D-I-Dye: Renewing A Leather Handbag

blue dye

Photo: Wren

Portland native and fashion blogger Little Ocean Annie is more than super cool and stylish. The trendsetting fashionista also has an affinity for fun DIY projects that appeal to crafty types with a serious thrifting habit. I stumbled across Annie’s purse revamp tutorial a few months ago and immediately sought out a neutral handbag of my own to alter. A visit to a nearby flea market resulted in an ideal find – an off-white vintage leather handbag, prime pickin’ for a delightful dye session. With my weathered purse, a color dye set, and Annie’s easy-to-follow blog post, I successfully turned a dingy, nondescript shoulder bag into a pretty pastel accessory!


Do you own an older leather handbag that could use a fresh coat of paint (literally)? If so, this simple DIY project is for you! For starters, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • White, off-white, or neutral leather handbag
  • A color dye set. I used Tarrago Dyes color dye set.
  • Masking or packaging tape
  • Cloth rag

Once you decide on a dyeable leather handbag and a fresh new color, tape off areas of the handbag that you do not wish to dye with masking or packaging tape. My painting hands are less than steady, so I made sure to mask off any and all areas that I wished to stay dye-free, including my bag’s silver hardware, and the surface of the shoulder straps.


Included in the Tarrago Dyes set is a small bottle of clear preparing solution. Use a disposable cloth rag to wipe down the surface of your handbag with the preparing solution. This solution should dry immediately. From there, you’re ready to begin dying your handbag!


Use the dye set’s included tiny paintbrush to apply dye to the handbag’s seams. Once that’s taken care of, apply dye to the handbag’s surface in a circular motion, using the dye set’s included sponge. The dye dries relatively quickly, so if you’re able to apply more than one coat, I say go for it!


Voilà! Like Annie said, this DIY project is “an awesome way to give new life to old things that are still usable!” In less than an hour or so (depending on the size of your handbag), you can easily transform a mediocre accessory into a statement-making bag, in a personalized color choice to accentuate a flawless ensemble!

What do you think, ModReaders? Does my handbag look better in a hue of sky blue? What DIY projects are you working on these days?

About Annie

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  1. Meghan 06/01/2010 at 6:09 pm #

    I have to try this! Do you think it would work with black leather?

  2. Lauren (ModCloth) 06/01/2010 at 6:14 pm #

    Soooo pretty Annie! I would of never thought this would be possible to do at home!

  3. ikh 06/01/2010 at 7:05 pm #

    I’d be curious to see if the dye rubs off onto clothing…

    Meghan, as this is dye and not paint, my guess is that black leather can probably not be re-dyed. It’s kind of like having black hair dyed. You’d need to do something destructive to lighten it up before dying it another color.

  4. bloody 06/01/2010 at 7:22 pm #

    ohhh i wish i had seen this a couple of years ago. i ruined this great betsey johnson purse trying to re-dye it. :[ i failed!

  5. Katie 06/01/2010 at 8:41 pm #

    So cool! I had no idea I could do this myself! Thanks for the guide, too, because I probably would have ruined something like “bloody” did. 🙂

  6. Annie Robertson 06/01/2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Thanks for featuring this! IKH- it doesn’t rub off on clothing! Of course, be super careful with your nice clothing, but it’s totally fine!
    Meghan-This particular brand’s labels claim it works on black leather, because the primer that comes with the kit prepares any color leather! Supposedly, you can dye black leather white!

  7. Nickie Frye 06/01/2010 at 9:51 pm #

    You can also buy shoe dye in a spray form at most shoe repair shops. I recently rescued a vintage Ralph Lauren bag this way. I’m going to add some studs to it, then list it in my shop. One of these days when I have an extra minute that is… 😉

  8. meep 06/02/2010 at 5:44 am #

    tarrago dyes should work on black leather as it doesn’t soak into the leather but merely covers it. I ordered some dyes last week to try it on black sandals, I’m going to use a white coating first though, you never know!

  9. Dina 06/02/2010 at 9:56 am #

    Now there’s an idea…Looks bloomin’ fantastic!

  10. Mousevox Vintage 06/02/2010 at 10:59 am #

    Oh! This is fantastic. I’m a new-ish follower of her blog and missed this tutorial, so thanks for sharing!

  11. Annie (ModCloth) 06/02/2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone! And also, thank you Annie, for giving me the idea! This project was super fun and easy – I’d highly recommend giving it a try!

  12. meep 06/03/2010 at 12:56 pm #

    I just did my black sandals in a white coating, and after just one layer, the results are fantastic! Full coverage! I’m superpleased ^^

  13. Brittney M. 06/07/2010 at 8:29 pm #

    that is absolutely amazing! i will definitely have to try this soon. thanks so much for sharing! great new color!

  14. cristina blake 07/08/2010 at 5:25 pm #

    That’s amazing! I will try it with my handbag soon.

  15. Britt B 09/19/2010 at 3:58 pm #

    What a great idea this is! I didn’t think this was something I could DIY at home, but now I’ll definitely try it. I do have a question about the dyes though- ever since I saw the movie The Darjeeling Limited, I’ve lusted after the LV suitcase set in the movie. I have some plain suitcases I’ve been wanting to transform into my version of the LV luggage. Is the dye a consistency that’s suitable for hand painting? Do you think that product would work for that kind of project? Any info would by much appreciated. Thanks for the great blog!

    Darjeeling LV Suitcases:

  16. Ann 10/13/2010 at 3:06 am #

    Thanks for information!

  17. claudia 03/07/2011 at 6:42 pm #

    how many bottles of dye did you need for the purse? I plan to dye a large shoulder bag and wondering how many bottles i should order.
    thx for sharing!

    • Annie (ModCloth) 03/08/2011 at 4:09 pm #

      Hey, Claudia! Great question. I used about one and a half bottles of dye, so I’d recommend ordering at least two full bottles! I hope you have fun with this project, let us know how it goes!

    • claudia 03/08/2011 at 4:21 pm #

      Great thanks! I am ordering dye today, will let you know how it turns out!

  18. jen 08/08/2013 at 12:09 pm #

    This sound like an awesome project. I absolutely love that shade of blue! Can you tell me which shade of Tarrago dye you used? Thanks 🙂

  19. Claudia 10/21/2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Hi Annie,

    I finally dyed my bag and it looks awesome. Do I now need to apply a conditioner or waterproofer? Thanks,


  20. Neo 03/30/2015 at 12:38 am #

    Great!..I want to dyed my handbags so that it looks beautiful.

  21. Grady Elliott 10/16/2018 at 10:20 am #

    I am glad to find it. There are so many bloggers working on this part but this is one of the best innovative post ever. Thanks for such post.

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