So, you know that Pin circulating around Pinterest, where you can make a cheap piece of craft foam look like faux leather with just a few steps? My roommate and I gave it a go on Saturday, and I learned some stuff the hard way so you don’t have to. Read on so you don’t make he mistakes we did!

My first piece of advice is to select sheets of craft foam that are already colored like leather. I picked a couple sheets of buff color, a couple sheets of a more drab tan/khaki color, and a couple sheets of brown.

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Buff color craft foam, next to a waiting iron.

Now, the tutorials all say to crumple up a sheet of aluminum foil, to make the wrinkles and cracks that will be used for your faux leather. I’m here to tell you: don’t crumple it up too tightly.

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This is just one mistake I made for your benefit. YOU’RE WELCOME, crafters at home.

Rather then a tight ball that you’ll never be able to un-ball, just very loosely crumple and then straighten your pieces back out again.

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Much better.

Let the iron warm up to the highest non-steam setting you can. You don’t want steam.

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Press the iron and hold a few seconds over each spot. If you slide the iron around, it will tear up your foil.

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You may notice that the foam begins to roll up and warp as you do this step. A simple solution to this is to repeat this step on both sides of your foam sheet.

Now, and I cannot stress enough how important this is: do not bother using shoe polish to color the foam. Why not, you ask?

  • It smells noxious. The fumes that come out of that can stay for days. You need to ventilate your work room while you’re working with this stuff.
  • You have to use a lot of it to get very little color. I’ll show you what I mean in just a moment.
  • It makes the foam roll up A LOT.

Here, let me show you what I mean.

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A shoe shine kit from Goodwill, containing a tin of black and a tin of brown.
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I used the brown. You can barely see it.
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After using up half the tin, the difference is very subtle, and not very even.
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My roommate had slightly better luck dotting a coat of black and a coat of brown alternately, but did I mention the fumes? This one side ended up using what was left of the brown tin and half the black one.

So what’s a crafter to do? We made a quick run to Ye Olde craft supply store, and got ourselves some cheap sponge brushes and Multi-Surface Acrylic Satin Paint. You want the multi-surface because it dries flexible, making it a good choice for fabrics. If you can’t find the multi-surface, you’ll want to add a textile medium to regular acrylic paint so that it, too, will dry flexible and not flake.

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One coat of “fawn” paint, vs. 4-5 coats of “brown” shoe polish.

The paint, unlike the shoe polish, has no fumes and is safe to use indoors without opening everything. It also didn’t make the foam roll up when it dried.

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My roommate added a tiny bit of the fawn over a coat of brown, using her bare fingers and a dry rubbing method.

So, final verdict? Go with the acrylic paint instead. It costs less, it works better, and it doesn’t reek!

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Finished pieces: Wine red over brown, Fawn on buff (top of pile), Tan on khaki (bottom right), Brown with a Fawn dry rub on buff (bottom of pile).

Coming up soon, I’ll show you some things you can do with faux leather made from craft foam; but tomorrow, come back for free printable pages for an adventure journal! As always, thanks for visiting and telling your friends, and sharing what you learned here, and showing what you made!