Acrylic paints are widely used to paint a variety of surfaces, thanks to their simple application and non-toxic nature. However, leather is quite a difficult material to work with, so it’s no doubt that people have questions about how to use acrylic paint with leather.
Can you use acrylic paint on leather shoes? Yes, you can use acrylic paint on leather shoes. However, you’ll want to choose paints that are formulated to work with leather and that have enough flexibility not to crack with movement or stretching.
In this article, let’s learn all about how to paint your leather shoes with acrylic paint.
Does Acrylic Paint Work On Leather?
The short answer is yes, but you will need to use the right paint as well as examine the leather first before painting.
Acrylic paint is a non-toxic, water-based paint that is beloved by the art community. It comes in a high viscosity liquid form that you can use as-is or thin out with various mediums and thinners to make the paint more liquid.
When dry, acrylic paint forms a semi-permanent, semi-waterproof layer on top of your canvas (or whatever material that you use). Depending on the brand of paint you use, the color quality can last for years, which makes acrylic an excellent choice for artists.
Since leather is a flexible, porous material, the paint will need to be very flexible when dry. Otherwise, the paint can crack and peel off of the leather. If you are painting a pair of leather shoes, the wear and tear are even greater, so enhancing the flexibility of the acrylic paint before painting is highly recommended.
This is why a lot of artists recommend using acrylic paint that’s specially formulated to work with leather. This type of acrylic paint shares many of the similar qualities as regular acrylic paint, but it will dry to become flexible and permanent so that the paint will work well with the leather’s movements and will not crack under pressure.
If you don’t have leather paint, the next best option would be to use a fabric medium to thin out your acrylic paint. Fabric medium is designed to transform acrylic paint into a low viscosity and highly flexible formula, so you can achieve a similar result to working with leather paint medium.
The result of this method is highly dependent on the fabric medium that you use. If possible, you should mix your paint first and test this solution on a scrap piece of leather to see if the result is what you expect before going ahead with painting your shoes.
What About Faux Leather?
Faux leather is even more popular than genuine leather because it closely resembles the look of genuine leather and has many of the same properties, but it is essentially made with synthetic materials that have been treated with wax and polyurethane to emulate the look of leather.
Because faux leather is synthetic, it will not absorb the paint as well as genuine leather would. Instead, the paint will lay on top of the material and can peel off very easily. You can still paint faux leather, but using a durable sealer will be a crucial step to help your paint last.
Preparing Leather For Painting
Acrylic paint works well for untreated leather, but your leather shoes usually have a layer of silicone coating to preserve the leather’s look. If you attempt to paint on your leather shoes right away, the paint may not stick to the surface and may peel off easily after painting.
That’s why it is very important to prepare the leather for painting by removing any top coat (such as silicone, wax, oil) or any dirt and grease on the shoes. This is typically done by wiping down the shoes with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or even a deglazer.
If you have any stubborn coating that you cannot remove using rubbing alcohol, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand down the surface to remove the top coat, but make sure to treat the leather gently, so you don’t accidentally damage the shoes.
Make sure to prepare your leather shoes very thoroughly in this process since any leftover finish on the shoes will make your layer of paint look patchy because the paint will not adhere properly to the surface.
As you wipe down the shoes with a deglazer, you can visibly tell the difference between the ‘finished’ area and the ‘stripped’ area. After the finish coating has been completely removed, you can wipe away any excess alcohol or deglazer before painting.
Now, if you have a special design for your leather shoes, it’s good to use a good old fashion pencil and eraser to draw your design on the shoes. This step is optional if you are painting a solid color on the shoes, but planning out your design first will make painting much easier later on.
How To Paint With Acrylic Paint On Leather Shoes
When using acrylic paint to paint on leather shoes, it is highly recommended to mix all of your paint beforehand and only use one brand of paint to work with the leather shoes.
This is because the paint consistency has to be the same across all of the layers of paint. Otherwise, the paint may not dry evenly on the leather and crack after it is dry.
If you are using a fabric medium, you should use the recommended ratio of paint to medium as recommended by the manufacturer and test the consistency and quality of the paint on a scrap piece before painting on your shoes.
The best way to use acrylic paint on leather is to apply the paint using thin, even layers and avoid creating textures on the paint. Because leather is a very smooth canvas, any brush marks or uneven coverage will look quite stark on the shoes.
Using thinner layers to work on leather shoes will also help the paint become more flexible and won’t crack when it is met with a lot of wear and tear later on.
If you are painting a design using several colors, it’s good to use one color at a time rather than blending the colors (like you would do when working with a canvas).
If you would like to add some dimension to the design, we recommend using shading techniques to add shadows and highlights at the last step of painting after the solid color blocks have dried completely.
You should also follow the direction of the stretch of the shoes and lightly stretch out the shoes when you paint so that the paint does not settle in the crease of the shoes. As the paint dries, it is good to occasionally stretch out the crease so that the paint does not crack around the crease area.
If you want to apply several layers of paint, it is best to wait for the first layer to dry completely before applying the next one. This will allow the proper time for the acrylic paint to sink into the porous surface of the leather so that the paint won’t crack as it dries.
Acrylic leather paint should never be set with heat. You want to give each layer of paint the proper time to set in the porous surface of the leather. If you rush this process by heat setting the paint, it won’t set properly and will potentially crack when a new layer of paint is applied.
How To Seal Acrylic Paint On Leather
Although acrylic paint is known to be highly durable and fade-resistant when it is dry, you have to remember that your shoes go through a lot on a daily basis. They are constantly exposed to the water, moisture, heat, and the friction that can occur when you walk.
That’s why it is highly recommended that you add a top coat to seal the paint to protect it from the elements and preserve its finish.
There are a lot of sealants available that you can use to seal acrylic paint on leather, including silicone, polyurethane, or wax. These sealants are available with a brush or spray application. You can also customize the sealant with a matte or glossy finish to add a finishing touch to the paint.
You can opt for an acrylic leather sealant, which is formulated to work very well with both leather and acrylic to protect the integrity of the leather while keeping the paint layer fresh and radiant.
For leather shoes, we suggest adding another layer of protection with a waterproof sealant. Since your shoes will occasionally be exposed to rain and snow, this is just an extra step to protect the paint and prevent it from cracking.
Alternatively, you can also look around to find a good sealant that has good waterproofing properties. Common sealants like polyurethane or silicone do an excellent job of protecting the paint from moisture and other harsh elements.
When you apply a sealant, make sure to follow the same steps as painting and apply the sealant in thin, even coats.
If you want to apply several coats, wait for the first coat to dry thoroughly first before going in with the second layer. This will ensure that each layer can stay flexible and won’t be damaged as the shoes stretch.
Up Next: Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Fabric?