Leathercraft with airbrush supplies
Leathercraft artists can benefit from airbrush soft lines and smoothness when applying dyes.
Leather is a very interesting medium to paint on. To a certain extent, it still retains some of the same properties as skin, even if it is synthetic leather. This means that it needs to be treated with care throughout the whole process, so it does not get damaged. In our opinion, prepping the leather correctly is the most important step. Whether you are painting on leather shoes or a leather wallet, prepping will make sure the paint adheres to the leather and lasts for a very long time. I would also practice painting on a scrap piece of leather before the actual project to make sure you understand how it work, because if you’re painting on regular copy paper, most of the time you don’t usually have to worry about releasing too much paint and having the splatter effect. Paint on leather does not soak in and dry immediately so you need to take your time laying the paint down.
First thing you should do, is wash your hands before working with any kind of leather. Your skin has natural oils that won’t mix well with the paint/dye if it gets on the shoe. After washing your hands, try not to touch your face or any other part of your body as sweat, or oils may get on them and then making you must wash again. Then, you should do any masking that needs to be done to areas that won’t be painted. Most shoes that come from a factory will have a finish put on them by the manufacturer. To get your paint/dye to stick to the leather, you first need to get that factory finish off them. We do this by using something called a de-glazer. There are a few brands out there that make their own, but we recommend the Createx 4020 Automotive Reducer. You’ll want to put this on a lent-less towel to wipe off the coat from the factory. The reason for a lent-less towel is to make sure there are not little pieces left over on whatever you’re working on that won’t get trapped underneath the paint. After the factory coat is off, the leather should be ready to accept whatever you put on it.
Createx Illustration Colors are great for leather. These don’t come with a cross-linker in them, so they are very breathable and able to move with the leather. You won’t want to use a paint that finishes very hard as it may crack with the bending of the leather. You also won’t want to use solvent-based paint, as I stated before, leather acts like skin, and solvents are not good for the skin. Any alcohol-based leather dye will work as well. Dye works a little different than paint, as the dye really penetrates the leather to stain it. Paint will sit more on top of the leather, while still penetrating it to make sure that it sticks. Dye is very transparent, almost like a candy color, so this mainly changes the color of the leather, while paint will cover it. After you have finished dyeing/painting, you will want to put a clear coat over it to make sure that it is strong. Liquid Kicks Top Coats are great for this. They come in different finishes to suit whatever style you are going for.
The airbrush you choose to go with really depends on what you want to use it for. A lot of people working with leather belts, wallets, and boots will opt for a larger siphon-feed airbrush, somewhere around a 0.5mm, like the GREX xBi5 airbrush. This is because they will be doing a lot of one color, and don’t need fine detail. With a siphon-feed airbrush, you can get very large bottles that will last a long time without having to refill. If you are doing shoes, or need finer detail, you would be hard pressed to find a better airbrush than the GSI Creos Mr. Hobby PS-771 0.18mm airbrush. This will allow you to get lines as thin as hair with great paint atomization. Leather dyes, since they are very thin, will be able to go through this airbrush without reducing, but water-based acrylic paints, like the Createx Illustration line, will need to be thinned with Createx 4011 Reducer. It will depend on the color how much you should reduce the paint, as whites are much thicker than other colors, but I would start with a 70-30 ratio from paint to reducer, test it out on something else besides the project you’re working on, see how you like it. If you are wanting to stay on a budget, then the NO-NAME Brand Cordless Compressor works great as well.
If you are going with the larger option of airbrush (0.5mm siphon-feed), you will want a larger compressor that has a tank on it. The NO-NAME Brand Tooty Compressor will work great for that. You’ll want a larger compressor with a tank as you will be using more air, and a smaller compressor without a tank’s motor would be overworked. For the detail airbrushes, you can use almost any size compressor as there is not much air being used in a smaller needle sized airbrush. For PSI, I would recommend staying around 15-20, so if the compressor is able to regularly push that out, you will be okay. If you get a compressor without an air tank, you may want to get a coiled air hose to minimize on any results from pulsations that may come from the compressor not having a tank.