How To Paint to Make Something Look Like Leather

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Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper

  • Detergent.

  • Cleaning cloth

  • Painter’s tape

  • Primer

  • Interior latex paint, satin or semi-gloss.

  • Glaze

  • Paint rollers and trays

  • Small paint rollers or paint brushes

  • Several sheets of thin plastic, such as trash can liners

  • Rags

  • Pail of water


Choose two colors from the same color family, such as medium brown and dark brown. A third and darker color is optional. The glaze will appear milky at first. It dries clear. Work in small areas with the glaze mixture. Use a small roller or brush for smaller projects.


Don’t try to speed up the process by rolling the glaze on a large section. Glaze dries more quickly than regular paint and you could ruin the texturing process.

Faux painting can give the warm look of leather to nearly any surface.
Image Credit: Jupiterimages/ Images

A faux leather finish can add drama to a room or interest to a piece of furniture. A favorite piece of worn leather clothing -- or even an attractive thrift-shop find -- can serve as inspiration for your project. With just a few paints, some basic tools, and pieces of thin plastic sheeting, the technique is within the reach of virtually any do-it-yourselfer.


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Surface Prep and Base Color Painting

Step 1

Make sure the surface to be painted is thoroughly clean. Give any glossy surface a light sanding so the paint will adhere properly. Wash the surface if necessary and remove any loose paint. Wipe away any dust with a clean cloth. The surface must be clean and dry before painting. Use painter's tape to mask off any areas you do not wanted painted.

Step 2

Apply a coat of primer and allow it to dry completely. Use a primer that is appropriate to the surface. Some primers are specifically designed to bond to smooth surfaces such as plastic and metal.


Step 3

Roll on the first coat of paint. This will be the lighter color of the two you selected. Cover the entire area and allow it to dry completely. If the first coat did not adequately cover the existing finish, give the area a second coat of the lighter-color paint. Allow it to dry before starting the "leathering" process.

Making It Look Like Leather

Step 1

Mix the second, darker paint color with glaze. Use a ratio of four parts glaze to one part color.

Step 2

Apply the glaze mixture using random roller strokes. Do not try to cover more than about a 4- to 6-foot-square area at a time if you are covering a large surface. Immediately after you finish rolling on the glaze, tightly wad up a piece of plastic, then unwad it.


Step 3

Place the piece of plastic -- which now has crinkles and creases throughout -- over the painted area. Gently push it down with the palm of your hand so it touches the glaze and sticks to the surface.

Step 4

Use a broad, soft brush to lightly brush the plastic so it adheres to the glaze. There will be creases, bumps and lumps in the plastic; these are what create the leather effect. After it has all been brushed down, carefully peel the plastic off to reveal the texture.

Step 5

Soften the harder edges of the texture. Take a rag, dip it in water and ring it out so it is just damp. Lightly blot over the harder edges of the texture to soften the overall effect.


Step 6

Continue applying the glaze in sections, slightly overlapping your previous work. Apply fresh plastic each time and soften the texture with a damp cloth as you continue. Allow the glaze to thoroughly dry before proceeding with an optional second glaze layer.

Step 7

Repeat the glaze application, if desired, with an even darker color to increase the depth of the effect. If you do this, use six parts glaze to one part paint. Allow the final glaze layer to dry and cure for 24 hours, or according to glaze product directions, before putting the item to use or hanging pictures and placing furniture that will touch the painted surface.


references & resources

Raymond Manley

Raymond Manley started writing for newspapers in 1975, including the "San Jose Sun" and the "Cupertino Courier." He also has extensive experience copywriting for catalogs and the internet. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from San Jose State University where he won statewide and national awards in feature and news writing. He plays jazz professionally and is an avid fly fisherman.