Leather companies have been using acrylics to paint leather for a very long time, so it should be no surprise that Golden Artist Colors Acrylics can be used to paint leather as well. Which paint line to use and whether an additive is necessary is dependent upon the type of leather and how it was previously treated. To determine which process will work best for your particular application, it is important to test first on a sacrificial piece or an inconspicuous area of the leather surface.
There are a few tips that can make the application more successful. Before painting, wipe the leather with Isopropyl alcohol to degrease, clean and remove any coatings, waxes, or oils that may be on the leather. If alcohol does not remove the coating, it may be necessary to lightly sand the surface with some fine sandpaper.
The key to good adhesion of paint to leather objects is applying the paint thinly enough to soak into the leather. If thick paint is used or built up too thickly, there may be an increased chance the paint may crack when flexed. Acrylics are thermoplastics and respond to environmental temperatures. In a cold environment, the paint can become more brittle, increasing the chance of cracking, and in a warm environment, the paint can become softer and tackier. If the paint is thick on the surface, these changes due to temperature could be more dramatic. Our Fluid Acrylic and High Flow Acrylic lines work best in this type of application. These paint lines are thin enough to be applied directly to leather or they could be mixed with GOLDEN GAC 900 Fabric Painting Medium and when properly heat set, the addition of this medium could add flexibility and possibly a softer feel, dependent upon what type of leather, suede, nubuck or deerskin is used.
In our testing, we have found some mixed results, so we have varying recommendations dependent upon what type of leather is being painted and how the leather was treated beforehand. On completely undyed, unconditioned, untreated leather, the Fluid Acrylics mixed in a one to one (1:1) ratio with GAC 900, applied, dried and then heat set, was the most flexible paint film of all tested. On treated and dyed latigo belt leather and garment leather, the High Flow acrylics worked well, soaking into the leather while retaining the feel and flexibility. Painting suede, nubuck and deerskin can be a bit more tricky. Every combination of products we tried changed the feel of these soft leathers. It is crucial to test on similar materials to figure out what will work best and what will provide an acceptable color and feel. We would recommend trying the High Flow Acrylics on their own, or the Fluid Acrylics thinned with a little water, or the Fluid Acrylics with the addition of GAC 900 in a recommended ratio of one part paint to one part GAC 900. When using GAC 900 it is necessary to heat set after it has dried to the touch. Heat setting can be done with a hair dryer on the hottest setting for 7 – 10 minutes.
There are many videos on the internet showing how to paint leather shoes and sneakers with acrylic paints. While online tutorials can be informative, what works for one may not work for all. Therefore, it is very important to test for your particular application. There are so many types of leathers out there with a number of different types of treatments, dyes and finishes and no blanket application technique will work for every shoe. Some mixtures are easier to control than others, dependent upon the application technique or painting style. Every artist’s hand controls paint differently, so preference may be personal. In our testing, we found the High Flow paints with nothing added worked the best on the pair of sneakers we painted. The Fluid Acrylic/GAC 900 combination was thinner and remained tacky until heat set and the Fluid Acrylics on their own applied a bit thicker and when thinned with water was a little easier to apply. As it turns out, all of the applications were very successful and all were very flexible. Sock liners may also be painted with a one to one mixture of Fluid Acrylics and GAC 900. When using GAC 900 mixed with the paint, it may feel tacky until it is properly heat set. Please note that heat-setting GAC 900 releases trace amounts of formaldehyde, which may be of concern to those with chemical sensitivities. We recommend providing fresh-air ventilation when using heat-set products. More information about the use of GAC 900 can be found on our Painting on Fabric with GOLDEN Acrylics application sheet.
For durability, protection, and moisture resistance, we recommend applying a topcoat after the paint has cured. There are many options available including acrylics, oils, waxes, silicones and polyurethanes. They are available as brush-on fluids or in aerosol spray cans. We recommend researching what is available, especially from leather specialists like Tandy, Angelus and Fiebing. When selecting a topcoat, it is key to make sure it is compatible with acrylic paints.
So there is no real quick and easy “one size fits all” answer to how to paint leather, but there are many options available and testing is an important first step when deciding which option is right for you. If you have questions or need assistance with your project, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.
