How to make faux ‘leather’

There are plenty of cool leatherwork tutorials out there, but what do you do if, for ethical or other reasons, you don’t use or wear leather?

One interesting way to recycle old jeans, or to get the exact shade of artificial leather you want for a project, is to make your own. This home-made fake leather is as convincing as most ‘pleather’ (the photo shows a cuff made of handmade fake leather on a background of real leather, so you can see how they compare), and is harder wearing as the base fabric is tough denim or canvas. You can use it pretty much anywhere you’d use real leather. It’s also a very little easier to sew than the real thing!

You’ll need:

  • Denim, canvas, or other thick fabric. Choose a fabric with a fine weave – the coarser the weave, the more coats of paint you will need to apply to disguise it.
  • Acrylic paint – you don’t need to buy special fabric acrylics. I’ve used Liquitex student colours, and the cheap-and-cheerful acrylics from the 100-yen store, with similar results.
  • Brush
  • Water

The basic technique is to apply several coats of acrylic paint to your base fabric. For the first coat, mix in plenty of water. You need to completely soak the fabric through withpaint on the first coat, working the paint in well with your brush so it goes through to the other side. This gives the subsequent coats a good foundation to adhere to, so that the paint will not peel away from the base fabric with wear.

Apply a couple more coats of paint, allowing it to dry thoroughly between coats. The fastest way to disguise the grain of the base fabric is to apply the middle coats diagonally, working in alternating directions. Add enough water to the paint to give you good even coverage.

For the final coat, don’t use water. If you have some around, you could even use a thickening medium, though this isn’t absolutely necessary. Apply a good thick coat of paint, and then while the paint is still wet, dab the painted surfaces against each other to give a subtle grained effect that looks like leather.

Once your final coat is completely dry, you can cut and stitch your faux leather as if it were real leather :D

10 thoughts on “How to make faux ‘leather’

  1. This is perfect! I need to create my costume for next year’s Renaissance Festival, but leather is so expensive. Thank you so much!

  2. This is great, I can’t find leather anywhere near me and I’ve wanted to try using it. Can you use this to make moulded leatherwork projects?

  3. I really love this trickery you’ve devised!!!.
    I am not sure if I am getting it though…..are you using regular acrylic paints? Just ordinary paint? And so then the idea is that the fabric has to be totally saturated with the paint?
    As Janeen above commented….this is great for costumes, and also for making cuffs as you suggested. Love it.


  4. That’s right, just regular acrylic paints – saturating the fabric with the first coat just helps it adhere better so that you are less likely to get flaky patches.

  5. Whitney, I suppose you could, although you would need a *lot* of paint and the finished product would be stiffer than ‘real’ faux leather, so less comfortable.

  6. Pingback: Make Your Own Sewing Supplies :

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