Are you itching to know how to dye leather? We will be teaching you a short course on the tools and techniques to get it right the first time. Leather tools are just as crucial as the dyes used in dyeing leather, so it’s best to know what to use when you’re ready to sit down.
Table of Contents
Materials and Tools
This is your primary tool for applying all sorts of dyes and sealants on your leather. It’s a sponge that doesn’t fall apart quickly when used for dyeing leather. These sponges are inexpensive, and you can easily buy a pack of them or two online. It would be best if you can pick a sponge that fits your hand size, so you can easily hold it and apply as much dye as you need without stressing out your fingers.
Deglazer products prepare the leather for dyeing. Usually, what happens is there is a layer of dust and grime on top of the leather that has to be removed before dyeing. You can’t dye on a contaminated or stained surface because it will end up being cast off or rubbed off when the surface layer begins to deteriorate.
A deglazer can be applied either with the main applicator sponge (use a different one for each task) or a piece of clean rage. We recommend cutting off squares from old cotton shirts as these work well with many dye-related jobs.
When you apply a deglazer, you can expect that all the grime topside will be rubbed off, as well as some of the natural colors of the leather. This is normal, and there’s no problem here because you will dye the leather and all those patches will be covered up later.
Leather dyes or pigments can be combined to form colors. Playing with dyes can also produce unique and exciting color combinations that are uncommon in the leather industry. If you are adventurous, you can make dark or light colors depending on the function of what you are dyeing and what you want it to look like later on.
We do not recommend using wool daubers as these can affect the quality of the pigment on the leather. Use high-density sponges that are made specifically for dyeing leather to get the best results. Shearlings are also a bad idea for leather dyeing.
Steps on Dyeing Leather
The ideal leather for dyeing is veg-tanned. If you have previously dyed leather at home, and you still want to try dyeing that, you will likely get good results (as long as you deglaze it properly).
Keep in mind, however, that commercial leather often has an invisible layer of wax that protects the dyes on top, so you may not get deep finishes with these. For best results, use veg-tanned leather so your coloring will be the superstar (and not the other way around).
We do not recommend dyeing PU leather or bonded leather. One hundred percent top-grain or grain leather is best, regardless of what you are trying to craft with the leather. Remember to correct the leather by sanding it before applying any dyes.
The imperfections on the grain leather (including the inconsistencies with scars and hair cell patterns) are going to amplified when you apply a dye.
If you are alright with these imperfections, go ahead, dye the leather without sanding or modifying it. Also, we need to remind folks that no matter how deeply you grind or sand into the leather, there will be imperfections, so do not let these small dings on the leather frustrate you.
After deglazing the leather and removing the grime and impurities that have nothing to do with the leather in the first place, it’s time to cut your dyes.
Cutting dye is diluting it to make the colorless dark. If you are going to combine different dyes, this is a must. Different types of dyes are going to require different modes of dilution. Water-based based dyes should be cut with their base material (water), while oil-based dyes can be cut with a commercial dye reducer.
The best way to dye leather is to apply a thinner consistency throughout several layers.
The reason for this is we want to give ourselves sufficient space if we make mistakes. If you apply a dye pure, you’re not going to be able to dye out uneven areas, or it is going to require a lot of coloring to do it. So work the color onto the leather gradually with a cut solution instead.
Tips on Dyeing Leather
Dyeing leather is never accomplished with just one application. Apply a base coat to get the best results. The base coat should be rubbed onto the leather using an even, circular motion.
Do not squeeze out all the color in one go after soaking your high-density sponge in the dye
Instead, gradually squeeze out the dye as you go along. When the base coat has been applied, proceed to apply the first main layer using horizontal strokes this time. Why? Because we want the layer of color to be as even as possible.
When the dye becomes spotty during the application, that means that the sponge is drying up.
Reload the sponge with some more dye and proceed with dyeing the leather. Overlapping is unavoidable, especially with the application of the base paint, but if you can, limit the overlaps to half a circle each time. Do not rush the process – enjoy it.
When you are satisfied with the color, apply the finishing coat, and buff the leather to make it shine. Topcoats are used to protect your clothing from the dye. Remember, the stain can still rub off on skin and fabric. Applying a coat protects the color quality and your shirt, too. And if the results of your first attempt are unsatisfactory, don’t worry – you are going to get there eventually. More practice is required to master this art.