Color of the leather
The color of the leather is initially determined by the tanning agent used in the production process. Vegetable tanning agents tend to make the leather brown, alum tanned (leather tanned using aluminum salts) and synthetically tanned leather are usually white, and chrome tanning usually turns the hide a grey-blue color. Once the tanning process is complete, there are two ways that leather can be dyed:
This type of dying is widely used. Dyed-through leather is done by dipping the leather into a barrel of dye, usually a liquid dye ink. It’s important that the dye is properly fixed to the leather and any excess dye is rinsed out to avoid the dye transferring from the leather to other materials. Ideally, the leather is dyed through completely, unless this isn’t required as part of the design.
Stressed leather is often treated with a protective pigment-based layer of paint after it has been dyed. Most leather products have a protective layer of pigment. You can tell if the leather has this layer of pigment as water drops will bounce off it.
Pigmentation can be used to create almost any color, including reflective and metallic effects. The transparent protective varnish is called the top coat and is the reason why the leather is sturdy and glossy. The layer of pigment can often be used to reinforce leather, so the tanner has to decide whether they want to create leather that’s soft and easy to look after, as the leather cannot be reinforced and soft at the same time. Underneath the layer of pigment, the leather is often dyed through, so that the color doesn’t change too much as the leather is used.
Sources accessed (August 1, 2023):