Change Color of Leather Before

Before the Color Change

Change Color of Leather

During the process

Change Color of Leather

Finished Project. Beautiful!

Can I change the color of my leather?

A "how to" guide to change the color of your leather

Yes you can change the color of leather!  You've just redecorated your room.  New paint, new carpet, new drapes, and now your furniture does not match the new decor.  You've spent a ton of money on the remodeling project and you hadn't planned on replacing the furniture, besides, you love that chair!  So, what do you do now?

Well, it is possible to completely refinish and change the color of leather sofas & chairs or car seats, whatever the case may be, and completely cover over the original color.  However, to produce a finished project that truly looks like you just bought new furniture, the project must be completed in a specific sequence using the proper products. It is not possible to produce a "like new" project using just any old paint and wiping it on.  A change of the color of the leather will indeed occur, but what a mess it will turn out to be! So, listed below are the actual professional steps that we use on a daily basis to complete this type of project. As a matter of fact, we have included photos of a color change project that we have just recently done.

"Top Coated"/"Protected" Leather Color Change

To begin, you will need the following items:

Step 1:  CLEAN THE LEATHER WELL!

Over time, a lot of dirt, grime, oils and who knows what have come into contact with that leather. In order to complete a long lasting new finish, the surface MUST be free of any of theses contaminants. Use a high quality leather cleaner formulated for your particular "type" of leather such as our Leather Magic! Leather Cleaner .  Follow the directions on how to clean the leather that is printed on the bottles' label.

Step 2: Sand the leather

It may sound scary, but all "top coated", "protected", "top grained" or whatever the manufacturer of your particular piece calls the "finished" leather, MUST be sanded prior to refinishing. Semi-aniline leather does not usually require sanding, but occasionally a very light scuffing may be necessary. NuBuck and Suede never require sanding. Sanding is done using a special type of sandpaper: a coated, 220 grit automotive grade sandpaper.  DO NOT USE ORDINARY WOOD SANDPAPER! This type of sandpaper will dramatically damage your leather.  The specialty 220 grit coated sandpaper does not dig in to the leather finish as deeply and will actually cause no physical damage to the existing finish so long as the proper amount of pressure and sanding activity is applied. The purpose of this sanding is to remove any loose or decayed existing finish, smooth out any rough spots, but most importantly, lightly scuff the existing finish. This will allow the new finish color coat material to absorb into the leather and "take root" to become permanently embedded.  Wipe off all sanding dust and loose material before proceeding.

Step 3: Prepare the existing surface for the new color finish

The existing surface has now only begun to be ready for the new finish. More prepping is required. A prepping agent, or as some will call it: an "etching" material, must now be applied to the existing finish.  The use of the type or kind of "etching" material is a very highly controversial subject among many, including professionals in the industry. I wish to dispel all the myths and mis-guided information that is so prevalent:  Many different materials are recommended for this purpose including things like lacquer thinner, extremely harsh cleaning products, acetone and many others. The truth is; all of these things will work as an "etching" agent, however, the unseen damage that is caused to the leather itself is never immediately perceived. All of these materials actually break down the fibers of the leather and remove all oils that are required to make the leather function well. Plus, the residue left behind by these materials react to the new color finish being applied and breaks it down from the underside, thus preventing a strong bond to the leather and inevitable breakdown of the leather and finish. The end results are a job that may look great from the start, but will very soon begin to fall apart and breakdown. There is usually little chance of repairing the damage and replacement of the item is soon inevitable.

So then, what do you use? An alcohol based prepping agent is the best. Just plain Isopropyl Alcohol works better than any of the fore mentioned prep agents, but still, is not as effective as the job requires. DeNatured Alcohol works well, but is a bit too harsh for this purpose. A combination of the two can be sufficient but there are still reactions that need to be performed that this combination alone will not do. Leather Magic! manufactures a product specifically for this purpose called Leather Prep. Its' sole purpose is to be used specifically for the prepping and "etching" of leather and leather finishes.

