Q: How do you color/paint/dye(??) the designs onto the leather?
A: It always makes me laugh when people say “Do you have any of the Antique Black leather left?” or “Do you have any blue leather?”
It’s a reasonable enough question, right? Most commercial leather is chromium tanned and color is added to the leather during the tanning process. The leather that I use is vegetable tanned – no artificial colors (or flavors) added! So, I laugh when people ask me if I have a specific color of leather because all my leather is the same color. That is, until I dye it.
I will cover exact techniques in step-by-step in my leathercraft book (to be published by F+W Media in 2015), but here’s a quick explanation of how the pattern gets on most of my pieces.
First I sketch the pattern onto the leather, all freehand, then I burn it in using a branding iron. The next step is paint – I use a water-based leather paint and craft store brushes (if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll know I take horrible care of my brushes so cheap ones are better!).
After the piece is painted I apply a dye to the entire leather. My favorites are the Gel Antique Stains, since they allow the colors of the paint to show through without muddying them. Then I apply a topcoat to keep them colorfast. And, voila!