DIYdiy projects

DIY Project: Painted Leather Sketchbook

by Kate Pruitt

We saw a huge range of projects submitted for the tape contest. The majority were wall designs, followed closely by painted furniture treatments. In the end, only a few objects were submitted — but within those few were some really stand-out designs, like this painted leather sketchbook by artist Amber Jensen.

Amber has been crafting these sketchbooks for a while, and she likes to experiment with different finishes and mediums on the surface of the leather. You can see more projects on her blog, and if you want to purchase a journal instead of (or in addition to) making your own, she sometimes sells her original journals in her shop, Sketchbook Crafts. I love the depth of this particular design, which she achieved by layering stain over gold leafing. This journal is quick and easy, and it doesn’t have to stop there: I would love to see leather clutches, tech sleeves or belts with this pattern, as well. Enjoy! — Kate

See the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • blue Scotch painter’s tape
  • X-Acto knife
  • pen
  • 15 pages of Arches cover watercolor paper (cold pressed) 6″ x 9″
  • 2 nickel-plated Chicago screws
  • paper punch
  • natural unfinished leather, 20″ x 7″


For Dyeing:


For Finishing:



1. Cover the entire piece of leather with Blue Scotch painter’s tape and draw your pattern on top with a pen.

2. Cut away tape with an X-Acto knife to reveal a honeycomb pattern. Don’t worry about making the shapes exact; subtle imperfections give the pattern a lovely organic quality.

3. Mix one part water to one part dye. Put on latex gloves. Apply dye to sponge and press dye into the pattern, rubbing in a circular motion. Let dry for about 10–15 minutes.

4. Gently peel the tape away to reveal the pattern. I chose to go back into my pattern with Sennelier gold shellac-based ink with my ink pen for a pretty glow. Once dry, use a clean sponge to apply acrylic leather finish — be sure to wear gloves for this step. This will seal the entire surface.

5. Cut down the watercolor paper to fit inside the book. Cut so that it is 1/2 inch smaller than the leather on each side. Punch the back of the leather and 1/2″ in from the binding in two places. Insert Chicago screws and tighten with screwdriver.

You’re done!

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