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78 thoughts on “Painting On Leather With Acrylics”
Thank you for this interesting post, especially the article about painting leather. I have a large supply of clothing leather, and many Golden fluid paints. So plenty of food for thought! My only stumbling block will be sourcing suppliers of the finishing treatments and possibly the GAC 900, I am in Spain and from past experience, I doubt if I can have these products shipped from the US.
Please contact our Customer Service department at 1-800-959-6543 or firstname.lastname@example.org for help finding products in your area.
Hello Stacy –
Would you have any suggestions for painting OLD vinyl patio cushions, that don’t have a lot of movement on them when your seated – as they are rather firm, and in addition will ALWAYS be on a covered/screened patio.
Vinyl contains plasticizers, which can interfere with adhesion of acrylics. If you wanted to paint on top of vinyl, an exterior vinyl primer would need be be applied first, but worry that it may not be flexible or appropriate for a functional object. We also have concerns that all of these layers of primer and paint on top of something that will be sat upon, may cause the paint to be built up too thickly and could crack. Acrylics are thermoplastics and respond to humidity and temperature and when it is warm they become softer and tackier and this would not be ideal if someone sat on the painted cushions. It would also not be weather resistant, nor could they stand up to being be cleaned or hosed off. You may consider looking into paints or dyes specifically made for exterior vinyl awnings or furniture. We hope this is helpful.
Hi Stacey, do you have any recommendations for painting bike seats? After painting the seats can be used without worry about the paint chipping, rubbing or fading away.
Hi Amanda, it would really depend upon the material that comprises the bike seat. If it is leather and the paint absorbed into the leather so it was not sitting on top and then it was topcoated with an appropriate sealer and weatherproofer that was compatible with the acrylic paint, that would likely give you the best result. It is hard to say if the paint would crack or rub away, as you could see from the testing in the article, different leathers performed differently. If the seat is vinyl please refer to my earlier response addressing painting vinyl.
I want to make an outdoor banner/mural with some elementary school students. I’m wondering what kind of fabric material would be best (canvas? vinyl?) and what kind of paint. We would like to hang it up and have it last well for at least a year. Thank you!
The material we would recommend for an exterior banner would be either Polyester Canvas or awning material like Sunbrella, which you may be able to find in a fabric store. It could then be painted with acrylics. We do not recommend that children under the age of 12 use our paints. If the children will not be doing the painting, We have an Exterior Mural Guide with colors that we recommend for exterior application, was well as application and topcoating advice. It can be found here: http://www.goldenpaints.com/technicalinfo/technicalinfo_murals If you would like more detailed help, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com or 800-959-6543.
Shelly March 26,2017
Hello out there. I am in need of help for painting the arms of a chair. The chair will be used in a beauty salon. I covered the seat and back with vinal fabric in a no sew way but the way the arms are made I would prefer to paint them. Help me if you can.
Similar to my response to Richard above, vinyl contains plasticizers, which can interfere with adhesion of acrylics. If you wanted to paint on top of vinyl, a commercial vinyl primer would need be be applied first, but it may not be flexible or appropriate for a functional object. Acrylics are thermoplastics and respond to humidity and temperature and when it is warm they become softer and tackier and this would not be ideal if someone rested their arms on the painted arms of the chair. You may be able to find a topcoat to put over your painting that might be less sticky, more durable and cleanable. You may also consider looking into paints specifically made for vinyl. If you need further assistance, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m new to painting leather. I work with acrylics, various brands and quality. I’m currently working on saddles, and have to prep the surfaces first. What do you recommend for longevity when painting these surfaces? They won’t have much give or flex, but sealing is crucial, and they will be exposed to waxy cleaning solutions over time, and sunlight as well as rain.
If you are looking for a durable sealer after painting leather, we would suggest you contact a leather craft supplier. These companies usually sell acrylic dyes and if they recommend a topcoat that can go over acrylic dyes, then likely it will be compatible on top of our acrylic paints as well.
