How to Dye Leather


The process of dying leather is quite straight forward. You can use either water- or oil-based dyes. Water-based dye leaves the leather with a more natural feel, while oil-based dye can make leather feel somewhat stiff. By mixing colors and adjusting the strength of your dye, you can create a wide variety of effects.

How to Dye Leather
(Elke Bergeron)

Things You'll Need

  • Natural, vegetable tanned leather
  • Water-based or oil-based dye
  • Damp sponges
  • Wool dauber
  • Clear acrylic finish
  • Rubber gloves
Step 1

In order to dye leather, you’ll need: Natural vegetable tanned leather, dye, a damp sponge, a wool dauber (you can also apply the dye with a sponge), and a clear acrylic finish to protect the color. Rubber gloves are also advisable to keep your hands stain-free. Please see the last slide for an itemized list of tools and materials.

Things You'll Need
Elke Bergeron
Step 2

Drag the damp sponge horizontally across the leather until it is completely wet, but be careful not to saturate the leather.

Dampen the leather.
Elke Bergeron
Step 3

Saturate the wool dauber (or extra sponge) with dye. Start on one side and, working in a circular motion, continue across your piece of leather. Reapply the dye to the applicator as needed until you have achieved the desirable color.

Dying the leather.
Elke Bergeron
Step 4

After the color has been evenly applied, let the dye dry completely. If desired, you can use a hair dryer to speed up the process.

Dry the leather.
Elke Bergeron
Step 5

Apply a small amount of acrylic leather finish onto a damp sponge and run it over the leather, moving in a straight line and always in the same direction. You might see a foamy, milky color. Don't worry: This will disappear and the finish will turn completely clear after drying. It will stop the color of the dye from rubbing off over time.

Finishing the leather.
Elke Bergeron

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Tips & Warnings

  • The leather must be completely dry before applying the acrylic finish, or else you will end up with a tacky surface.
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