How to restore the distressed leather couch with leather paint?

Leather paints can be used to change to a lighter color and hide dark stains; but if applied too thickly, they may obscure the natural marbling for which distressed leather furniture is prized. To preserve or create a distressed look, dilute any Rub ‘n Restore® leather paints with Clear Prep+Finish™ (a glaze). Experiment with various techniques and tools. Don’t be afraid to thin or erase some of your work. This video demonstrates:

  • 00:21 – Choosing a print color
  • 01:00 – Preparing your sponge
  • 01:50 – Mixing a diluted glaze
  • 02:16 – Spritz water for chaos and flow
  • 02:50 – Dab and disperse the glaze
  • 04:00 – Erasing (if necessary)
  • 05:00 – Takeaway tips
  • 05:17 – Other techniques for the adventurous!
  • 05:54 – The next afternoon; the matching sofa
  • 06:29 – Rethinking the print color
  • 06:56 – Swiping-dispersing method
  • 07:29 – The following weekend wrap-up
  • 07:55 – Stripping some of my first experimental sections
  • 09:35 – Leather can take a beating and still looks great!

Some tips:

  • Dilute Color with Clear Prep+Finish™ to make a glaze. This makes the color more transparent and easier to blend, especially with noticeably different colors (i.e. printing a dark brown over a light tan). Click here for more info and ratios.
  • Spritz the surface with a little water to allow the color or glaze to follow a natural chaos. It also increases your working time before the color begins to dry.
  • Use one sponge to apply; use a second to disperse and blend. Leave some areas thin or even untouched.
  • Disperse and blend the color before it dries to avoid any harsh lines or marks.
  • Periodically step back and assess the appearance from afar to ensure you’re not overworking any area and getting too monochromatic (solid appearance).
  • Come back with a dirty sponge (but not much glaze) for missed nooks and crannies.
  • For a very defined print over the base color, use a paintbrush to apply the color or glaze to your sponge. This results in a cleaner, finer print. Saturating the sponge will lay the color on too heavily and therefore obscure more of the base color.
  • For a burnished appearance, concentrate the color along seams, piping / welting, or tufted buttons, and blend outward. 
  • The color will erase more easily from non-absorbent, finished leathers. Try a rag with water or rubbing alcohol. You can also dry or wet sand with 500 grit sandpaper or a ScotchBrite® pad.

Heidi beautifully demonstrates a sponge and rag technique at minute 3:26 here:

Fear not, if you’re too heavy-handed with the leather paint, simply continue to use (and abuse) it. The leather will continue to distress as it did before and age beautifully.

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  1. I purchased some of your products 30th September 2017. #15036. Just now decided to get started. It’s been unopened. Does it have a shelf life? Can I still use it?

    • Here’s information about shelf-life. It is a bit old, the mineral pigments will have created a sludge at the bottom, but hopefully you still have your stir stick. Thoroughly stir it to re-grind the pigment, and it should work just fine.

  2. Can I use a turquoise color/turquoise glaze to change a color and then go over it with a splotchy black glaze to create an antiqued finish or in specific areas or would the black glaze cover the turquoise? Trying to acheive a look like how some chesterfields have a blacked buttons/seems but an underlying color throughout the main body. Basically are there any instruction of creating a marbled/antique look using two non-browns and might have more contrast between them than brown? Any instructions on blending if doing tuft/seem work? I’m debating whether to order midnight blue and do a solid or turquois with black marbling/seem antiquing because I think that will darken the turquoise’s brightness

    • Yes, you can do almost anything you want. If you don’t want the black to obscure the turquoise then use your sponge to do a printed appearance or concentrate it on tufting and buttons, seams, or piping to create a burnished look.

    • The second video on this page (Heidi from BabeCave TV) shows a Stone base with a Slate printing over the top. If you don’t want a color as dark as Slate, just modify the Stone with a little Slate (for a cooler grey) or Espresso (for a warmer grey).

  3. Hi Lesandre. I put a re-coloring balm on a non-absorbent leather couch. It quickly rubbed off (on my light haired dog). Do I need to use a specific type of re-coloring balm or can I lightly scuff it up. I did try and sand the matching chair with very fine sand paper and it seems to be holding up much better, but the dog hasn’t gone on that one so I don’t know if it’s just that it gets less use.

    • If your leather is non-absorbent, it is finished leather, and a balm is not going to penetrate. But a new finish (like ours) will correct the issue. Dog claws are more like 220 grit sandpaper, and will damage a finish over time, such that they’ll require touch-up, which is easy. See here about matching color.


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