DIY Leather Couch on a budget!

Ok so I’ve wanted a real cognac leather couch for a while now.Β  Painful truth is my dream couch has a price tag of $2,800.Β  As much as I would love to just go out and get one, it’s about $2,700 above my budget.

YEP!! $100 πŸ™ˆ was my budget for a couch. LAME! It’s almost unrealistic especially if you’re looking for such a specific couch (like a leather one).Β  I’ve been on and off of craigslist , amazon, and ebayΒ  thinking maybe I could find something similar.Β  Save up! Invest $600-ish and call it good, except for that never happened.Β  I wanted a very specific brown leather.Β  Not too shiny and kind of rough looking with a lot of depth in color. LOLπŸ˜† Tall order right?! Anything under $1000 looked like faux leather from a mile away.Β  I hate faux leather LOLπŸ˜‚ unless of course it looks real than I don’t care.

It took me a while to realize I wasn’t going to get that couch. So after about a year of hunting for the real deal I decided to make this couch myself by painting one to look like leather. I started out on craigslist looking for something that had a modern shape and maybe mid century modern legs. That’s when I realized anything mid-century modern is at least $600 on Craigslist. $600 PLUS all that LABOR to make it look like leather just didn’t cut it for me.

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Quick update: If you’re looking to buy one. I finally found one on amazon the other day that looks very similar to my painted couch.

The Ugly futon in Disguise

I looked through every listing thinking there might be a glimmer of hope.Β  I came across a futon and thought hmmmπŸ€” this might work if I added metal legs to it, AND THAN IT HIT ME!! We had a futon all along.Β  It’s been sitting outside for about a year now. A friend of ours was tossing it and my husband decided to take it.Β  Funny thing is when he brought it home I told him to toss it because it was all sunburned and pretty ugly. Boy am I glad my hubby decided to use it as patio furniture. LOLπŸ˜‚

Paint your couch

Once I decided to paint the futon I surfed pinterest for fabric painting tutorials. I couldn’t find a tutorial for painting on microfiber so I decided to do a swatch test. I removed the bags that were on both sides of the futon and gave it a try. I used regular flat glidden paint (photo below) and tried three different methods.

paint your couch

#1. Was diluting the paint in water. Applying thin coats and sanding in between layers once they’ve dried. (this one was really poplular on pinterest and many said the fabric stays soft)

#2. Totally random but I tried adding vinegar to thin the paint out.

#3. Adding regular fabric softener to paint.

Diluting the paint with water and applying thin coats was a complete fail. Just one coat of paint felt super crusty and rough. When I tried to sand it the fabric simply got torn off and I didn’t see any change in softness at all.Β  Plus the color looked completely different. (photo below shows me pointing at test #1)

diy couch

The game Changer Fabric Recipe!

Adding vinegar to paint had the same results however the fabric softener test was a game changer.Β  I’ve tried fabric medium before and honestly I didn’t feel much of a difference in the softness of paint on fabric at all.Β  Mixing fabric softener into paint literally felt like the paint got rubberized. It was stretchy and super soft.Β  Once dry it moved really well with the fabric and wasn’t crusty at all.Β  YAY!! I was so excited to have found a way to make this work.

How to Protect Your Faux Leather!

I ended up trying a few different finishes on top of my painted swatches and found that brush on wax didn’t do really well at all. I was so surprised to see it almost immediately crack.Β Β  So I scratched that idea and decided to give some water based clear coat a try.Β  Honestly I didn’t think this would work but, it actually made the fabric even softer because it added smoothness and stretched just as much as the fabric.Β  The only thing I didn’t like about the water based protector was that it was too shiny. So I tried sanding it a bit and found out it sands really well.Β  (ps. I left my couch without any clear protecter for now.. just flat paint)

painted couch

Brush on wax! Makes the paint crack!

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This was the winner! Smooth and durable.

The Secret Fabric recipe!

Okay so this recipe is kind of hard to get right! I finally figured out that the secret to this recipe is not to worry about the texture of the paint as long as it goes on smooth once brushed on.

This couch took me about 4 days to complete. That includes making the legs as well.

Here’s a link for the exact fabric softener I used. πŸ˜€

paint your couch

Here’s the video version of this DIY.Β  (PS. I recommend watching the full video and reading the whole blog post if you plan on painting fabric. There’s things I mention in the video that I don’t talk about in the post and vise versa)

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What you’ll need:

  • flat paint (two shades)

I don’t know if different brands of paint will work the same. (different consistency or additional amounts of primer in paint might play a big role)

The names of the paints I used were ” artists copper”Β  in glidden and “death by chocolate” (color swatch from behir) but I got it mixed in a small glidden sample.Β  ( I got my paint at homedepot)

I used a total of about 42 ounces of the artist copper paint for the base coat and only about 1/2 cup paint of the death by chocolate for the leather effect.

