Can Acrylic Paint Be Used on Leather?

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Because of the passion I have for making things with my hands, fixing things and sharing that knowledge I thought I’d give you a run-down of some of the problems I recently faced while trying to use acrylic paint on leather recently, as well as possible hacks, and some of the solutions that come out of it.

Steps for using acrylic paint on leather

  • Before I began using acrylic paint on leather, it was important to ensure that the surface was clean. I wiped the surface using Isopropyl alcohol to remove any coating, wax, oil, and grease to achieve this.

  • In some cases, Isopropyl alone might not be enough, and therefore the use of sandpaper is recommended to work on the surface mildly.

  • Before getting down to the painting, I would suggest using a pair of protective gloves, which I did in my case, to prevent any spillages that might occur to the fingers. Also, I would recommend a plastic bowl for easier dipping of the acrylic paint.

  • To decrease the paint cracking chances and enhance good adhesion, I thinly applied the acrylic onto the leather surface; this ensures it soaks well within the leather.

    The mechanics behind the thick and thin application of acrylic paint can also be explained using changes in surface temperatures.

Another critical factor to consider when using acrylic paint on leather is the leather types. Usually, there is a variety, which always directly affects the painting options available.

For example, it is easier for treated and dyed leather to work with high-flow acrylics since the leather retains most of the original flexibility.

For undyed, unconditioned, and untreated leather, the ratio between fluid acrylics and GAC was one to one, producing the most flexible paint film.

Therefore, it is essential to know what is the type of leather you are working with before using acrylic to paint.

Common challenges faced when using acrylic paint

  • Drying of the paint in a different colour: In some acrylic paints, a colour discrepancy might be noted as it dries.

    A way around this could be investing in higher quality acrylics which are less prone to this, or knowing the margin of discrepancy before begging the paint job and making up for it by mixing with colour of a much lighter shade

  • The paint drying too fast: Most of the acrylics are supposed to dry rapidly from the design. The possible way around this could be restricting most of your paintwork to within the house since its less windy, and turning off the fan, or closing the window

  • Separation of paint in the tube: Although not a common occurrence, separation of paint happens and is associated chiefly with manufacturer error or low paint quality.

    This is usually noticed when, on squeezing out paint from the tube, there is a two-fold kind of separation with the outer part being thick and the paint within being almost transparent. The workaround for this is mixing it back together with a palette knife.


It is possible to use acrylic paint on leather (and surprisingly you can even use acrylic paint as nail polish!). Still, there are vital things to consider to achieve the desired result: cleaning the surface using Isopropyl alcohol.

If the alcohol does not help, using sandpaper and thinly applying the acrylic will decrease paint cracking incidences and enhance adhesion.

I would advise placing keen interest while working with acrylics on leather and the steps to take when the paint dries too fast and when it dries with a different colour shade.