Monday, 20 July 2015

Faux Leather Masterboard Part 1

With only five days to go till my next chemo, I am taking advantage of feeling pretty well, and spending time being creative as much as possible. I have been working on some projects with a deadline, that I am not able to share with you until the recipients have received them, but today I began a new masterboard, which I am going to be using for one of these projects. I need to get these done before I feel too poorly again, because if my next treatment affects me worse than the last one, I may not be well enough to complete the projects in time. This means that the angels have had to take a bit of a back seat for a while!

Last year, I made some faux leather to cover my recycled mini-album. I didn’t give much detail of how I made this so I thought I would share this now.

I had an idea yesterday. The masterboards I made last year were supposed to be used in the normal way, being cut up and used for projects, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to cut them up – they were too useful as photographic backgrounds! It suddenly occurred to me that if I made two identical masterboards, I could use one and keep one, so this is what I am now going to do.

So I have started making two identical faux leather masterboards, working on them both concurrently, so that they will be finished together. Otherwise I may go off the boil if I complete one, and won’t bother to make the second! I know how undisciplined I can be!!

Faux leather is amazing. It looks and feels exactly like leather – quite different from the original card from which it is made. The transformation of one material into another is astonishing, and so easy to do. The only thing it lacks is that distinctive leather smell but I expect one day someone will bottle that and we’ll be able to spray it on for that ultimate authentic touch!

Some people start with craft card (which is a dull buff colour) or brown cardstock, and then add some colour and dimension with distress inks, but I prefer to start with whatever card I have handy and then paint it with acrylics. In the past I have used recycled card with printing on it – if you are going to paint it it really doesn’t matter what colour it is or what is on it, so if you have any patterned card that you don’t like, for instance, or any old bits of junk card for recycling, that will do fine. The better quality card, the less likely it is to fall apart, so you don’t want anything too thin and flimsy. I have seen faux leather made from toilet paper middles, and this is usually pretty poor quality card, but it works fine – it just requires fairly careful handling.

I have looked at various different techniques for making faux leather and combined different aspects of each, to develop my own slant on this. There are various tutorials available on Youtube and elsewhere online and if you are more into papercrafting and perhaps don’t have access to acrylic paints, you can get good results with distress inks.

Faux leather embosses very well, too, using embossing folders. You can leave the painting until after it is embossed if you want, so that you can emphasise the peaks and troughs in the texture with lighter and darker shades, to give the effect of tooled leather, which looks extremely realistic.

Card has to be altered to soften the fibres in order to give it that soft, flexible feel so characteristic of leather. Not only does it handle like leather, but the surface has a soft, suede-like feel almost like chamois leather. Painting and sealing gives it the more normal leather finish. With ink, you could probably retain the chamois finish, but I haven’t tried this.

To soften the fibres, I took a small spray bottle and poured a little glycerine into it – glycerine is very inexpensive and easily obtainable from your local pharmacist. This is diluted with water in approximate proportions of 1:6 glycerine to water. Shake the bottle to mix the solution.

Lay out the cardstock on a non-stick craft sheet and spritz it well with the liquid. It needs to be pushed into the card so that it is soaked up by the fibres. To begin with, it is fine to rub it gently with your fingers but as the process goes on, it is important not to damage the surface too much, and a patting motion with the fingers outstretched and the palms flat works best.

Here is the card after the first spritzing.

01 First Spritzing

Once the solution has been sufficiently absorbed, it is necessary to scrunch the card up. After the first spritzing it is still quite stiff, so I scrunched and unfolded it twice, the first time emphasising the widthwise direction and then the lengthwise, taking care not to tear it when flattening it out again. This becomes increasingly important as the process advances as it becomes ever more fragile the wetter it becomes.

Here it is scrunched up for the first time.

02 First Scrunching

The next picture shows the second spritzing carried out.

03 Second Spritzing

You can see that the label on my bottle is not surviving this process very well! I had the glycerine solution all over my hands and it started to break down the fibres of the label too.

The card scrunched up after the second spritzing.

04 Second Scrunching

You can see that it is now possible to scrunch it up quite a bit more tightly.

Here it is flattened out and the third spritzing applied.

05 Third Spritzing

Observe how much more creased the card has now become.

Here it is after the third scrunching – quite a tight ball.

06 Third Scrunching

It is important to take your time when unscrunching it at this stage because it has become very fragile and will tear easily. Spread out, this is what it looks like. Lots of creases running in every direction. I patted it well to flatten it out.

07 Process Complete, Awaiting Drying

It has a slightly translucent appearance while it is still wet, and it is very floppy and soft, and needs careful handling. I took both sheets down and laid them out in the airing cupboard to dry overnight.

Once dry, I can apply the paint, and then it will really start to look like leather.


  1. Wow, what a useful and interesting little tutorial - thank you! I may well try this myself, as it would be great for a book cover. (someone remind me to buy glycerine next time I'm in the chemist's!).
    Hope you have got your project finished and that the chemo goes ok & doesn't leave you feeling terrible.
    Lizzie (via WOYWW #61)

  2. This is a great technique and I look forward to seeing the finished Masterboard.
    Have a crafty week and take care, Angela x


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