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Leather Dyeing : Coloring / Recoloring Your Leather

Coloring

In the leather industry there are many different types of finishes, color tones, and styles. Some types of finishes and color tones make it almost impossible to do a small, localized leather repair. The only alternative is a complete color restoration. It is even possible to change an aniline to a protected or pigmented leather. The task is not hard, but you will need the right products and equipment to do the job correctly. We recommend you always test your coloring idea before you start the job.

Pigmented / TopCoat / Protected
(Accounts for nearly all Auto Leather)

This is the most common leather and the finish is made by leather paint -- an opaque color leather dye. Solid color leathers are the easiest to repair and color match. On two-tone (Savauge) color, you must match the lighter color first and then apply the darker color over top.

Aniline and Nubuck / Suede leathers

The color is achieved by using semi-transparent aniline dyes. This allows the natural markings of the hide to show through the finish. Aniline is the most expensive finish and has excellent softness. The Nubuck finish is achieved when the leather surface is brushed up to impart a soft feel ( velvet like feel & Look ). Anytime a leather repair is done on aniline or nubuck leather, it is hard to conceal the repair or make it less noticeable to the eye. Both leather types require a semi-transparent leather dyes to color large areas. When making a small repair, you can use leather dye colorant to disguise the repair. In some cases, where there is large color loss from wear, sun fading, or damage, you must do a complete color restoration.

Types of Finishes

Solid Color

This is the most common and easiest to color match for small leather repairs. On large leather repairs or leather restoration, you can match or use a similar color to enhance the present color. We recommend lightly sprayed coats or sponge application for most repairs and color restoration.

Two-Tones

This finish is a second color either sprayed lightly or hand wiped over the original color. Each method gives a distinct appearance to the leather.

Metallic / Pearlized

These finishes utilize metal flakes to reflect light and change the sheen of the leather. This can be done over any pigmented leather to give you a special appearance. We recommend either lightly sprayed coats or hand wiped application.

Transparent

This finish is found on aniline and nubuck leather. The transparent leather dyes allow the natural marking and grain of the leather to show through. This finish is best hand wiped on the leather. For sun fading, we recommend hand wiping the dye mix with leather protectant.

Semi-Aniline / Hybrid

In some cases, manufacturers have taken aniline leather and applied a light protective coat ( top coat) or hand-wiped a pigment dye or over the surface. This gives the leather some characteristics of a pigmented leather. Usually this is done to help cover some type of imperfection in the leather or give the leather more durability.

Wax & Oil Finishes

These finishes are found on a very small percentage of leather goods. The leather is treated with a wax or oil finish giving the leather a unique look or feel.These finishes are basically not repairable for color loss. The wax or oil prevents the dyes from absorbing or bonding with the leather.

Types of Application

Sponging / Hand Wipes

This application type is used most often to change the look and appearance of leather. Basically, it involves sponging/wiping a leather dye over an existing color. You can use a cloth, sponge, or other applicator to give a special effect. This is the best method to repair color loss and permanent stain by wiping several light coats over the damaged area. This method works great for a two-tone effect to existing leather finish.

Brush Finishes

Usually used for small leather repairs and to help blend color and create designs. It is hard to hide the brush strokes. Foam brushes work well for applying leather dye color to small areas.

Sprayers

This is the best method for applying leather dye color. Several light coats make the repair area blend extremely well. The use of a Crown Sprayer makes a nice aerosol pattern for small to moderate sized repairs. An airbrush or touch up spray gun gives a better control pattern than the Crown or Preval Sprayer.