I love the practical expression of art in painted handbags. A well made, leather bag with lots of organization is hard to beat on the practical front, but lacking in interest and personality in the area of self expression. A painted purse is the best of both worlds, but can be an intimidating project to take on. Today, I will guide you through the process so you will be ready to liven up your own purses. Here we go….
STEP 1 GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES
The most essential part of this whole project is the paint. I know many people use regular acrylic paint on their purses and claim success, but I just don’t have confidence in the long term wearability. I use special for leather Angelus Acrylic Leather Paints and have been very happy with the results. The colors are vivid and they have proved durable. They are sold many places, but here is a link for the starter set from Amazon, priced around $39, and another link to Shoe Shine Express which has a huge selection of colors. While you are at it, you might want to pick up some Angelus Acrylic Finisher. I don’t use this on every bag, only the ones where the paint sits on the surface… more on this later!
You will also need:
- finger nail polish remover
- Q-Tips and/or cotton swabs
- Micron pen (05 or smaller)
- black Sharpie paint pen, fine or extra fine
STEP 2 CHOOSE A PURSE
This is also pretty crucial to your success. I look for very gently used purses at high end 2nd hand and consignment shops. You want to start out with a high quality bag here. The purse on the left is a nice vintage bag made of vinyl. Since vinyl doesn’t absorb the paint well, I use the Angelus finisher to seal it after I am done. If you use vinyl, choose a bag without a lot of give and flex. These stiff sided vintage purses make a nice surface to work with. Also, you don’t need to limit yourself to purses, I have done many billfolds as well and you may prefer to start with a smaller project. My personal favorites are the soft leather bags because they absorb paint well. I keep retruning to bags made by Fossil and Coach, but don’t exclude any well made leather bag in great condition. I look for designs that provide a blank area large enough for my own design.
Start in your closet and see what you can find!
STEP 3 PREPARE THE PURSE
Here is where the fingernail polish remover comes in. It is important to remove the finish that is on the purse in the area that you want to paint. This will help the paint absorb better and that will make your paint job last longer. I use Q-Tips if I only want to remove the finish in intricate areas, or a cotton pad to remove it in larger areas. You will need to make sure the purse has time to dry completely before you start to paint.
STEP 4 DESIGN
This is where it can get a little tricky. A purse is not a nice flat uniform surface. It is lumpy, and bumpy, and has zippers, straps, and fasteners to work around. I have given up on trying to draw a design and then transfer it to the purse. Now I use a fine tip black Micron pen (or a white gel pen on black bags) to draw a freehand design. But I still like to come up with at least a rough plan of what I want to do, so I often sketch a picture of the bag with flaps and other important features and then try out my design there. For part of the design on this yellow purse, I actually made myself a little templat to use. The plunge of starting to mark up this nice bag that I have spent a fair amount of money on is always the hardest part for me!
Now for the fun part!
STEP 5 PAINT!
This is like just about any painting project, more thin coats are better than one heavy coat. The Angelus paints can be thinned with water, and I keep the first coat I put on pretty thin because the goal is to have it actually soak into the leather. The paints themselves are pretty thick and dry out quickly, so only put on your pallete what you are going to use immediately. The colors mix nicely, so even with the starter set you can make a wide variety of colors. Keep adding more paint as the first coat dries, building layer on layer until you have a rich, intense coverage.
On the wallet, I decided to paint a section with a background color. On dark purses you may want to either paint a background, or paint the design in white first so the colors will be brighter.
Don’t forget about the strap, the back or other places you can add a little special something extra. I used the template I made again here on the back side. I use a oil based black Sharpie paint pen to outline my designs and give a finished look to the bag. If it is painted on vinyl, or even a not so porous leather, I coat with the Angelus finisher which also adds a little shine.
That’s it! You did it! Wait about 24 hours before using, but then go have fun with your stylish one of a kind bag!
Love painted purses, but not sure you want to invest in making your own? Visit my etsy shop to see my current selection of handcrafted and handpainted bags.
Here are some more of my painted purses to stir your creative juices: