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Stenciling on Leather or Vinyl Furniture with Rub n’Restore

As some of you may know from tracking my blog, I am an avid costume maker and DIY fanatic. It was while doing research for a common costume dillema (how to make second hand leather or vinyl pieces match an existing costume color scheme) that I encountered this wonderful product. Rub n’ Restire has been around for a while, used by the creators to restore leather and vinyl interiors of RV’s and that sort of thing. Recently though, they’ve expanded to selling their proprietary formula, creating new colors, and even giving guidance on how DIY’ers can color change or restore their own furnishings.

As you can imagine, I latched onto this idea. But before using it on a costume, I had another thought: to try it for its intended purpose, in an unconventional way. I contacted the company, and spoke with them at length about doing a fun product test. This entry, and a future entry on the use of Rub n’ Restire on cosplaying materials, are the product of this experiment.

Stenciling on Vinyl or Leather with Rub n’ Restire

The first step is to pick a piece of furniture you’d like to revamp. In my case, it was a brand new brown vinyl ottoman that I had just purchased. My furniture is all white leather, and the brown ottoman was a bit of a sore thumb. So I decided that I would really put Rub n’ Restire through the paces and do a full scale color change, from almost black, to ivory white. To fit into my decor, I decided to do a stenciling technique on the cushions, that had more color to it.   

 The original color of the ottoman

My home has kind of a beachy vibe, featuring pebbles and cool blues and grays, so I gathered what I would need to make this ottoman fit right in:


  • Softer sand paper
  • Cleaning agent
  • Natural cellulose Sponge
  • Paper towels
  • Hair dryer
  • Paint brushes
  • Paper plate or pallet
  • Rub n’ Restire paints (highly recommend the prep product and sealer as well. Very worth it.)
  • Gloves
  • Masking tape
  • Stencil of your choice. Mine was a square 12″ pebble pattern


