How to Make Fabric Look Like Leather

Making a costume is one of the most enjoyable DIY experiences one can have!

While leather is a common component of these costumes and gives them a rustic and elegant look, quality synthetic leather can be expensive and hard to find, and using real leather in a costume is out of the question.

But there’s an easy and fun way to make a fabric look like leather. The method is quick and effective, but most importantly, it is very cheap!

We’ll look at how cosplayer and YouTuber Crofty Cosplay makes the fabric look like leather. Her method is simple yet reaps excellent results!


You only need three items:

  • The fabric
  • Acrylic paint of your choice
  • Hairdryer

It’ll take you less than a minute to grab these and get started!


01 Paint

First, lay out the piece of fabric on a sheet of newspaper – you don’t want your table to get dirty!

Next, squirt out the acrylic paint onto the fabric, and brush it into the fabric. Don’t pour all the paint out at once – tackle the painting and brushing in segments.

View this step from 0:07 to 1:01 on Crofty Cosplay’s video below.

02 Dry

Once the fabric is covered with paint completely, dry the paint off quickly using your hairdryer.

You will need to do a few passes of drying before the paint starts to dry off completely. Take your time with this step, because you need the paint to dry off entirely before you proceed to the next step.

Skip forward to 1:10 on Crofty Cosplay’s video below to view this step.

03 Repeat

One coat of paint won’t do much – you will need to add two or even three more layers of paint to make fabric look like leather.

While the paint and fabric you use plays a huge part in how many coats of paint you need to do, remember that the more coats of paint you apply, the shinier the fabric looks.

You don’t need to repeat the painting-drying cycle too many times. If the fabric looks the way you want it to, you can stop.

Your fabric will begin to resemble leather in two coats, and you can achieve the effect in less than 20 minutes!

Watch Crofty Cosplay apply another coat and show off her final result by skipping to 1:30.

Full Video

The video is short – which is a testimony to how easy Crofty Cosplay’s method is!

Giving her video a quick once-over will help you see just how effective it can be.


Does the fabric stiffen after painting?

Crofty Cosplay reports that the fabric will get a little stiff after you use her method. She recommends that you test out her approach on a smaller piece of fabric to get a feel for the result.

Is it better to stitch on the fabric before or after painting on it?

The fabric starts to feel somewhat papery after painting on it, but Crofty Cosplay reports that it will remain sturdy and not crack. However, it’s always best to play it safe, and stitching the fabric before painting is a good idea.

How do I get the fabric to have creases like real leather?

If you don’t apply too many coats of paint, you can crinkle a piece of tinfoil, flatten it, and then place the fabric on top and iron it. The fabric will loosen up a bit and have more detail, and look more like authentic, aged leather.

Does it resist water?

No, but you can always use waterproofing spray. Remember to follow Crofty’s advice and test it out on a small portion of the fabric first.

Additional Tips

While the effect of the paint doesn’t wholly depend on the color of the fabric, paint fabric black if it is black. Using a fabric having a similar color to the color of the acrylic will give you a neater final result.

Also, for maximum effect, you can wash the fabric and put fabric softener on it before pouring water-diluted paint over it. The fabric softeners rubberize the paint, making the fabric feel more leather-like, and the moisture will help the material absorb the color a lot better.

Use this technique for leather looking belts, straps, hats, aprons, clutches, pouches and so much more!

If you liked Crofty Cosplay’s tutorial, and want to learn more tricks, she’s picked up over her years cosplaying and DIYing picture-perfect costumes, be sure to check out her YouTube channel. The channel has over 50 videos of her sharing tricks and projects!

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