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I created this as an inset for a leather corset I'm making, but it would look equally good on a jacket or bag. 

While probably not a good FIRST project, it's fine for crafty people who've played around some with leather tooling.

Step 1: Materials

Leather!  Veg tanned works best.

Line drawing, ball point pen, "transfer film" for leather

mallet and pounding surface
beveler, backgrounder, and pear shader tools
swivel knife for leather
sponge and non-metallic bowl for water
brown dye
paint- I used citadel colour acrylic paints and inks. 
leather finish

everything except the drawing and acrylic paint can be purchased at Tandy Leather Factory.

Step 2: Trace Your Design

Lay your drawing on top of the tracing film on top of your leather.  Trace your drawing with a ball point pen. PUSH HARD.

Step 3: Case the Leather

Using the sponge and the non-metallic bowl, moisten your leather.  You'll need to keep it slightly damp (but not wet) during the tooling process.

Step 4: Cut the Design

Using the swivel knife, cut your outlines.  The cuts should be 1/2 to 2/3rds through the leather.  Practice on scraps first!  The little gears are particularly tough.

Step 5: Bevel

Tap the beveler with the mallet to flatten the leather around parts that you want to "pop."  The deep part of the beveler should be touching the cut.   Slide the beveler while tapping to get a smooth edge.

Use backgrounder and pear shader to bevel in tight areas and create depth.

Step 6: Paint Base Coat

In 2-3 thin coats, paint the gears their base color.  Don't paint wet edges to wet edges, or the glittery metallic pigment will bleed. 

Step 7: Dye Beveled Areas

Using brown dye thinned with water, dye the background and beveled areas to create more depth.  The leather looks much darker when wet, so be careful and dye in layers.

Step 8: Paint Shadows

Mix paint a few shades darker than the base coats.  Decide where the light source is, and be consistent!  If you angle a desk lamp, that may help you find the natural highlights and shadows.  Paint very thin lines of shadow on the raised edges.

Step 9: Paint the Highlights

On the remaining edges, paint the highlights in using paint slightly lighter than your base coat.  I used a pale silver to mix lighter tones; don't use white to mix!  It will be opaque and "kill" the metallic pigment.  You can, however, use white as the highlight by itself.  Test first.

Step 10: Add Depth and Richness of Color With Ink Washes

Using transparent acrylic inks or leather dye, paint over the gears and allow the ink to puddle in low parts.  This will make layered gears really "pop."

Step 11: Finish!

Add the leather finish of your choice, and add your patch to the garment/object of your choice!
Be sure to post a picture of the outfit; this is really nice work :)
Great! Love that!

About This Instructable

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Bio: I like to make stuff. I teach stagecraft to high school kids, and have won some awards for it. In my dream world, I will ... More »
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