How to Custom Paint your own Luggage

Often, the projects I share have a specific purpose… You may remember some rollerskating theme in the past. That’s the case with this as well. It was a special request by the person who keeps this site ‘rolling’ along. Come see the fun of this ‘How to Custom paint your own Luggage.

Why Custom paint your Luggage?

With all the things I’ve heard about travel lately, I was wanting to ensure that our luggage was going to stand out when it comes out on the luggage carousel and not be accidentally picked up. ‘And why not feel good about your design sense when travelling?! We put so much effort into all out clothes and persona, so this was another obvious open canvas. Take inspiration from anywhere to make it truly your own suitcase!

It will probably bring a smile to someone’s face and open some conversation…

What Type of Luggage can you paint on?

As you may well know I will challenge pretty well anything with some paint. I would say in most cases I have not had failures especially if you keep a few things in mind.

This is a hard case rolling luggage made by Beis. It is not very shiny and has some pebbly texture. It also has a lot of fins of raised strips so that was a challenge. ‘Just remember a challenge makes you be more creative. It is a large size case but you can adapt a design to any size.

If you have other types of luggage; even fabric ones will take paint. I tend to paint a small test on a inconspicable part. I have had great results on denim & leather so I am holding onto faith.

How to design your image:

Use your own creativity to choose a design. It can be graphic (areas of flat colours) or more painterly. It all depends what you desire. Premade stencils can give you shapes as well. It should reflect your persona… Keep the base colour in mind when designing.

These instructions here are for a graphic modern Rollerskate theme. After some sketching on my ipad pro I enlarged the image to the size of the are on the suitcase. (simple math to figure out percentage to print at)

Tip: If you draw the design digitally or use something that you found it can be printed on your home printer in sections. That is usually referred to as ’tiling’ in the print software of your computer. (there is often a preview image) Then all you need to do it tape it together to make the full size paper.

After I printed the sketch larger I gave it a retrace with more details. Feel free to be as creative as you like. Even some abstract colourful designs would differentiate your bag at the airport.

How to transfer Design onto Luggage:

Putting an image onto another surface is always a bit of a challenge but it can be easily done. There are apps that let you see the image an trace form that visual. There are also ways to use a graphite transfer paper to transfer the image.

Depending on the colour of the surface or material (fabric, leather, canvas, plastic) you may need to choose a different colour. When I painted the Cat Purse (in my art tutorials) I used a white transfer paper & it worked well. If it is a black suitcase it would be similar. If you have a light surface as here, then a regular graphite (dark pencil) will work. I rub some graphite onto a tracing paper and rub it in with a tissue. It is then the same as a carbon paper. Place this under the image and retrace the lines and it will make a copy on the item. (see video). I know it is tedious but is much better than making mistakes when drawing freehand on the object.

How to Paint Plastic:

This plastic suitcase is made of polycarbonate. That is a strong plastic but it can still be scratched. The biggest risk for failure is not preparing the surface properly before the application of paint. Yes, there are spray paints that are formulated for plastic but I do not like the hassle of making a mask (covering area where you do not want to get paint). I remember the days of ‘air-brushing’ paint as an illustrator. It was so much cutting and covering and meant it was only as good as how well the mask was cut.

Lately I have used Angelus leather paint quite successfully. It is a durable acrylic paint that covers quite well. I have seen how it lasts on leather goods (running shoes that are driven over with a car and are still fine) and even used as fabric paint on jackets. I did a small test and gave it a really good ‘finger-nail scratch test’ – worked great. Just remember, it is still paint so it may get scratched if it is a very hard & sharp item; but so do cars…

How to prepare for the paint:

Often the problem with painting plastic is that the surface is too smooth and shiny. It does not give the paint anything to ‘grab’ (adhere) onto. To remedy that you can do a few things:

If you use some fine sandpaper (220 grit or higher) and lightly scuff the surface it will let the paint get into the surface. You can also use a solvent to take some of the finish off to expose less gloss. That is waht is recommended with leather goods that usually have a finish on them.

