Painting leather

Leather items can be customized by painting your own design on them. You do need to prep the items and use the right type of paint. The best paint for leather is acrylic leather paint. Some leather items might be finished in a way that makes it difficult for the paint to stick, therefore it is advised to test this on a less visible part first.

What do you need?

-clean cloth

-isopropyl alcohol, paint thinner or ammonia

-fine-grit sandpaper (100-200)

-leather preparer and deglazer


-acrylic leather paints

-acrylic leather finisher


How to paint on leather:

Step 1:

Before you can start painting leather, the leather needs to be clean of oils and waxes. Wipe the leather down using a clean cloth and isopropyl alcohol. Paint thinner or ammonia will also work for this.

Step 2:

Use the fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the leather in the area you want to paint. Leather paint won’t stick well to leather that is shiny, so it needs to be roughened up a bit. Clean the leather again after sanding to remove the dust and any remaining oils. 

Step 3:

Apply a generous layer of leather preparer and deglazer. The preparer and deglazer is alcohol based so it will dry fairly quickly.

Step 4:

Draw on your design using a pencil. You can use this as a guide when you’re painting. If you’re going to paint the leather one solid colour, you can skip this step.

Step 5:

Mix the leather paint with water in a 1:1 ratio. The water is needed for the paint to be absorbed by the leather. 

Use the brushes to paint your design. The paint should be applied in thin, even coats. Between each layer, the paint needs to dry for about 2 to 3 hours. 

If you’re painting a leather item that will move and flex when used, like shoes, flex the leather out before applying each coat of paint. This will prevent the paint from cracking in the future. 

When you’re done painting your design, leave the paint to dry for at least 24 hours. If the paint still feels a bit wet after 24 hours, leave it to dry until it’s fully dried. 

Step 6:

Apply the leather finisher over your paint to seal it with a damp cloth. Use thin coats and let each coat dry before applying the next.

Leather finisher is available in shiny and matt finish, so you can choose your preferred finish.

Like the paint itself, the finisher needs at least 24 hours to dry. If it’s still a bit wet after 24, let it dry longer. Also make sure it’s drying in a place where there’s not too much dust floating around. Otherwise the dust will get caught in the finisher and be stuck on your leather item forever.