Tutorial - How to paint leather

by Roman aka jar

posted by roman, jarhead, kong

This time it is about some inspiration in how to paint leather on your miniatures...

As we are talking about miniatures, sometimes mini-miniatures in their seize, the leather parts are for sure also very small compared to real size leather parts. I am not a fan of simple brown painted leather anymore as there is very much more behind it to make it look like leather, in fact it is about:

- texture
- light and shadow
- age and use of the leather
- maybe a little gentle gloss if it is lubricated with grease
- colour

First i will show you a little Step by Step how i paint leather, followed by some more finished examples with describtion.

Painting Leather - theory

There can be different colour of leather for sure.
I personnaly do mix my colours wildly for this as i did get bored by the typicall brown colours you sometimes see painted for the use to show leather. There is much more. If you want an intresting leather there is no problem to mix your basic colour yourself, simply do some experiments, like for example mixing in a drop of Dark Angels Green into Schorched Brown or even a bit of purple, or using Bestial Brown with a drop of Chaos Black, Graveyard Earth with Vermin Brown and maybe a tiny drop of pure yellow, a tiny drop of blue and black in the shadows, going into the lights with a drop of Grey and Bleached Bone to make your basic tone brighter, mixing in a drop of red for a warm leather tone, for example to get it included in your overall colour scheme of warm and cold colours if you choose that way...

I will tell you more about this later on, but first know that inspiration is everything - here are some fine examples on how leather can look in real - take a look at the colours, the textures, the light and shadow and the difference of used and new leather - sure there are different types of leather based on different animals (real leather is animal skin) and the way the leather has been worked due the process of production:


Ok, i guess you got me there. Always remember not a Tutorial Article or a Painting Video is the key to it. In fact in the end it's all about your eyes and what your brain does with the information and impression you can see and try to catch. Your perception of your sorrounding enviroment makes you see and learn an article just can kick your butt to it :)

This will be the EXAMPLE i am focusing this article on. You can see the used worn look this bag has, especially on places that have been shared very often. I will try to bring this feeling to a leather belt on the USMC bust.... now:

Practical Painting Session

I'll show you this practical go on a bigger model, but bring 28 mm examples later on...

Before i did paint the leather belt, which i want to give a used and worn look in the end i did cut in fine scratches in the Resin Material to show damage on it. Surely this is a bit over the top, but as our miniatures are small a bit of excessive work shows always better what you want to show.

I did paint the leather belt with a mix of 2nd Shadow of the Andrea Flesh Paint Set (you can use every brown colour you want for this), additional with a drop of Bestial Brown and a tiny drop of yellow on the brighter parts; for sketching the shadow areas i went into the the mix with a drop of chaos black. I did avoid mixing in a drop of blue or green into the shadows as this would get too much unity to the clothing, all mixed together in this first step on the belt, like mixing colour on a canvas - nah, i did mix in a drop of Yellow Olive in the lowest areas, why? No idea, guess because it was next to the mixing chaos on my wet palette, haha:

Next step was mixing the basic colour a bit brighter with using ... oh gosh, i have no idea. I guess it was a bit of grey and a brighter skintone. It isn't really important what you use to make it brighter, test around, important is that you make it brighter to have a good contrast that you can see when painting tiny scratches or little use on the edges, if you do it with less contrast you will not be able to see it clearly and if you do to much it looks weird. Doing to much isn't too bad, you could soften it with some additional glazes.

I did use a brush with a good tip to paint these little lines to affect the worn look.

I hope you see what i did and mean... as you can see i did put most of the attention on the edges. Next steps can be some more changes in the basic colour to set the areas more into the light... but the basic thought of painting leather is catched so far. This will bring enormous results to your models, even in 28 mm.

For bringing in a final soft gentle gloss of leater you could use for example some Glazes of thinned brown GW-Washes (for example, Sepia or Devlan Mud). Additional if you want that gloss the be stronger you can mix in a drop of satin varnish into your final glaze. This is not always needed - in the end you choose from your experience you'll get by doing it on your own.

As you can see the most important thing while painting leather is to give the texture some attention.

More Examples of painted leather

Some leather belt, same thoughts behind it, a bit of different colour:

A leather hat, which got worn by time and the close usage near salty sea water - texture!! One of the 2 following pictures is totally wrong with the colours, sorry for that as those photos have been done some while ago in a very fast way... it is about the texture:

A leather belt which went from a yellowish brown tone to a greenish, black brown - additional texture included - 28 mm:

Less texture - more light- and shadow work:

An extreme use of texturizing the material:

Closing words

I hope this article can be a good inspiration for your further leather painting. Sure the results always depend on how long you want to work on that area. You can get good results for the gaming table, but also work out high end leather by the excessive use of texturing, glazing, texturizing again, glazing, working with light, glazing again, texturizing and so on... Give it a try!

Keep on happy painting!


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