DIY Colorblock Bag A.K.A. How to Paint Leather with Acrylic Paint

70’s-style colorblocking is a hot trend for Fall 2011, seen on the runways and now beginning to trickle down into street style and retailers.  I was hankering after a colorblocked purse, but didn’t want to pay a lot for it.  Thankfully, thrift stores are a wonderful source of older handbags, and I found an adorable cross-body bag for a mere $4.99.  But it was rather beat-up and needed a little makeover, so I figured it was time to break out the brushes and do some leather painting!  Though technically when you paint leather, what is most recommended is to use paint that is specifically formulated for use on leather, like Angelus.

However, if you are feeling squeamish about buying an unfamiliar product online, or they don’t ship to your country, or you want to use some acrylic craft paint that you already have on hand, fear not!  Leather and suede can actually be painted with acrylic paint, with fairly good results if you take the time to prep the piece properly.  So here’s how to add some vibrant color-blocking to some leather or suede pieces you already own:

How to Add Some DIY Colorblocking to a Leather Bag

You Need:

*leather or suede handbag

*acrylic craft paint




*small bowl for paint


*masking or painter’s tape

*soft cloth

*rubbing alcohol

*fine grit (like 800) sandpaper


How To:

1.. Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove any shiny parts to the leather you will paint.  We need to rough up the surface so the paint will adhere.  (Not necessary on suede items.)

2. Wipe with a clean, damp cloth to remove residue.

3. Wipe the area with a cloth saturated with rubbing alcohol to remove any surface finishes or protective coatings the leather might have.

4. Mask off the parts of the bag you will be painting with tape.

5. Now the bag should be ready to receive paint.  Mix the paint with water in a 1:1 ratio in your bowl, and paint on the mixture using long strokes.  It will look streaky at first, but this is necessary to allow the leather to soak up the paint.

6. Add 2-3 more coats, allowing the paint to dry partially between coats.  Do not allow the paint to dry fully; the leather needs to remain damp between coats.  After each coat, flex the leather so the paint won’t crack.

7. Now it’s time to use undiluted paint.  Spread on using long coats again, flexing after each coat.  Allow to dry between coats – you may need a couple.  It took 3 for my seafoam color to become truly opaque on my dark brown bag.

8. Remove masking tape once completely dry.


You’re done!  No protective coating is necessary, though if you’re worried about water-fastness, a layer of matte Mod Podge might be a good choice.

Wear with neutrals or mix it up with crazy colors for a Fall look!

**Whether acrylic paint will work on vinyl or manmade leather surfaces is fairly dependent on the surface; it’s mostly trial and error for faux.

Some other on-trend color combos to try:

Evergreen + Royal Purple + Orange                  Mustard + Gray                    Gold + Burgundy                    

Black + Cognac                       Seafoam + Cream               Teal + Silver

Happy DIY’ing!

~If you liked this post, please share it!~

64 Comments on DIY Colorblock Bag A.K.A. How to Paint Leather with Acrylic Paint

    • carlyjcais
      9.13.2011 at 9:21 am (4 years ago)

      Yes, it’s so easy! As long as the leather item isn’t something that’s particularly soft or that crinkles a lot (otherwise the paint will crack and it’s probably much better to use Angelus), then acrylic paint will work!!

  1. Diana
    9.13.2011 at 7:30 am (4 years ago)

    So cool! Can’t tell in the pic but does the Nine West logo stand out more under the paint? I really want to try this but will prob have to buy a new bag to do so. Great job!
    Diana recently posted..What I Wore: Fashion Night Out

    • carlyjcais
      9.13.2011 at 9:20 am (4 years ago)

      No, the logo isn’t too bad. I smushed extra paint into it so it kind of “filled up” the divots. But it’s still visible, even under the paint.

      • Diana
        9.16.2011 at 7:15 am (4 years ago)

        Still very fancy! I’m going to try this with one of my bags. I have an all-black ALDO bag and I want to try and paint it all burgundy. Will let you know how it turns out!
        Diana recently posted..IFB Weekly Roundup: Links À La Mode

  2. Katarina
    9.13.2011 at 9:06 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks for the tutorial, really handy to know how to do it properly for future projects. I love that it can be done with ordinary supplies.
    Katarina recently posted..snip, snip, cut-out cage top

  3. Lindsey
    9.13.2011 at 12:33 pm (4 years ago)

    that’s so crazy!! a great tutorial and I love the color you choose.
    Lindsey recently posted..First Giftcard Winner

  4. Grace - stripes & sequins
    9.13.2011 at 1:25 pm (4 years ago)

    how fun! I am loving this painted clutch/bag trend… such a fantastic way to reinvent an old/out of style/boring bag and turn it into something special!

