How to Screen Print on Leather? | Ultimate Guide (2024)

The screen printing industry has enlarged its boundaries. You might be familiar with the terms, screen printing on wood, plastic, and fabrics. In this article, you can learn how easy and simple it is to screen print on leather.

You can use this versatile procedure over leather to make any kind of project. You can give a personal touch to leather-made things related to daily life.

You can create customized designs on leather products like jackets, bags, wallets, wrist watches, etc.

Yes, the process of screen printing is as simple as traditional printing. It is possible to create a wide range of custom designs by making different effects on leather to make it subtle and bold. There are some forms of leather where screen printing doesn’t work, which I shall discuss further in this article. Continue reading…

Screen Printing on Leather vs. Other Materials

Screen printing on leather requires a certain level of expertise, and you must be able to handle the complete procedure with the necessary techniques. Since leather is a natural and porous material, it is necessary to wash off dirt and sand before printing.

For this purpose, you can use a primer to bond the ink with leather.

Secondly, specifically formulated ink as described by the manufacturer is used for screen printing on leather. These inks are water-based or solvent-based to make long-lasting and durable prints in leather.

Related Article: screen printing on hats

Common inks for Screen Printing on Leather?

We can first ensure different properties in inks and then get the ink that suits the project. Several common inks used in screen printing of leather are:

PU Inks

Polyurethane inks are frequently used for screen printing on leather. These inks are flexible and don’t fade sooner. Due to their two-component system; base and harder these inks are considered ideal for leather goods.

Acrylic Inks

Acrylic inks are water-based inks that easily dry within no time. These are popular choices of workers due to their durability and resistance to fading.

Oil-based Inks

Oil-based inks can penetrate and absorb easily into the leather and give vibrant color to the design.

Equipment and tools needed for Screen Printing on Leather?

  • Screen printing press
  • Screen
  • Specifically formulated ink
  • Squeegees
  • Exposure unit
  • Emulsion
  • Ink spatulas
  • Rollers
  • Brayers
  • Lightbox
  • Cleaning material including solutions
  • Heat press
  • Tape
  • Piece of leather
  • Circuit maker

How to screen print on Leather? (Step by Step Guide)

Screen printing on leather contains many steps to be followed for better design. Some are about pre-printing preparations while some are related to the continuity of the procedure. Let’s discuss them in detail.

Step -1: Prepare the Design

It is important to prepare the design in the reverse direction, as the stencil is created on the screen in reverse. You can prepare your stencil and can order online if you want a variety in design.  With the help of a circuit maker, you can easily cut and crop the according to the desired shape.

Step -2: Prepare the screens

the second important step is the preparation of screens if you are an expert in screen printing. For beginners, it would be convenient to buy a prepared screen from the market. They are not expensive and can save you time and effort.

It is important to have some knowledge about the sizes of wooden and aluminum frames on the base of mesh count.

Step -3: Clean the screens properly

Removing dust particles or dirt can affect the print badly.  Make the screen wet and use a degreaser on it. Rinse the residues with clean fabric covering the front back and edges of the screen.

Step -4: Create a stencil

After the preparation of the screen, the next lengthy step is to create a stencil on the screen. Simply remember 3 parts; Place the emulsion on the screen, let it dry and wash off extra emulsion to fix the stencil on the screen.

An emulsion is a light-sensitive mixture, coated on screens to create stencils. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, mix up the emulsion preparing enough quantity. To apply emulsion take a scoop coater and apply a thin layer of emulsion to the screen.

No area should be left without emulsion whether it is thick or not.

Wait for the emulsion to dry completely for up to an hour or more depending upon the temperature of the place. 

Now it’s time to expose the screen to the light to harden the unwanted emulsion. Rinse it with water to wash off unnecessary emulsion, making the stencil clear. Allow the screen to dry before using it for printing.

Step-5: Clean leather

Clean the surface of the leather to be printed on, and rinse all the dirt and residues. The leather should be completely dry.

Step -6: Prepare the ink

Mix the selected ink according to the manufacturer’s advice. Be sure to prepare enough ink to be used during the entire printing work. Take care of exposing it to light and open air to maintain the viscosity of the ink.

Step -7: Start printing

Place clean and dry leather on a printing press, adequately aligning the screen with the leather. Push the ink through the stencil and on the leather with a squeegee. Allow the ink to dry. The procedure is completed now. Clean all the materials and equipment.

Is Neutralization of Leather compulsory before Screen Printing?

Neutralization refers to adjusting the PH of leather to a neutral level which is around 7. It is considered compulsory because some leathers have high PH levels which prevent the absorption of ink resulting in poor-quality print.

But in the case of specifically formulated ink, you don’t need to neutralize the leather, because some inks are formulated to be used even on the high PH level of leather.

Neutralization can be done by applying a PH neutralizer solution with a brush or spray bottle.

Common mistakes in Screen Printing Leather?

Some mistakes can minimize the possibility of high-quality print.

First, clean the leather and ensure a smooth surface for printing. When you skip this procedure the ink is not properly absorbed resulting in uneven print design.

Acknowledging the importance of suitable ink helps you move further in the right way. If someone chooses the wrong in without reading the manufacturer’s prescription, the print will be blurred, and uneven and multiple layers will be formed.

Third important point is that some workers press the squeegee unnecessarily harder. The result is ink leakage or it spreads unevenly.  A weak or dull squeegee cannot prints designs on the leather.

Screen Printing on Leather: Does Quality of Leather matter?

Yes, off course, maintaining quality is mandatory to satisfy your customers. To make your clients happy, aspire for quality prints. These quality prints can be achieved only if you use high-quality and authentic leather for screen printing.

Quality leather is smooth and thick. Always try to find full-grain leather which has not been buffed. It will help you to maintain strength and durability.

If there are holes and discoloration on the leather, it will give bad look no matter how worthy the print design you print. 

To get a quality leather consult with an expert who can guide you to select better leather for your project. Look for a trusted supplier and before purchasing ask for samples

Screen printing or Digital Printing: which one is preferable for leather?

Screen printing is a traditional way of printing leather, where high-quality and long-lasting prints are produced.  No doubt it is time-consuming and a large number of employees is needed to run a proper setup.  

On the other hand, digital printing is a modern, faster, and more efficient way of printing leather. It is lesser in quality and durability compared to screen printing. So the best choice will be screen printing for leather.

Tips and Hacks

  • Practice on scrap leather before you start working on a larger scale.
  • Do not overprint and don’t pour excessive ink to prevent smudging.
  • The use of a hard squeegee is beneficial to press the ink into porous leather.
  • Consider using a heat press to dry the ink properly.


Screen printing on leather can be completed by being careful, diligent, and accessing proper equipment. Time management and temperature regularity play a key role in producing better designs. The step-by-step procedure can help you a lot to gain professional high-quality prints.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the types of leather where screen printing is not possible?

Usually, with the help of specifically formulated ink, it is possible to print on every leather type, but some types are unable to give desired results. These types include Nubuck, suede leather, and patent leather.

Leave a Comment