Acrylic Paint on Leather: How To Paint and Seal Leather

Are you bored with the color of your leather shoes? Do you want to customize your leather jacket with a touch of design? You’re probably wondering, can you use acrylic paint on leather? The paint is perfect for the material, but learning how to seal acrylic paint on leather is the most crucial part.

Acrylics are among the best leather paints, from shoes to jackets, but you have to follow with a sealant. Sealing the paint produces a seamless surface and keeps the color looking its best long-term. However, the steps you take to paint leather may vary based on the item. 

This article will go over step-by-step instructions you can follow to paint and seal acrylics on leather. You’ll also learn what paints and sealants to use for your project at the end.

How to paint leather shoes

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Leather?

You can paint soft surfaces like leather and fabric with acrylic paint. Leather paint is another popular option, but acrylics are similar and much less expensive. Acrylic paint also comes in rich and vibrant colors, so you have more paint shades available.

But how well your project turns out will depend on your application technique. Without proper preparation, the paint won’t stick to the material long-term. So after painting leather with acrylics, you must seal the surface.

Let’s look at how to paint leather with acrylics and then seal the material. We’ll dive into specifics about painting leather shoes and jackets too.

Painting Leather with Acrylic Paint

You can refresh old leather with a new coat of paint without causing damage to the material itself. Learning how to paint leather with acrylic paint is the easy part.

The materials you need include:

  • Water-based acrylic paint
  • 2-inch paintbrush
  • Wool dauber or towel
  • Tape (optional)

Follow the basic steps below to paint any leather item. Look for specific steps below to modify the instruction for shoes or jackets.

Step 1: Clean the Surface

Before you start painting, clean the leather. Mix an ounce of leather bleach with one part of water. Use a wool dauber to wipe the surface of the leather clean. You can also use a towel if you don’t have a wool dauber available, but it’s the best tool for the job.

Step 2: Prep Your Work Area

Acrylic paint is hard to remove, so you’ll want to protect your work area. Lay down tarps or drop cloths to keep the paint from getting on anything. Wear protective clothing or an apron to keep any fabric you’re wearing safe. Gloves are also ideal.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission explains how paint fumes are toxic to inhale. Make sure to work near a window, outside, or in a well-ventilated area. Face masks are a few other ways to stay safe.

Step 3: Paint the Leather

Acrylic paint made for leather perform the best. Make sure to select the right water-based leather paint for your project.

Apply the undiluted acrylic paint to the leather surface in a single coat. Repeat adding coats as needed, but allow the paint to air dry for at least two hours before piling on another layer. Try to paint in thin, light coats, following the direction of the shoe’s flex for the best results. Thick paint could cause more cracks.

You can use tape to mark off the areas where you don’t want the paint. Using tape is optional. It comes in handy if you’re creating designs or only painting a small section.

If you’re having trouble getting the paint to adhere to the surface, you can mix water-based acrylic paint with equal parts water for the first coat. Wait five minutes, then paint the rest of the body with the undiluted paint.

Step 4: Seal and Dry

Once the paint looks how you want and is fully dry, you’ll move on to sealing the paint. Make sure to remove any dirt or dust before applying the finisher.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Leather

Acrylic paint on leather

To keep acrylic paint from cracking over time, you need to seal the color to the leather. A sealant or an acrylic paint finisher from your local craft store or online is the right tool for the job.

Step 1: Make Sure Leather is Clean and Dry

Check the surface to ensure the leather is clean before sealing the paint. If you miss this step, any dust or debris on the material will become trapped.

Step 2: Seal the Paint in Bursts

You can use a liquid paint finisher or a spray sealant to hold acrylic paint to leather. Most finishers require you to paint them the same way you would acrylics. The sprays are not as available.

If you’re using an acrylic paint finisher, mix an ounce with one part of water. Apply the diluted product in a light coat using a wool dauber. Be careful not to soak the leather. Allow each coat to sit for around five minutes before adding another coat. Build up the sealant in a burst until you have about 20 coats.

Alternatively, a spray allows you to coat the surface quickly. The clear guard comes in clear glaze, satin, or matte finishes. They’re available in most stores. Before you buy a spray sealant, make sure it’s working with leather.

Step 3: Follow with a Waterproofing Spray

Help the paint stick around by applying a waterproofing spray last. The topcoat adds a layer of protection, durability, and moisture resistance.

You can find these products as brush-on fluids or aerosol sprays from general stores. Any waterproofing spray is fine. Check to make sure the brand you choose is compatible with your acrylic paint.

Follow the instructions on the bottle to apply the waterproof coat. With an aerosol, all you should need to do is point and spray. Allow the coat to dry for at least 24 hours.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Leather Shoes?

How to seal acrylic paint on leather

Leather shoes become dingy and faded over time. Sometimes it’s tempting to refresh the color on an old pair of shoes you love or add a touch of paint to make a tiny detail stand out. So can you use acrylic paint on leather shoes? Absolutely! Acrylic paint works well on leather or faux leather shoes.

