Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Leather? (Explained)

Photo of brown leather with yellow acrylic paint on top. Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Leather?

Leather tends to look the same after a while. If you want to dress it up and give it a new breath of life, you’ll be able to do that with paint. Can you use acrylic paint on leather? Read on to find out!

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on leather. Acrylic paint is an excellent choice for leather and a popular one amongst leather experts and artists out there! This is mainly because acrylic paint has the best versatility in application, the best range of colors and finishes, and really impressive, vibrant colors.

Since most use paint to give their leather a pop of something, this is a huge perk. There is a technique for using acrylic paint on leather properly, which I’ll go over below. You’ll also want to learn about what other types of paints you can use on leather items of all kinds!

Can I use acrylic paint on leather?

Using your basic acrylic paint from a craft store on something as high-end as buttery leather seems strange, but it is safe and normal! You can use this on all types of leather, including leather shoes, leather bags, and even leather furniture!

In fact, Tanglewood Works explains that painting a leather couch will be a great way to help take a beloved family heirloom and give it a brand-new modern look. Since leather can last a long time if treated properly, it’s great to know that you can give an old piece a brand-new life!

Will acrylic paint crack on leather?

This is a valid question. After all, if acrylic paint is just your average kind of product, won’t it just crack and peel off leather? In most cases, you will find that your paint can crack or peel off your leather rather quickly if you apply too thick of a coat.

Think about it this way: your leather is literally skin. If the paint can’t sink into the skin, it will just sit on top and peel away from it whenever it gets under the smallest amount of physical stress. It will operate the same way if you put acrylic paint on your skin!

In general, cheap paint is going to peel no matter what. So, even though you can technically use dollar-store acrylic paint to paint leather effectively, you shouldn’t. Get good quality acrylic paint that will do its job correctly!

I’ll also discuss this in more detail later when choosing between classic and leather acrylic paint!

How do you get acrylic paint to stay on leather?

If you want to give your leather and paint the best chance possible at getting along, it means focusing on preparation and patience. Yes, those are rarely fun, but the results will be worthwhile! 

To prepare your leather properly, you first need to strip off whatever finishing it has to it. To do this, you’ll want to use fine-grade sandpaper. Gently buff the surface so it is roughened up where you want to paint it. This opens up the leather’s pores so the paint can seep into it and stay where you put it instead of peeling off.

The second thing to do is effectively clean off any grime and oil from your leather. The best choice for that is isopropyl alcohol. This effectively strips your leather bare so it’s primed and ready for paint! Be careful with alcohol, though. Did you know that hand sanitizer can stain leather? You should only use this to prepare for the area you want to paint!

Now that it’s all prepared, you’ll want to take care with how you paint your leather. You’ll want to work in light coats that are applied evenly to the painted area. Light coats have the best chance to sink into the leather and give it that base layer that essentially clings to the leather’s pores and keeps it anchored there even as the leather moves. After all, you’re not just going to paint your leather and leave it on display forever, right? 

Before you head in for your second coat, ensure that the first coat has had time to sink in and dry thoroughly. This is an essential step for starting the painting itself right!

What can I use to seal acrylic paint on leather?

After you’ve finished painting your customized leather, you’ll want to apply a professional paint finisher. This creates a topcoat for your leather and helps keep the colors fresh, crisp, glossy, and protected from the elements. 

You’ll want to apply the finisher and then leave your creation for at least 24 hours before you try to move it to use it. This paint finisher needs ample time to sink in and seal everything up!

Does acrylic paint wash off leather?

We all make mistakes, and leather painting will be no exception! If you’ve changed your mind or dribbled your paintbrush a bit, all you need to do is wash your acrylic paint off the leather with warm water and some dish soap! 

TIP: The faster you remove paint, the better the chance it’ll look like it never happened. So, keep soap and water close by when you’re actively painting! Don’t forget to tape off any areas over your leather that you don’t want to be stained.

Regular acrylic paint vs. leather acrylic paint

Above, I mentioned that you could use acrylic paint or leather acrylic paint. While these are similar, the use of “leather” in the name of the second one is going to be a good indicator of which type of paint is technically going to be best to use with your leather. Here’s what you should know.

Acrylic paint is intended for all surfaces, including fabric, wood, and leather. It’s not optimized for leather itself, so it will be generically good on all types of surfaces. While good-quality acrylic paint is a great and common choice for leather, it can still peel or crack on leather, even if you’ve carefully applied it.

Leather acrylic paint is optimized and designed just for use with leather. It soaks into leather easier, and it will be much stronger than your average paint, especially when resisting heat and humidity. If you want to go with the best of the best, you’ll find that leather acrylic paint is superior to acrylic paint just because it’s designed only for leather and nothing else. 

Why do so many use acrylic paint instead of leather acrylic paint?

Many rely on classic acrylic paint because most people who take on painting leather are artists of some kind. These people would have acrylic paint in their workshops and homes for other mediums they’ve painted or modified in the past. So, use the supplies and tools you’re most comfortable with to customize leather!

Those who get serious about painting and customizing leather, such as small business owners and artisans, often will choose to invest in leather acrylic paint once they get used to the art of painting on leather. Acrylic paint is kind of like training wheels in this case since it’s a logical starting point.

That being said, you don’t have to be a professional artist to get some leather acrylic paint and put it to work with a wonderful little customized leather jacket, wallet, or whatever it is that you’re working on.

Does acrylic paint stay on fake leather?

Yes, acrylic paint stays on fake or faux leather just the same as it would on genuine leather! You can also use chalk-based paint if you want to, though it may not last as long as acrylic. You’ll still find that using leather acrylic paint is your best choice for faux leather.

What kind of paint can be used on leather?

So, you already know that you can use acrylic or leather acrylic paint on your leather or faux leather. But are there other types of paint you can use? Yes! You can also use oil and watercolor paints on leather goods! These are popular for those who are experienced in working with these kinds of paints and know how they want to use them to create their artwork.

TIP: Make sure you think about the end use for your leather item for comfort, as Just Paint recommends. Many find using acrylic paint to be the best for comfort, durability, and overall enjoyment compared to other types of paint!

You can also consider using leather markers for painting. These are great for those who prefer the marker approach to classic paint, and they’ll be wonderful when you’re specifically searching for on-demand painting! Just focus on following the same instructions for preparing your leather and letting each coat dry and seal after you’re done!

It’s exciting to realize that you can use your basic acrylic paint when you are hunting to customize your leather item. Whether you’re drawn to it because of its color choice or its cost-effectiveness, it’ll be good with your leather.

Make sure you learn how to prepare your leather and properly apply and seal the paint to keep the risk of peeling and cracking as low as possible. You can also consider other types of paint, including leather acrylic paint, oil paint, and watercolor paint.

It turns out there’s a lot to know about painting leather! If you know someone else who is going to love the challenge, share this with them!

Andre from leatherninja.com

Andre is a passionate leatherworker who spends his spare time working with leather. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.