I had heard of leather paint years ago, but never tried it until recently. It sounded like it would be difficult and expensive, so I avoided it for a while. When I finally took the plunge, I learned that I was really wrong. It's actually a very simple process and it helped me save a lot of money!

My first experience with leather paint was for my Samus Aran cosplay. The entire costume cost me about $20 total and I didn't want to spend another $30 on hot pink boots I would likely only wear once. I decided I'd take my silver boots from my old Gambit cosplay and paint them instead. It was an insanely easy process and only cost me $3!

I loved the results so much that I decided to use the same method for other projects. This is something every cosplayer--beginner or expert--should try!

MATERIALS

  • Soft bristled paint brushes
  • Leather paint (Angelus or Nu-Life brands are recommended)
  • Leather or suede (real or faux!)

Angelus comes in a variety of colors! The small bottles are about $3 each and are just big enough to paint 3 layers on a pair of knee-high boots.

SOME NOTES BEFORE WE START...

  • Prep the item you want to paint. If you have fabric that will be used to make a belt/pouch/corset/dress/whatever, make the item first. Painting should be your last step!
  • Make sure the item you're painting is clean. If you have any scuffs on the leather you're using, do your best to wipe it away with a slightly damp washcloth. You can also use acetone (NOT nail polish remover) to remove the scuffs on leather. I'm not sure how well that works on faux leather/suede, though.
  • If you're painting suede, be aware that the texture of your fabric will change a little. It may not be as soft to the touch, but it will still look like suede.

OK, LET'S GO!
I'll be painting these beige shoes black.

First, cover whatever surface you're painting your item on. Leather paint is relatively thin and will run if you have too much on your brush when you apply it.

Once your workspace is protected, you can start painting! If you're just painting sections rather than the entire garment, you can use painter's tape to mark off the areas you're painting. There's no real technique required, but I recommend dipping the brush bristles about halfway in and wiping off some excess paint before you start painting. It will prevent the paint from running across your project so you can get even layers.

You'll need more than one layer of paint to get the color you're after. If you're painting a light color on a dark fabric, you may need up to 5 or 6 layers. Generally, I use 2 or 3 on all of my projects otherwise. Multiple coats will also even out the coloring, so it's okay if the first coat isn't perfect.

It's important to let each coat fully dry before you start the next one. It can take 45 minutes to an hour (or possibly even longer if you're in a very humid environment). If you don't wait long enough and begin painting the next layer, you could end up with large streaks or uneven layers. It's a lot more time consuming to fix this.

If your project is two-sided and needs to be flipped over, make sure you paint one side, wait until it's dry, and paint the other side before adding additional layers of paint. This will ensure you have even layers on the entire garment.

Depending on the size of the piece you're painting, this could be a very timely project. But it can save you a lot of money in the long run!