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!

Suggested For You


Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.