Dyeing fabric is an easy and fun way to express yourself through style. Tie dye is such a popular craft for people of all ages because it allows for creativity and individuality in your clothing.
But simple cotton fabrics aren’t the only things you can dye to add a pop of color. Though leather may seem a tough and impenetrable material to work with, it can also be dyed.
Dyeing leather requires patience, skill, and varying steps that will depend on the leather you’re working with. Treated leather, for example, will need to be rubbed with a deglazer first. Unfinished or vegetable tanned leather can be dyed without any deglazer steps.
Leather dyes aren’t just for changing the color of leather for an accessory like a handbag, wallet, or belt, but also for repairing leather furniture, automotive seats, and even shoes. You just have to buy the right dye.
So, what is the best leather dye? The best leather dye is the perfect color for your leather, the right type to be absorbed best by your leather, and leaves a smooth, clean finish that blends beautifully.
Whether you’re using leather dye in a small spot to do repair work, or dyeing a whole piece of leather, you want to make sure you’ve got the right dye. Below is our guide to buying the best leather dyes, as well as a list of our top recommended leather dyes.
Types Of Leather Dye
Before you dive in and purchase the first leather dye on our list below, you should know that there are different types of leather dye.
Leather dyes come with different bases and pigment formulas for varying uses. Some absorb better, some provide brighter color, and some are just better to use for specific types of leather.
Alcohol-based dyes are some of the most commonly used dyes for leather. Because it has an alcohol base, the leather dye will dry quickly, so you won’t have to wait long to get results.
Dyes with an alcohol base usually have a powder pigmentation, meaning that the color comes from a powder that’s been mixed into the alcohol.
This can sometimes lead to excess powder on the surface after the dye dries, but you can generally just sweep off the dust and proceed with sealing your leather with a clear finish.
Alcohol-based dyes have a strong odor and should only be used in well-ventilated areas.
Water-based dyes don’t dry as quickly because water takes longer to evaporate in leather than alcohol does.
Since water sometimes doesn’t absorb as well in leather, water-based dyes often have additives such as resin that help the pigments to soak into the leather and truly give your leather a saturated, colorful look.
You’ll want to test your leather’s capability to absorb water prior to using a water-based dye. Add a few drops of water to a small area of your leather to gauge whether it absorbs or not.
If it doesn’t absorb, don’t fret. You can remove the finish on your leather that’s preventing absorption by using a leather preparer and deglazer product.
Although water-based leather dyes take longer to dry, one bonus is that they don’t have any odor. In that regard, they’re easier to work with than alcohol-based dyes.
Though oil dyes sound like they are oil-based, these leather dyes are actually still alcohol-based. They use alcohol as the carrier.
The oil comes in the form of the pigment. Rather than using powder pigment, oil leather dyes use an oil solution to add pigment to the alcohol.
These are some of the best types of leather dyes because the oil is also hydrating to the leather, prevented unwanted cracking when it dries.
Oil leather dyes are a happy medium between water-based and alcohol-based dyes in terms of dry time. They take longer than alcohol-based dyes, but shorter than water-based dyes.
Since oil dyes still use alcohol, it’s a good idea to apply this type of dye in a well-ventilated area.
Reasons To Use Leather Dye
Leather dye can be used not just to dye vegetable tanned or unfinished pieces of leather, but also to repair leather pieces you already own and have been previously dyed.
If you’re going to use leather dye to change the color of an entire leather product, such as a handbag, it’s important to ensure that the leather you’re using is unfinished or vegetable tanned.
When making your own homemade leather products, dyeing should be done before sewing the leather pieces together.
Leather dye can also be used for repair work. If you have leather seats in your car or a leather sofa or couch, you know the pain of leather that has deteriorated over time.
Common leather wear and tear damage includes faded colors, rips in the seams, or flaking of the top layer.
Leather dye can be used to fix many of these issues. However, it’s important to follow the directions on your leather dye package when using it to repair an already finished piece of leather.
Be sure to give your leather plenty of time to dry, apply your finishing layer of wax or sealant, then allow for full dry time again.
With car seats, you may have to keep the windows down while the seats dry to allow for proper ventilation, so try to plan your repair work on a day with good weather.
Trying to use leather dye to repair your couch and sitting in it shortly after can result in the dye rubbing off, leaving you disappointed with the results.
The Top 3 Qualities Of Leather Dye
Regardless of the type of leather dye you choose, it’s important to look for the following 3 qualities in your leather dye.
This will ensure you get the best results, no matter what type of leather you’re working with or what color you’re hoping to achieve.
1. Perfect Color
Finding the perfect color is absolutely necessary when doing leather repair work.
Your leather sofa, armchair, or car seats have already been treated and dyed to a specific color. Repairing them is going to require that you find a leather dye that’s a perfect color match to your existing, undamaged leather.
