How To Make Faux Tooled Leather

Getting Off The Ground

Okay, so it took a bit longer to start this damn blog than I thought.  I’m one of those people who does great once I’ve done something a few times but the first few times? and it being computer stuff besides – just shoot me!  Anyways, here goes with the instructions for making faux tooled leather.

I was making a decorative box (what I call a Geo Box after the original geographic explorers) the kind that holds collections like rocks, bugs, plants, etc. – things you’d find and collect over months/years exploring the wild. (Yes, I have a VERY active imagination). I’ll show you a picture or two later of how this turned out.  I wanted an old piece of beautifully worked leather to cover the top of this box that would require a  16″ x  12″ piece.  1. never gonna find that, and 2. couldn’t afford it if I did.  So, DIY alternative – make my own.

You will need:

Paintable Wallpaper

Tim Holtz Distress Paint in Gathered Twigs, Walnut Stain and Black Soot

Archival Brilliance Stamp Pad in Galaxy Gold

ModPodge Matte

Don’t know what paintable wallpaper is?  I would recommend a quick Google on that but basically this comes in rolls, it’s pure white in color, and you can find it from Home Depot to high-end wall paper stores (I also found some pre-cut sheets from a fellow Etsy shop) and there’s no end to the variety of patterns you can find embossed on this thick paper.  I looked for some patterns that made me think of Vintage tooled leather. This paper is meant to be glued onto walls and painted with interior house paint so it’s pretty forgiving.




First, cut off a section in the size that you would like to work with (smaller might be easier for your first try).




Next, it’s time to paint. I used Tim Holtz Distress paints in three colors. I started with the lightest one “Gathered Twigs”.  You will want to use an older brush for this as the texturing on these papers is heavy and will eat a good brush – paint the entire surface. I added just a bit of water to the paint as I went along.  There’s going to be three colors on here and I liked how it went on easier a bit diluted.






Let this dry completely.  The nice thing with Distress Paints is you can also use a craft blow dryer – and snap! It’s dry. Now with the next color “Walnut Stain”, I added even more water.  I wanted the first color to still show through and by “layering” the colors you get more depth to the finished piece and it looks more real.  In the picture directly below, the upper left is the second color coming over the first color bottom right.  See the difference already?  Next pic down is the whole sheet painted with paints 1 & 2 and already dry.  It’s starting to get the look I want, now.





Next, comes the “Black Soot”.  We’re going to add quite a bit of water here because we just want the black to settle into the crevices and bring out the pattern of the embossing.






Add the black all across the sheet going back over some areas if they need it. While it’s still wet, if you feel you have too much black anywhere you can always blot some up with a paper towel.

Again, it’s time to watch paint dry.



In the picture above you can really see the “depth” I was talking about earlier.  This was just what I wanted – leather that looked like it had been around for a while, a little used and abused.  But back in Vintage times, they made everything ornate so there’s still a step missing – Gold.  Using a permanent ink pad, take the whole pad and lightly swipe the pad across the raised/embossed surface of the painted paper.  BE CAREFUL with this step, that you keep the pad flat level to the paper so you’re just getting gold ink on the very top of the design. Do one pass over the whole sheet and take a step back from the project, give it a good look before you decide to add more gold.


Okay, now comes the part that really makes this thing POP!  I used ModPodge Matte Medium to give the “leather” a good seal and also make it look like buffed leather would.


BE CAREFUL HERE TOO – I switched to a newer brush and dipped it in water now and again to prevent the Matte from getting to thick.  Work the Matte into all the little crevices but go fairly slowly at this, don’t whip the brush around too fast or you’ll pull air into your glue and it will dry with little air bubbles trapped in there and will look milky.


Don’t panic – this is how it will look once you get it all covered with the glue.  You can see the left side is already starting to dry.  Let this air dry DO NOT USE BLOW DRYER to speed drying time, and do not put out in the direct sunlight to speed drying – bubbles will occur if you do not just let it air dry.  It’s really pretty fast anyways, so relax, get up and stretch, pet the dog, get a drink, and when you come back – check it out – gorgeous leather!


Isn’t it great?  It’s even malleable like leather. Of course, I’ve given you the products and colors I used to make this particular piece but there truly is an endless variety of ways you could go here.  When choosing your paper, I would look for something that has a very small texture behind the main patterning – kind of like the grain of “skin” which leather is, of course. If you decide to try different paints, I would still stay somewhere in the acrylic line as they are so nice to work with, water based and when dry, permanent.  But the colors you could use are somewhat infinite and the ink pad topping could be silver, black, brown, etc.


Remember I have an online Etsy shop?   Well, just an FYI that I made a couple of sheets of my Faux Leather in different patterns/textures and they are currently listed on my Etsy shop Old Raven.  Click the link above to go straight to my shop and browse.  Oh, and here’s a couple of pics of the project that started this whole thing off, my Geo Box …

IMG_0003 (1)


Thanks for reading my blog and checking out this project.  I hope you give it try, till then- Craft On



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