  5. Rachel
    9.13.2011 at 8:05 pm (4 years ago)

    Wow, what a great idea! And the instructions for prepping leather for acrylic paint seem like they’re really useful for all kinds of projects. Thanks so much for sharing, Carly!
    Rachel recently posted..Sunday Street Style

  6. Melissa
    9.15.2011 at 6:36 am (4 years ago)

    Great DIY!! I’ll definitely be doing this FOR SURE.

    I’ve used fabric paint & silkscreening paint on leather before & it doesn’t crack – because it’s developed to move with fabric. It’s fantastic. You should give it at try!

    • carlyjcais
      9.20.2011 at 11:04 am (4 years ago)

      Wow! Great idea to make the painted colorblocking on contact paper – versatility at its best! Thanks for the link and great job!:-)

  7. Lilia
    9.28.2011 at 8:26 pm (4 years ago)


    I would like to know your opinion… Can I do the same with my agenda? I found this perfect agenda Day-timer, (this one:,r:5,s:58&tx=40&ty=45 ) but it is black, I want it in blue (like this one: ). Can I paint it with acrylic paint? Thank you!

    • carlyjcais
      9.30.2011 at 6:44 am (4 years ago)

      I suppose you can try, but it would definitely be a case of trial-and-error to get it right. I’m not sure if you plan on painting the inside as well, but what I would be concerned about is where the inside rings, paper, and outer flap touch. Acrylic paint will likely show signs of wear as you use the planner…and you probably want to be able to put it inside a bag or something to take with you places, correct? Either that or hold it in your hand…and both ways I would think would wear away at the paint. For something that has to withstand rubbing and is exposed to sweat/pressure routinely, I would think using Angelus Leather Paint would be a much, much safer investment. Or leather dye (done by a professional), since in a planner/agenda there’s usually backing or internal inserts that exist to stiffen the piece, and they may not be completely water-fast. Better yet, find an agenda in the color you like rather than painting one…and if you really, really want to paint one, try painting a design on the front (skipping the flap closure area) rather than a large swath of opaque color. Good luck!

      • Lilia
        10.03.2011 at 9:19 pm (4 years ago)

        Angelus Leather Paint…! I will try to find it! Thank you for your advice. This agenda comes only in black, it’s in leather with tons of compartments ( ), usually costs 100$, now only $30! It’s better than Filofax, except for the color. I want mine to look this this ( ) or aqua. If I succeed I will send you BEFORE and AFTER photos…! Thank you again! Lilia

  8. Yesenia Mcintyre
    12.07.2011 at 10:26 pm (4 years ago)

    great bag, I love the shade of green you used! Or leather dye (done by a professional), since in a planner/agenda there’s usually backing or internal inserts that exist to stiffen the piece, and they may not be completely water-fast. I really want to try this but will prob have to buy a new bag to do so.
    Yesenia Mcintyre recently posted..Arthritis Tips

  9. Natalie
    12.27.2011 at 5:14 pm (4 years ago)

    i just did this on an old pair of shoes and they came out fantastic! thanks so much!

  10. how to paint a door
    1.26.2012 at 5:51 am (4 years ago)

    My girlfriend just read your article and went and painted her old shoes and they came up great haha. I didnt think the end result would look any good, but i must say. They look as if she just got them from the shop.

  11. Soccer Mom Style
    3.19.2012 at 7:02 am (3 years ago)

    Hi Carly,
    I’m back to this post of yours. I am painting a leather belt. The belt will be flexed a lot of course. I am thinking adding textile medium to my acrylic paint to make it more flexible. Any thoughts? Did you purse held up well? It should have been since the area you painted is flat and seems like won’t be flexed too much.

    • Soccer Mom Style
      3.19.2012 at 7:18 am (3 years ago)

      what a great tip about Angelus!! thanks!

  12. Rachel
    4.19.2012 at 4:34 pm (3 years ago)

    This is such a great idea! I have a white leather purse that I want to paint this on. Do you think I still need to use the alcohol?

    • carlyjcais
      4.19.2012 at 4:49 pm (3 years ago)

      I think so; the alcohol is not only to clean the surface but something that strips away any finishing chemicals that have been applied to the leather that won’t let the paint adhere. You could always try it not using the alcohol in an inconspicuous place and see how the paint sticks!

