigmentation may also be beneficial for painting on surfaces that are not necessarily white.
Our Top Recommendation: ANGELUS Acrylic Paints
This is a popular acrylic leather paint that is flexible when dried and can usually be bought in packs of varying colors. Although the bottles are small (approximately 20ml) a little can go a long way when mixed with a thinner as the paint is relatively thick. This paint set is affordable, especially for the number of colors that come included. However, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, acrylic leather paints are not too different from your average leather paints.
When using these paints, the surface of your desired project still needs to be prepped and finished off with a waterproof sealant just like acrylic paints would. So if leather paint is like acrylic paint why are we suggesting it in the first place? Well, some swear by the durability and anti-cracking nature of these paints making them a great option for leather items that will hopefully be worn for a very long time.
Our Top Recommendations for Acrylic Brush Sets
You may not need to spend more money on new brushes, especially for painting leather. In fact, if you have paintbrushes lying around at home those would probably work just fine depending on the project you want to do. However, there are some great brush sets out there that may make your leather painting project go much smoother. Different brushes can help you create interesting effects, fine detail, and help you get into those pesky corners and seams on leatherwork. So here are the top three recommendations for acrylic brush sets.
Best Value: ARTIFY Acrylic Paint Brushes
This really is the best value set. Not only do you get 38 different brush shapes to choose from but the set also includes brushes made with different materials such as hog hair, synthetic, and pony hair brushes. This would be a great set for someone who has no art supplies at home and is looking to start somewhere.
The shape variety alone would be a great asset in leather painting as the items you wish to paint will not necessarily be flat like a canvas but 3D with curves and bulges. Angled brushes like the ones included in the set may be useful in painting leather shoes that have seams.
Budget-Friendly: CONDA Paint Brushes
This set comes in a pack of 24 different brush shapes and sizes. For a synthetic-haired brush, the hairs are relatively soft and flexible. It would allow you to have access to many different brush shapes (including large handle brushes) without breaking the bank.
These brushes also come in an aesthetic roll-up bag for easy transport and organization. They are intended to be used with any paint medium including watercolor and oil. If you do not have too much money available to buy your first set of acrylic paint brushes, we cannot recommend a better option.
Premium Choice: DA VINCI Maestro Brushes
Da Vinci brushes are well known for their quality and durability in the art world. While some of their brushes can go for hundreds of dollars each, we have chosen a more affordable option. These brushes are hand-shaped in Germany and are made sustainably. The brushes are constructed to specifically prevent rust and hair loss.
While these brushes may seem unattainable for the general public, Da Vinci also has a student range that is quite affordable. In addition, their brushes are not usually sold in sets but individually. This way, you could buy one brush to test it out before buying a set of three or more.
A Step-by-Step Guide for How to Paint Leather with Acrylic Paint
There are a number of steps that need to be followed when starting a leather painting project. These steps are listed to ensure that the acrylic paint that you apply to your leather will not just dry and crack/peel off or be washed away when your leather item is exposed to water. The steps may vary a bit depending on the item, so this is just a general overview. You can find how to paint leather shoes later in this article.
Step 1: Prepare Your Surface
It is best to start painting on a clean surface. You do not want dust mixing with your acrylic as this would most likely prevent a smooth application of paint. A layer of dirt on your leather item will also prevent the acrylic paint from adhering to the leather. To clean your leather you can add a little bit of dish soap and water to a bowl or spray bottle and apply a small amount to your item.
You can use a cloth to wipe your surface down. You can also use a toothbrush or earbud for harder-to-reach places. For tougher stains on worn leather that you do not wish to paint over, a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a rag may remove it. However, you can also buy a leather deglaze (which is also a form of rubbing alcohol) that basically removes the top layer of the leather allowing you to start on a very clean surface.
Let your Item dry a bit as you do not want it to be too damp before starting step 2.
Step 2: Prepare Your Paints
Painting on leather requires a lot of trial and error. It may even be wise to practice on a small piece of leather before starting your project. If you have thicker acrylics, you may need to thin them with water. Experiment with the ratios of water to acrylic to see which best soaks into your leather.
Step 3: Start Painting!
Now that your leather and paints are prepped you can start applying thin layers of paint to your leather. Let them dry and apply as many thin coats as needed to get your desired opacity. You can do this freehand style if you wish however there are many other options to go about painting your leather. You can use masking tape if you only want to paint certain areas or are looking to create straight lines/ geometrical patterns.
You can also create flexible stencils to spruce up your design or if you are just looking to be more precise.
