Learn to engrave leather with Cricut machines and make adorable bookmarks!
I really love experimenting with different Cricut tools and materials. But I love sharing the results with you even more! This time, I’m excited to share how to engrave leather with Cricut machines to make custom bookmarks. I already cut genuine leather with a Cricut cutting machine already, but I wondered if we could do some sort of leather tooling or engraving with it, too. After some experimenting, I’ve found ways to engrave leather with both the Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore machines. And, my favorite method involves the foil transfer kit! I love finding new uses for tools we already have!
Watch my full video on How to Engrave Leather with Cricut Machines premiering Saturday, August 6, 2022 at 2 pm EST on my YouTube channel:
To teach you this cool technique, I made some engraved leather bookmarks that are both fun and functional – my favorite kind of gift! The bookmark collection is free for you to download and learn with, and it includes several designs for you to pick from:
- “I love you to the moon and back” with the moon and stars,
- “Eat sleep read repeat” with an open book,
- a simple floral design with daisies,
- and “dream believe achieve” surrounded by hearts.
I’ll also show you how to make a custom bookmark for your favorite book lover using the blank template in the set and a writing font.
I used vegetable tanned leather and faux suede cord for my bookmarks. The type of leather I purchased is sold by weight, but it’s really important to check the material’s thickness. Since leather is a natural material, it’s not always consistent. Most Explores can handle materials up to 2 mm thick while Makers can work with thicker materials up to 2.4 mm. You can measure the thickness by holding the edge next to a ruler, but just make sure it will go under the Cricut’s roller bar once it’s on the machine mat.
You’ll need different tools depending on which machine you have. The Foil Transfer Tool does a good job at making light engraved lines in the leather and works with both Maker and Explore cutting machines. The benefit of the Maker machines is the ability to use the Cricut Engraving tip with the QuickSwap Housing. When added to the foil layers, the Engraving tool adds a deeper engraved design, which allows more room to soak up the leather stain. The stain in those engraved lines really helps the design pop! I’ll show you comparisons in the video on how to engrave leather with Cricut machines.
We’ll use the Deep Cut Housing and Blade to cut all the way through the leather with either kind of machine. A damp sponge will also come in handy, I’ll show you how!
I’ll also show you how to add color to your engraved leather with stain. Make sure to have disposable gloves and eye protection available to stay safe. Wool daubers, cotton swabs, butcher paper, and paper towels will also help with the stain.
And since we’re staining, you’ll also need time. You’ll get the best results by letting the leather dry completely between steps, so plan to work on your bookmarks over two or three days, especially if you use the optional leather finish.
Along with your Cricut machine, you’ll also need a StandardGrip Machine Mat and transfer tape. Several tools will also be helpful, including painter’s tape or masking tape, scissors, a TrueControl Knife, a self-healing mat, a ruler, and a scraper.
Here’s a supply list of what you need to engrave leather with Cricut machines and make your own bookmarks! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.
Materials to Engrave Leather with Cricut Machines
- Vegetable Tanned Leather 4-5oz 1.5-2.0 mm thickness
- Faux Suede Cord
- Leather Stain (I used Acorn Brown and Cherry Red) and Wool Daubers, optional Leather Finish
- Safety equipment including Disposable Gloves and Eye Protection
- Standard Grip Transfer Tape
- A way to engrave and cut your leather bookmarks (I used the Cricut Maker 3 but you can use the Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Series)
- Cricut Foil Transfer Kit – I used the Medium Tip with both machines
- Cricut Engraving Tool and Housing – for Makers
- Cricut Deep Cut Housing and Blade – for both machine options
- StandardGrip Machine Mat, 12″ x 12″
- TrueControl Knife and Self-Healing Mat
- Tools including a Scraper, Ruler, a pencil, paper towels, scissors, cotton swabs, butcher paper, damp sponge, and painter’s tape
- Design #400 – My free SVG/PDF/DXF design files are available in my free resource library (get the password by filling out the form at the bottom of this page)
How to Engrave Leather with Cricut to Make Bookmarks
- Vegetable Tanned Leather 4-5oz 1.5-2.0 mm Thickness
- Leather Stain - Acorn Brown -OR-
- Leather Stain - Cherry Red
- Cricut Standard Grip Transfer Tape
- Faux Suede Cord
- Leather Finish (Optional)
- Design #400 – My free design collection (available in my free resource library—get the password at the bottom of this post)
- A way to engrave and cut your leather, I used the amazing Cricut Maker 3 but you can also use a Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore machine.
