Adding colour to leather is an integral aspect of making leather accessories. We all have our favourite style, colour, and finish of leather. Gaining an understanding of how the leather arrives at that point helps us further appreciate the leather accessories that we use.
It’s important to note that before colour can be added to the leather, the original hide must undergo the tanning process. Once the tanning process has been completed the dyeing process can begin.
Dip dyeing involves, quite literally, dipping the leather into the dye. This requires large rotating barrels in which the leather can be submerged. For the dye to penetrate the leather for the desired colour, the dye must be heated to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
To complete the process, the leather is then rinsed and dried to eliminate the possibility of colour transfer. Dip dyeing is a great method to ensure the leather is dyed on all sides with an evenly distributed colour.
Hand dyeing is the preferred method for handcrafted leather goods. This involves applying the dye to the leather using a cloth, sponge, or brush. This is the least wasteful dyeing process since it is processed by hand and does not involve large barrels of dye. This method is useful if the dye needs to be applied to just one side of the leather.
A somewhat similar process to hand dyeing, only it requires the use of a spray gun, rather than a sponge or cloth. For larger pieces of leather, like that intended for a couch, for example, spray dyeing may be the preferred method as this will allow the leather to be dyed quicker than with hand dyeing.
Types of Dye
While there are multiple methods by which leather can be dyed, there are also multiple types of dye that can be used in each process.
Dyes which are alcohol-based tend to deeply penetrate the leather, which means the colour goes beyond the surface level of the leather. Given that alcohol will evaporate at lower temperatures than water it will allow the leather to dry faster than using a water-based dye. However, as the drying process is so quick with alcohol-based dyes, it may lead to the leather quickly losing its moisture, making it more likely to dry out, crack, and become more rigid. As such, leathers which are dyed with an alcohol base should be maintained with frequent care and conditioning.
A water-based dye does not penetrate the leather as well as an alcohol-based dye. This does allow for better saturation though - reducing the risk of colour rub-off or colour transfer. These dyes evaporate slowly, meaning that the leather will keep its original moisture. Water-based dyes are a good choice for leather accessories designed to be used over longer periods.
Oil-based dyes, like alcohol-based, deeply penetrate the leather and tend to remove less moisture from the leather. Oil-based dyes are typically used for preserving the leather's natural feed and look.
Types of Finish
Once the leather has been dyed, the application of a finish is essential to ensure that the colour is sealed and prevents colour transfer. The finish describes how molecules bind the surface of the leather to form a protective leather.
There are a wide variety of finishes that can be applied to the leather. The finish used on TORRO products is either Aniline or Semi-Aniline.
Leathers with an aniline finish are regarded within the leather industry as one of the highest quality leathers. In addition, it is also one of the most expensive leathers to produce as only the very best condition raw hides are graded suitable to produce aniline leathers.
An aniline finish is made using water-soluble aniline dyes, which allows the leather's natural appearance to show through. It is an excellent choice for accessories given that it has a more breathable finish and will develop a natural patina over time with use.
It is recommended that aniline leathers are regularly conditioned to maintain their beautiful appearance.
Based on its properties and appearance, most TORRO accessories are produced with an aniline leather finish.
A semi-aniline finish is very similar to aniline, it is applied to products with a water-based dye, this makes the natural surface visible while offering a thin protective layer. Compared to aniline leather, semi-aniline can withstand more heat and UV damage. It can also cover some of the leather’s natural blemishes.
This is what makes semi-aniline the ideal choice of finish for TORRO red leather accessories.