Color & Finish 106 – Dyes Simplified

I do recommend Al Stohlman’s book, Coloring Leather, (not How to Color Leather).  It is still a very relevant book.

There are a few changes happening in the world of dyes – solvent (spirit based / alcohol based) dyes are being phased out and water based dyes will be the only ones available in a few years time.  Some states have already stopped the sale of solvent (alcohol) based dyes.

Pro-oil dye is a higher quality version of spirit based dye – it is simply spirit based dye with a bit of oil added and a better pigment base –  it gives better penetration into the leather and takes a bit longer to dry.  The coverage is a bit more even.  First choice if you can get it.

Eco-Flow water based dye – the new generation dyes – so far looks to be the next choice, mainly because they will hopefully prove to be a lot more color fast than the old regular spirit based dyes, like Tandy Pro Dye and Fiebing’s spirit dyes.

I know your leather craft store is stocked with hundreds of little bottles, so I will expand on this theme as much as I can, but here is the short version:

  1. The first liquid to hit your leather, is water if you want to tool and/or shape your leather (“casing”).
  2. The next liquid to touch your leather, is dye, if you want to change the color of the leather or parts of the leather.
  3. The third possible liquid you use, is a resist (in order of preference: Neatlac / SuperSheen / Blockout), if you want to shield some parts of the leather by being colored by the next liquid.  There is another article on this blog about resisting.
  4. Now you can consider using an antique finish on the leather, if you wish to have an antiquing effect, mostly on tooled leather (it sits in the tool impressions and makes them more pronounced).
  5. Lastly you add a finish / dressing / conditioner:  for working leather I prefer Dubbin, Dr Jackson’s, Aussie; for leather that was painted with acrylic paints, I prefer and acrylic finish like Supersheen or Satinsheen.

If you want a light stain and thereby enhance the tooling on the leather, you need to dye your project with a much diluted (with water) Eco-Flo dye – that is how a lot of the products shown in the Tandy catalog was done.

To further emphasize the tooling, you can use an antique finish over the dye – the antique finish will add its own color to the project, unless you have the project fully or partially resisted.  I still need to experiment with the new antique gel, but for a more subtle effect, you should be able to dilute the antique gel as well.

I hope this sheds some light!  (… and color….)