  • Fabric softenerΒ  (make sure and pick a scent you like because your couch will be an air freshener for quite a while πŸ˜€ )
  • Brushes
  • Plastic Cups
  • Sponges ( I ended up using 3 for this project)
  • Spray bottle (water)
  • Clear coat (optional : better durability)


Here’s an awesome deal on brushes that have great reviews if you need any. I just used any cheap brushes I had at home as long as they don’t shed. It’s a pain getting those bristles out of the paint if your brush sheds.


Instructions :

working in smaller portions:

Add 3 tablepoons to 1/2 cup paint and stir for about 15 seconds.

Working in bigger portions:

If you want to work in bigger batches the most I would mix at a time is 1 cup of paint because the paint eventually rubberizes and is harder to apply.

Add 5 tablespoons to 1 cup paint stir for 15 seconds.

fabric paint fabric paint

Your paint should become a bit thicker in texture. It should be smooth but don’t be surprised if you notice your paint become a bit chunky. As long as it brushes onto the fabric smoothly it’ll have the same effect.Β  You’ll know you’ve added to much fabric softener if your paint doesn’t smoothly go onto the fabric but instead rolls up into littler rubber balls while you try brushing it on (reference shown in video).


  • Do not attempt to paint with this paint in hot weather. I tried to paint the futon outside at 100 degrees and the paint instantly became rubber.
  • Keep your paint and softener away from heat. Make sure they are cool or room temperature before mixing.
  • If your paint is to thick and keeps rubberizing (rolls up in balls while brushing it on) adding water or more fabric softener won’t help thin it out. Yes even though fabric softener is a thinner liquid than paint. You will need to mix a new batch. This is one of the biggest reasons I worked in smaller batches. REMEMBER the more fabric softener you add the thicker your paint will be eventually rubberizing.
fabric paint

Here’s an example of what the paint looks like on a recipe I’ve nailed! πŸ™‚

paint on microfiber

Here’s an example of a recipe with too much softener. Yes I still used this paint it went on really smooth and made no difference in texture vs the other paint. In fact 80% of my couch was painted with chunky paint like this. All you need to worry about is making sure the paint is workable even if it’s chunky (by not adding too much softener).

I gave my couch a total of three coats of paint before applying my leather effect with a sponge.Β  Don’t worry about applying too much paint. It will still be soft even with lots of paint..,think of it as creating a layer of faux leather.

fabric paintHere’s aΒ  close up on the fabric before painting.

paint your couch

Since this was a futon I completed most of the project while it was folded down. This helped get into all the tight spots.

fabric paint

Creating your leather effect!

Okay don’t freak out! This is actually the easiest step. Make sure your base coat is completely dry. You’ll need a moist sponge and some darker paint ( I used death by chocolate in glidden ) .Β  Apply some paint onto one side of your sponge and work the paint into your couch. I made sure to make all the seems and edges pretty dark.

Here’s a link for my favorite sponges! The dollar store sells very similar ones too. I love these for projects and they’re the best for washing dishes! They keep soap on them longer than any other sponges I’ve ever tried. ( ps. I don’t own a dishwasher so I’m always on a look out for great dish washing sponges)

how to paint your couch

painted couch how to paint your couch

Once my seems and edges had texture I added a few more dabs of paint in the center to even out the texture and rubbed the paint around in circular motions. If your sponge is to dry spritz some water on it.

how to paint microfiber

fabric paint

okay here’s how it should look like once completed.

diy couch

Look at the difference in color depth. I added the effect on the seat area and haven’t started on the bottom beam yet.

Making couch legs!

couch legs

We used some square tubing that my hubby welded to some flat bars.

diy couch

Than we spray painted them and attached them to our couch.

couch legs

Here’s another before photo!

how to paint your couch

What do you think? I’m in love! We’ve already had guests sleep on it!Β  Honestly I’d pick this over my other dream couch any day. YES!! Just because it’s more functional and serves two purposes. A couch and futon! Doesn’t get better than that! LOLπŸ˜„

how to paint your couch

Just take a loot at those seams.

how to paint your couch


diy couch

Can you believe this is flat paint?!Β  I have no idea why it looks shiny.

diy couch

leather couch tutorialdiy leather couch

how to paint a microfiber couch\

how to paint a couch with fabric paint

Okay than.Β  I hope this was helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Can’t wait to hear from ya! πŸ€—