How to Paint Leather

How to Paint Leather – Everything to Know About Painting Leather

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You do not have to be a professional artist or leather craftsman to update a few leather pieces in your home, office, or closet. There are no restrictions, limits on age, nor any minimum artistic requirements – everyone is accepted! Plus, there are multitudes of reasons as to why you might want to start painting leather. Perhaps you have recently changed the color scheme in your home, or you noticed your favorite leather shoes need some updating, or perhaps you are craving a creative outlet and want to give this a whirl. Regardless of the reason, painting leather is something anyone can do. This article will bring you some helpful, simple methods to guide you along your leather painting journey. We have all the answers to your questions about painting leather items, so read below!



What Are the Greatest Paints for Leather?

We will begin this extensive overview by explaining the basic types of leather paints, and why they are recommended. It is important to remember that leather paint is specially formulated to adapt to the traits of leather, and regular canvas paint will not work nearly as well. With that in mind, we would consider acrylic leather paint to be a top choice of ours when it comes to getting creative with leather. Yet, pearlescent leather paints and metallic leather paints are also worth considering due to their versatility.

Painting Leather

Leather dyes also exist and could be used to create a new look, and they certainly last a long time. The only drawback with dyes is that they are not as vivid as paints, and are used more for full-color changes only. When using any of the paints we recommend, your leather items will be left with a more enhanced color experience.

The bottom line about leather dyes is that while lovely, they are not anywhere nearly as vivid as paints. Using acrylic paints on your leather items will allow for much more creative expression and detail. 


Acrylic Leather Paint

The main benefit of using acrylic leather paint is how incredibly versatile it is. These types of paints are water-based, where the pigment that makes up their unique color has been dissolved in an acrylic emulsion mix. What this means is that you can make a myriad of color combinations by mixing any number of acrylic leather paints. If you are looking for a recommended leather shoe paint, it would be acrylic, as it dries incredibly fast!


Metallic Leather Paints

If you are looking for a glossy finish, then you should try a metallic leather paint. This paint is created by mixing metal flakes on top of acrylic polyurethane, which is what gives these paints their shimmery finish. Metallic paint for leather is also great for adding a high-end finish to outdated heels or handbags.


Pearlescent Leather Paints

Remember your grandfather’s classic car with the shiny pearl dashboard? Traditionally, pearlescent paints were used on the interior of vehicles, on dashboards, and on the seats too! Great for accentuating borders or outlines, these types of leather paints are guaranteed to enhance almost any type of item.  Similar to metallic paints, pearlescent paints give a high sheen. The difference between the two is that pearlescent paints contain mica, which gives off a shimmer effect.


Now that we have gone through the pros and cons of each type, you may be wondering, “What is the best paint for leather?” In our opinion, the best paint for leather, for beginners or otherwise, is your basic acrylic leather paint. Non-toxic, easy to clean, easy to mix, and easy to apply, this is the ideal paint for leather.



Instructions for Painting Leather

Painting leather items are not any different than painting any other type of item. You will need the correct materials if you want to ensure that your result is as amazing as it can be. If you are ready to start painting your leather shoes, purses, jackets, and more, you will need the following equipment before you can begin.

  • Acrylic paint brushes or airbrush
  • Leather preparer and deglazer
  • Cotton cloth
  • Nail polish remover (Acetone)
  • 85% or higher isopropyl alcohol
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Leather paint finisher and sealer
  • Choice of leather paint
  • Painter’s tape
  • Ground cover (rags, newspaper, tarp)
  • Breathing mask
  • Protective gloves

Spray Paint for Leather


Step 1: Prepare Your Work Area

It is always fun to jump right into the artsy stuff and start painting, but safety is a major aspect of every single project. You should start by opening any windows in your workspace and laying down tarps or newspapers over the surface where you will be working. This is to make sure that you do not get any accidental splatter on surrounding items.


Step 2: Dismantle the Item

Working with large, bulky pieces can make an easy job feel like a nightmare. If you have a piece of furniture or any item that can have pieces removed or be taken apart, it is advisable to do so. Buckles on belts, laces on shoes, removable collars on jackets – if it can be taken off, take it off. This will help you to create a uniform and cohesive appearance with whatever paint you choose to use.


Step 3: Clean and Prepare the Leather Item

The very first thing you must do once you have your item disassembled is to wipe off any excess dust with a soft cotton cloth. Then, you will use the same cotton cloth and wipe down the item with isopropyl alcohol to remove any residues like oil. This will also assist with preparing the surface for paint absorption. If you are struggling to remove any excess on the topcoat, using fine-grit sandpaper will help.

The next part is the deglazing step, where you will take a cloth and saturate it in the deglazing solution before once again wiping down the leather item. This deglazing solution helps to fully prime the paint to adhere to the leather.

Prepare to Use Paint for Leather


Step 4: Time to Paint

You have everything all prepared, your surfaces are set, and your area is ventilated. You are now ready to paint! To start, we recommend that you begin with a very thin coat by reducing the paint with water in a 1:1 ratio. The reason you are going to do this is to ensure complete and absolute coverage of the item before adding more color. This will prevent any caking and clumping of the paint while also giving a more unified look at the end of the process.