- Cricut StandardGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 12"
- Cricut Foil Transfer Kit - I used the Medium Tip with both machines
- Cricut Engraving Tool and Housing - for Makers
- Cricut Deep Cut Housing and Blade - for both machine options
- Kitchen Sponge and bowl of water - to dampen the leather
- Wool Daubers
- Eye protection
- TrueControl Knife
- Self-Healing Mat
- Paper Towels
- Cotton Swabs
- Butcher Paper- to protect your work surface
- Painter's Tape
STEP 1: GET MY FREE ENGRAVED LEATHER BOOKMARK SVG FILES
First, download my Engraved Leather Bookmark SVG/DXF/PDF files, Design #400, from my free resource library. Each file includes five different bookmark designs to choose from, including a customizable option with hearts. I'll show you how to create the designs on a Maker and Explore using different techniques and tools.
Next, open Cricut Design Space and upload the SVG cut file. Add the file to your Canvas.
If you're not sure how to upload an SVG cut file to Cricut Design Space, watch this helpful video Made Simple training series I made.
If you're on an iPhone or iPad, here's how to download and upload SVG files to the Cricut Design Space app.
STEP 2: PREPARE AND PERSONALIZE THE DESIGNS
This is what my Engraved Leather Bookmark SVG file looks like when uploaded to Cricut Design Space.
We need to pick our designs and change some Layer Operations, so click "UnGroup" above the Layers Panel to work with the bookmarks separately.
If there are bookmarks you don't want to make, select them and click Delete. I want to make "Eat, Sleep, Read, Repeat," the flower design, and the customizable heart design so I'll delete the others.
I left space on the hearts bookmark to add a name. Drag the bookmark down so it's easier to work with and enter "90" in the Rotate field at the top menu. It's easier to add text this way.
Click the Text icon on the left side of your Canvas and type the personalization you want to use. I'll add Alexa. Then, change the field under Style to Writing. Click on the Font icon to see your options. I’m using a font I created called Maker Penwriting, which you can download from my resource library.
Click on “System” at the top, then type “Maker” in the search window to locate it.
Drag the name into place and check the layout. My name is a little too big for the open design area on the bookmark. With the top lock icon closed, change the width dimension until you're happy with the result. Mine worked best at 2.75" wide.
When you're happy with the sizing, hold the Shift key and select the name in the Layers Panel and the layer with the hearts. Click Align at the top of the Canvas and select "Align Horizontally." Then, click "Attach" at the bottom of the Layers Panel. That way they'll engrave together.
Select the personalized bookmark and hover over a corner until the curved arrow appears to let you rotate the item. Hold Shift , click with the arrow, and rotate the bookmark back to vertical. Move it back into place with the others.
Personalize any other bookmarks before adjusting the Layers.
Prepare Your Layers
NOTE: I recommend using the Medium Foil Transfer Tool to compress the leather in addition to the Engraving Tool (if you have one) to make troughs to show the dye. This takes a few workarounds, so follow along carefully!
We want the Cricut to follow the lines of our bookmarks several times using different tools. Currently, the best way to do this is by Duplicating and perfectly aligning copies of the design using different Operations.
For each bookmark, we need two Cut Layers for the bookmark shape, four Foil Layers for the Foil Transfer Tool, and one Engraving Layer for the Engraving Tool. Skip the Engraving Layer if you don't have the tool. I'll demonstrate on the "Eat, Sleep, Read, Repeat" design.
Select the "Eat, Sleep, Read, Repeat" bookmark and click "UnGroup" so the Layers are separate. Click the bookmark shape in the Layers Panel and click "Duplicate."
Hold Shift and select both bookmark shapes. Then click "Align" and "Center." Now click "Group" at the top of the Layers Panel to hold them together. We'll leave these as "Basic Cut" since we need to create the shape with a blade.
Next, select the new group of layers and then click "Arrange" and "Send to Back" so you can see the design.
