How to Dye Leather Red

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Dyeing leather is one of the simplest and most effective ways to give any leatherworking project a polished, professional appearance. It is most common to use a tan or brown dye, which emphasizes the natural appearance of the leather, but sometimes you want your project to have the extra visual draw that a bright, bold color like red can achieve. Follow the steps below to dye your leather a clean and even red.

Things You'll Need

  • Leather
  • Red leather dye
  • Latex gloves
  • Sponge or sponge brush

Choose an appropriately colored piece of leather to dye. A commercial red leather dye is designed to stain untreated, unstained leather, and if the piece you are working with has been treated or stained previously, it will result in a different resultant color, most likely a darker red. Be sure to test the dye on an inconspicuous part of the leather before proceeding so that you know exactly what shade of red will result.

Clean and prepare the leather for the project you are using it for. Getting rid of any dirt or foreign particles on the surface of the leather will make it easier to dye the entire piece evenly. Make sure to cut and separate all the pieces of leather you are planning on dyeing, as the dye will not stain the interior of the leather and any cuts you make after applying the dye will reveal edges of the leather's original color. Working with each piece separately (even if it means disassembling an existing item) not only helps ensure that you dye all the leather evenly and completely, but prevents dye from getting on any surfaces that the leather may be attached to.

Soak the leather for a few minutes in cool water, then allow it to dry enough so that it is damp. You do not want the leather to be dripping wet, but a small amount of moisture soaked into the leather will help it to absorb the dye.

Put on latex or similar gloves, and lay down newspaper over your working surface. Remember that leather dye is specially designed to stain skin, so any you come directly into contact with will stain you red just as well as it will the leather. It won't stain other surfaces as readily, but as it is a permanent dye, be careful not to let it contact surfaces or clothes you don't want stained.

Apply the dye to the leather with a sponge; sponge brushes are inexpensive and work well. Dip the sponge in the dye and work it into the leather with a circular motion, rather than in back and forth strokes, as this will help to give you an even coating without producing brush lines.

Allow the leather and dye to dry completely (several hours to overnight) and, wearing gloves, wipe it down with a damp paper towel to remove any excess dye. If necessary, apply additional coats of dye; depending on the dye and the leather, it may take several coats to achieve the specific red you want. Note that it is not necessary to soak the leather before any coat after the first.

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References

  • "Leatherworking Handbook: A Practical Illustrated Sourcebook of Techniques and Projects" by Valerie Michael
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