How to make paper look like leather

Written by meg campbell
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How to make paper look like leather
Achieve the look of leather with paper (leather close up image by Dmitry Rukhlenko from

For centuries, decorative paper was made by hand and used in objects from the exquisite endpapers in books to one-of-a-kind stationery to painstakingly hung wallpaper. Embellishing paper is inexpensive and quick, and design possibilities are practically endless. There are many easy ways to make plain paper into faux leather, but by taking a little extra time, you can pull off the look and even the feel of leather almost as easily as crumpling tissue paper.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Tissue paper (tan or brown)
  • Freezer paper (white or brown)
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Acrylic matt varnish
  • Small flexible paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Crush the tissue paper into a tight ball, squeezing it all the way around. Smooth it out again, being careful not to tear it as you flatten it.

    How to make paper look like leather
    Ball the paper up as tightly as possible before smoothing it out (crumpled paper image by Alexey Klementiev from
  2. 2

    Turn the iron on high. Put the freezer paper with its shiny side up on the ironing board. Place the wrinkled tissue paper on top of the freezer paper, covering it completely. Pass the iron across the papers several times, fusing the two together. The iron should come in direct contact with the tissue paper only, and not with the freezer paper, which remains beneath the tissue paper. Keep the iron moving swiftly so as not to burn the paper. The papers are fully melded together once there are no air pockets and the edges and corners have bonded completely.

    How to make paper look like leather
    Use the iron on high heat to meld the papers together (iron image by Robert Grzywaczewski from
  3. 3

    Brush the paper thoroughly with the acrylic varnish, topside (tissue paper) up. The varnish will reinforce the paper while at the same time giving it the feel of real leather. Allow the varnish to dry completely (to the touch) before using the paper.

    How to make paper look like leather
    Use a flexible brush to apply the varnish (paintbrush #4 image by Adam Borkowski from

Tips and warnings

  • When using the iron to fuse the tissue paper to the freezer paper, the wrinkles will be ironed completely flat, but the paper will still have the look of a supple leather.
  • Before applying the acrylic varnish, you may choose to add a few drops of acrylic paint to tint it, thus adding depth of colour to the faux leather.
  • Before ironing the papers together, make sure the steam function on the iron is off and there is no water inside it, as steaming the paper will remove most of the wrinkles.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area while applying the acrylic varnish.

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