What is Leather Painting?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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As one of the several forms of leather craft, leather painting is the application of a color or a series of colors to the surface of a section of treated leather. Leather painting allows for the creation of a number of designs and styles on tooled leather surfaces, adding interest to all sorts of items that are made with the material.

Leather painting is different from leather dyeing, in that painting leather only involves applying color to the surface of the material. Dyeing, of course, involves immersion of the leather and the color permeates the entire composition. This also means that leather painting is not a good choice when the leather is used in the creation of items that bend or are subject to a lot of friction, such as wallets or belts.

Among the various types of leather crafts, leather painting tends to be an art form that is more closely related to the creation of still images that may be used for wall hangings, leather tapestries, and visual media. Typically, wall hangings created by leather painting may be framed, but are usually not covered by glass. This is because the chance of mold is much greater when the leather does not have direct contact with the open air.


The choice of paints that are employed in the process of leather painting are usually acrylics. Acrylic paints offer excellent and vibrant color coverage on the leather, as well as drying quickly. With intricate designs, the ability to add another layer soon after the application of the base layer make all the difference in the visual impact of the finished piece.

Typically, leather painting involves a section of leather that has been attached to some sort of stable backing, such as thick cardboard or a section of wood. In some instances, a wooden frame similar to those used with artist’s canvas also provides a secure and stable means of stabilizing the leather so the painting process can begin. A few examples of three dimensional leather painting do exist, but owing to the increased potential cracking and flaking of leather that is not attached to some sort of supporting framework, most people choose to pursue leather painting in a more traditional manner.

Patterns and guidebooks on leather painting are often found in craft and hobby shops. There are also a number of Internet sites that offer tips for beginners with an interest in leather painting, as well as some basic patterns that can be downloaded with ease.


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Post 2

Back in the 80s I had a leather jacket with van halen painted on the back of it. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

Looking back it seems kind of silly now. Especially when I think of how much I paid for it. It was kind of a popular look around where I'm from and there was a guy that would do custom leather painting. The jacket cost me $100 and the painting cost me another 100. I'm not sure whatever happened to it, not that I would want to wear it out ever again.

Post 1

I have a beautiful picture of a colt that is painted on an old piece of leather. I think it is a fitting choice. The colt brings to mind an old western scene and the leather drives that thought home.

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