Learn How To Make A Brilliant Upcycled Leather Bag With Paint

Vintage Image Transfer For An Upcycled Leather Bag

Whilst flicking through one of my favourite interiors magazines (LivingEtc), I stumbled upon a picture of a bright yellow Dolce and Gabbana handbag with a big red watermelon graphic on it.
What it was doing in an interiors magazine, I don’t know! Anyway, it caught my attention and sparked an idea.
Yonks ago I’d picked up an old leather briefcase/bag from a charity (goodwill) shop for a couple of pounds with the intention of upcycling it. Even though the bag was from the 50’s or 60’s it was to me the perfect size for a lap top.
The bag had been gathering dust in my loft and I’d almost forgotten about it until now. I wasn’t going to try and turn it into the Dolce and Gabbana bag. However, the designer handbag gave me the inspiration to use a bright yellow paint and vintage graphic to make my upcycled leather bag.
I don’t often work with leather so I got to experiment with painting leather and transferring images onto it, which was great fun.
I’m so happy with how my brilliant bright upcycled leather bag turned out. It’s got to be the brightest lap top bag in town there will be no danger of me losing it as you can spot it a mile away. It will definitely stand out at the next conference or meeting I attend.
How to make a stunning upcycled leather bag.  This was done with spray paints and iron on image transfer.
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What I used for the upcycled leather bag


How I upcycled the leather bag

Painting the bag

  1. The first thing I did was cover the areas of the bag that I didn’t want to be painted with painters tape. This was the metallic areas such as the buckle and zip.
    You will want to work outside if possible whilst spray painting as it can get rather smelly.

  3. Before spray painting leather with the colour paint you have to use a primer to make sure the paint will stick. I sprayed the bag all over with Montana Gold universal primer.

  5. Once the primer paint was dry I then sprayed the leather bag with Montana Gold Citrus paint. I covered the bag in two coats letting the paint dry fully between coats.
    Spray painting a leather briefcase for an upcycle

    Transfering a vintage graphic onto leather

  7. I downloaded the macaw graphics from the internet. If you look there are lots of sites where you can download royalty free images to use for crafting such are Remodelaholic. If you can’t find the image you want try Etsy where you can buy them for a small fee.

  9. I printed 2 vintage bird graphics onto dark t-shirt transfer paper
    vintage bird images for upcycled bag

  11. I then carefully cut around each image. The image was then carefully peeled from the backing paper. This is quite a tricky delicate thing to do, however, I find that if you actually peel away the backing paper rather than the image it is less likely to tear.

  13. Transfer the image to the bag according to the instructions that came with your paper. With the transfer paper I used, I placed the image face up on the bag where I wanted it and then covered it with wax paper.

  15. Then using a hot iron (no steam) the image is ironed onto the bag. I repeated with the back of the bag.
    Ironing transfer onto leather
    Graphic ironed onto leather
    Graphic ironed onto leather

    Finishing off the upcycled leather bag

  17. Once the images had been transferred to the bag. I applied two coats of outdoor Mod Podge to protect the upcycled leather bag from chips and knocks.

  19. The handle was coming unstitched in places so I just wrapped a red ribbon around the handle to protect it. I also made a colourful pom pom as a bag charm.
    ow to make a stunning upcycled leather bag.  This was done with spray paints and iron on image transfer.

Thrift store bag bought uptodate with paint and images.
This is just such a happy looking upcycled leather bag. You will see me coming with that bright yellow and red and it is definately a unique one off!
How to make a stunning upcycled leather bag.  This was done with spray paints and iron on image transfer.
This is not the first time I have used spray paints on fabric to inject a bit of colour into an upcycle. You should check out these posts:
Colourful upcycled floor lamp.
Upcycled Toys Frame
You can also check out some of my more popular crafts on favecrafts.com


40 Responses

  1. Love it Claire, so you and yet a new look! The new banner is fab, good for you, and thanks for sharing on craft schooling Sunday, great to reconnect!

    • Thank you, Sara. I hope you hade a great summer, loving getting back to craft schooling Sunday.

  2. I love finding your newsletter in my email..thank you for the ideas and time you take to share them..

  3. […] Pillar Box Blue: Upcycled Leather Bag […]

  4. I am very impressed with the boldness of this project Claire. And the paint did a fine job of covering up all the dark leather underneath. Who needs Dolce and Gabbana when we have Pillar Box Blue?

  5. This is beautiful Clarie, and now I regret giving my old leather bag to the thrift store. Thank you for sharing with us at Celebrate Your Story, and have a great weekend.

  6. Absolutely gorgeous!

  7. That’s gorgeous, I love a bit of yellow.
    I would have been worried that the heat from the iron would lift of the paint in some way, the fact it didn’t opens up a whole load of possibilities for fancying things up!
    What a brilliant makeover.

    • Thank you Julie. I made sure the grease proof paper covered the whole area where the iron touched and this stopped the paint from lifting.

  8. Your new laptop bag turned out awesome Claire! Love the colour you chose and the sweet birdy image! It looks super similar to the Rosellas that we have here in Australia! So pretty!

    • Thank you Sam. I think the bird on the front is supposed to be a scarlet macaw not sure about the one on the back. I liked them as they were so colourful.

  9. I love the colour and great technique for getting the parrot on the bag – it looks fabulous Claire

  10. This is so cute, Claire! Thanks for sharing @ Vintage Charm–pinned & tweeted 😉

  11. What an amazing transformation Claire, it looks great:)

  12. I’m here from My Thrift Store Addiction linky party.
    I absolutely love this make-over. I’m going to pin it in case I find an appropriate item to redo. Thank you for sharing this!

  13. Wow, I never would have thought to paint the leather. This looks so fun and what a great update. I love it that you remember your grandma carrying one just like it, now you have a little bit of her wherever you take it 🙂

    • Thank you, Toni. It certainly looks nothing like the one she carried now that I’ve upcycled it.

  14. That is a super repurpose!! I love the yellow 🙂

  15. I love that you are using a vintage bag for your laptop! So stylish and I love the bright color. Great tutorial and like everyone else I now see that you can apply a transfer to leather.

  16. This bag is so bright and joyful. Adding the parrots is a fun final touch. You taught me a few new techniques in this post Claire. I appreciate knowing how to do this.

  17. This is absolutely gorgeous. This is why you are the designer and I am not, because spray painting a leather bag, would never have entered my mind

    • Thank you, Ivory. I just like to give things ago and see what is possible.

  18. Love this! I knew you could paint leather/faux leather, but I did not know you could use a heat transfer on it. Great project!

  19. This turned out super cute, Claire! I love the bright colors and the birds are adorable!

  20. This is such a cool idea. I had no idea that you could paint leather and then heat transfer on top. I love the colour you chose and the parrot transfer is smashing as is the pompom.

    • Thank you! I didn’t realise you could until I decided that’s what I wanted to do and then looked into it. I will be transferring more things in the future like this.

  21. So cool, Claire! Need to study up on image transfer as that’s new to me and has so many possibilities. Visiting from Grandma’s House party.

    • Thanks, Victoria, the image transfer was really easy for the bag it was an iron on.

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