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Leather dyes and pigmentation

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 22:06:05 Europe/London

Coloured Leather

The basic colour of leather before it is dyed depends on the tanning method. Vegetable tanning leaves it brown, synthetic tanning makes it white, while bluish-grey is the result of chrome tanning. 

But, thanks to the wide range of dyes available, hides can be transformed into just about every colour you can imagine.

  1. Through coloured leather - when dyes penetrate the surface, colouring the leather throughout.
  2. When the surface or pigmented area is subsequently coloured after being dyed through.

Let us now look at the two methods in more detail:

Through Coloured Leather

The leather is soaked in large, barrels or vats containing aniline dye. Then the dye is fixed and the excess rinsed off. Since aniline dyes are transparent, leaving the grain structure visible, they only work in darker colours.

                     Drum Tanning leather   Leather tanned in drums

In the case of lighter colours, no additional dyes are applied. When viewed in cross section, it is evident that as a result of tanning the leather in cross-section is so bright that it appears almost white. 

Smooth leather, which is dyed through, but has no additional protective layer of paint on the surface, is classed as Aniline leather. 

Suede or nubuck leathers can only be dyed through. Sometimes they are embossed and printed with patterns. These embossed surfaces can be pigmented or smooth. Embossed nubuck was very popular in the 90s for furniture. 

Leathers are usually dyed to cover scuffs, signs of wear or colour damage. If a similar colour tone in the damaged area shines through, it is a clear example that the leather is dyed through completely. Whereas, when the surface colour and the underside (flesh side) do not match, it is usually considered to be of lower quality. Nowadays, a leather is therefore ideally completely coloured in the same colour as the surface colour.


After the leather has been dyed through, a protective coat of paint pigment is sprayed on. Almost all leather used in cars, furniture, bags, clothing and shoes often have a protective layer of pigment. You can easily identify pigmented leather by rubbing a small amount of water onto it. If it doesn’t penetrate the surface, it is pigmented leather.

                        Tannery leather pigmentation   Colour Sprayed on leather

Smooth leathers are designated according to the thickness of the pigment layer, as follows: 

  • No layer of colour : aniline leather . 
  • Little paint, but hair pores still visible: semi-aniline leather 
  • Lots of color and hair pores only slightly or not at all visible: pigmented leather.

Aniline leather can have a pigment-free finishing of more than 0.01 mm (= 10 micrometres (microns) thick. A normal leather finish has 0.035 to 0.04 mm thickness. In car leathers the thickness is more than 0.1 mm.

These pigments can represent just about all leather colours. There are shades of leather with light effects or metallic effects.  A protective lacquer top coat is also sprayed onto the colour to prevent it from damage. The top coat controls the stability and the degree of gloss of the leather. A pigment layer makes a leather feel less soft and ‘colder’, compared with Aniline leather.


Recommended Products/Top Tips

  • Professional Range - DIY Range: we offer a selection of products for professionals and for home DYI to suit everyone's needs. You can browse our catalogue and visit each product for more details
  • Primary colours - we work with 17 primary colours. These are mainly for professionals looking to mix their own colour to apply after a repair
Primary Leather Colours
  • Luminous Colours - as leather is used for many different items, we also cover many colour variations like our Luminous range for those neon and Metallic tones
  • Leather Fresh - our DIY leather dye it is very popular as it can be easily applied with a sponge at home or with a paintbrush for a better finish. It comes with topcoats already included so the colour will fixate to th leather for longer. You can check our colour chart to see our 46 Standard Leather Fresh Colours available on 30ml, 150ml and 1 Litre. And if you don't find the right one there, we can mix an exact match for you based on a sample!
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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What is the best leather care product?

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 19:23:17 Europe/London

Leather Care process

With so many different leather cleaners and care products on the market, it’s difficult to know which one to choose.

To find the answer, it’s important to consider the type of leather and the tanning process used. This will influence the quantity of skin (45-75%), tannins (8-45%), fat (1-25%), dyes and pigments (up to 3%), and moisture (8-15%).

In addition to the moisture chemically bound in the fibres, leather absorbs moisture from the air and any care products applied to it.  

 Over exposure to sunlight or heat sources can completely dry out the fibres. This moisture can never be replaced or reintroduced with the use of care products. It is also important to know that applying more of any care product does not necessarily increase the lifespan of leather. Using less product more frequently is the best way. More care product will be required if the leather is incorrectly stored or has never been treated at all.


...with this in mind, we can now look at the different types of products.


  Suede   Pink Fur   Semi-aniline leather

Leather milk

This is usually a low-viscosity emulsion of water and fats/oils, which is given a uniform texture with the aid of an emulsifier and can be easily applied to the leather with a soft cloth. It may also contain UV filters and antioxidants to prevent fading.

Leather care cream 

Leather care cream works in the same way as leather milk. But, because it has a higher viscosity, it will not penetrate as deep into the leather.


This is most suitable for shoes and saddles, provided that the leather is pigmented, i.e non-porous. Dubbin has strong water-repellent (hydrophobic) properties and a natural moisturizing effect. It is generally recommended more for leather used outdoors. Because of its high moisturizing action, dubbin should only be applied to aged leather in cars and on furniture.