How to Paint Leather Shoes with Acrylic Paint

There are many online tutorials on how to paint leather shoes. What works best for your project may depend on the type of leather you’re working with and your application technique. What works well for leather shoes may not function well for a jacket, for example.

Step 1: Prep the Shoes

To start, you’ll want to clean the shoes thoroughly. You can use a leather bleach and water solution or wipe the leather with isopropyl alcohol.

Damp a towel with the alcohol and wipe to remove oils, waxes, and other coatings on the leather surface. Using isopropyl alcohol should help your paint stick to the surface better. If it’s not strong enough to remove the finish on your shoes, you’ll need to sand the shoes.

You’ll need to sand your leather shoes before painting if the material is shiny after using the alcohol. Sandpaper with around 100 to 200 grit should remove the glossy finish on your shoes. Rub your shoes with sandpaper until the shine is gone, then wipe with a damp cloth.

Double-check the leather surface is clean before you start painting. Wipe it with a damp towel or microfiber cloth. Otherwise, the dirt and dust will embed into the paint. Make sure to remove any shoelaces as well.

Step 2: Try a Leather Preparer and Deglazer

You can start by applying a leather preparer and deglazer to the leather surface to help the paint stick. This product is widely available in most craft stores, and the alcohol base allows it to dry quickly.

Dip a towel into the preparer and deglazer and rub the product into the leather surface. Apply a generous amount. Don’t worry if the color of the old leather changes. Some brands may face the shade.

Step 3: Apply the Paint

Buy acrylic paint for leather from a craft store or online. Any other paint type may not absorb into the leather or affect the material’s flexibility over time, which can lead to cracking.

Thin the paint by mixing it with equal parts water. This step helps the leather better absorb the paint. You may want to use a mixing bowl.

Next, dip your paintbrush into the bowl and apply the paint in thin, even layers. You may notice the oil paint showing through at first, but it’s normal. Focus on accomplishing even coverage and long strokes.

You might need to apply two coats. If you know you need additional coats, allow the first coat to dry first. Flex the shoes back and forth to prevent cracking and re-apply the paint as needed. Continue adding coats until the shoes are the shade you want. Sometimes the process takes up to seven coats for solid, dark colors.

Step 4: Finish the Leather

After the shoes are fully dry, they’re ready for an acrylic leather finisher. The product helps seal the paint into the material for a smooth finish. It also protects the paint against water or other weather conditions (but not as much as a waterproofing spray).

There are many options available in stores or online. You can choose from finishes like high gloss, satin, or matte, depending on your preferences. Gloss finish is shiny, while matte and satin finishes only appear shiny when they’re first applied.

Use a sponge brush to apply the leather finisher in thin coats over the paint. Fill any seams for a flat, polished surface. The sealant takes 24 hours to dry.

Painting Faux Leather Shoes

If you notice the acrylic paint isn’t sticking to the leather, you may have faux leather on your hands. Faux leather is often treated with a silicone or plastic polymer coating that isopropyl alcohol is not always powerful enough to remove.

Step 1: Clean the Artificial Leather

Fiebing's Deglazer, 4 oz, ClearFirst, try using isopropyl alcohol to remove any grease, wax, or dirt from your shoes. Dampen a towel to wipe the surface.

To remove the silicone coat, you might need to buy a leather deglazer. The alcohol typically works, but a deglazer can remove the coating if it doesn’t do the trick.

You apply most leather deglazers using a coarse cloth, rubbing the liquid stripper into the material. Continue working the deglazer into the leather until the old finish is gone.

Step 2: Paint the Shoes

Use a sponge or paintbrush to apply acrylic paint to faux leather shoes. Apply the paint in long, vertical strokes to evenly distribute it across the shoe. The paint may dry quickly, so you might need to work as fast as possible.

Allow each coat to dry for around 20 minutes for adding another layer. Adding more layers helps the paint color appear bright and fully saturated. If you make any mistakes, use acetone to remove the paint.

How to Prevent Acrylic Paint from Cracking on Shoes

Keep your newly painted shoes from cracking with a few helpful tips. Acrylics are less likely to break than many other options, but leather paint is better for preventing peeling or chipping.

The top tip for painting shoes with acrylics is to create thin coats of paint. Too thick or too much too fast can cause cracking over time. Painting shoes in the direction of the flex coats can prevent cracks.

Whether you’re painting leather or faux leather shoes, avoid mixing multiple paint brands. Using more than one brand could make the paint crack. You’ll also want to prevent heat or direct sunlight as the paint dries.

Can You Paint on Leather Jackets with Acrylics?

Painting leather jacket

You can also use acrylics to paint designs on leather jackets. Surprisingly, most designs on leather jackets are hand-painted with acrylics. It’s an excellent way to personalize your coat and create a unique look.

