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Well, here we go… I know it’s almost back to school or wherever you are going – and you need a bag to carry stuff in! Bags and purses are so much fun, and a great opportunity to design! This is one of my latest; (a new ‘Purse’ category under DIY ⬆️) This DIY Painted Cat leather purse has been keeping a watch over me…

How did I start?

This awesome quality brazilian genuine leather purse just begged to be made into something special. Ah, that dull grey needed to go – but what to to do?! The current trends of custom painted bags & purses show mostly pop culture. The artwork is often quite graphic, vibrant colors. I am so impressed with the Angelus Paints that I’m trying all kinds of techniques in the next few posts. What would you like on a purse?

By using the Angelus deglazer it gets the leather ready to have the acrylic-based paints adhere. I also use pure acetone as well. Rub it into the leather and you will see the shine diminish and some colour may come off. The more matt the finish is the better the paint will last and not scratch off or have scuffs. Do not get it on areas that are not going to get painted though.

Ya, a Bit of Cheating:

Before you say; I can’t do that… it really isn’t that difficult if you you have some faith in yourself. It is always difficult to get an image drawn where you want to paint it. In this case the photo I used was sized on my laptop screen to a piece of tracing paper and then very delicately traced the image. In this day & age, tracing is acceptable as most art is digitally traced anyways. Why toil over something that isn’t going to help you?

Look for & follow areas of colours and values and then trace those; similar to a paint-by-number picture. Do be careful of you screen though…

This transfer method was a quick way to get the image drawing quickly. There are also grid methods to redraw and image in a different size as shown here. It this case the purse design has a pouch, zip closure and inside wallet as well as long cross-body strap.

Transfer the Image:

Are you old enough to remember ‘carbon paper’?! It was a paper that has a coating of ‘carbon’ on the surface that allowed the lines drawn or typed (in a type writer) be transferred to another piece of paper or surface. There are many versions of this for crafting and art nowadays. This time I chose a white graphite paper which worked quite well. I tape it in place as I retrace the lines with a pen or something pointy.

The image is now on the leather; I love this stage, and I can now start to apply thin layers of paint. (Watch the video to see the speedy process)

I look for the areas of similar colours and block in the colours, use soft brushes of appropriate sizes.

Generally speaking I like to start with the dark colours first and then add lighter ones on top, especially since it is fur; the lighter hairs show on top.

The leather paint covers really well with quick drying process in between. Angelus paints come in many beautiful colors, applies opaquely by paintbrush and has great durability on what I’ve tried it on.

After the main areas of light and dark the eyes are so striking! Access the areas of light and dark from the reference picture and block them in. These paints mix very easily so I only bought the primary colours, black & white and mix everything from there.

The reference image show each hair so I used a tiny brush to dab them on. It looks more complicated than it seems…

Adding the fine details:

I see some other colours of beige and grey and add them in, but you can keep it more simple if you like.

Once you are happy with the artwork it should be sealed with one of the Angelus finishing products. I do not want too much of a shine so I chose the matte finisher. Make sure to mix well as the agent that makes the matte finish may settle to the bottom. I applied 2 thin coats.

I’m not quite sure why it’s so mesmerizing, maybe it’s the eyes?! The flap on this leather bag was a perfect place to customize and there are so many zippered pockets inside. Look at your purse design and determine the best place for a motif.

Life is a bit richer when you carry custom hand-painted leather handbags. It’s a great way to up-cycle that old bag that may have stains and some scratches into a new designer bag.

Sadly I see that so many purses end up at the thrift shops. I have not tried the vinyl ones but if it a strong material I bet it would work similarly if it properly deglazed before starting. That makes it feasible for many to have a custom bag painted by an artisan amongst your accessories.

What do you want to see on your bag? Does this look like your cat?! Maybe you want one…

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. That is absolutely gorgeous, Barb. I’m sure it’s the eyes that make it so intense. You are just amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Wow! I would never have seen the possibilities with that bag. That gray flap would have been a huge pass for me. That cat changed everything. Lovely project!

  2. ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL BARB. Tracing is fine, nothing wrong with that. It is the finished piece and execution that stands out. I suggest to anyone that tries doing something such as this to practice technique on a piece of faux leather to get the feel of how to paint your subject. That way you can anticipate what you want to do and to feel comfy with trying something new.

      1. Thank you Barb, there are ways to change the coloring of purses no longer liked. There are specialty paints for leather, but you can always try acrylic paints. We have a store in our area called Tandy Leather ( not getting compensated) that has leather colorants. Not sure if they are in Canada but I think you can order online from them or try Ebay or Amazon.. Keep up the GREAT work kiddo you are greatly appreciated by many!

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