Leather oil

This has similar water-repellent and moisturising properties to leather wax.  However, as it is a liquid it will penetrate more than any solid wax. Therefore, when dealing with old, dry and hard leathers that need a lot of moisture - leather oil would be the best choice (also important for soles of shoes). Again, this is not recommended for porous leather (Aniline, suede etc).

Leather balsam

Resins and waxes, such as beeswax are used in the preparation of leather balsam. It is commonly used to provide a waterproof, dirt repellent coating to pigmented leathers, especially those used outdoors. It is not recommended for car leather.  

Leather waterproof products

Waterproof sprays should not be confused with leather care products. Most of the suede protector sprays on the market only make suede waterproof. But suede, nubuck and very sensitive aniline leather need more care. In particular, oils to keep them soft and protect against bleaching. Treating only with waterproof sprays can make the leather dry and brittle over time.

Having developed a substantial range of leather care products and following years of experience, it should be noted again that there isn’t one product that is suitable for all types of leather. The condition and use of the leather plays a big role in determining the most suitable product. Each type of leather is coloured differently. Some leathers are smooth, others rough, some have shine and others are matt. Exposure to weather is also a factor. Plus you have to distinguish between new and old leathers.


Colourlock Suede & Nubuck kit   Colourlock Elephant Leather Preserver    Colourlock Vinyl clean & care Kit  

Recommended products:

  • We believe there is no such thing as a best product for leather, but only the right care product for a particular leather or a special leather problem. As advised, have a good read and check your leather to determine which product will be suited for each type of leather and use.

Top Tips


  • ·First check the leather, whether it is absorbent or non-absorbent. Rub a drop of water in a hidden area. In absorbent  leathers (aniline leather or suede) water penetrates and darkens the leather. For non-absorbent leathers water runs off. Absorbent leathers are more sensitive and inappropriate products can cause stains. Hence, testing first and choosing the appropriate product is essential.
  • Regular cleaning and maintenance of furniture leathers prevents staining and significantly increases the life of the leather.
  • Always let the leather dry by itself, not with a hairdryer or under direct sunlight. The leather may shrink otherwise.
  • When applying care products on a large area, always work from seam to seam. Do not try to remove spots that are drawn into the leather by vigorous rubbing. The surface can be further damaged.
  • Never try to remove stains with strong solvents (acetone, nail polish remover, turpentine, etc.) There is a risk of causing further stains or additional damage.
  • Do not treat the leather with unsuitable products, such as using shoe polish for furniture leather, cosmetic cream, pastes etc.
  • Direct sunlight or sources of heat can cause leather to fade and dry out. Bright or light coloured leather runs the risk of dye transfer. Clean immediately and apply a suitable product to prevent further damage.
  • React quickly to any damages (scratches, abrasions, stains, fading, colour damage etc.) The earlier and quicker these issues are dealt with, the longer the leather will last. Often customers ask for help far too late.
  • Leather has an optimum humidity of 40 to 60% and needs a good flow of air. When humidity is above 70% and the airflow is low, the leather is liable to get mouldy. So ensure you store it correctly.



Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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Antique leather and patina

Sunday, 8 May 2016 07:28:25 Europe/London

Traditionally, the term 'antique' applies to anything that is at least 100 years old.  

But, in the leather world, antique can mean anything that ‘looks’ old, in particular, Chesterfield furniture, old desktops, accessories and old chairs. Although these items are made to appear aged it doesn’t mean that they are. The antique look is created by colouring and applying various antique finishing products. Other popular descriptions applied to old leather are 'distressed’ or 'patina’.

                                    Wiping Leather   Wiping Leather Antique effect

What is patina on leather and how does it develop?

Patina is the sheen that develops on leather as it ages – it does not have to be an antique. What happens is that the leather absorbs just about everything it comes into contact with, from natural body oils and moisture to dirt and sunlight. This develops into shiny and dark areas over the years.  

How and how much you handle your leather items will also affect the nature and degree of patina that the leather develops. If you treat the product with the standard leather care, a patina is likely to form gradually. Scratches and scrapes that gather on the surface are also an integral part of the patina. 

However, if you are meticulous and wipe your leather belongings clean after every use, apply a conditioner once in a while and store the items carefully, the patina will take much longer to set in.                                      

Which leathers show the best patina?

As a rule of thumb the less the leather is processed, the better and more pronounced the patina will be. Conversely, highly finished or spray-painted leather will not gather as much patina. So, a vegetable tanned leather item with an unfinished surface will develop a nice patina, pull-up leather also develops beautiful patina, while patent leather will hardly ever develop any patina. 

The patina develops on almost all types of leather – cow leather, ostrich leather, alligator leather, etc. Stingray leather, however, will naturally resist a patina since it is covered in hard enamelled pearls that will not wear down easily.

                                     Chesterfield chair   Classic Mercedes patina

What isn't Patina ?

There is no clear rule in this case and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Can fat and grease stains on armrests or headrests be called patina? Not in our opinion. Patina must add to the beauty and character of the leather. Below we have laid out a small collection of photos that explain patina on leather

1) Patina vs new leather


2) Patina on Mercedes leather and classic car leather

                                      Mercedes car seat patina   Classic Mercedes leather door panel

3) Antique leather 

                                      Antique leather chair   Antique Leather armchair

4) Fat stains

                                      Fat stains in leather   Old furniture grease marks

Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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