Step 4: Make Sure Your Leather is Dry
Once you are happy with your paint application you want to make sure that your project is completely dry before moving on to step 5. The best way to do this is simply to leave it for 24 hours. It may seem like a long time, but it is better to be safe than sorry as applying the sealant to a wet project could result in ruin.
Step 5: Seal Your Acrylic Paint on Leather
Using an acrylic sealer is an essential part of ensuring a durable painted leather item. You can use a paint-on sealant or an acrylic spray sealer if they are specifically made for acrylic paint. Both will work well; it just depends on what your project looks like.
Take note that if you use a liquid acrylic paint sealant you should thin it with water and paint it on much like how you painted on the acrylic paint (in thin layers).
Step 6: Waterproof Your Work
Although this step is not absolutely necessary, we would recommend it for clothing items and shoes. Once your sealant is completely dry, then you can apply a spray-on water sealant. This will provide one more protective layer against moisture, allowing for longer-lasting work. Now all you need to do is let your water sealant dry, and you are done!
How to Paint Shoes with Acrylic Paint
This section will give you a step- by step guide on how to paint shoes with acrylic paint. It is much the same as painting any other leather item, with a few more details to consider.
Shoes may require more care with sealing and preparation as they are more likely to be in contact with water and the natural elements.
Step 1: Clean and Strip Your Shoes
Wipe down your shoes with detergent or dishwashing liquid and water to ensure all dust and grime are removed. Remove the laces as this will make it much easier to paint.
Step 2: Remove the Factory Finish
To remove the factory finish on the leather shoes you will need a deglazing agent. Pour your deglazing agent into a bowl and dip a clean cloth or rag into the liquid. Lightly rub this all over the shoes. This is done so that you can paint directly onto the leather and not the top layer of sealant applied by the manufacturer. You will know that it is working as the leather will look different (less shiny and duller).
Let the shoes sit for a while to ensure all the alcohol has evaporated.
Step 3: Get Creative with the Paint
You can now start painting your design onto your leather shoes. Ensure that your acrylic paints are the right consistency and work in thin layers letting each layer dry in-between. You can also draw a design using a light pencil before starting but this is completely up to you.
Step 4: Seal The Acrylic Paint on Leather Shoes
It will probably be more effective to use a liquid sealant for this step as you need to get into all the nooks and crannies of the shoes. A spray sealant might miss some sections of the shoes. You can paint a thin layer of sealant all over your design and let it dry. Since shoes are prone to more wear and tear, you should try to paint a minimum of 3 layers of sealant leaving enough time in between each layer for the shoes to dry.
Once you have painted all of your acrylic sealant layers and the shoes are completely dry you can finish them off with a layer of water sealant spray.
Step 5: Let them Sit and Dry
Let the paint on your shoes dry fully before wearing them again. Once they are dry you can re-lace them and show off your unique new kicks.
Acrylic paint is one of the best tools that us artists have to play with. Leather is just one of the many surfaces that acrylic paint can be applied to, all you need is the right preparation and finishing, and you can easily create beautiful works of art on leather objects, from shoes to handbags. Take our tips and tricks and go forth and create!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Leather Items can You Paint with Acrylics?
There are really no limits to what leather items you can paint with acrylic. Take note that older, more worn leather will have a certain texture. When you paint on it this texture will still shine through. However, on smooth leather, the painting would obviously be smooth. You can customize your leather clothing items. Larger murals could be painted onto the back of leather jackets. Smaller designs could be put on belts, wallets, and purses. You can use Leather paint for shoes. Leather painting is not limited to the items that we wear but could be done on furniture like dining room chairs and couches. The possibilities are endless when handbags, pillowcases, knife handles, keychains, earrings, and so much more are made with leather.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Shoes?
Yes, you can. You can use acrylic paint or traditional leather paint. This involves much of the same steps listed above with a few variations. These steps will go into more detail about how to paint leather shoes specifically.
How do You Prevent Acrylic Paint from Peeling?
This can be done by preparing the leather properly. For example, using a deglazing agent if the leather has a finishing coat from the manufacturer. Ensuring a clean surface is also important as dust, dirt, oil, or wax will prevent the acrylic paint from binding to the leather. It is also essential that the acrylic paint is thinned if it is too thick. Applying the paint in thin layers and letting each layer dry before the next will help the paint set and soak into the leather. Finishing the final layer of paint with a good quality sealant will also help secure the paint in place.
How do You Remove Paint from Leather Surfaces?
There are a number of methods you can use to remove leather paint from shoes. Take note that to remove leather paint you must always use a dapping or wiping motion. If you run the products into the leather this will only work the paint deeper into the leather, making it harder to remove. You can use vaseline, baby oil, rubbing alcohol, or a deglazing agent.