How to Dye Leather With Food Coloring

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Dyeing leather is one way to make it pop. Professional leather dyes are expensive and can be difficult to use. They also stain nearly everything they touch, making them hard to clean up. Food coloring and vinegar are inexpensive and easy to clean up, and food coloring won’t stain your skin as badly as other dyes and it will set into leather just as well as professional dye.

Things You'll Need

  • Food coloring
  • White or apple cider vinegar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Plastic tub
  • Bowls

Start with untreated leather. If your leather is already oiled, most dyes will slide right off the surface. Leathers with a soft, “fuzzy” texture take dyes very well.

Choose a color for your leather and mix a dozen drops of the appropriate color with a cup of vinegar. Vinegar will make the color brighter and help it set. Don’t be afraid to mix colors to get orange, green or purple. Only add one drop of each color at a time until you get the color you want. The more food dye you add, the darker the color will be.

Lay your leather out on a clean, flat surface. If you want a trendy, mottled look, dip folded cheesecloth into the food dye and press it against the leather, blotting the whole piece this way. Allow it to dry for 24 hours before working with it.

Obtain a smooth look by pouring the color into a plastic tub and laying the leather facedown into it. Let the leather soak for about 15 minutes, remove it from the dye and blot excess color from it with the cheesecloth. Allow the leather to dry for 24 to 36 hours after soaking.

Gently mold and crumple the dry, colored leather between your hands. The vinegar and dye may add some stiffness to the material. Working it will help soften it again.

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