      • Rachel
        4.20.2012 at 10:03 am (3 years ago)

        Thank you! :) That makes sense.. I’m going to use this to make a tribal pattern for my art project!

  13. gess
    6.30.2012 at 11:18 pm (3 years ago)

    will this work on synthetic leather bags? :)

  14. Kristine
    9.05.2012 at 2:01 am (3 years ago)

    I loved this idea so much I went out the next day and bought some acrylic paint for this leather clutch I had. I realized though that once the paint dries, it feels very rough and super dry. I did some research online and realized I could soften it up a bit by rubbing a cloth saturated with Windex over it a several times. Now it’s a really nice smooth, softer surface and I’m really happy with it. Just thought this tip might be helpful for others with the same problem.

    • carlyjcais
      9.05.2012 at 10:22 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks, Kristine, for your great tip! I’m guessing the Windex has similar properties to the rubbing alcohol that softens the surface of the leather prior to the paint application…I had no idea you could apply it after the fact! Thanks again for your feedback – really appreciate it:-)

  15. Jaime
    10.14.2012 at 2:02 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you for this article. I am hunting for ideas on changing the color of cowboy boots…some folks use spray paint and some folks use brushes. I need to cover black boots with white paint, so my biggest concern is cracking. These are only to wear at a horse show…they do not have to last forever, but still a concern. Thanks a ton for the article and the pictures, both very helpful!

    • carlyjcais
      10.15.2012 at 12:26 am (3 years ago)

      You’re welcome! Hope you’re able to revamp your boots and they don’t crack…I would proceed cautiously at the front of the boots, where the top of the foot hits your ankle; there could be a lot of wrinkling there, that could crack the paint. Really, Angelus leather paint is probably a better bet if you can get your hands on it! Good luck:-)

  16. DUO iy
    2.07.2013 at 1:12 pm (3 years ago)

    cute idea!! does the color wear off after some time?
    we just posted a tutorial on a faux leather bag as well! if you want to check it out :-)

    • carlyjcais
      2.08.2013 at 12:54 pm (3 years ago)

      Actually the color is pretty permanent…I haven’t had any problems yet! And that duo leather tote tutorial you posted is amazing! Can’t wait to try it out…:-)

  17. Susan
    4.21.2014 at 10:08 am (1 year ago)

    Do you need to put any varnish on it to protect it from rain pr accidental spills? Will the paint rub off if wet?

    • carlyjcais
      4.22.2014 at 5:55 am (1 year ago)

      Hi Susan-I personally did not put any sealant on top of the paint. I guess it depends how wet you get it, and how much you rub it. Too much abrasion and moisture will likely remove all your hard work. People who work with leather usually use Bag Kote (–Neutral/dp/B008ROQ34I/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1398170960&sr=8-2&keywords=bag+kote) to seal paint and give it a soft finish, rather than a hard plastic-y sheen. One forum says to mix Bag Kote with water 60/40, and apply. There’s ammonia in it, but if you’re looking for a top-quality sealant, that is it. You could also use a coating of beeswax for an eco-friendly option. Hope that helps!

  18. Yasmine
    6.27.2014 at 1:57 pm (1 year ago)

    Just found this tutorial via Pinterest and I’m going to try a version of my own! Just wondering how the bag and paint have held up after a few years. Still in good shape or has it needed touch ups? Thanks!

    • carlyjcais
      6.29.2014 at 11:11 am (1 year ago)

      Hi Yasmine! My bag is actually doing pretty well; the paint has softened over the years but not cracked. It looks a little “rubbed” in places and worn-in. I think this would work well for soft leather where you’re wanting a worn-in look, but for bright pops of solid color that need to stay bright and unmarred…maybe actual Angelus leather paint with a coat of sealant might be better. Hope that helps! :-)

  19. Mayme J
    6.12.2015 at 6:38 am (3 months ago)

    Question: I purchased a chaises lounge that’s just beautiful. Only that it came in a color that not opprable to my living room color scheme. I have a chocolate brown in color. It’s just that my other color I choose to accommodate, go with and matches well with it is my favorite color of purple. Well a lilac, or a lavender paired well. So my intention are to paint the chaise front cushion portion thatthat’s to sit on, I would like to paint in the lilac or lavender color. And the side and bottom have in chocolate brown color. Now, my question to you is how would that look, and is it at ALL pliable! The vision in my head assure that it would come out lovely and be quite different. Where when people step in a see it, their fist impression would “wow”that lovely; inquiring where is it that I brought that from.

