There are paints made specifically for painting leather furniture. In this project, we used paint, prep and finisher made by Angelus. They're available online and at some home/hobby stores. In addition to furniture, you can paint leather shoes, jackets, belts and bags in much the same way.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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$20 – $100
Gather Your Materials
Leather Paint, Prep and Finisher
To transform this old espresso brown leather dining bench into a modern grey that matched the look of my home, I used the best paint for leather, Angelus Brand Leather Paint, prep and finisher. These paint materials were bought direct from the manufacture and very reasonably priced at about $6 per bottle. However, the paint cannot withstand cold weather, so plan your shipping method accordingly.
The first step is to prep the area by wiping the leather clean with a damp cloth and laying a drop cloth down to protect your floors. Depending on your furniture piece, you might want to disassemble the furniture to separate leather parts or protect non-painted areas with painters tape.
Prepare and Deglaze
Help the Paint Adhere
Prep the leather surface with Angelus Leather Preparer and Deglazer. This first step helps the paint adhere to the surface and is especially important if the leather piece you are working with has a glossy or vinyl sealant. This step is not recommended for suede.
Be Generous with Preparer
Rub the preparer and deglazer generously across the leather surface with a rag. This will try quickly, as it seems to be alcohol based. This process of cleaning took a little of the color off the piece, but since the point is to change the color of the leather; I didn’t find it an issue.
Grab Your Paint
A Rainbow of Colors
Next apply the acrylic leather paint. Angelus Brand offers more than 30 shades, and for this project I chose Grey Taupe. They also sell small 1 oz. bottles if you’d like to test a few colors before applying (similar to testing paint swatches). White leather paint is also a popular choice, so is black leather paint. The manufacturer suggests applying the leather paint with a household sponge or sponge brush.
Multiple Coats are Key
A Little Goes a Long Way
Apply paint to surface in multiple, thin coats with sponge. This goes on a lot like liquid shoe polish, and coated really easily. A little goes a long way, but keep in mind, the consistency is thinner than house or craft paint, so be prepared for runs and drips, and try to keep the surface level.
Don’t Skip the Details (or Do)
Use Your Judgement
Depending on your furniture style, you may need a small detail paint brush to fully cover seams and creaveses. If a more rustic, weathered look is desired, you might skip this step (like I did).
2 Hours Between Coats
Apply paint in mulitple, thin coats, allowing time to try between (1-2 hours). Depedning on the degree of color change and your desired look, you can cater the number of layers to your preference. Because the bench started so dark, I needed three coats for full coverage. Once your desired color and number of paint coats are achieved, allow ample time to dry. I waited 6 hours to be safe.
Choose Your Sealant
Gloss, Matte and Everything in between
Lastly, apply the sealant, Angelus Matte Acrylic Finisher, over whole piece. Angelus offers finishers from Matte to Gloss, so you can customize your look. I choose matte for a more natural leather look.
Apply and Wait
Use Thin Strokes
Apply in thin strokes with a foam paint brush until entire area is covered, making sure to seal all seams. Don’t panic if the finisher has a glossy blue hue when applied, mine disappeared when dried. Allow a full day for finisher coat to dry before using.
Holding Up Well
This dining bench is actually my dog’s favorite window perch, and after 4 days of use, it has held up perfectly, not a single scratch. The surface feels a little stiff and tacky compared to the well worn previous surface, but I think with time and use it will soften up. Overall I’m very pleased with the process and feel like it would work well for larger pieces of furniture too.