How to Dye Leather With Rit Brand Dye

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(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

We choose leather products for their superior quality and durability, and we can give these goods a colorful, modern spin using Rit Brand dyes! From dip-dyed journals, to ombre suede fringe, these four simple steps are all you need to create colorful leather pieces you can use for years.

Things You'll Need

  • Any Color Rit Brand Liquid Dye 
  • Plastic Gloves and Apron
  • Unfinished Leather
  • Stir Stick 
  • Plastic Container 
  • Rags or Paper Towels
  • Clear Leather Sealant
  • Paint Brush 
  • Access to Sink
(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Choosing the Right Leather

When choosing leathers to dye, keep in mind most leather shoes and handbags have been pre-treated with a waterproofing sealant that renders them impervious to liquid dyes, including Rit. Bleached and unfinished hides take colors best, while darker tones will alter the dye's color output. Gray and white hides take cooler colors like teal and fuchsia better than brown and tan hides--which are easily dyed warm colors like orange and yellow. You can find a range of untreated leather kits at craft supply stores that are perfect for dyeing.

Rit Dye Swatches on Finished and Un-finished Leather
Rit Dye Swatches on Finished and Un-finished Leather (Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Tip

  • Check the tag before starting this project! Some sandals and bags might look like leather but are actually embossed vinyl and can't be dyed. From deer to cow hides, each skin is unique in texture, thickness and weight -- assess which works best for your project.

Step 1: Prep Your Dyeing Station

Set up near a sink for easy clean up and access to water. Measure and mix your dye according to the instructions on the bottle in a disposable plastic container. Omit steps calling for salt or vinegar, these additions are only necessary for dyeing fabrics and are corrosive towards leather. If dip-dyeing your leather, choose a plastic container your project can safely prop up in without tipping over. If you plan on fully dyeing your leather choose an aluminum tray or large container so that your leather can be completely submersed in the dye bath.

Warning

  • Dye can stain clothing and hands, so be sure to wear gloves, old clothes and an apron!

Step 2: Prep Your Leather

Run warm water over your piece of leather to remove any dust and prepare it for the dye bath. This will aide in an even distribution of dye and consistent color.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Step 3: Dye

Submerse your leather in the dye bath and leave to absorb color. The longer the leather soaks, the deeper the color will be, so continue to check the color every couple of minutes until reaching your desired shade. Keep in mind wet leather appears much darker than dry leather, so your dyed project will be much lighter once its had a chance to fully dry.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Step 4: Dry and Treat Leather

Remove leather from dye bath and allow to dry flat overnight on a rag or paper towels.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Once fully dry, apply a thin coat of clear leather sealant over your project to prevent any color transfer to clothing or furniture.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Allow to cure overnight before sporting your new leather accessory!

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

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