  1. Prep the surface. If it’s an older leather or a brand new vinyl product with a slick coating to it, you may need to lightly scuff the surface with sand paper to smooth it out or remove this shiny coating. After this, clean the surface thoroughly with a household cleaner, or the cleaner you can purchase from Rub n’ Restore. Wipe down thoroughly and even go back with a bit of water to remove the chemicals. Allow to dry thoroughly.
  2. Position and tape down the stencil. You could potentially use a light adhesive spray (think post it note stickum) This would prevent bleeding beneath the stencil, but would put gum on the covered portions. A better way to do it, would be to create your own stencil using vinyl contact paper. That way the stickum can be entirely removed when the stencil is peeled off. However, I have a lot of experience with stencils, so I went with the old fashioned approach.   
  3. The next stage can be done several differing ways. I’ll give them all to you, and let you know which one I finally chose and with which I had the best results. You can use a stenciling brush, a sponge “dabber” or even a paper towel. The technique is to dab the tool into the paint, then dab onto a dry section of the palet or a towel till you get only enough color on the brush to create a light shadow on the thing you’re stenciling. I chose to use one color only to lay down the pattern of the stencil, then go back later and fill in the tan “pebbles” with their individual colors. I used a stenciling brush, dried thoroughly, and was careful to avoid bleeding beneath the stencil by dusting lightly in a circle pattern.     Dab off excess paint thoroughly until the brush is almost dry again    Using a combination of dabbing and soft circular swirls, apply the paint  Dab off any excess   
  4. Dry with a hairdryer until completely dry to the touch, careful to move the dryer around so that no section becomes too hot.    You can even lift the stencil slightly and blow beneath it, in case there is any bleeding that may smear when you lift the stencil.
  5. Peel off the stencil, unless you are doing a one color solid pattern. If you’re doing this: leave the stencil in place and do the next coat. And so on until you have the desired coverage.You may notice areas of bleeding. In my case, I didn’t mind these, as it gave me an opportunity to create a unique pattern by combining pebbles into larger pebbles. If this is not something you want because you’re doing text or a really sharp pattern: the drier the brush, the less bleed-through. The more adhesion of the stencil, the less bleeding. Edges can be cleaned using a small amount of the Rub n’Restore cleanser or their sealant, which can remove the paint before it has cured, but this process is messy, so I’d recommend perfect prep instead.  
  6. Fix all the “mistakes”     
  7. Dry any work that is still tacky, and even dry the back of your stencil.
  8. Reapply the stencil or decide how you wish to continue the pattern over contours.        
  9. Dry this work
  10. In my case, I decided to fill in gaps or go around stubborn edges or corners with a freehand technique. So using a brush, I filled in the pebble pattern        
  11. Dry your work. I then allowed the entire piece to cure for two days. I did this so that the base color would adhere and be stable. Again, if your pattern is all one color, you do not need to do this. At this stage, your project is essentially done, so skip to the last step.
  12. At this point, I busted out the other colors. What’s great about this product is that it can be mixed. So from the 6 colors I had, I could create tons of different shades. I then went back in with a fine, sharp edged brush, and filled in the pebbles.    Now, you can go in quadrants, or you can go by color. I chose color, so that I could get the spacing and dispersal of colors more even. So I did one color at a time.
  13. Dry the work or let it stand for a day
  14. Go back to the work and do a second coat till the colors are at the saturation level you desire. If you’ve hand-mixed a color, either track what combinations you’ve used, or make a larger quantity and save it aside.
  15. I then progressed to the body of the ottoman, to do the color-change on the rest of it, prepping it identically to the stenciled portion. Now if you are stenciling OVER the color change, obviously do this first and then stencil over the top of it.
  16. After prepping the surface, squeeze some paint onto the sponge and swirl onto the surface for a very light coating. I began with tan, to bring the dark surface to a lighter color, before using the white. I did this because I had smaller portions of the colors, to test them, instead of a larger quanitiry. 
  17. Dry the work   
  18. Apply as many coats, drying in between, until full or desired coverage is achieved.    
  19. I then applied the white in the same way and allowed the ENTIRE piece to dry for several days.
  20. Final step: apply several coats of the sealant to the piece, allowing it to dry in between coats.

This is the finished ottoman in all its pebbly glory: 


As you can see, it fits right in, and my dogs even love it more than the table that it replaced.

Some notes of caution:

The paint is low VOC but it is a bit stinky. Open windows. But I did this project while pregnant, and my baby is fine.

The color formulas vary. You can alter or create a new color by using the clear coating sealant as the base and adding the universal colorants that they add to paint cans in the hardware store. For example: my ivory wasn’t “bright” enough to match my couch, so I went to ACE and got them to sell me a paper cup full of the universal colorant drop for white, and added a few to the paint bottle

If you live in a humid area, no matter what you do, this product will feel tacky, as if it never dries. It does. It is sealed. And there is a solution I have developed. After the color had cured for a week or so, I rubbed the whole thing down with orange oil furniture polish, and powdered with baby powder. This I let sit for several more days, then wiped with more oil polish. I now clean the piece only with the polish. This keeps it looking shiny and dirt free.

This is not an ultimate forever color. The more coats you have to apply, the more you will later deal with wear. The wear occurs at points of friction or folds. The good news is, you can go back with the color, reapply, and the scuff or fade will be re-restored just fine. Just be sure to clean the surface of oil or waxes BEFORE reapplying.

This can be used on any vinyl or leather surface: purses, shoes, costume accessories pieced together from old coats, furniture, and even a few things you may not expect (see more in my next Rub n’ Restore article on cosplaying)

How do I buy this fabulous product?

Visit their website at http://www.rubnrestore.com and if you have questions about how much of the product you need, color matching, custom color, or how to’s feel free to contact their customer support, run by the charming Lesandre, who is the daughter of the company CEO. They are really spectacularly helpful.

I am supremely pleased with the outcome, and it’s a beautiful addition to my home.

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