Next, select the layer with the design elements for the same bookmark. If you are working on a Maker or Maker 3 with an Engraving Tool, Duplicate the design four times. If do not have a Maker or the Engraving Tool, only duplicate the design three times.
Design Space may spread out the copies. Hold the Shift key and click each copy in the Layers Panel. Then click "Align" and "Center" to stack them.
Now we'll adjust the Operation for each Layer.
If you're using an Engraving tool, click the top design layer in the Layers Panel. Click on the Operation Menu and Select Engrave. Skip this step if you aren't using an Engraving Tool.
Hold Shift and select the other four design layers (or all four without the Engraving Tool). Click the Operation Menu, then Foil and select Medium.
Now, let's put the bookmark back together. Select all of the bookmark's design layers and click "Attach." Then, drag them back over the rectangular cut layer. Select both the rectangle and design layers and click "Align" and Center Horizontally.
The design should be centered over the bookmark. If you're happy with the placement, click "Attach" to keep the design and rectangle cut layers together. If not, adjust the placement and then attach them.
Repeat these steps for each of the bookmarks you're going to make. Remember, to use the Engraving Tool, you want two cut layers for the rectangle base, four medium foil design layers, and one engrave design layer. Without the Engraving Tool, you want two cut layers for the rectangle base, and four medium foil design layers.
If you want to make more than one bookmark, placing them close together will save material. Click and drag your designs so there is about a quarter inch between them. Then, click "Select All" in the top menu. Click "Align" and "Center Vertically" to make sure they all line up. Select the Align menu again and click "Distribute Horizontally" to space them out evenly.
Select the bookmarks again (if they aren't still selected) and check the total height and width of all of the designs together in the top menu's Size fields. Write down the dimensions so you can cut the correct size of leather. Mine is about 5.5" x 6."
Make sure the right machine is selected in the top corner and click "Make It."
STEP 3: PREPARE YOUR LEATHER
Gather your measurement notes, leather, ruler, pencil, self-healing mat, TrueControl Knife, transfer tape, machine mat, and damp (not dripping) sponge.
Place the leather fuzzy side up on your self-healing mat. Use the ruler and pencil to draw a rectangle 1" taller and wider than the bookmark group dimensions you recorded from Design Space. My measurements for the three bookmarks are about 5.5" x 6." so I marked 6.5" x 7". Of course, your measurements might be different.
Use your ruler and TrueControl Knife to cut along the lines. You might have to cut a couple times to get all of the way through.
Sticking leather directly to the machine mat will leave lots of debris, so adding transfer tape as a buffer helps!
Cut a piece of Standard Grip Transfer Tape slightly larger than the piece of leather. I'm going to add about an inch to the height and width to give me a 1/2" margin all around.
Remove the transfer tape backing. Then, place the transfer tape sticky side down on to the fuzzy side of the leather.
Use your scraper tool to adhere the transfer tape to the leather.
Since the leather is thicker than most materials and we don't want the transfer tape to stick to the rollers, we won't place the material right in the corner. If there is enough space, place the leather with its top left corner 2" in from the left and down from the top. Make sure the leather lines up with the straight lines.
Now, we need to dampen the leather. Gently wipe the sponge across the leather up and down and side to side. Rewet the sponge as needed. The leather will get darker. This is good and exactly what we want! Do your best to evenly distribute the moisture on the leather.
Once you've dampened the entire piece of leather let it sit for at least 15 minutes before engraving
STEP 4: CUT YOUR ENGRAVED LEATHER BOOKMARKS
On the Prepare Screen, you should only see one of each bookmark.
NOTE: If you see duplicate layers then something was not attached correctly. Click Cancel to return to the Canvas and attach the appropriate layers.
Remember, we placed our leather in from the corner of the mat So, we need to move our designs to match the placement of the leather.
We gave ourselves a 1" margin when we cut the piece of leather. Each square on your mat equals an inch. I'm going to place my first bookmark about 2 1/2 squares down and over from the top left corner. Move the other bookmarks to fit on your leather as well.
Compare your screen and leather placement on the mat, making sure the designs will fit on the material. When you're comfortable with the placement, click Continue in the lower right corner.