After sanding the existing finish, wash the surface areas extremely well with the Leather Prep material and allow it to do its' job. Wipe away any wet material with a dry cloth to remove any further contaminants that remain on the surface and rewash the area a second time. Allow the Leather Prep to completely dry before proceeding. A hair dryer comes in very handy from this point on!

Step 4: Apply new color finish

The new color finish is now ready to be applied.  But before we get in to that, lets discuss leather finishes: There are a whole lot of choices out there, which one should you choose? First off; when working with leather, ALWAYS choose a water based colorant. Never use a solvent or oil based colorant, they will surely cause a great deal of damage to your leather and will crack and peel in a very short period of time. Water based is the only way to go. But, which type of water based product?

You will find three different types of water based colorants: Latex, acrylic and polyurethane. Let's break these down;

Latex: The cheapest of all of them. Yes, the same material that is used to paint your walls in your home. But, they have been slightly modified to provide a bit more flexibility and adhesion properties than does wall paint. Still, they do not wear well and the adhesion leaves a lot to be desired. Cracking and peeling are big problems with this material.

Acrylics: More expensive that Latex. You probably know acrylics from craft projects you have done or seen done. They work well in these situations. But not for leather. Acrylic leather colorants do have similar modifications as Latex for flexibility and adhesion, and they do work much better than Latex, but they still lack the long term quality and durability that we are looking for in leather finishes.

Polyurethane: (These are what are produced by Leather Magic!) The most expensive, but the best! Polyurethane is an extremely versatile product.  It can be formulated for a great many different applications. Polyurethanes are not just a single product modified for certain applications, rather, they are formulated for specific applications. As a matter of fact, almost all of today's' "finished" leather is made with a polyurethane finish! Why not put the same material on as a finish that the leather was originally finished with?

Each of these products works slightly different from the others, so, to proceed, let's assume that you will be working with Polyurethane. You will require a specific color which you will choose. Most likely, you will purchase a color already made or you may decide to purchase individual base color and mix your own, that's a topic for another discussion. In any event, you must now apply that color to your leather.

Keep in mind this can be a somewhat messy project, so clear the area so as to avoid any accidents. each project is different and may require additional items not mentioned.

Begin by masking off any areas that you will not wish the colorant to come into contact. Use plastic , newspaper or drop cloths on the surrounding areas to protect flooring etc. If your project has buttons, tacks or different colored stitching, these areas will require masking tape. Placing the item up on a small stand (if possible) is a good idea to protect your back. Once the area is secure, begin application of the colorant material. WIPE THE FIRST COAT ON. Using the applicator sponge, apply a light, thin coat to the surface and gently wipe over the entire area.  DO NOT USE A BRUSH OR ROLLER as this will apply the colorant too heavily. It is best to work one full panel at a time (a panel is "seam-to-seam). Wiping of the colorant material is important as the slight pressure from the sponge will actually encourage deep absorption into the leather. The entire project may be completed simply by wiping the colorant on with the applicator sponge.  However, the occurrence of stroke marks and uneven application is greatly increased. Once a panel has been completed, it may be a good idea to speed dry the  area with the hair dryer so as to avoid any unintentional damage. Continue doing this until each panel has been completed.  At this point, the colorant should be very thin and transparent, you should still be able to see the subdued look of the original color. Using the hair dryer, make certain that all areas are completely dry to the touch.

Spray the colorant onto the surface. There is an array of spray equipment that can be used: PreVal, small air brush, small HVLP touch-up gun etc. the latter require an air compressor. Do not use electric spray guns as they put out way too much material which will cost you money by wasting material and could cause cracking and peeling problems later. Spray a very light coat evenly over a controlled area then move to another section. Be cautious to not apply the material too heavily so as to prevent runs and uneven coverage. If a run does occur, simply wipe it out with the applicator sponge. The original color should still be showing through at this time. Keep in mind that several light coats are required in order to obtain a perfect finish. Once the area has been given the first spray coat, dry it completely using the hair dryer.

All subsequent coats will be applied in the exact same manner.  You should expect to apply at least 2-3 coats.  More coats may be required in order to obtain the desired results. Drastic color changes will obviously require more light coats but you will find that drying time is minimal, especially when using a hair dryer.

