Introduction: Leather Painting

My take on colouring a leather project. Hope you enjoy.

Step 1: Gather Materials

For this project I wanted to try tandy's water based paints and see how well it worked. So, while there was a sale on, I picked up the 8 pack starter set, and the mist sprayer. You can use a more generic type of water sprayer, If you prefer. I like the mist type for this kind of painting. It has a genteel application to the work area, as opposed to a windex bottle type of sprayer. Those have a tendency to splatter inky substances all across your work area. Note on spraying the surface; play with the distance from the work surface. If you want just a little spread, try from 11+ inches above and going in the direction you'd like the paint to flow. For a spattered look, spray closer to the work area (3-5 inches).

Brushes: Use good brushes. Don't cheap out. Mine are for acrylic paints. Better yet would be to have brushes specific to classic oil painting. They hold up better, last your life time if taken care of, and paint beautifully. They can be used with any leather colouring products and clean up with a quick rinse in some turps (turpentine). They also hold up thru use with acetone, but I don't like sticking mine in acetone.

Rule for brushes: Don't ever leave your brushes soaking in any liquid container for long periods. Quick dip only. Otherwise the liquid (even water) follows the bristles up, soaking into the handle, which causes the handles to split. And if your using a really expensive brush, splitting the handle will ruin it.

Mixing Paints: You can use a cup type pallet if you wish. I do not. I work with one colour at a time. I mix my paints in a short glass cup so I can clearly see what colour is in the cup. I use a glass eye dropper for measurements/dilutions because the dyes don't stick well to glass. Doing it this way I can keep my pure colours pure without having evaporation issues, which can cause the paint to change colour over time. And I can mix colours accurately, (Eg 3 dropper yellow, 1 dropper red, 2 dropper water = orange.) every time.

Water: Every time there is a colour change, the water cup must also be changed. If you do not change the water, it will pollute the brush.

Water also affects the colour of the colour. For the mountain snow on this project I used hugely diluted coal black to get snow white. Seriously, I used black. Water on leather will cause a different colour from the one you may be wanting. If the leather is wet when you paint it, the colour will be drastically different than if you were to paint it dry. So if you come at this project with a classic water colour painting technic, your going to have an excellent day! Wet on wet, wet on dry, dry on wet, dry on dry, (brush on canvas) all applies to this protect.

Paper towels: Have a lot handy at all times. If something goes the wrong way and the paint is still runny there's a good chance you can catch it IF you've got a paper towel ready. You'll also be using them for cleaning your brush, and (un)loading your brush.

Super sheen: one of the last steps, and what seals in the paints. Not shown in this list is the antique black I used just after the super sheen dried. For this project I used 4 generous coats of super sheen as I didn't want the antique layer to stick to anything other than the cuttings I made prior to tooling. It still stuck in a few places I'd have preferred it didn't (inside of the gears and along the skyline), however I knew it was going to do that anyway, and it detracts nothing from the final image.

Good leather brush: not required but highly recommended. Don't know why it is with leather, but there's always little floaties everywhere, no matter how many times you've wiped the table/vacuumed, etc. A good leather brush keeps your work area nice, and can help get specs off the top so you don't end up with little specs/streaks. Use only when leather is dry. If there's specs on the top of the leather and you've just finished dousing a color in, don't wipe it or you'll smear everything.

Other: list of things you can also use for your project but we're not used in this one...

Straw: for pushing paint. Good for making bushes, trees, shrubs, and plants, and overall organic shapes.
Hard spray bottle (windex bottle): used for pushing/splattering patterns.
Eye dropper: dripping paint.
Sponge: excellent for blending, daubing.
Tissue paper: used like a sponge for blending paint, or giving hard lines.

Step 2: Tooling

Before beginning the painting process, it's best to have all your tooling finished. However, one step I would have liked to try, would have been putting in the sky colouring just after adding in the patterns, and prior to tooling. I think I could have had a better blending of colours.

Images shown are still drying, just after I finished all the tooling. im not going to talk too much about tooling as there are already excellent tooling tutorials.

Step 3: First Round of Painting.

Working slowing and with one colour at a time. I used the spray bottle in tandem with brush daubing. Most of the work was done with the image upside down so I could get the colours to run down and into each other.

First colour: 3 droppers yellow
Second colour: 3 droppers yellow, 1 dropper red, 2 droppers clean water.
Third colour: 2 droppers violet
Fourth colour: 3 droppers blue

Repeated these steps about 4 times to get everything blended.

