How to Create an Embossed-Leather Picture Frame

By J.W. Carpenter , last updated January 22, 2012

Creating an embossed-leather picture frame at home is a great way to make a personalized holder for a special photo. An embossed-leather picture frame also makes a wonderful, creative, heartfelt gift that virtually any friend or family member is sure to treasure. With a little practice and the right tools, virtually anyone can develop the skills to easily create a unique embossed-leather picture frame in no time at all.

Get Your Tools Together

Before you can get started, you’re going to need to get several tools together. While there are many excellent leatherworking kits on the market, many packages include more items and tools than you really need for this type of job. While a proper swivel knife and leather-modeling tool can be useful in this type of project, you can easily make due with a couple common tools available at any hardware store. However, you will need to buy some proper embossing tools made specifically for leatherworking.

There are two types of tools for embossing simple leather projects, both of which can be found at most hobby and craft shops. First, leather stamps are great for this type of project. They are available in a wide variety of designs, from simple geometric shapes to plant and flower designs or even animal motifs. Leather stamps will allow you to really personalize your picture frame. You can even create a theme that matches the picture you plan to put in the frame. Note that you will need a wood or rubber mallet to imprint the stamps in your leather.

Embossing wheels are another great tool for this type of project. Embossing wheels are used to create a uniform, repeating pattern perfect for a picture frame border. A wide variety of wheel patterns are available, which can easily be installed onto a standard overstitch or embossing wheel tool. These are commonly available in hobby and leather shops everywhere.

Once you have chosen your stamps or wheels, you’ll need to get a sharp utility knife, a hot-glue gun, and a common sponge at the hardware store.

Buy Your Materials

Once you have chosen a picture frame, visit your local hobby shop and buy a nice piece of leather somewhat larger than the frame on each side. You will be cutting this piece to match both the outer and the inner edge of the picture frame all the way around. A soft, rich leather is easiest to work with, but choose the leather that best suits your creative needs. While you’re at the hobby shop, choose a leather polish that matches your leather piece. You will apply this polish after embossing it. A good hobby shop clerk will be able to help you choose an appropriate leather and polish.

Prepare and Emboss the Leather

Now you need to cut your piece of leather to size. First, determine how you want your leather to be positioned on the picture frame. You can cut the leather so that its edge is flush with both the inner and outer edges of the frame. You can also cut it such that the leather wraps around the edges, in which case you should use a soft, malleable leather. Once you have decided, carefully draw out a pattern onto the leather piece. Use a pencil to create a light but visible line. Take great care to cut evenly along this line with your utility knife. A thick wooden ruler will help guide the knife in a straight line. Note that you can cut at an angle to create a nice beveled edge instead of an abrupt straight edge.

Now it’s time to emboss the piece. No matter whether you are using leather stamps or embossing wheels, test them on a piece of scrap leather before going forward on your main piece. Before embossing, lay your leather on a hard flat surface and wet it with a sponge so that the leather is moist but not completely soaked. Note that both the work side and the reverse side of the leather will typically reveal the effects of the stamp or wheel. Experiment with the scrap leather to find the preferable effect. When you’re finished with your main piece, allow the leather to dry thoroughly to fix the patterns. Then give the piece a good polish.

Attach the Leather

To attach the leather to the picture frame, use a hot glue gun to dab several dots of adhesive to one corner of the frame. Position and affix the leather to that corner and let it dry for several minutes. Then work your way slowly around the frame, carefully positioning the leather in place with the glue. Finally, when everything is dry put a photo in the frame!

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