Painting Leather Jacket with Acrylic

To paint a leather jacket with acrylic paints, you have a few options. You can hand paint the design with a round paintbrush or use tools to help, like a ruler, stencil, and tape. The method you choose depends on your plan.

Step 1: Prep the Jacket

Get your leather jacket ready for painting by cleaning it up with isopropyl alcohol. If you see a shine in the material after wiping it with alcohol, try sanding the jacket. Buff the coating off using fine sandpaper. Move the sandpaper in circular motions for a few minutes with gentle pressure.

Before painting, wipe off the leather jacket with a damp cloth once more. Remove any leftover residue.

Step 2: Consider Your Work Area

Get your work area ready by laying down a tarp and wearing gloves. It’s also difficult to lay a jacket flat as you work, so try zipping a throw pillow into the jacket to paint with it inside.

Step 3: Create the Design

Consider the design look too. If you’re using a stencil or taping off sections, do so now. Figure out the design details and placement before painting. Chalk is another helpful tool to visualize the design. You can also use a pencil or a metallic permanent marker to create the layout on your jacket.

Step 4: Paint Your Jacket

Once you have the design guidelines in place, start painting your leather jacket. A small, round brush is ideal for most projects. Test the paint on the jacket’s inner flap before applying it to the entire outside.

Dip the paintbrush into your undiluted acrylic paint and apply it in thin strokes. If you miss or make a mistake, use a damp towel to remove the mark.

After your first coat, let the jacket dry. Repeat until you have a minimum of three coats.

How Long Does It Take for Acrylic Paint to Dry on Leather?

Avoid touching the item as it dries to prevent cracking or smearing the paint. You should leave acrylic paint to dry on leather for at least a few hours before moving the item for the best results.

The sealant or leather finisher takes around 24 hours to dry thoroughly. Waterproofing sprays typically take 24 hours to dry as well. Some people say you should leave the item alone for 48 hours before touching it and at least 72 hours before washing the item.

Always avoid using heat or direct sunlight to help the paint dry faster. Doing so may cause damage.

The Best Paint for Leather

What’s the best paint to buy for leather? You can use either leather paint or acrylics. The right option depends on your project.

Acrylic Paints

What paint should you buy? The best acrylics for leather may say leather acrylics on the bottle. However, any craft store acrylic paint works as well.

Angelus Leather Paint

Angelus Leather PaintAngelus Leather Paint is a non-toxic type of acrylic paint that works well for leather. The best part about Angelus paints is how many uses they offer. This set of paints includes 12 bright colors, so you can create any design you prefer. It’s perfect for hiding scuff marks and scratches on leather items too.

You can also mix the paints or apply layers of different shades to create a new color, and the paint is easy to clean up after your project is complete. The paint is affordable enough to allow you to create high-quality designs on all your leather projects.

Golden High Flow Acrylics

Golden High Flow AcrylicsHigh Flow acrylic paints are ideal for fine line details, like creating intricate designs or calligraphy in a leather jacket or shoe. Use this paint if you want a staining effect or plan to level colors. The paint is flexible enough for any leather item, though.

This High Flow Acrylic kit contains 10 colors in unique shades. The paint has more ink-like consistency, making it easier for you to apply it in fine lines. You can even add this paint to a brush or market for an airbrush appearance.

Sealing Finishers

The best leather-approved acrylic finishers on the market come from the company Angelus. However, there are many options available in stores. They come in aerosol sprays or liquid form.

Angelus Acrylic Leather Finisher

Acrylic Leather FinisherAn inexpensive leather finisher, the Angelus Acrylic Leather Finisher is perfect for creating a smooth finish. It’s easy to clean using traditional soap and water because it’s water-based, but the finish won’t rub off or crack after it dries in place. The result is a semi to high gloss shine.

The unique part is how you can use the Angelus leather finisher on any smooth leather. You apply Angelus utilizing a sponge, wool, brush, rag, or spray gun. There’s no buffing or sanding required. Plus, the sealant is flexible enough for use on handbags, belts, jackets, shoes, and more.

Leather Max

Leather sealantLeather Max is a liquid sealant with a gorgeous satin finish. It’s easy to apply and clean up. The sealer protects the topcoat of any leather item, sealing in your fresh coat of paint and protecting from water. You can use it for furniture, shoes, handbags, jackets, and anything leather.

This sealing finisher dries clear and helps provide new life for your leather items. You can even use it to refinish and restore dingy colors. The product works for fixing scratches in leather as well.


No matter what kind of leather item you want to paint, acrylics work well as long as you include a sealant. The steps you take may vary slightly based on your project. However, the process is relatively simple for beginners.

Did you find these tips for painting and sealing acrylic paint in leather helpful? How did your project go? Let us know in the comments. If our article was beneficial to you, please share it with your friends and family.