    • carlyjcais
      6.14.2015 at 1:44 pm (3 months ago)

      Hi Mayme, what an interesting question!! First you ask about doing colorblocking on a piece of furniture – I think that would look fantastic! As long as you have elements of colorblocking/modernist styling in the room somewhere else too…otherwise the lounge might look really out of place if it’s a vintage decor room or something similar.
      As to your question about painting…I assume the chaise lounge is leather? I would NOT recommend doing this to something that is leather where people sit on it. It will most definitely crack with wear and could even leave paint bits on your guests’ rear ends!! (Quelle horreur!!) I’d recommend finding a slipcover for your sofa that’s in the perfect shade of lavender (or even DIY’ing one yourself – there are a ton of useful tutorials on there on How to DIY a Sofa Slipcover!) Alternatively you could get a portion of it reupholstered in colored leather if you’re ready to commit to the color…but you may want to try the slipcover route first to try it out in the room and see how it feels. Best of luck with your amazing chaise lounge!! 😀

  20. bryan flake
    8.13.2015 at 11:43 am (3 weeks ago)

    The panel that you painted green looks like it was professionally done. I have a suede leather jacket that has lost some of its natural dark brown color. Would I be able to darken up my jacket in a similar way?

    • carlyjcais
      8.29.2015 at 10:55 am (4 days ago)

      Thank you, Bryan! Honestly I’d recommend dyeing for a suede jacket – acrylic painting is kind of a last resort, and seems to work for colorblocking and going to a lighter, opaque color. Since suede is soft I would be concerned about the paint cracking with movement. If you’re going darker I would think dyeing is a better long-term solution. Hope that helps!!


17Pingbacks & Trackbacks on DIY Colorblock Bag A.K.A. How to Paint Leather with Acrylic Paint

  1. […] of Chic Steals shared some really great instructions for painting a bag with acrylic paint to achieve a color-blocked look. It seems like the basic […]

  2. […] a Spare’s latest DIY is fab (of course!) and perfect for fall. Start collecting your twigs. – Colorblock leather with […]

  3. […] Mom Style took my DIY Colorblock Painted Purse tutorial and gave it her own spin, using contact paper that is removable when she tires of the colored […]

  4. […] Ok, maybe you just need some accessoires to bring a litte bit of color in you wardrobe. Try this tutorial to transform an old tedious leather handbag into a unique trendy peace that upgrades your entire […]

  5. […] heels, for goodness’ sakes!!  And I wanted that pinkish color desperately.  With leather, you can paint it…but with [faux] […]

  6. […] why not paint, right? I mean, people paint tea towels, leather purses and who knows what else, so why not a smart cover? Oh, how wrong I […]

  7. […] from Soccer Mom Style built on my post on How to Paint Leather by mixing her acrylic paint with Textile Medium to prevent cracking on a belt that would normally […]

  8. […] from Soccer Mom Style built on my post on How to Paint Leather by mixing her acrylic paint with Textile Medium to prevent cracking on a belt that would normally […]

  9. […] vraie seconde vie pour cet été avec la couleur menthe! Voici les instructions (d’après ce tuto en […]

  10. […] credits: Wendy’s Lookbook, Le Fashion, Real Simple, Chic Steals, Anthropologie Share this: Pin ItLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed Under: Cleaning, […]

  11. […] Here are the inspirations that helped me figure out how to paint and make it stick, to leather! eHow Mr. Kate Chic Steals […]

  12. […] combinations for your Birkin-style tote [not a real Hermes].  Photo from ShopVivi.  (Check this out for a reminder on how to paint […]

  13. […] credits: Wendy’s Lookbook, Le Fashion, Real Simple, Chic Steals, […]

  14. […] trousers)……those hand-painted loafers (paint your black loafers with some white latex [not acrylic, and not leather] paint)…that pieced-together coat (2 different coats, stitched together into […]

  15. […] to some great stuff on painting leather with acrylic paint. Check out the instructions at “DIY Colorblock Bag A.K.A. How to Paint Leather with Acrylic Paint” This required only isoprobyl alcohol and acrylic paints (picked up at the local Hobby […]

  16. […] DIY Painted Colorblock Handbag: DIY of a Nine West handbag (tutorial here) […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *

CommentLuv badge