Maybe you are tired of looking at the color of your leather upholstery that looks dull, or you want to personalize your leather jacket with a bit of added design; acrylic paints can add to the trick for you.
Acrylic paint is so versatile that it can be used for several painting techniques on leather.
You can create a distressed look or use it for stenciling and stamping.
However, when working with acrylic paints on leather, remember that it is important to protect your work with a sealer so that the paint does not crack or peel off over time.
In this article, I will go over the step-by-step instructions and some tips and techniques to seal acrylics on your leather work. But first, let’s start by knowing…
Is Acrylic Paint Safe to Put on Leather?
Acrylic paint is typically made out of pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion, and it is considered safe to use on soft fabrics, including leather.
The thing I like most about using acrylic paint on leather is that it is permanent. Once the paint has dried, it will not come off quickly like other types of paint.
Another excellent thing about acrylic paint is that it is versatile and available in various rich, vibrant colors. This means you can use it to create various effects on your leather project.
One thing to keep in mind when using acrylic paint on leather is that it can be somewhat tricky to work with.
This is because the paint can dry very quickly, so you need to work promptly and carefully.
Another important thing that you need to remember is not all acrylics are created equal. And not all types of leather can go with all kinds of acrylics.
So, you should avoid using the regular acrylic paint that you use for paper, canvas, or wood.
For painting leather (and to get the best effects), you will need to choose acrylic paint formulated explicitly for leather use. Otherwise, you might end up damaging your expensive leather quality.
Painting and Sealing the Leather with Acrylic Paint
In general, acrylic paint is safe on leather bags, jackets, and even on your expensive car’s upholstery – as long as you take the necessary precautions and use the correct type of paint.
The simplest way to apply acrylic paint and sealant to leather is by using a brush. But you can also use a sponge or a piece of clean rag.
Here’s how to do it…
Step 1- Clean the Leather
Start by cleaning the leather surface that you want to paint. This is important because you need to remove any dirt, grease, or other debris that might prevent the paint from adhering to the leather.
You can clean the leather with a mild soap and water solution. Or you can use a specialized leather cleaner using products such as vinegar, olive oil, Murphy Oil Soap, etc.
Once you have cleaned the leather, use a wool dauber or a towel to wipe the surface. Allow it to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.
Step 2- Prep Your Working Area
Acrylic paints can be challenging to work with because they dry quickly. Also, if they get on the surface you do not intend to paint, they can be difficult to remove.
So, it is vital to have all your supplies ready before you start painting.
This includes having a water container to clean your brush, a paper towel to blot any paint spills, and some old newspapers or a drop cloth to protect your working surface.
Step 3- Apply a Base Coat
The next step is to apply a base coat of paint to the leather. This will help the actual color paint to adhere better to the leather.
You can use light-colored paint or even white paint as your base coat.
Apply the base coat evenly on the surface after doing a patch test on a small inconspicuous leather area to ensure that the paint does not damage it.
Allow the base coat to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.
Step 4- Choose Your Paint and Color
Now, it’s time to choose the color of paint that you want to use.
As I mentioned earlier, not all acrylic paints are created equal. Some are better than others when it comes to working with leather.
So, be sure to choose an acrylic paint and color specifically designed for use on leather.
You can find these types of paints at most craft stores or online. They are most likely labeled “leather acrylics” on the bottle.
When picking the colors, remember that the paint will dry slightly darker than it looks in the container.
Step 5- Apply the Paint Color to Leather
Once you have chosen your paint color, it’s time to start painting.
Start by dipping your brush into the paint and then apply it to the leather surface in a thin, even layer.
- Work in small sections so that the paint does not dry before you have a chance to spread it evenly.
- Use light strokes in a single direction to avoid streaks.
- Also, make sure to paint the edges and seams of the leather surface.
- Let the first coat of paint dry completely before applying a second coat.
- Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the coverage.
Using the masking tape is optional, but it can help, especially when you are working with multiple colors to create a design.
Step 6- Allow the Paint to Dry Completely
Once you have applied the desired amount of final paint, allow it to dry completely.
This can take anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire day, depending on the thickness of the paint applied.
Step 7- Apply a Top Coat (optional)
Once the acrylic paint has dried completely on the surface, you can apply a top coat of varnish, sealant, or other waterproofing sprays and finishes to protect the paint and leather.
While this step is optional, I would suggest it be imperative if you are going to be using the painted leather item for something that will get a lot of wear and tear, such as a purse, wallet, or shoes.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and drying times. In general, you will need to apply the diluted product in a thin, light coat.
Do not allow the sealant to sit for long and get soaked into the leather, as this can cause damage and cracks in the paint.
And that’s it! You’ve successfully painted and sealed the leather. Allow the top coat to dry completely before using the painted leather item.
Can You Use Acrylic Paints to Coat Faux Leather Material?
Unlike real leather, made from animal skin, faux leather is a man-made fabric designed to look and feel like genuine leather but without using any animal products.
Faux leather is usually made from polyurethane (PU) which is a type of plastic.
So, technically you could use acrylic paint on faux leather in a pinch, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it is not designed for that type of material, and the paint is likely to crack and peel over time.
Especially if it’s an important project and you want to paint faux leather to look like real leather, I would suggest using premium leather paint that is specifically designed for use on faux leather.
Unlike acrylics, these paints are made from a flexible polymer that looks and feels like real leather when dry.
They are also more durable and are able to withstand repeated bends and flexes without cracking or peeling.
I would also recommend using specialized cleaning agents and leather paints (like Angelus) if you plan to clean and paint your expensive leather jackets or old handbags from popular brands such as Chanel or Louis Vuitton.
Depending on the condition of the old leather surface, cleaning agents such as isopropyl alcohol and a leather deglazer can also prove to be helpful.
What Are the Other Paint Options That Can Be Used for Leather?
Besides acrylics and specialized leather paints, there are metallic paints and pearlescent paints available that can be used on leather.
From old-school athletic shoes, classic automobile interiors, traditional handbags, high-heeled pumps, retro-designed bracelets, gloves, and wallets, all can be turned into a work of art with the help of metallic paints.
For those looking for a more sophisticated and timeless look on a shiny pearl dashboard of your luxurious car, pearlescent paint is perfect for creating an elegant sheen.
This type of paint is usually made with mica, a natural mineral that uniquely reflects light to create a pearlescent effect.
Its reflective quality can also add depth and dimension to any leather surface.
Pearlescent paint is also perfect for creating a more subtle and shimmering look on your painted leather projects.
The bottom line
If you are looking for the easiest way to add color and artistic touch to your old leather item, then acrylic paint is a good option.
Just remember to use light coats and let the paint dry completely between layers.
The main concern when using any type of paint on leather is that it might crack or peel off over time if it is not adequately sealed.
So ensure that you apply a top coat of sealant or varnish to protect the paint and prolong its lifespan.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
Just in case you want to hire pro painters in your local area, you can click here. We can instantly send you free quotes from trusted painters based on your specific requirement.