Leather can be expensive and it’s often an investment in quality. But sometimes you need a change. And if you’re in the market for new furniture or a new purse, you might want to consider changing up the color of your favorite leather pieces.
It’s not as hard as you might think, but we’re going to give you some tips on how to do it with paint. This article will show you how to properly apply paint to your leather so that it will look its best!
What is Leather and Why Would You Want to Paint It?
Leather is a strong material that can withstand wear and tear. It also has a pleasing appearance. Leather is actually hides that have been tanned for use as clothing or other uses.
There are many reasons why someone would want to paint their leather, such as adding decoration or changing the color. There are different types of paints that should be used on leather projects depending on the function of the leather.
How to Paint Leather
- Start by choosing a paint that is specifically designed for use on leather. These paints contain ingredients such as beeswax or lanolin which provide protection against moisture and help prevent cracking later on.
- Prepare the leather prior to painting by thoroughly cleaning all dust with water and a rag or paper towel. Then let the piece air dry completely before proceeding. When working with multiple pieces of garment leather, always prepare the leather before painting, and then let each piece dry completely before applying paint. This will prevent the paint from discoloring or wrinkling, particularly if you are using a dark color. Once finished with all pieces, lightly buff the entire garment with an old toothbrush to lift light dust particles and provide a nice surface for your paint.
- Apply two coats of paint (the first should be fairly thin), allowing the piece to dry between coats. Be sure to brush off any excess powder that may fall onto the leather when removing excess pigment from your brush by gently blowing on it. DO NOT wipe off the excess powder as this will cause streaks in your finish!
- When finished drying, lightly rub down your leather with a clean, soft cloth to remove any excess powder.
- To polish your paint job, apply a thin layer of saddle soap using a soft cloth and let dry. Use about the same amount as when you are washing leather tack! For best results use a paste-style cleaner such as Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP Leather Conditioner or Lexol Leather Conditioner. Rub in with circular motions until smooth (never buff!). Wipe off any excess lather and leave to air dry.
- Apply another coat of paint once the first has dried completely – ideally 24 hours after applying the previous coat. Although this is not always possible. Again, allow each coat to dry before applying a second one. If you are using a spray paint, wait at least 24 hours between coats.
- After the final coat of paint has dried completely, polish your piece as in Step 5 above. This will ensure that your clothing is as polished and professional looking as possible. When the final coat is dry, but still flexible, apply a thin layer of water-resistant sealant such as Fiebing’s Golden Mink Oil Paste or Obenauf’s Leather Oil. Apply with a soft cloth and rub evenly until it absorbs into the leather. Let sit for about 10 minutes to let any excess sealant soak in, then buff off any excess (leather tends to soak up sealant like blotting paper). Note: these products are water resistant, but not waterproof.
5 Reasons Not to Paint Your Leather Products
- You want it to remain supple (not stiff/dry). Painted leather will feel different than untreated leather.
- You want it to age naturally over time. Painting will slow the aging process considerably, especially if you use acrylic paints as they block out oxygen in order for them to dry properly. Let’s say you have a brand new 100-year-old quality leather jacket. Normally such a thing would age beautifully, developing a rich patina with use and exposure to the elements. If you paint it from day one you will never have that “fine wine” look we all love so much.
- You want to avoid any chemicals. Some paints contain solvents or other harsh ingredients which are best used for outdoor projects only. Always use water-based products, if possible.
- You’re not looking for an expensive ‘makeover’. Good quality leathers can be expensive and some painted items can lose their value quickly if they aren’t done well or if the wrong colors are chosen. Your time is valuable, especially when doing work on commission!
- You don’t want to damage your current leathers. Not all paints are formulated for use on leather and some may cause rips, tears or other problems which will be difficult to fix. If you’re a custom shoemaker or another type of tradesperson who works with various types of raw hides and skins, you can do a small test patch before going full scale.
Painting your leather is a great way to give it new life. The process of applying paint doesn’t take long. And while this sounds like a lot more work than just buying an entirely new piece of furniture or clothing, consider how much money you’ll save by not having to buy something that’s brand new.