How to Create a Faux Leather Finish Using Brown Paper

This tutorial will walk you through the steps to create a faux leather look simply by using brown craft paper, glue and paint or stain. This treatment can be used on furniture,walls, book covers and even floors!
Supplies you'll need: Elmer's Glue and water (or Matte Mod Podge), brown craft paper (brown grocery or lunch sacks can also be used), paint brushes, paint or stain of your choice.
Tear your craft paper into the sizes of your choice. Do not use scissors to cut the paper as you want irregular borders. Only use straight edged pieces on the straight edges of your project. Irregular pieces look more natural.
Then crumple your pieces into tight balls. You want to create lots of wrinkles in your paper. (Note, the roll of masking paper I used in this project was purchased from Home Depot for about $3. It can be found in the paint department.)
Now flatten your pieces out and set them aside.
Mix 1 part regular Elmer's School Glue with 2-3 parts water. You don't want your glue too watery or too sticky, but you want to be able to spread it easily over your surfaces. (I haven't tried using Mod Podge for this project yet.)
Brush your glue/water mixture onto your surface. (Note: If you have a slick or glossy surface, you'll need to prime or lightly sand it first so your glue has something to stick to. Otherwise, your paper may not adhere to it properly.)
Then lay one of your pieces on your prepared surface and brush your glue mixture on top of your paper to adhere it to your surface. You’re basically decoupaging your pieces to the surface.
Be careful to not saturate your paper or apply too much pressure. You don't want to brush out the wrinkles or tear your paper.
Now add your next piece, slightly overlapping the prior piece so you don't have gaps. Try to use pieces that match the edges of your prior piece. It's sort of like putting together a puzzle.
Then brush your glue/water mixture over your piece as you did the prior piece. Continue doing this until you've covered your project. Make sure to fold your pieces over any edges if possible.
If you develop any air bubbles, gently smooth them out, being careful to not tear your paper.
When your project is completely covered, let it dry.
Once your project is dry, you can apply paint or stain depending on the look you are trying to achieve. Here are some examples from L-R: Raw Umber craft paint; Dark Walnut stain, black paint; Red Mahogany Stain; Antique Cherry stain.
Here is a closer look at the Raw Umber Craft Paint (L) next to the Dark Walnut Stain (R). (Note, the black paint in the prior example was diluted with water and will need another coat once dry. The samples were still wet in the photo.)
Depending on your project, you can either leave it alone after it has dried, or seal it with a polyurethane. This is optional unless your project is going to need protection from heavy use or traffic. Polyurethane comes in many forms.
And there you have it! A faux leather finish that is simple and inexpensive to create. I hope you found this tutorial useful and informative. (Note, the finish on this piece was created using Raw Umber acrylic craft paint.) Good luck!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 14 questions
  • Angelia McCall
    on Apr 11, 2018

    Can you sand down places that might come out rough?

    • Bryan Starliper
      on Jan 28, 2020

      yes, as Sarah stated she did. sanding really gives the over lapping papers a better look ...not a amateur look most Kraft paper jobs look like. also try to use all the same side of paper then you wont have the 2 tone patchwork look unless you like that sort.

  • Jackie
    on May 31, 2018

    Has anyone tried brown paperbag on kitchen cabinets? I was thinking just doing the inside panel staining grey and doing chalk paint on the outside border. Any comments would b appreciated 😀

    • Bryan Starliper
      on Jan 28, 2020

      if you can do a dresser why not? sounds like it would be very nice what your thinking of doing

  • Susanne Constantino
    on Aug 19, 2019

    In the 11th picture, where you talk about the air bubbles, what is the purpose of the foil by the edge of the brown paper bag?

    There’s no mention of foil.

    Thank you!

    • Bryan Starliper
      on Jan 28, 2020

      she probably used foil under the edges so the glued paper wouldn't stick to here material she was working on

Join the conversation

3 of 199 comments
  • Rose Work
    on Feb 23, 2019

    I'm actually thinking of doing this on sturdy cardboard boxes, inexpensive for storage.

    • Bryan Starliper
      on Jan 28, 2020

      I use boxes from cereal or food etc comes in so its a smooth background compared to other cardboard. They look really nice.

  • Christine
    on Sep 13, 2019

    Love this. You’re giving me so many ideas. I can’t write them down fast enough.

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