How to Paint Leather Upholstery

Written by kristina seleshanko
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Do you want a new look for your leather furniture without the hassle of reupholstering or the expense of buying new pieces? Then pick up a brush and some paint. You must take great care when painting leather upholstery, but with the proper tools and technique, the results can last for many years.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Gentle dish soap
  • Towels
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Emery cloth or fine sandpaper
  • Leather paint
  • Paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Clean the leather thoroughly by wiping it down with a little mild dish soap and a damp cloth. Use a toothbrush to get into crevices. Have towels handy to dry off the leather a section at a time as you work.

  2. 2

    Wipe the upholstery with a fresh cloth and rubbing alcohol. This will remove any coating applied to the leather to make it shiny. (Skip this step for brushed leather or suede.)

  3. 3

    Sand the leather using an emery cloth or fine sandpaper. This will remove any other finishes and make the paint adhere better.

  4. 4

    Wipe down the leather again. Any debris left behind from sanding must be removed.

  5. 5

    Apply a base coat of paint according to the manufacturer's directions. Typically, water is added to the paint and the mixture is applied using long, even strokes of a brush. This acts as a base coat and at least two coats are usually required. Flex the upholstery with your hands between coats to discourage cracking.

  6. 6

    Apply the final coat of paint, following the manufacturer's instructions. This is usually the only coat of undiluted paint applied.

Tips and warnings

  • Always test the paint in an inconspicuous spot before beginning.
  • Keep coats of paint thin and--unless otherwise specified by the paint manufacturer--do not allow the paint to dry out between coats.

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