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Painting On Leather With Acrylics

 

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Leather belt painted with Fluid Acrylics mixed with GAC 900 in a 1:1 ratio.

 

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.

Surface Preparation

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.

Painting Options

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.

GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics

GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics on raw, unconditioned, and untreated leather.

GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylics

GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylics on raw, unconditioned, and untreated leather.

GOLDEN High Flow Acrylics

GOLDEN High Flow Acrylics on raw, unconditioned, and untreated leather.

GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics and GAC 900

GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics and GAC 900 on raw, unconditioned, and untreated leather.

Painting Shoes

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 in here in the Fabric Applications Sheet from the goldenpaints.com website: http://www.goldenpaints.com/technicalinfo_fabric.

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 help@goldenpaints.com.

 

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33 Responses to Painting On Leather With Acrylics

  1. rachel atienza August 18, 2016 at 6:16 am #

    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.

    • Stacy Brock August 18, 2016 at 9:40 am #

      Hi Rachel!
      Please contact our Customer Service department at 1-800-959-6543 or help@goldenpaints.com for help finding products in your area.

  2. Richard August 18, 2016 at 7:32 am #

    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.

    • Stacy Brock August 18, 2016 at 9:54 am #

      Hi Richard,
      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.

  3. amanda February 26, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    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.

    Thank you

    • Stacy Brock February 27, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

      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.

  4. Emily March 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Hi Stacy,
    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!

    • Stacy Brock March 14, 2017 at 10:29 am #

      Hi Emily,
      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_murals If you would like more detailed help, please feel free to contact us at help@goldenpaints.com or 800-959-6543.
      Best,
      Stacy

  5. shelly April 26, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    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.
    Blessings

    • Stacy Brock April 26, 2017 at 10:05 am #

      Hi Shelly,

      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 help@goldenpaints.com.

  6. Manta June 9, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

    Hi,
    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.

    • Stacy Brock June 12, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

      Hi Manta,

      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.

      Best,
      Stacy

  7. ira August 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    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.

    • Stacy Brock August 28, 2017 at 8:37 am #

      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.

  8. morgan September 26, 2017 at 12:16 am #

    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.

    • Stacy Brock September 26, 2017 at 8:07 am #

      Hi Morgan,

      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 help@goldenpaints.com.

      Best,
      Stacy

  9. Annie November 12, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

    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?

    • Stacy Brock November 13, 2017 at 9:46 am #

      Hi Annie,

      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 help@goldenpaints.com.

      Best,
      Stacy

  10. Jamie November 15, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    Hi Stacy,

    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?

    Thank you!
    Jamie

    • Stacy Brock November 15, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

      Hi Jamie,

      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 help@goldenpaints.com.

      Best,
      Stacy

  11. Ainee March 10, 2018 at 5:56 am #

    Hi Stacy,

    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.

    • Stacy Brock March 12, 2018 at 2:08 pm #

      Hi Ainee,

      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 help@goldenpaints.com

      Best,
      Stacy

  12. Alyssa Bouchard March 19, 2018 at 12:48 pm #

    Hi there!

    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!

    • Stacy Brock March 20, 2018 at 5:03 pm #

      Hi Alyssa,

      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 help@goldenpaints.com and we will do our best to help.

      Best,
      Stacy

  13. Silja March 24, 2018 at 5:08 am #

    Hi Stacy!

    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?

    • Stacy Brock March 27, 2018 at 8:56 am #

      Hi Silja,

      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 help@goldenpaints.com

      • Silja March 27, 2018 at 9:56 am #

        Thanks 🙂

        I found High Flow in 30 ml bottles online. What should I use for the topcoating?

  14. Lucy June 5, 2018 at 9:27 am #

    What type of acrylic sealer can I use that won’t leave the leather with a sticky feeling?

    • Stacy Brock June 5, 2018 at 9:53 am #

      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.

  15. Landyn Kyra June 9, 2018 at 3:37 am #

    It is a very advantageous post for me. I’ve enjoyed reading the post. It is very supportive and useful post. I would like to visit the post once more its valuable content. Thanks for sharing this so interesting post! I really want to be thankful for the way you have put it here.

    • Stacy Brock June 11, 2018 at 10:22 am #

      Thank you Landyn Kyra! We are so glad you found it helpful!

  16. Julie June 11, 2018 at 2:38 pm #

    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.

    • Stacy Brock June 11, 2018 at 4:34 pm #

      Hi Julie,

      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

      Best,
      Stacy

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