Hi! can i use high viscosity tri art acrylic paint to paint on soft lambskin leather (chanel) or epi leather (lv) to art painting like peacocks/birds? I’m going to mix it with Fabric medium to soften it and give it more fluidity. Would this be feasible? Its hard to find colors and brands recommended in toronto. I can order Angelus online but limited color (i prefer to see how the color looks like too), but im not sure its made for art, not just dyeing bags.
Hi Ira, Likely if you are using acrylic paints or acrylic leather dyes, they should mix with the GAC 900. We have not tested these combinations, so would recommend you test first before using. Whether they will adhere to you leather or not, some more testing may also be needed. If the leathers do not have a topcoat, especially a waterproofing topcoat, they may adhere. If they do have a topcoat, you may need to remove it before painting. The paint will likely apply easier on the soft lambskin as it it more likely to soak into the leather and not sit on top, which is what might happen with the EPI leather. If these are going to be worn or used, we would recommend an appropriate topcoat after painting. If you need help ordering GOLDEN products or have any other questions, feel free to contact our Customer Service Department at 800-959-6543.
hey do you think i could use this painting method on some below knee boots? theyre kind of flimsy and made of leather and ive tried painted lether shoes before but they get all cracky after a while, its for a halloween costume and im hoping for something that can actual stay on well.
The key would be the paint or paint/GAC 900 combination to soak into the leather instead of sitting on top. If there is a waterproofing topcoat on the leather, this would need to be removed before painting as it would likely stop the paint from soaking in or adhering well. If using the GAC 900 it would need to be heat set, then we would recommend a protective topcoat be reapplied.
We hope this is helpful and if you have further questions, feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
I painted on a leather denim label with acrylic paints. Now that it’s fully dried, can it be machine washed and dried? Do I need to spray it with a sealer before throwing it in the washer & dryer?
If the leather label was uncoated before painting and the paint soaked into the pores of the leather, there is a good chance that the paint application could survive the washer and drier. If the paint is applied thickly on top of the label, it may crack with machine washing and drying. It may be better to hand wash and line dry.
We hope this is helpful and if you have any further questions, feel free to contact us a firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a few old leather and vinyl leather jackets that I’m thinking of painting for fun. What’s the process for that/what do I need to do/paints should I use? What paint can I use that will be good for not only light coats but also possibly thicker applied coats as well?
As far as the leather is concerned all of the details you need are above, however the vinyl may be problematic. Vinyl contains plasticizers that can migrate to the surface over time and could interfere with the adhesion of the acrylic paint. We usually recommend a commercial vinyl primer before using acrylics on vinyl, but you would need to make sure that primer is flexible enough to go on clothing.
We hope this is helpful and if you have any further questions, feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
I have this beautiful bag, which is quite spacious and great for travelling, it’s in perfect condition, except the faux leather part of bag around zipper, which has completely peeled off, underneath it looks like some kind of fabric which is bit rough, any recommendations for restoring it and making it look like faux leather again. I have been told that acrylic paint works.
Hard to say. It really depends if the fabric underneath is compatible with acrylic paints. If it is, it may be possible to color match and get a look similar to the finish of the bag. We would recommend a topcoat to add durability and match the sheen. The same type of topcoat for acrylic leather dyes, found at a leather supplier, may work here. Most faux leather products are made of vinyl and we don’t recommend painting with acrylics on top of vinyl without the use of a vinyl primer first, due to plasticizer migration that can come between the paint layer and the vinyl causing the paint layer to fail.
We hope this is helpful and if you have any further questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently I tried dyeing a pair of white shoes with the Angelus Leather Dye in a mixture of green and turquoise. I didn’t anticipate how dark the color would go during application and now have shoes that are too dark for the project I need them for. Do you think it would be possible to paint over the dye (and lighten them) with the Angelus leather paint? Thanks!
Whether or not you can use an Acrylic Leather Paint on top of a Leather dye, would really depend upon the type of dye and what kind of surface you are working upon. It may be possible, but we would suggest that you contact Angelus and ask these questions because they would be most familiar with their products, but you are certainly welcome to email us more details at email@example.com and we will do our best to help.
