What is a Faux Leather Finish?

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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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A faux leather paint finish can be applied to a wall or a piece of unfinished wood furniture for a sophisticated design effect. Additionally, it can be used to cover imperfections or blemishes on the surface of the wall or furniture, diverting the eye away from the damaged area. Though applying a faux leather finish can be a painstaking process, the resulting look can give any room a charming, old-world feel.

For many, the sight of leather calls to mind images of stately, wood-paneled libraries and rich mahogany drawing rooms. A faux leather finish can be applied to create this type of atmosphere in any home. The processes and techniques can be time consuming, but anyone can learn proper applications for walls and furniture. Many home improvement stores hold clinics to teach techniques and instructional books and hobby magazines are available as well.

The faux leather look can be added to an existing wall color or to a freshly-painted room. Most people use a cream-colored, latex base coat as the foundation for the technique. A complementary color—such as a darker shade of tan or a restrained brown—mixed with glaze is then mottled on top of the base coat to create the antique faux leather finish. Before the glaze dries completely, a wet rag is blotted across the wall, which furthers the leathery effect by adding mild, wispy designs and creating more subtle contrasts between the two colors.


The technique can be applied to an entire wall to create a focal point in a room or to just part of a wall to make it stand out. For example, painting the wall space below a chair rail using a faux leather finish technique can create an eye-catching design to decorate a dining room, study or entryway. The finish technique can even be applied to trim, such as baseboards or crown molding.

Furniture can also be spruced up with a faux leather paint finish. To create the look, oil-based primer usually is applied to a piece of unfinished wood furniture, followed by a base coat of paint. Selecting a color ranging from deep orange to light brown for this first coat typically establishes the most effective foundation. The second coat, usually a shade of dark brown combined with glaze, is then applied, and the surface is patted with newspaper or a similar material before it dries, creating the faux leather finish. This last step is typically repeated until more and more "cracks" appear in the surface, providing that well-worn, antique look.


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