Once the project is complete, the unit may be placed back into service once completely dry. Please keep in mind though, Polyurethane requires 48 hours of cure time in order  to reach it's maximum strength capabilities, so, care must be taken to not put undo stress on the area for this time period. After 24 hours, it is a good idea to apply leather conditioner to the newly finished piece.  Leather conditioner will help to cure the new finish as well as  make the leather soft again. One of the great properties of Polyurethane is that it remains porous once cured so that conditioners may penetrate through the new finish and get into the leather where it does the most good.

Semi-Aniline Leather Color Change

To begin, you will need the following items:

Basically, all steps will be the same as for "Top Coated" leather with one major exception: Sanding is not normally required. The only time sanding of the leather surface becomes necessary is if the finish has sealed or developed a hard "shell". This can happen from a number of causes which include:

  • Heavy accumulation of oils (Body oils, Pet oils, Food,Spills, etc.)
  • Abnormal soiling or dirt build-up
  • Polishing (long term rubbing by clothing, heavy usage, heavy objects sitting on surface)
  • Numerous other causes

If these problems exist, very light sanding on only the "shelled" areas is all that will be required. Simply enough to break the "shell" that has formed on the surface and no more.  If too much sanding is performed, "suedeing" of the leather will occur. All other previously mentioned steps should be followed.

 

NuBuck/Suede Leather Color Change

To begin, you will need the following items:

Step 1:  CLEAN THE LEATHER WELL!

Over time, a lot of dirt, grime, oils and who knows what have come into contact with that leather. In order to complete a long lasting new finish, the surface MUST be free of any of theses contaminants. Use a high quality leather cleaner formulated for your particular "type" of leather such as our Leather Magic! Leather Cleaner .  Follow the directions on how to clean the leather that is printed on the bottles' label. Allow leather to completely dry.  A hair dryer helps with this.

Step 2: Prepare the existing surface for the new color finish

Follow the instructions previously described with one major exception; do not heavily wet the leather. Pour a small amount of Leather Prep onto a cloth and then gently wipe over the entire surface of the leather. This step may require two applications, but do not allow the leather to become soaked. Allow to thoroughly dry before continuing. Use a hair dryer if necessary.

Step 3: Apply new color finish

The use of Aniline Dye is required for this project. No wiping of the dye is recommended. Aniline dye should be lightly sprayed onto the surface and then immediately brushed into the fibers of the leather. Do not soak the leather!  Numerous light coats, drying between coats, followed by immediate brushing with a soft bristle upholstery brush until dry works best. A hair dryer really comes in handy here! The brushing action will work the dye deeply into the leather and will also work the fibers so that they do not clump together and become stiff. Numerous coats will be required using the same process each time. Allow 24 hours of curing time before applying Leather Conditioner.

Leather Magic! has greatly simplified the entire process for you. These projects may be accomplished using one of our Leather Recoloring Kits.  These kit contain everything needed including full step-by-step instructions to make the process as simple as possible. By using these products and following the directions you can complete a permanent, "like New" appearance to your project. The leather color change may be easily completed by anyone right in your own home.  You may choose a color that closely matches your taste from our color charts, or, send us a sample of your color choice and we will match the color to the original.  Find out how to get a sample to send to us HERE.

This new color finish will be as permanent and natural as the original.  When done according to the instructions, the leather will NOT look painted or artificial and the new finish will NOT wash off or transfer to clothing or anything that comes into contact with it. And, it will save you a lot of money in the process!

Below is a sample project of what can be done:

Change Color of Leather Before

Before the Color Change

Change Color of Leather

During the process

Change Color of Leather

Finished Project. Beautiful!

This project was completed using the Leather Magic! Leather ReColoring Kit.  We also have the same type of  kit designed for full aniline type leather as well!

Get Details Here>>

Leather Color Restoration Kit
Leather Color Restoration Kit

 

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Aniline Leather Dye and Recolor Kit

Aniline Leather Dye and Recolor Kit