I have bought two old leather coats in a thrift store and i would like to use them as material for something new. This would include painting decorative patterns on them. The leather is black (chromium tanned?) and quite thin and soft. What I gather from your post you recommend High Flow Acrylics for that. One thing with them is that the 118 ml bottles are quite big and buying them even in primary colors and white is a bit of an investment for a student. Would Fluid Acrylics work? Those would be available in 30 ml bottles. Should I use a finisher for either of them or do heat setting?
We would recommend removing any old coatings that may be on the jackets first then painting, heat setting if GAC 900 was added and topcoating for protection. The High Flow paints are available in one ounce (30 ml) bottles as well, but depending upon how porous the leather is, the Fluids could be used. If you are mixing the GAC 900 into the Fluid Acrylics, it becomes thinner. We would recommend testing an inconspicuous area first to see if the Fluids will work for your application. If you need help locating the smaller bottles of High Flow, please feel free to give our Customer Service department a call at 800-959-6543 and if you have any further questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I found High Flow in 30 ml bottles online. What should I use for the topcoating?
What type of acrylic sealer can I use that won’t leave the leather with a sticky feeling?
If you are referring to a topcoat after painting, we would suggest you look into companies like Angelus or Tandy that make coatings for leather. We suspect that if they are compatible with their own acrylic dyes for leather they should be compatible with our paints, but we have not tested them and encourage you to test before using on your final pieces.
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Thank you Landyn Kyra! We are so glad you found it helpful!
I am water marbling with your acrylic paints straight from the bottle on silk currently but would like to water marble on leather. Do I have to prep the leather with alum first? Is it best to use raw leather for this application? I am going to try it for belts. I am currently not using GAC 900.
Thank you for your question. We have not done any water marbling on leather, so we would recommend you test all applications on a sacrificial piece before attempting on your final pieces. We are not really sure if you would need alum. The colors may take better on raw leather, but depending how dry the leather is you might consider conditioning the leather after panting. The conditioning could likely darken the color of the paint. Without conditioning, the leather may crack with the repeated flexing of the belt. We would also recommend top coating for some durability.
If you have any further questions, feel free to email us at Help@goldenpaints.com
would anyone have any advice on painting store bought archery arm bracers?
We believe the advice would be the same; remove any coatings, make sure the paint sinks into the pours and topcoat with something durable. If the string will be rubbing over the surface, it may wear down the finish, so a durable topcoat would likely make it hold up longer.
We hope this is helpful.
I want to paint on an old suede bag, do you recommend I paint straight onto it using GOLDEN Acrylics or should I prime the suede surface first with gesso? :))
Painting suede is likely going to dramatically change the appearance and texture of the suede. If you still would like to do it, we would not recommend Gesso, as that would not be necessary. You could paint directly on the suede or if you want a white ground, Titanium White Fluid Acrylics or High Flow paint mixed with GAC 900, would likely be better, but we would recommend testing any application before applying directly to your project. It is important as when painting any leather that any coating previously applied be removed and best if the paint can be absorbed into the leather instead of sitting on top where you may see some cracking when flexed. If using the GAC 900, it should be heat set.
We hope this is helpful and if you have further questions, feel free to email us at email@example.com. ‘
I painted bags and shoes with acrylic paint like angelus or jacquard, and it bothers me that every time we done, we got that sticky tacky leather finish…. Can you recommend any varnish/coats to tackle this issue? it makes it looks so cheap, and im always trying to get that factory look. Please helppp.
We don’t make any topcoats for leather, but you might want to reach out to companies like Angelus, to ask what they recommend. Renaissance Wax may be an option, but we have limited experience with this product on leather.
We hope this is helpful.
I would just mix school glue with 5 minut apoxy and acrylic paint then paint the jacket, works every time.
Thanks for sharing what is working for you! We have not tested that combination of materials, so would consider your process experimental, but if it is working for you, fantastic. We are a little concerned with the school glue, which has a tendency to yellow and brittle in time, as does the epoxy.
Thanks again for sharing!
I would like to ask what materials I can use to sketch on a leather bag? I am planning to paint and put designs on my old leather bag. Thanks.
You could consider using carbon paper to sketch out your design. Pencil or paint would likely telegraph through. We would recommend you remove any coatings that may be on the bag before painting.
