How-To Stamp Leather
FYI – Not all leather is receptive to stamping. Some leather has been treated and finished in such a way that it will NOT accept impressions from your stamps that will last. The impression may be visible at first but then when you bend or handle the leather, the impression will disappear. Experiment with the leather you wish to stamp to see how it reacts. I have been able to stamp on some leathers that I thought would not work. What a great surprise!! The best choice for stamping leather is unfinished vegetable tanned (aka – veg tanned) leather. It is what has been used for generations to stamp and tool. Many of us in the USA are familiar with the tooled leather belts cowboys have been known for wearing. Most of those are made from vegetable tanned leather and have been tooled or embossed. The key to stamping veg tanned leather (and others!!) is water. Your impression will NOT last if water is not used during the stamping process. I’m a lover of all things leather but certainly don’t consider myself to be an expert on the subject. I’ll do my best to help you learn as I continue to learn as well 😉
A few tools and materials are required:
*Leather – Veg Tanned Leather was used in this demonstration
*Hole Punch Pliers – 1.5mm is the ideal size for riveting with all of my nail head rivets
*Steel Bench Block (a 4″ steel bench block was used in this demo.)
*Acrylic Paint or Leather Dye
*StazOn Ink Pad in Black
*Sandpaper – I used 220 Grit
*Sponge Paint Brush
*Deerskin Leather Lace
First, find the center point of the the items you wish to rivet and mark with your extra-fine point Sharpie. Use the 1.5mm Long Reach Hole Punch Pliers to place a hole in each design element as well as the base shape of your design (the cross is the base for our demonstration).
Dip your sponge in the clean water and squeeze out the majority of the excess water. Glide your sponge over the leather shape until it is well moistened. You may need to wipe your leather with the sponge 2 – 3 times. You don’t want your piece to be drippy wet but you need it to be fairly wet so the letters can be stamped correctly.
Go over your base shape 2 – 3 times with your sponge. You will see the leather begin to darken. Allow the water to soak in for a minute or two!
Take your letter or design stamp and place it where you want it to go and press firmly and evenly. Sometimes I will rock it up and down or side to side just slightly to make sure I get a good impression. The danger with doing that is if you lift the stamp off of the leather accidentally, you may end up with a double impression and then you’ll want to cry!! WARNING – If you are using stamps made for metal stamping (not leather stamping) you will need to be careful when you press or rock your stamp. If you press down too hard the edge of the stamp may make an unwanted impression on your leather. Getting the feel for this will come with practice and a few mistakes!! That’s part of the journey. You may even end up loving your mistakes and decide to incorporate them in future projects!! HINT – Tools made specifically for leather stamping will not give you a problem because of the way they are made. However, leather tools will NOT work for metal stamping. Believe me I’ve tried and been very disappointed!
Continue stamping your word, phrase or design.
Take your Extra Fine Sharpie marker and carefully trace over the impressions. Be super careful with this step because your mistakes can be fatal for your creation!! HINT – If you do make a mistake with your Sharpie, try using some fine grit sand paper to “erase” your mistake before giving up. Rub the sand paper over any stray mark. It may remove some of the leather but just rub over other areas the same way to create a distressed look for your entire piece. Your mistake may be a blessing in disguise!!
Paint or use leather dye to add color to your leather. Personally, I just paint or dye right over the lettering. You can go over the lettering again later with your Sharpie. You may want to add more than one coat of paint or dye. For the sample, I used black paint around the edges and then gave it a dry brushed effect with the black paint. There’s no method to the madness – just go with it! To give the leather flowers more dimension, I stamped them with a rubber stamp using my StazOn black ink pad. I LOVE that stuff!!
After the paint and ink have dried, you can trace over your letters again with your Sharpie. To add more rustic flair, I sanded the edges (a little here and there) with sand paper.
Instead of using a Sharpie marker to color in your letters, you can simply use leather dye and allow the excess dye to settle into the impressions (which will make your letters darker and cause them to stand out). Don’t be afraid to try something different or experiment. Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it won’t work! That’s how so many useful things have been created. Most of all…Be Creative. Have Fun.
I riveted the flowers (see NAIL HEAD riveting tutorial) to the center of the cross adding a decorative metal piece I “painted” black with a Sharpie. I also attached some Deerskin Leather Lace so this could be used as a Christmas ornament. There are so many possibilities with leather, paint, dye, riveting and stamping. You could easily turn this into a key chain by adding a split ring with a key fob. It would make a great decorative element hanging from a bag or purse. Use leather to create luggage tags, wedding or shower favors, pet ID tags, etc. Don’t forget to grab some of my bracelet blanks to stamp, dye/paint, and rivet with. Think outside the box and go on a creative journey. Praise God that He gives us the opportunity to express ourselves with the creativity He has wired us with!! So. Cool.
Take something ordinary and turn it in to EXTRAORDINARY!!!
I hope this gets those creative juices of yours going CRAZY with ideas!