How to Do Faux Leather Painting
The techniques demonstrated on this page can be used to produce a faux-leather or suede painted finish. To create these finishes painting glaze is applied and while it's still wet, some is lifted off using a rolled-up rag or wadded plastic wrap. Faux painting techniques like these work best on small wall features such as under wainscoting or as a leather or suede inlay on furniture.
See the this link for surface preparation, base coating and glazing mixing instructions if you need help with those steps. To better simulate real leather the base and glaze should be two shades of the same color with the glaze being the darker of the two.
Use cotton rags similar to bed sheets to roll several one foot squares into tubes and set them aside. Wear latex glove to keep the glaze off your skin while doing the ragging part of this process. Base coat the project with a semi-gloss paint using a roller with a short nap to get a smooth, shiny finish. Apply the glaze over the base paint with a brush to get a good, thick coat that almost completely hides the color underneath. Work on small spaces that can be rolled with the rag before the glaze dries.
Leather Faux Finish
If you're doing a small space like a table top, coat the whole thing with glaze at once, and then roll the rag across it. If you're doing a larger area, coat a manageable section of a couple feet at a time and leave a border of untouched glaze along the leading edge to aid in blending the finish into another section. Roll starting at one corner and working out.
Roll one of the rags through the glaze, all the way from one side to the other without stopping or lifting the rag. Lifting the rag in the middle of a run will create an unwanted pattern that may ruin the effect. If this happens, try to roll over the glaze again before it dries to blend the finish, otherwise, brush it out and try again. Rolling horizontally or vertically is optional, experiment to see which creates a more realistic leather appearance.
On large spaces roll in parallel rows, letting the end of the rag overlap each row slightly to blend them together. Continue until you reach the border, but don't touch it. Start a new section, brushing the glaze starting at the border and working out another couple of feet. Roll the first row on the new section letting the end of the rag overlap the first section, blending the two together. Continue with this process until you reach the end of the wall.
When the rag becomes saturated, discard it and use a new one, a rag will probably cover several square feet before it will need to be replaced. Avoid letting the glaze stand for more than 10 minutes before rolling it, if a delay causes it to becomes tacky, coat the area with the brush to soften it before applying the rolling technique again.
After rolling the project let the glaze dry for at least 24 hours before handling. If your project will see a lot of traffic, such as with a tabletop, use a clear varnish to protect the finish. Apply two coats for added protection.
Suede Faux Finish
To create a suede look you can use either wadded plastic wrap or rags to dab at the wet glaze, experiment with both to find a technique that works. Rags will create a finish closely resembling suede, while plastic will create a finer grained appearance like lizard skin. As with the process above this technique works best on small spaces.
When using plastic wrap for this process, cut several strips of kitchen-type wrap about 18 inches long. Wad the plastic into tight balls and straighten it out several times to create multiple fine creases in the plastic. Place the plastic balls in a box or bucket to keep them tight until ready for use. For rags use an old cotton t-shirt cut into one foot squares and ball them up just before using them to dab at the finish.
Brush the glaze onto the project using the same process used for the leather finish above. If you're doing a small space, coat the whole thing at once and then apply the dabbing technique. If you're doing a larger area, coat a manageable section of a couple feet at a time and leave a border of untouched glaze along the leading edge to aid in blending the finish into another section.
Immediately begin dabbing at the wet glaze, go over it with the ball until you have the finish you want. Turn the wad frequently in your hand to avoid creating a regular pattern that would diminish the effect. If you don't like the finish you've created you can brush the glaze out again before it dries and try again until you find a finish you like.