We hope this is helpful and if you have any further questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi there, Was curious if you have ever painted on leather that already had a pattern on it. I have a Fendi wallet that is so awesome but printed pattern on the folded part is wearing. I took this to a leather store and told me there was nothing they could do because the print was a decal or plastic of sorts. Curious what my options are since the leather is in great shape and I’d rather not throw it out.
We aren’t sure if the acrylic paint will adhere to the plastic without know what kind of plastic is the decal. Also if it is on the folded part it may crack if being bent back and forth repeatedly, but if you would wind up throwing away, why not try to paint it? Please make sure to clean the plastic part carefully with ispropyl alcohol making sure not to hit the leather with the alcohol. You could mask of the leather with some painters tape or plastic. It may also help to scuff up the plastic part a bit before painting and cleaning with alcohol. Again, we cannot know if it would adhere, but if it is trash otherwise, what have you got to lose?
Yes! Sounds good to me! Thank you for your reply!
Is the leather paint sweat proof, or will it come off on someone’s skin?
These are not paints designed for leather. These are artist acrylics. We would not recommend using our paints for painting the inside of a garment or anything that will directly touch the skin. We would recommend using leather dyes specifically designed for that purpose.
We hope this is helpful. If you have more questions, feel free to email us at email@example.com.
Hi Stacy Brock ; I have a pair of leather shoes and the color is like a pumpkin orange and bought some. matte acrylic paint orange (apple barrel) can I use this on my leather shoes.
We cannot speak for the Apple Barrel paint because we have never tested them, but theoretically if you removed any coating on the leather first and painted with an acrylic paint, it may work. The key is that the paint sinks into the pores of the leather instead on sitting on top. If sitting on top, it will likely crack. Adding GOLDEN GAC 900 to the paint and then heat setting may help. A matte paint is going to be more susceptible to damage from scratches and stains, so we would recommend applying an appropriate topcoat made for using on top of painted shoes. We recommend testing all applications prior to applying to the shoes.
We hope this is helpful and if you have further questions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, I am applying leather pieces to acrylic painting. The pieces are small in size and weight. My question is, Would gloss medium applied to the leather be enough to adhere to the acrylic canvas surface?
If there are any coatings on the leather it would be best to remove those first and after that the acrylic mediums should work fine to adhere the leather to your painting. If using a thin medium and the surfaces you are combining are absorbent, you may consider applying a coat of the medium to the surfaces separately first and letting dry, then using some wet medium to adhere them together. A thin medium will tend to just absorb into the surface and might night leave enough product behind to adhere the elements together. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
Cool article, though i want to know this. i live at a place where some of these paints and finishes and all that arent available. i am about to commence custom making nike airforce 1 sneakers. i want to know what auxiliary material or fluid i can use for finishing to keep the paint on the sneaker so not to wipe off easily… thank you
We have not tested other brands, but the advice would likely hold true for any acrylic paint. Our GAC 900 should be compatible with other’s acrylics as well and as long as the acrylic has good adhesion to the material it is painted upon, like cotton canvas or leather, the paint should not wipe off easily. We would recommend using a topcoat that is compatible with acrylic leather dyes. This should be compatible with acrylic paints too. We recommend finding an appropriate topcoat at a leather supply manufacturer.
I’ve been painting on various types of leather for as long as Golden’s been in business and have never had a single problem. There are some tips for each type of leather, though. To paint on the flesh side of deerskin it helps to iron it with a medium setting. I iron just the area I’m working on. On the skin side of deer, it definitely helps to iron it to smooth it out; it’s beautiful to paint on! The same for the skin of elk, and other wild ruminants. I don’t paint the flesh side of anything but deer because there’s usually too much velvet to make a good surface. I also work on veg tan cow, pig and goat and all take acrylics just fine.The one trick I’ve found very useful for preventing bleeding of the paint is to spray the leather, any kind, lightly, let it soak in then paint. Make sure your paint isn’t quite watery, about the consistency of milk.
I don’t paint on any leathers that are treated, however, so I don’t have any advice for those.