I found a few material and cut settings that work really well with this project.
On the Make screen, click Browse All Materials. You will notice the list is rather short and "Leather" is not an option. That's because of the Operations we're using, but you don't always have to use the programmed settings for the indicated material! After some experimenting, I found that using the Kraft Board setting works really well on both leather thicknesses. Select it and click Done in the lower right corner.
Select "More" from the Pressure drop down menu. Then click "Edit Tools" and select the Deep-Point Blade.
On your machine, push your star wheels to the sides so that they will not roll over your leather. Check your leather's dampness. If any spots still seem wet, let it dry a bit longer.
Place painter's tape over the edges of the transfer tape to keep it from sticking to the machine.
If you're using the Engraving Tool, insert it in Clamp B. Press the flashing arrows to load your mat and then press the middle flashing button to begin engraving. If you're not using the Engraving Tool, skip to using the Medium Foil Transfer Tool.
When the engraving is done, do NOT remove the mat. Swap the Engraving Tool for the Medium Foil Transfer Tool in Clamp B and press the middle flashing button to continue the process.
When the foil tool is done, insert the Deep-Point blade in to Clamp B and press the middle flashing button to cut out the bookmarks' shapes.
When the Cricut is done with the project, press the flashing arrows to unload your mat. Remove the materials from the mat. Gently pull the bookmarks off of the transfer tape. If you find that any area didn't cut all the way through, use the TrueControl knife to finish the cut on your self-healing mat.
Although you may not be able to see any moisture, there is still moisture in the leather. It is best to allow the bookmarks to sit overnight.
STEP 5: STAIN YOUR ENGRAVED LEATHER BOOKMARKS
Protect your work area with butcher paper and have paper towels handy. I recommend wearing gloves to protect your hands, too.
Place your bookmarks face up on the butcher paper.
Shake the leather stain and dip a wool dauber into the bottle. Apply the stain with circular motions to the bookmark's front.
When the whole front of the bookmark is stained, wipe it with a paper towel to remove any excess.
Use the wool dauber to spread the stain over the edges and back and again wipe off any excess with a paper towel. The leather should soak up the stain pretty quickly, but you can smooth any smudges with the towel.
Examine the bookmark for any missed or uneven areas, especially in the deeply engraved areas. If you're having trouble getting the stain in crevices, like the inside of the circle cutout, use a cotton swab!
Again, wipe away any excess stain and allow your bookmarks to dry for several hours. I let mine dry overnight.
My stain is also a finish, but since the bookmarks will be handled a lot, I'm adding an extra finish layer. This is optional.
Shake the finish bottle well. Use a damp kitchen sponge to apply the finish to the fronts of the bookmarks.
Allow the finish to dry completely over night.
Lastly, cut a piece of faux suede string about 7" long. Fold the string in half and insert the end through the bookmark hole. Push the loose ends through the loop end and pull tight.
STEP 6: SHOW IT OFF
You're all done! I can't wait to see all of your beautiful engraved leather bookmarks!
Answers to Your Questions About How to Engrave Leather with Cricut
Q: Can you engrave on leather?
You can get an engraved look with every machine using different tools and different materials, including the Cricut Explore Air. The Cricut Maker Machines are a bit easier due to the variety of QuickSwap tips and the wide variety of materials they can use.
Q: What blade cuts leather on Cricut?
Depending on the types of leather, the knife blade, perforation blade, wavy blade, Cricut Maker engraving tool, rotary blade, deep point blade, and fine point blade can cut leather. The debossing tool, scoring wheels and stylus, and Cricut pens can also be used on leather. Some tools will require the Strong Grip mat. Always do a test run when using new tools! You may have to experiment with the material settings to get the result you want.
Q: What kinds of leather can Cricut engrave or cut?
Depending on the machine and tools available, Cricuts can use real leather, Cricut faux leather, unfinished leather, metallic leather, Cricut leather, tooling leather, and many other leather products. I only tried engraving on the leather I linked in this tutorial however, and I don’t feel you could engrave faux leather.
I love seeing what you make with my designs and how you use them! Please share a photo of your engraved leather bookmarks in our Facebook group or tag me on social media with #jennifermaker.