You may wish to paint your leather jacket to restore its original color, recolor it or customize it with your own design. Whichever you do, it will require the right kind of paint for the task. You will need one that is durable, long-lasting, and can stand up to the natural flexing of leather. These are readily available from leather retailers, cobblers, upholsterers and craft stores.
Restoration or Recoloring
If you are restoring the color of your jacket it will require a leather spray paint. These acrylic-based paints will help you achieve an even coat. You'll find them from shoe care and leather upholstery retailers, not from leather retailers. The formulation of the paint is perfectly suitable for leather jackets. Meltonian Nu-Life is a popular brand for shoes.
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Recoloring is a far more difficult prospect than restoration as you must cover the old color entirely. In this case, you will need two to three times as much paint as you would in restoration, and far more deglazer.
You may aerate and spray any liquid leather paint using a paint sprayer available from hardware retailers.
Art and Customization
You will need acrylic-based leather paints for customization as well, but will use the liquid variety and apply it with either paint brushes or air brushes. You have a far greater selection of liquid paints; these are available from retailers like Tandy Leather Factory, Leather World Technologies, or Angelus.
The Angelus Leather Paint No. 720 is a favorite among leather artists as it is very durable—it must be as it is designed for shoes. It comes in a broader variety of colors (like sapphire and avocado green) than do the shoe paints (usually black, brown, cordovan and white). Leather World Technologies offers liquid upholstery paints in all-in-one kits, including cleaners and conditioners.
If you are on a budget you may use any acrylic liquid paint available from art supply retailers.
You may paint on practically any leather jacket, but cannot recolor or repaint all jackets.
If the leather shows wear spots or has faded then it has a surface coat which you may paint. If instead the leather appears to have no shine to it, and its scratches retain the jacket's color or it readily absorbs water, then it is aniline dyed; the jacket is not painted, but dyed through. You may paint a design on it with acrylic, but attempting to paint the jacket overall will have disastrous results. The leather will have two finishes, the duller aniline finish and the smoother acrylic finish.
Regardless of the type of finish, you must prepare the surface to receive the paint with a deglazer. These volatile organic compounds remove the waxes and oils, and prepare the surface to bond with the paint. Meltonian's Nu-Life Color Preparer is one such deglazer, which is readily available from cobblers. Professional leather crafters more often use the Fiebing brand. Leather World Technologies includes the deglazer with the paint in its dye and recolor kits.