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painting on a bomber jacket

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Grant Fan, Dec 26, 2011.

  1. Grant Fan

    Grant Fan Practically Family

    For Christmas my boyfriend bought me a reproduction WW2 bomber jacket so I could paint nose art onto. I am in the process of selecting my pin up. I paint with oils and was wondering if there is any special process I need to be aware of when putting oil paints on a leather surface. Any help/ advice is welcome, if I posted this in the wrong location please feel free to move it.
  2. Tomasso

    Tomasso Incurably Addicted

    I suggest that you contact fellow Lounger HarpPlayerGene for information. He's an artist with experience painting on leather jackets. He hasn't been around here much lately so if contacting him by PM doesn't work you can use his website.
  3. Here is some of his work.. that is Gene in the middle.

  4. 442RCT

    442RCT One of the Regulars


    Here's a link to my thread about painted jackets.

    I have a lot of experience with painted jackets, both as a painter and as a collector of painted jackets. I would not recommend using oil paints on leather. Artists did use oil paints in WW2, oil paints didn't hold up well.

    The best type of paints to use on leather are: enamel or acrylic...it depends on how "authentic" you want to be. Enamel if you want to be truer to WW2. Enamels tend to crack and craze and assume a nice aged patina with wear. Most modern day jacket artists use acrylics, the acrylic paint wears very well and stretches and flexes with the leather.

    Good Luck with your project - I'd love to see pics of it from your choice of pin-up, progress to completion.:eusa_clap;)

    ps- My sister loved the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves paint job, "Little Friends",
    During WW2 bomber crews called their fighter escorts, little friends. It's not a pin-up but cute.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2012
  5. Though harder to work with as they tend to dry too rapidly, acrylics are the paints to use on leather.
    I painted my first nose art jacket (pictured here) with a solvent based 2 part epoxy ink that I used to use at a former job. It's held up very well, but the ink is not as readily available or as flexible as acrylics.[​IMG][/IMG]
  6. Tony B

    Tony B One of the Regulars

    I used to paint jackets years ago for people (flight jackets and heavy metal) and wouldn't use anything but acrylics and have found the vallejo acrylics to be very good, the range is huge and very consistant, with some brands there seems variation in quality from colour to colour, especially with the yellows, but not with vallejo so much and they are very pigmented which might seem like a silly thing to say but some paints are not as heavily pigmented as they should be but these are so the colours really glow compared to other brands I have used.

    I have never used them myself but the vallejo air range is meant to be even better and has been recomended to me by some top figure painters.

    Another thing to bear in mind is leather treatments/conditioners. I did a mate's jacket with a large skull and band logo in tamiya acylics which were the best available at the time and which I knew to be good paint, it turned out alright and he was very happy with it, a week later he turned up at my house moaning that it had gone wrong....he had put some nasty cheap leather treatment on it which had solvents in it that had destroyed the paint so I gave him a bollocking and redid it. Sure enough a week later he did the same thing again with the same treatment and same results thinking muggams here would redo it for him so he was told to "F*** off and live with it" as he seemed intent on ruining it. The stupid thing is it wasn't an old jacket and didn't need at treatment anyway.

    Moral of the story, if you do paint a jacket be very carefull what you put on afterwards...especially if you do go with oil paints...just remember you will not be applying the treatment to leather you will be applying it to a painting so dont put anything on it you wouldn't be prepared to put on a painting hanging on your wall.

    Regards Tony
  7. Good point Tony. Also be aware of the leather a jacket is made of. I painted a used Avirex A2 once that was made of a soft lamb skin leather. Had a devil of a time getting the paint to adhere as the lamb skin contains lanolin. I had the area masked off for a CBI logo, and every time I painted it in and peeled off the mask, some of the paint would come with it. I had to scrub the area with rough sand paper more times than I normally would to prep other types of leather, also used acetone on the leather countless times in an effort to get the lanolin out.
    Finally got the paint to stick when removing the mask, after about 15 tries as I recall. :eusa_doh:

    Also, I should add a few words on leather prep. You should first remove the shiny finish on the leather with acetone or alcohol. Acetone works best. Next I will sand the area to rough it up and give the surface some tooth. This also makes the leather absorbent. I've found this to be a very good trick to assure a strong bond of paint to leather. After this is all done to my satisfaction, I paint the surface first with just plain water, allowing it to soak down into the leather fibers. While it's still wet, I mix the paint with only water for the first layer, capillary action of the wet leather will draw this first layer into the leather and form a strong bond.
    Sort of the same principle as with oils, that is, paint "fat over lean" to ensure a stable painting.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2012
  8. 442RCT

    442RCT One of the Regulars

    Leather types

    I've never had any issues with acrylic paint on smooth leathers: horsehide, goat skin, or cowhide. Especially if the surface is prepped as Maj. Nick recommended. In my experience, the surface of inexpensive lambskin flakes and peels from simple wear, whether or not there's paint on it.

    I've taken painted leather patches and tried to give them an aged 'patina' look. I put the patches through rock tumblers with lava rock, gravel, and sand, I washed the leather with a toothbrush between tumblings. I took about 3-8 hour cycles before the patches assumed a nice vintage look.

    I also took 2 brands of leather conditioner; Obernauf's and Lexol and heavily soaked the painted patches to see what would happen. The conditioners had no effect that I could see on the acrylic paint.

    I did have one incident where acrylic paint 'transferred' onto my forearm. I was at an airshow and it was too hot to wear my jacket. I carried it draped over my forearm. Since it was sunny, I'd liberally applied sunscreen to my face and arms. The sunscreen lifted the paint off the leather jacket and deposited it on my skin. The paint job was none the worse for wear and still intact, maybe thinner now since the top layer was removed.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  9. Tony B

    Tony B One of the Regulars

    just as well you weren't wearing indesect repellent , it would probably have tatooed you.

    I'd forgoten about the prep work that went into the leather ,it is about 17 years since I did a jacket, now you mention it I remember the look on peoples faces when you told the you would be getting sand paper out at their jackets, ther was a few changes of mind at that stage. Some of them seemed to think they would ahve their leather painted and that in a couple of years when they got bored of it they would just wash it off.

    442RCT what is the best acrylic these days, I guess I am probably out of touch with this stuff.
  10. 442RCT

    442RCT One of the Regulars

    Paint for Leather

    Tony, I really don't have any recommendations for any particular brand of paint.
    I do agree with you that one should buy a premium high pigment brand.
    My leather prep work was simple, I left out the sandpaper step and just deglazed the area I was going to paint with some type of solvent. I've used fingernail polish remover because it's easily found. If you don't deglaze the surface, since acrylic paint is water soluble it tends to bead up and run off the leather. I imagine the sandpaper step would indeed make the paint bond with the fibers in the leather, I just never did it.[huh]
  11. Tony B

    Tony B One of the Regulars

    When I say sand paper I mean 1200 grit which I still use for work that needs gluing as this just creates a key, it doesn't really "rough it up"..if you had used the word deglaze to me in those days I wouldn't of had a clue what you were talking about.

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