I know it’s recommended by Golden to use a medium, but I rarely do and I’ve got pieces out there that have been worn everyday for 15 years and they still look great.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Like the article shows above, not all leather painting will require GAC 900. Softer and more absorbent leathers may not need it if the paint sinks into the pores. If using thick tooling or belt leather, the wear can cause the paint to crack over time if not using the medium.
I have a question if I were to mix regular non leather acrylic paint with angelus leather paint will it affect the quality at all? I was thinking of mixing a color with white angelus paint
Theoretically, if the Angelus paint is also acrylic, it should mix with GOLDEN Acrylics, but we have not tested this compatibility.
Do you have any advice on how to remove leather paint after it has been sealed and dried? Thanks!
Thank you for your question. If it is a leather dye, it may be able to be removed with denatured alcohol, but if it is a paint, it would be much harder to remove. Paints are usually permanent. There may be something that the leather suppliers carry to help remove coating that you could try. If the paint has absorbed into the pores, it would be even more difficult to remove. Isopropyl Alcohol or Acetone, could work, but may also discolor the leather. Testing first is always the safest plan. If you have further questions, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for the great guide. It was very informative.
I will purchase some GAC 900 to mix with my Golden Fluid paints before painting my ratty leather garden clogs.
I will be doing layers. Do I need to ‘heat set’ the paint between layers or only the finished product.
Wish me luck.
You shouldn’t need to heat set each layer. Wait until all layers a touch dry, then heat set. We would recommend a durable waterproofing topcoat for shoes. Hope this helps and if you have further questions, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
Stacy, Thank you so much for your advice. 🙂
It’s our pleasure, Toni!
So I read a few articles on painting with acrylics and I’m not sure where to start to be honest. I read this article online about 5 easy steps to painting but I’m a little curious as to WHAT kind of paint to use because there are just way too many brands and I don’t know which to go with!
What kind of paint you choose really has to do with the type of leather you are using. You may be looking at specific leather paints online. Our paints are artist acrylics that could also be used to paint on leather. The key is choosing a consistency that will soak into the pores of the leather instead of sitting on top. With garment leather, our High Flow Acrylics (ink-like consistency) or our Fluid Acrylics (house paint consistency) worked the best. With a thicker leather, like belt leather, our Fluid Acrylics mixed with the GAC 900 in a 1:1 ratio worked the best. This combination needs to be heat set after becoming touch dry.
We hope this is helpful and if you have any other questions regarding your particular project, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a collection of acrylic on leather artworks that are now peeling. My mother gave them to me and she believes they told her it was cowhide. I’ve applied cream and oil to the back of it a few times but I’m not sure that has helped much. I was wondering if I can apply some kind of a sealant that will stop it from peeling further and adhere it to the leather better. All advice greatly appreciated!
Hi Natalie, in this instance we would recommend speaking with an Art Conservator. Here is a link to a free forum from the University of Delaware that is comprised of Art Conservators ready to answer your questions: https://www.artcons.udel.edu/mitra
This is a great guide, especially to those who plans to paint their leather with acrylics. It is very helpful that you show the tips before applying this type of paint. Thank you for sharing this article.
Thank you so much for your kind comment. We are so glad you found it helpful!
Hi. I would like to paint a small synthetic rough leather khaki green handbag with acrylic paint. It has to be cobalt turquoise. Which acrylic paint is better just to cover the synthetic leather with a very superficial layer, just to give it the tone I’m looking for, with a sponge? Very fluid, etc.?
Hi LK! Thank you for your comment. Our thinnest acrylic paints are our High Flow Acrylics. They have an ink like consistency that can be further thinned with the addition of some water. We would recommend testing on as similar a piece of leather as possible to see if you are getting the results you are looking for. We hope that is helpful! If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.
I would like to know if this works with PU leather as well. I have a pair of combat boots I want to customize and I have goldens fluid acrylics. I hope gac900 is the solution 🙂
Follow the process outlined in this article. PU leather should accept the acrylic paints but it is important to remove any waterproofing coatings, oils, silicones, etc. before trying to paint it. IF you still have issues, an “Adhesion Promoter” may be necessary to use before you paint. https://www.duplicolor.com/product/adhesion-promoter/ is one example.