Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Leather?

By Mandy Moss

Leather accessories and furniture are very durable and often stunning to look at, but sometimes you might want to add your own touch. Maybe those leather shoes are calling for a cool design to be painted on them? Or maybe your faded leather couch is begging to be repainted? What kind of paint could you use to do these jobs?

It is possible to paint on leather with acrylics, However, acrylic paint is thicker than leather paint, so you must water down the paint before using it. The best option would be to use leather-specific paint as this would make the finished product look better without the hassle of watering down the paint.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Leather

What is the best way to paint leather surfaces?

Painting leather surfaces using acrylic paint specially designed for leather will help it stay flexible, preventing cracking from the paint once it dries.  In addition, you always want to paint in the direction in which the leather flexes, as this will help the paint look more natural.

When painting leather, it is more of a staining process than an actual painting process. You don’t want the paint to sit on top of the surface, you want it to absorb into the leather.

Water-based paints are easily absorbed by leather and less likely to crack and chip when the leather is used.

How do you get acrylic paint to stick to leather?

For acrylic paint to stick to leather, you will need to clean the leather well and strip it of any sealers. This can be done by rubbing the leather item down with isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol will de-grease, clean, and remove any coatings, waxes, or oils that may be present.

If you find that the paint is not adhering well, then the leather or faux type of leather may have been treated with a silicone coating. In this case, leather de-glazers can be used before applying more paint, but alcohol usually works out okay.

TIP: You can also remove access coatings by lightly sanding the surface of the leather with some fine sandpaper.

How do you keep acrylic paint from cracking on shoes?

The best way to avoid acrylic paint cracking on shoes is to apply thin layers. Thick layers are what causes the paint to crack and chip.

Here are six easy tips to help you avoid cracked paint when painting you pair of shoes:

  1. Avoid mixing brands of paint as the consistency of the paints will be different.
  2. Put on the paint in thin even layers, uneven layers will show up like lap marks on a porch. 
  3. Paint in the direction in which the shoes flex and allow time for the paint to dry before applying the next layer.
  4. When the paint dries and before adding new layers of paint, flex the shoe with your hands, this will prevent the paint from hardening in the flex patterns of the shoe.
  5. Don’t apply heat to dry the paint, heat will cause the paint to dry too quickly not leaving enough time for the material to absorb it, thus causing cracking.
  6. A final step in the process is to apply a protective coating. Use an acrylic paint finisher or sealant to keep your paint from cracking on shoes.

How do you seal acrylic paint on leather shoes?

   You can seal the paint onto shoes with an acrylic finisher.  Here’s how:

  1. Add 1 oz. of acrylic paint finisher to 1 pt. of water.
  2. Apply the diluted paint finisher using a wool dauber with a light coat, you do not want to over-wet the leather.
  3. Do not move it before it has dried for several hours, otherwise, it may crack and ruin the paint.
  4. Once your leather is fully dried, the finisher will help protect acrylic paint from future chipping or damage. 
  5. Apply additional coats if you feel they are needed.
KEEP IN MIND: Some people chose not to add a sealing agent to their leather and leave the bright matte finish of the acrylic paint instead. 

Can you use acrylic paint on a leather sofa?

Yes, but your sofa will need to be cleaned beforehand, as well as waterproofed. When applying acrylic paint to a sofa, you want to apply thin layers. I recommend watering the paint down, as it will absorb more easily than thick paint layers.

After painting, seal your leather sofa, choosing a sealant that achieves your desired finish, whether that is a full gloss or matte.

How do I clean leather furniture?

Wearing a dust mask and rubber gloves, pour a scant amount of rubbing alcohol onto a soft cloth and gently scrub the leather area of the furniture to remove the protective coating along with any grease stains.

Besides giving the leather a stained, natural appearance, the acrylic leather paint name implies they are specifically for leather. Regular acrylics are thicker and do not soak into the leather nearly as well without being watered down.

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