A good rule of thumb is to eyeball it as best you can when choosing a color online, then use only a small amount on a small area that won’t be super obvious. This will test the color to ensure it’s a good match.
If it doesn’t match, then try to find a different color, or try to blend the one you bought with another color. Many times, a blend of two different dyes is the best way to get a color match.
If it does match, then you’re good to go and can apply the rest of your leather dye as usual. Be sure to follow the package directions to ensure best results. You’ll probably need some wool daubers or foam dauber brushes to apply smoothly.
When working with an unfinished or vegetable tanned piece of leather that you’re going to completely transform to something new, the color matching won’t be important. What will be important is making sure the color gives you the exact look you’re going for.
To ensure you’ll be happy with the color results, we still recommend that you test your leather dye on a small or scrap piece of leather first. This will confirm that you are pleased with the way the dye color looks on that particular piece of leather.
2. Right Type For Your Leather
It’s also important to make sure that your leather dye is the right type for your leather. Above, we listed three of the most common types of leather dye: alcohol-based, water-based, and oil dyes.
When deciding on the type of leather dye you need for your leather, try running a few tests. In a small corner of your leather, or on a scrap piece if you have one, add a few drops of water. This is a good test to check the absorbency of your leather.
Consider the different finishes you’ll achieve and the different dry times each type of leather offers. If you don’t want to deal with the excess powder of alcohol-based dyes but you still want a quick dry time, try oil leather dyes.
If you want a clean and eco-friendly option and don’t mind a long dry time, try water-based dyes. If you want something that will do the job quickly, try alcohol-based dyes.
Remember to use a leather preparer and deglazer if working on a piece of finished leather that you want to dye an entirely new color. Like anything that’s been coated with a finishing sealant, you’ll have to remove that sealant to get to the material underneath.
Using a preparer and deglazer with leather is similar to sanding wood to remove an old stain and use a new one.
Speaking of sanding, depending on your leather, you can even try sanding the leather with a fine grit sandpaper. This will be an additional help to your deglazer that can remove that top layer of finish and help your new dye to adhere and absorb better.
3. Smooth, Clean Finish
If you have leather sofas and armchairs, chances are that they’re the first furniture pieces people see when they walk into your room. People always check the seats before they sit down in cars, leather or cloth.
And leather accessories are usually meant to catch the eye or complement an outfit, so they’re also viewed with high frequency.
Why does this matter? Because when you dye your leather, you don’t want it to be an obvious, patchy, uneven dye job. Just like when you dye your hair, you want it to be a smooth, clean application that looks as natural as it was before.
Your leather dye should leave your leather with a smooth, clean finish. Although some lines around the dyed area are expected to show, if you look at the leather from afar, the leather dye should blend in completely.
When dyeing an entire piece of leather rather than doing a small repair work, you still want to ensure you get a smooth, clean finish. This means no patchiness, no cracks, and no globs of dye.
The best quality leather dye will give you the best quality results. Don’t settle for a cheaper product just to save a few bucks; it’s worth it to invest in a high quality leather dye by a trusted and respected brand.
The Best Leather Dyes
Below is our list of the top recommended leather dye products. Some of these are high quality and some of these are simple kits that’ll get the job done, but they’ll all work great no matter what you use them for.
Just remember to test your leather dye before applying to the entire piece or area of leather that needs dyed. Test on a small area that will go unnoticed, or on a scrap piece of leather that won’t make it into the final product.
|1.||Angelus Leather Dye||38 hues, alcohol-based, deglazer included|
|2.||Fiebing's Leather Dye||26 colors, alcohol-based, dries quickly|
|3.||Fiebing's - Pro Dye||3 colors, alcohol-based, hydrating oil|
|4.||Tandy Leather Eco-Flo Leather Dye Pack||8 color pack, eco-friendly|
|5.||FORTIVO Leather Recoloring Balm||4 colors, gloves and applicator|
|6.||NADAMOO Leather Recoloring Balm||5 colors, hydrating mink oil, restorative|
|7.||FurnitureClinic Leather Re-Coloring Balm||16 colors, ideal for repairing upholstery|
|8.||Leather Max Quick Blend Refinish and Repair Kit||3 color pack, foam brush applicator|
|9.||ARCSSAI Brown Leather Repair Kit||5 colors, smooth finish, applicator brush|
1. Angelus Leather Dye
Our first recommended product is Angelus Leather Dye. Angelus is one of our top 3 most recommended brands that are trusted thanks to their great reputations.
Angelus Leather Dye comes in 38 different colors available on Amazon right now.
Whether you’re repairing an already dyed piece of leather or dyeing a brand new piece of unfinished or vegetable tanned leather, you’re sure to find a color that works perfectly for your vision.
