Painted Leather Distressed Cuff

painted leather distressed cuff

I’m always up to try something new and I’ve been wanting to try painting on leather for awhile.  I’ve seen a lot of beautiful embossed and painted leather designs but I wanted something a little more modern.   I was also a little intimidated to try and paint freehand, so when I saw a display of decorative metal screens at Home Depot I thought I had found my answer.


distressed leather cuff materials

  • Leather Cuff
  • Stencil (I used a decorative metal screen from Home Depot)
  • Metallic Acrylic Paint (by Plaid)
  • Paint Brush
  • Scrapbooking Brads (These are by 7Gypsies)
  • Ice Pick
  • Sandpaper

1. Tape Down Your Stencil

distressed leather cuff - tape down the metal

  • Tape the stencil down centering it horizontally and vertically over your leather cuff.

2.  Paint

distressed leather cuff - paint

  • Using a paint brush, dab the paint carefully over the stencil openings.
  • You may need 2-3 coats.
  • Let each coat of paint dry before the next layer.

3.  Lift off the stencil and aaaaaaauuuuuughgh!!!!!!!!!!!

distressed leather cuff - pull off the tape and oh crap

  • Pull the tape off the leather cuff and run to the kitchen sink swearing.
  • Hold the leather cuff under hot, hot water and scrub furiously with a paper towel muttering  crap. crap. crap. under your breath.
  • Let the leather cuff soak in the hot water for a few minutes.  Some of the wetter paint will come off,  but most of the dried paint layers will stay on.  (Acknowledge that this is a good thing, because I wasn’t sure the whole painted leather thing would work anyway.)
  • Mope around for a bit.

4.  Now what.

distressed leather cuff - after washing and scrubbing

  • Decide that this thing can maybe be saved.

5.  Add Brads

distressed leather cuff - punch holes with an ice pick

  • Using an ice pick, poke a hole into the center of each design where you want your brads.
  • Insert brads into holes and bend tabs open on the back side.

6.  Distress the Edges

distressed leather cuff - sand and distress the edges

  • With sandpaper, sand around all the edges and corners.

7.  Add more brads

distressed leather cuff - adding more brads

distressed leather cuff - back side with brads

Add some more brads if desired.  Here is what the back of the painted leather cuff looks like with the brads showing.

distressed leather cuff

So this is not at all what I intended the finished leather cuff to look like.

In my mind it was going to be very modern with clean lines and a simple painted leather design.  But sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them.

I did learn a few things.

  1. I painted directly onto the leather without using any primers or special paint.  And it stayed on.
  2. I wasn’t sure if the brads would work, or if they would be uncomfortable on the back side of the cuff but it turned out they worked great. Scrapbooking brads are inexpensive and easy to find. Some of the leather brads that I’ve seen lately require a special tool that I didn’t have on hand.

So here’s my question – did I rescue this DIY FAIL?  Part of me still looks at it and sees the messy painted leather cuff I almost tossed in the trash. The other part of me sees the distressed, kinda cool leather rocker thing. What do you think?

Like making jewelry?  Check out these project links:

believe-and-let-go finished bracelet stack turq 100 turquoise stone oval ring made with epoxy clay


  1. I think your finished bracelet ended up great! It’s distressed and edgy and I would wear it all the time!

  2. Nathalie says:

    Well… even though I completely understand the moping and swearing part, in my mind you have saved this project very nicely. Hats off to you that you pulled through and didn’t throw it out. Because I think it looks great that way. I like the distressed, used look, especially on leather.

    • Thank you Nathalie! I fear we are all hardest on ourselves – and this may be one of those cases. Thank you again for the validation and kind words. :) karen

  3. Katherine says:

    I love your frustrated comments! Truth be told if you didn’t share those comments with us I would have never guessed there was any screw up. It looks very cool to me!

    • Call me the “honest crafter”! After the initial frustration, I laughed about it and thought others might too. With so many DIY’s, all you see is the perfect pictures and it’s nice to know other people might occasionally go through this. Glad you liked it! k

  4. June Ferguson says:

    Hi Karen! I loved seeing your “honest” craft project! So nice to know that I am not the only one who has those kind of results sometimes! I completely understand your impulse to throw it in the trash, but I too think you did a good job of saving your project. Wear it proudly, and people will be clamoring to know just exactly how you got that “grunge”-look leather bracelet!! :-)
    June in KS

    • Thanks June!! I think it happens more than we all want to admit. ;0)
      At least I leaned something new with this mistake/flubb/whatever you want to call it, so I’m pretty happy with that. Thanks again for the kind words! k

  5. I love it too. I’m all about rustic jewellery and this is rustic chic. I would maybe cover the brads with ultra suede if I was going to sell the design but I love the idea of using them.

    • Hey Corrie – That’s a really good idea, especially if you are selling it. I’ve worn the cuff with the brads exposed and the cuff is loose enough they don’t bother me. But if I was selling it, you are right, they should be covered up. Thanks for the vote! :) k

  6. I’m sorry I just couldn’t stop myself from laughing at your comments, so funny!! There is always a moment when things just go wrong but I think you are doing amazing! I love the result!

    • Hi Onel – Yes, sometimes it does go wrong!. The trick I think, is believing you can fix it! Thank you so much for your sweet comments…they are much appreciated! :) k

  7. Nona Murphy says:

    Lol, lol, and lol! The crap, crap, crap comment was so real. Been there many times. My daughter reminds me that the ‘mistakes’ are really beautiful art and one of a kinds, if that’s a word?! Thanks for sharing.

  8. You used my favorite word–crap. How many times I have used it. I too like the distressed look. Perfection is never my goal which is good since I never achieve it and am happier with those results. Keep going.

    • Thanks for the comments! I agree that perfection in crafting is something that can drive you crazy and take away a lot of the fun. Happy to see I’m not the only one who believes this. Thanks again! Karen

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