Note: Try not to compress the leather to its max while tooling. If the leather is compressed too much it has a tendency to reject the paint. And for those who are more comfortable with leather tooling and do that cute little trick of glueing their leather down to their tooling surface, the glue also has a tendency to soak upward and will also cause the dye to not penetrate the surface of the leather. For myself I'll use painters tape in lew of rubber cement. It does pull the ruff side a bit more than I'd like, but it seems to get around the issue I get with using rubber cement.

Step 4: Totally Dried

I wasn't too happy with the brush strokes showing up after everything dried. It's at this point one can start to doubt them selves. But water colouring isn't easy either, and the first layer always looks naff. Don't panic! It'll all turn out.

Started blocking in colour in the background. I did this before going after the skyline a second time as this step was done dry on dry, (Dry brush on dry canvas [leather]). Birds at this point have a total of 3 rounds of paint for base colour and 2 layers of thinned down light tan to start creating the markings on the birds. I used the tooling marks for reference, just like a paint by numbers.

Always always always put the paint down in the thinnest layer possible, building up your layers. It will slowly start to pop out with detail all on its own.

Used the spray bottle more liberally, rewetting the skyline with a fresh layer of paint.

Step 5: Darker Colours

In this step, I block filled all the gears using the coal black, which ended up being closer to graphite. This layer was wet on dry over all the gears. Dry leather soaks up the paint and there's not much risk of colour bleed unless your brush is over loaded.

Also sprayed down the skyline and added in violet a little liberally.

Step 6: Border

Wasn't too concerned with blotches along the edges as I was planning on using a cotton covered block of wood to scrub over the high spots. However I had a little issue with the amount of drying out the leather was experiencing and I probably would not get lazy next time and go over the outer edge carefully and skip the edging block. It put marks where I didn't want due to curling of the leather, and marked up my skyline when I didn't want it to do that. Ah, live and learn though, it's all good.

More detailed work on the background. Extremely dry brush. Grass foreground final coat was done with coal black.

Note on perspective: the farther away an object, the less colour it will have, and the closer an object, the darker it will be. So the grass up near the mountains are going to be nearing the yellow spectrum, lots of water mixed into the mixing cup to thin it down. And the brush, when I pick up paint, I'll lightly daub a bit out on the paper towel to pull a bit out of the brush so it lightens the colour even more.

The snow line as I mentioned before I used coal black to colour the mountains white. To do this I picked up a goodly daub of coal black paint into my brush then rinsed it out in my brush cleaning cup. Tested on a scrap of leather until my brush water had the correct amount of coal black. Then I washed the tops of the mountain range with my brush water until it had just the right shade of grey to look white next to the yellow sky, and green fields. Do a test piece before hand, and let it TOTALLY dry before judging the final colour. Wet leather, wet paint looks completely different to dry.

Filled in more details using dry on dry method. This can be several layers over all, as it dries rather quickly.

Step 7: More, More, More

Yeah, I still wasn't happy with the sky and went after it again with the spray bottle/brush daubing. Tooling I did caused the leather to repel all attempts to darken anything above the lightest of colours. In fact it just ferried it away to the back of the leather. However I did finally manage to blend the sky in the way I wanted it to. The gears would darken when I did the antiquing layer. So I still wasn't worried too much about the final look.

Layers layers layers... Lots of layering work.

Step 8: Super Sheen

Outer edge: daubed block of wood covered with cotten cloth (old tee). Colour I used for the outer edge was mahogany oil dye. Using a dauber, then wiping the excess from the block, on a cardboard scrap. I then rubbed the edges of the leather. Would have worked better had the leather been flat. Also didn't expect the mahogany to turn black over orange, but it certainly did turn black. Worked out fine. Next time I won't rush though.

4 coats of thick thick super sheen, drying in the sun. Probably used 1/4 of a bottle on this. Only wanted the next step to stick to the cuttings, so it needed to be nice and thick. Don't rush this step as its the top finish and you don't wanna mess with it until it's totally dried.

Step 9: Apply Antique

Using liberal amounts of antique black I rubbed on, then wiped up. Polishing it up as I pulled the excess off.

Final step was to add all the hardware and polish up the leather with a good coat of leather rub to bring it back from all the drying the tooling and painting took out of it.

If you've made it this far, thank you for looking. Have an awesome day!

Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Third Prize in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Maker Olympics Contest 2016