Make sure that each layer is dried fully before moving on to adding another layer of paint. You can continue to use the 1:1 water ratio with the second layer as well and then go into full color with the third layer. Remember to allow each layer to dry, and give the item a bend here and there to ensure that the paint does not crease or flake.

We would not recommend doing more than six to eight layers of acrylic paint on one leather item, or you may find that your look is complete after just three to four layers. The end result is completely up to you! 


Step 5: Sealing Your Masterpiece for Lasting Results

You have done all the preparation and you have taken the time to paint each layer carefully. You can now seal in all the work you have done so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Following the same pattern as above, make sure that your final layer of paint is completely dry. We recommend waiting 24 to 36 hours before sealing. If you are wondering how to seal acrylic paint on leather, we have a few guidelines for you that will certainly help to ease the strain.

  • While making sure that your item is dry and stays dry, it is also essential that it remains in a dust-free area. Keep the item in an enclosed space away from pet fur or open windows.
  • Always read the instructions for the sealant you choose. If you have not used a certain product before and are not sure how to seal acrylic paint on leather, read the instructions.

Leather Shoes Paint



Pro Tips for Painting Leather

There is nothing wrong with being new at something or trying something out for the first time. Just remember to follow some of the basic tips and tricks below, and the process should be much more enjoyable for you!

  • Wearing protective clothing will prevent any accidental messes while painting. Just as you have prepared your workspace area, you should prepare yourself as well.
  • Always have some water nearby so that you can clean your brushes during a painting session. A brush with dried acrylic paint is hard to get clean, so this practice will help you keep your brushes in their best shape for a long time.
  • Item preparation is vital if you want a smooth end result. It may seem like tedious work, but sanding and removing any residual oils before painting will make your item look fabulous and professionally finished when it is done.
  • If your leather item is quite old, you may need to wipe it down with alcohol more than once, and then sand it and use alcohol again. Keep in mind, the more you prepare your leather item for painting, the easier the paint will adhere to the surface, and the better the result will be in the end.
  • Always do a spot test with new products if you are unsure of how they will react to your item. This is especially important with products that use chemicals like deglazers. Remember, less is more. Start small with a little bit of product and then work your way up. Adding more at a later stage is always possible, but it is much harder to remove it once it is there.

Paint for Leather

  • Keep an open eye for any cracking or peeling on the surface of your leather item. We recommend using a 1:1 water/paint ratio for the first couple of layers of paint. If the paint you are using is thicker than most, a water dilution may be necessary for all layers.
  • Rather do several thin layers of diluted paint instead of fewer layers of thick paint. The thicker the layers, the more likely you are to get cracking and peeling. Thinner layers take more time, but they are worth it in the end.
  • It is advisable to ensure that the paint you are using does not require a heat finish. Or, if it does require a heat finish, be sure to follow all instructions in full.
  • Finally, always read the instructions for any product, and make sure that all safety guidelines are followed.


Acrylic leather paint is the best choice to start with when you are first learning how to paint leather, and the variety of color choices means the possibilities are endless. This type of leather paint lasts the longest and the colors are the most vivid. Once you have gained some experience, you can start playing around with other types of paint, where the only limit is your imagination! 



Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Best Leather Items to Paint with Acrylic Paint?

We have gone through the steps needed to ensure that you have the best possible situation for painting your leather goods. You are now ready to start painting! You might be wondering what leather items would be the best to start with, or which ones will yield the best results. We have seen some incredible transformations of old-school athletic shoes, classic car interiors, retro handbags, and even more modern stuff like high-heeled pumps, bracelets, gloves, and wallets. Regardless of which item you choose to turn into your next passion project, the most important thing is to remember to clean the item and ensure that it is genuine leather.


What Is the Best Paint for Leather?

As we mentioned above, we believe that the best paint for any leather project will be acrylic-based paint. This type of paint has many positive aspects and is great for anyone to use. The range of colors is vast, and since the paints are water-soluble and non-toxic, they are safe for all ages. Acrylic paints for leather items will provide excellent coverage and are easy to clean up. There are also some professional paint companies who specialize in acrylic leather paints, so you know you will be getting a quality paint product.


How Vital Is It to Use a Sealant on Leather?

You have done all the work and created a wonderful piece of art. Now is an important question you have to ask: How long do you want it to last? If the answer is “a while,” then you need to use a sealant. The whole point of a sealant is to preserve the painted item in all its glory. The paint will eventually fade and crack if it is not properly sealed, and you would not want all your hard work to be thrown out the window. It will take a bit more time, but the extra effort and time are worth the result.


How Do I Seal My Leather Item?

Everyone will tell you that their way of using a sealant is the best, but in all honesty, following the directions on the sealant of your choice will provide the best results. As we have mentioned before, always read and follow the instructions if you are unsure of the method or the product. Many sealants use chemicals, and since you will be using alcohol as well, it is advisable to wear protective clothing like gloves and masks.


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