Angelus Leather Dye also works great on a variety of leathers. It’s an alcohol-based dye, so it will dry quickly to keep your project times short.
It’s also a higher quality leather dye, so when applied correctly, you’ll get a smooth, clean finish with any type of leather and any color dye.
Angelus is the same brand that provides the leather preparer and deglazer that we linked earlier in this article, so it’s a good idea to grab a bottle of that too.
2. Fiebing’s Leather Dye
Fiebing’s is another highly trusted brand when it comes to leather products. This is one of two products that we recommend from them for leather dye.
Like Angelus, Fiebing’s offers a wide variety of colors. A range of 26 colors are listed on their Amazon page, giving you every color you could possibly want for your leather project.
This particular dye is also alcohol-based, so it will dry quickly but may leave a little powder pigmentation behind.
This Fiebing’s leather dye is best used on vegetable tanned or unfinished leather, so if you’re trying to repair an already dyed piece of leather, this may not be the best product for you.
3. Fiebing’s – Pro Dye
Another great option from Fiebing’s, especially if you don’t want alcohol-based dye, is their professional oil dye.
Remember that oil dyes use oil for the pigment solution rather than powder, so you won’t be left with that layer of powder after it dries, and the oil solution will help to hydrate the leather and prevent cracking.
The only downside to the oil dye from Fiebing’s is that there isn’t as much of a variety in color. There are only 3 color options listed.
Still, if one of these colors gives you the look you’re going for, then this is a high quality dye that can’t be beat.
4. Tandy Leather Eco-Flo Leather Dye Pack
The final brand in our top 3 recommended brands list is Tandy Leather. This dye pack from Tandy Leather provides you with 8 different colors all in one pack!
These water-based dyes are eco-friendly and won’t give off any strong or unwanted odors. They’re easy to use, but may take a long time to dry.
This leather dye is intended for use with unfinished or vegetable tanned leather, so it’s best to use with leather projects where you’re making something from scratch rather than furniture repair work.
5. FORTIVO Leather Recoloring Balm
FORTIVO provides a great leather repair kit that comes with dark brown recoloring balm to aid in restoring your damaged and worn leather.
This kit comes with the leather dye, gloves, and applicator brushes. You get everything you need to do your repair work in one neat kit!
The product we listed here is a dark brown leather repair kit, but you can also find a repair kit from FORTIVO in black, camel, and medium brown.
These kits work great to match with your leather furniture and give you a smooth, clean finish that blends into the original finish of your leather.
6. NADAMOO Leather Recoloring Balm
NADAMOO is another brand that offers a great leather repair kit.
Not only do you get the leather dye and applicators, but you also get mink oil to rehydrate your leather and maintain it to prevent damage from happening as quickly in the future.
These kits come in black, dark brown, light brown, and maroon.
The recoloring balm, or leather dye, works great to cover and restore old, faded patches of color on your leather furniture.
But it’s not only useful for furniture. You can use this leather repair kit on car seats, armchairs and sofas, as well as shoes, handbags, coats, wallets, or any other leather product you own that’s faded with time.
7. FurnitureClinic Leather Re-Coloring Balm
Although this Leather Re-Coloring Balm from FurnitureClinic doesn’t come with a full kit, it does have a wider variety of colors. With 16 colors available (though only 12 are currently listed on Amazon), you’re sure to find one that matches your current color.
What’s even better about this product is that it’s been evaluated by Good Housekeeping and was given their prestigious Good Housekeeping seal. This honor can give you peace of mind that you’re buying a worthwhile, high quality product.
Whether you’re looking to repair scratches, flakes, fading, or any other common leather damage, this Leather Re-Coloring Balm is the perfect solution.
Your scratches will disappear and blend into the background with the smooth, clean finish you’ll get from this leather dye.
8. Leather Max Quick Blend Refinish and Repair Kit
Although Leather Max only offers 3 colors in their leather repair and restoration kit, the great thing about those 3 colors is that they’re designed to blend.
With this kit, you don’t have to choose from one of their 3 colors and hope it matches.
You get all 3 of them – mahogany, medium brown, and dark brown, and you can blend them together to get a color that matches your original leather.
This kit also comes with a foam dauber brush to help with easy, smooth application and ensure you get a nice finish that blends beautifully.
9. ARCSSAI Brown Leather Repair Kit
Our final leather repair kit comes from ARCSSAI. This leather repair kit comes with 5 different colors: walnut, chocolate, tan, black, and white.
Between these five color options, you’re sure to find one – or blend one yourself – that will work to match with your current leather color.
This leather dye goes on smoothly and gives a nice, clean finished look.
In the kit, you’ll also get an applicator brush, as well as a small container and spatula for mixing the colors.
Up Next: Quilting On Leather – Complete Guide