Leather Dyeing Techniques

by Mercedes Valladares

Repurpose, refurbish and restore your leather by using simple dyeing techniques. With the variety of do-it-yourself kits available on the market, crafters can redesign or up-cycle any existing leather items into new accessories or decor items. You will also be able to take unused leather scraps and dye them to create colorful new projects.

Brush-On Leather Dye

Select a leather dye based on the type of leather skins you are using. The type of leather you work with will determine whether you choose water-based, oil or spirit dyes, which contain alcohol. Vegetable-tanned leathers, for instance, usually accept dye colors very well. Test the dye on a piece of leather scrap to determine how well it absorbs the color before beginning on your project piece.

Make sure your leather's surface is clean. Purchase a leather cleaner and apply prior to adding dye. It is best for your leather to be slightly damp before dyeing. Use latex gloves and a mask when applying leather dye and work in a well-ventilated area. Take your brush applicator and apply the dye in long strokes. Apply coats of dye until you are satisfied with the color. The more coats you apply, the deeper the color shade.

Allow your leather to dry. Buff the leather with a piece of scrap denim. You can also use a soft cloth and smooth out any excess color deposited in the leather's creases. Add a leather finish to set the dye.

Leather Stains

Change the color tone of your leather with a leather stain. Test your leather for any pre-treatments. Take a piece of leather scrap from your project leather. Take an eye-dropper and apply a few drops of water. If the water rolls or beads, your leather is pre-treated. If the water penetrates into the hide, it is free of treatments.

Remove any treatments with a leather deglazer. The leather surface must also be clean. Wear latex gloves and a mask and apply in a well-ventilated area. Use an old rag to apply your stain. It is best to apply the stain in the same manner, such as a circular motion or in long strokes, across the entire piece. Allow the stain to completely dry. If you want a darker shade, apply as many coats as needed. You can also opt to add a leather finish once the coats are completely dry.

Paint Your Leather

Most manufacturers paint leather with acrylic paint. Clean your leather surface with a leather cleanser. Dampen the leather with water by spritzing it with a spray bottle. You can also opt to mix your paint with water to dilute the paint. Brush on your paint in long, even strokes. Use a wide brush. Allow your leather to completely dry prior to adding more coats. You can also opt to add a leather finish.

References (1)

  • "The Art and Craft of Leather: Leatherworking Tools and Techniques Explained in Detail;" Maria Teresa Llado i Riba and Eva Pascual i Miro; 2008

Photo Credits

About the Author

Mercedes Valladares is the founder of M721Organics and has been an independent designer for over 15 years. Her work experience commenced during college with manufacturers based in New York and Hong Kong. Her education includes LIM College, International Fine Arts College and design certification from the Paris Fashion Institute. She produces eco-crafting videos and writes recycling articles online.