Acetone will dissolve plastic so be very careful using it. Since this Beis suitcase was already quite rough and not shiny I opted for a light scuff sanding. (vacuum any dust off) SEE VIDEO

Where to put your design:

Since this Beis case has all these ‘ribs’ I opted to paint between. Thin masking tape covered the spines quiet well. I took a pictre of the suitcase and made a mockup image using Procreate. It all worked well…

The Process of Painting:

There’s no real rules to the process of painting here. It is a bit cumbersome to have such a large item on a desk so I used and ironing board to sit the case on (ironing boards can be lowered)

Some colours are not as opaque as others so it may need a couple coats of paint. Yellow is a pigment that is often not that opaque in many types of paint. The white paint can act as a primer to help prepare a light colour for coverage. Angelus brand paint is not a very thick paint; making it seems less ‘globby’; which I love.

The depth of field is achieved with some changes in colour value and hue.

I did not opt to completely outline all the contours as if the values have enough contrast then it is not needed. Any blemishes can be fixed with fine detailing.

After a few hours (and hours) of therapeutic painting it was done. The final stage after removing the tape is to scrape off any blemishes from the masking tape failure. These raised strips will essentailly help protect the image from wear as it goes through the travel.

How to Finish the painting:

To provide an even better extra protection add a couple layers of the Angelus Matte Acrylic Finisher as the last step. If there’s a scratch it will help the paint stay in tact under neath. To accelerate drying I use a blowdryer.

How to Custom Paint your own Luggage

Make your suitcase one of a kind! Learn how to Custom paint your own Luggage. Almost anything goes, creative paint tutorial.


  • Paint brushes, soft, fine and detailed
  • Sand paper


  • Angelus Paint (primary colours, white and black)
  • Masking Tape (if desired to mask area)
  • Acetone if applicable
  • Angelus Acrylic Matte Finisher
  • Transfer paper (bought or homemade)
  • Pen
  • Full size Paper design


  • Design your image (use a picture if using digital system) and print full size.
  • Clean and prepare the surface. Depending on existing finish sand or use acetone to adjust for acceptance of paint.
  • Clean any residue off.
  • Use transfer paper to redraw (follow lines of design) image onto surface (be aware of colour contrast) with a point or pen.
  • Paint in areas with colours (plan a rough sketch or digital image to plan colours)
  • If paint does not cover completely add extra layer or prime with white paint first.
  • Finish all colours and adjust wherever needed or fixed.
  • Apply protection coat of Angelus acrylic Matte finisher.
  • Let dry completely & Enjoy your travel!

Adding more designs;

I did not want to do another large painting on the backside so I added a couple smaller images at the back bottom.

Before I know it, everything I have will be unique… Take every opportunity to be creative. Simple craft supplies make this an easy project. There’s so many choices of different colors, Design the entire suitcase or just a small section

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  1. Barb,
    As usual, a unique, custom design idea executed perfectly and used in a most creative and practical way. The recipient, I’m sure, must have been 100% thrilled with the end result; an incomparable piece of art, a-la-Barb, on wheels! I can’t help but think that maybe I could have a piece of luggage delivered to you……………and you’ll do your “magic”…………….and then have it shipped home to me. Hmmm? Just kidding; I’ve got some ideas of my own and can’t wait to try them out! Thanks so much for sharing your idea. Sue W.

    1. You are welcome There’s way’s to achieve it yourself if you feel artistically challenged. There is a site that will generate free ‘paint-by-number’ images that could be transferred to an item. It’s a good way to start. Honestly, believing in yourself is the biggest challenge. Let me know how you make out!

  2. Looks great! Those raised ’fins’ might provide a bit of protection for the painted panels between. Hope you can give an update after it’s been subjected to a bit of field testing. Polycarbonate is certainly a difficult surface and it will be interesting to see how the Angelus paints hold up.

  3. Barb that is such a great idea! I love it! Wow! Yes it would look fantastic and make it easier to find your luggage!Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh, don’t be fooled… I’m a pretty normal person, but I do have quite the drive. ‘And I look forward to the relaxation I get from painting… Enjoy!